If you’re a data-driven marketer, you want all the lead information you can get your hands on. Unfortunately, if you ask for it all at once—in one big, ugly form—people aren’t going to bite. It’s a problem marketers come up against all the time. You need the data, but how do you get it without putting people off? One data collection method is gaining popularity among innovative marketing teams: progressive profiling.

In this post, we’ll cover the basics—what progressive profiling is, why it’s beneficial, and how you can make the most of it.

What is progressive profiling?

Simply put, progressive profiling is a way of collecting customer information over time to build a detailed customer profile. Here are some of the fundamentals.

One or two questions at a time

Over time, you’ll collect far more info with progressive profiling than you would with one big form (assuming you could even get people to fill it out). But to get there, you have to ask for just one or two pieces of information at a time. Think of it like getting to know somebody: You don’t ask for their life story over your first cup of coffee.

Advanced forms

Progressive profiling tools let you tailor your questions to the customer and to where they are in the customer journey. For example: Someone who has already opted-in to a content offer or subscribed to an email list is going to get asked for different information than someone who’s new to your site.

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These automated fields take into account what information your lead has already provided and never ask the same question twice. This saves users from the obnoxious task of submitting information they’ve already given you, which is a guaranteed conversion-killer. It also prevents duplicate data (the leading cause of poor lead quality).

Contextual and personalized questions

With progressive profiling, you’re able to ask exactly the right questions at exactly the right time. To get an idea of what to ask and when, take a look at key points through the typical buyer journey. Different questions will be appropriate for each stage. Progressive profiling tends to accelerate conversions because it increases your ability to reach people when they’re ready to buy.

The benefits of progressive profiling

Increased data quality

A report by Integrate shows that nearly half of all leads are, well, junk. Bad data has been called the “silent killer” of marketing. It can cancel out the benefit of CRM tools by making you doubt the data that’s plugged in to them. It’s also frequently the reason companies cite for missing their revenue targets. Progressive profiling helps to tame this chaos by solving the data quality problem at its source.

Personalized content

If your goal is to have a personalized, segmented content strategy, why would you have one-size-fits-all methods for collecting information? The progressive profiling approach puts personalization deep in the DNA of your marketing strategy, rather than treating it like a surface-level fix.

Higher engagement and accelerated conversions

The average bounce rate for landing pages is a dismal 30-50%. Progressive profiling acknowledges the hard fact that once someone bounces, they’re gone, and reaching them again is that much tougher. By starting with a small ask—usually an email address—you get your foot in the door. And with a series of small asks, you get a mountain of information over time.

Progressive profiling best practices

Progressive profiling is an exercise in empathy. So much of what makes it effective is its built-in consideration the user’s experience. It’s also a matter of patience. It’s a strategy that makes things much more efficient and can accelerate the sales process in the long run. But for it to work, you have to be willing to focus on collecting one piece of info at a time.

Ask yourself these questions (before you ask your subscribers any)

1. What do I need to know?

Figure out what’s essential. Try working backwards from the user experience you want to deliver. What do you need to know to make it happen? Decide and document those outcomes.

2. What information do I already have?

This is the information you don’t need to ask for. Some of this will be in your CRM already, or it could be found from a simple Google search. Be clear about what data you already have before diving into progressive profiling.

3. Am I making this easy?

The rule of thumb is: Embed to get read. Put your forms and surveys somewhere they’re easy to discover and engage with. It helps to embed them in content your users are already consuming, as this is an active environment.

4. Is this boring?

The last thing you want is to bore your customers with time-consuming questions. With embedded surveys, you can reach out ask customers exactly what they want in a way that they’re 3 times more likely to engage with than traditional questionnaires.

Wrap-Up

Progressive profiling isn’t a sprint or a straightaway, it’s a gradual journey that leads to high-quality, actionable data. But don’t get lost out there. Before you start to implement progressive profiling, you should have a clear marketing strategy. In other words: don’t leave home without a map.

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