How to Use Progressive Profiling in Marketing Automation

By Mathew Sweezey

Progressive profiling is an amazing topic within marketing automation. Seth Godin first conceived it in his book Permission Marketing (Simon & Shuster, 1999). The technology, however, is only now reaching the mainstream in the marketing world. Progressive profiling is a form’s capability to recognize an individual and ask only questions he hasn’t already been asked.

Not every marketing automation tool has progressive profiling. All such tools will have this feature some day, but currently it is reserved for the more advanced tools. It also may require different levels of expertise to set up, depending on the tool. Following are the basics of progressive profiling to help you determine whether using this feature will help you increase your conversion rates:

  • Shorter forms: Shorter forms have higher engagement rates. This is a basic fact that does not need much research to back it up. The question becomes, how do you know which questions to ask? Or how do you ask those questions? You can answer these questions by using progressive profiling on your forms or landing pages.

    Each time a person comes to your landing page, she is asked a few questions, and they are different questions each time based on what you know about the person.

  • Good questions: For progressive profiling to work, you need to have a firm understanding of which questions to ask. Here are some good questions to ask and some to avoid:

    • First name: This is the first question you should ask. You never need last name until you pass the lead to sales. Remember that you don’t use the last name in any communication.

    • Email address: Requesting an email address is the only question you MUST ask. Usually you can use a data augmentation tool to fill in all the blanks based on a single field.

    • Special questions: If there are questions whose answers you can’t get from a data vendor and that you can’t infer from a prospect’s web page visits or content engagement, you need to ask these. Consider not making them mandatory (see the next item in this list for why).

    • Bad questions: A bad question asks for information that people don’t want to provide, such as their phone number. People also dislike any question that you make mandatory. If you require a field to be filled out, people will lie. Remember: Bad data only hurts your marketing efforts.

Your progressive profiling will look different to each prospect but will give you the best odds at having people fill out your form.

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