progressiveProgressive profiling is just one of many strategies to significantly boost the conversion rate of online forms but quite a useful and successful way. To no surprise it is a feature that is virtually included in every marketing automation platform, such as for instance Oracle / Eloqua or Marketo.

With progressive profiling, it is possible to collect information incrementally from a potential buyer, instead of getting it in one shot. In order to register for a webinar or download a whitepaper, for instance, a site visitor only has to fill in a few fields. Then, with each subsequent visit and request to download content or register for an event, more information and relevant data gets collected. Over time, the leads will become more qualified and more useful that way for sales reps, with the nice side effect that customer profiles are continuously kept up to date.

However, as with almost everything, there is a catch with this as well, that many companies are not aware of: To be successful with progressive profiling, a potential customer must call up the page several times and fill out a few forms for completing a data profile. And since lead scoring, lead assignment and segmentation are merely examples of operational processes, they most likely can’t take place, if certain data isn’t available at a given time.

With incomplete data of sales prospects:

  • Lead scores are too low, which prevents that qualified leads reach the marketing qualified leads (MQL) status and consequently sales;
  • Leads are assigned to the wrong team;
  • Leads can’t be accurately segmented –e.g. interested parties will be emailed content that is not tailored to them.

Consequently, when building the forms, it is important to choose in advance a certain query strategy: Keep in mind as well that if you collect too much data too early, you risk a decreasing conversion rate and if not enough data is collected, you will get stuck on a step in the sales funnel that makes a progress impossible.

Generally, the most important questions have to be offered first, such as.

  • Step 1 – First Name, Last Name, Email, Company, Phone Number
  • Step 2 – Industry, Job Level, Department/Function, Primary Interest, Number of Employees
  • Step 3 – Authority (Y/N), Budget (Y/N), Website, Purchase Intent
  • Step 4 –Are you interested in a demo? (Y/N)

Due to the fact that only 3 to 5 questions are asked per step, the abandon rate is minimized, but step by step prospects climb a ladder of qualification and segmentation that gives both marketing and sales better information. It also creates a more robust profile on prospects than possible with static forms, helping with lead scoring, salesperson setup and future segmentation.

Progressive Profiling enables sales & marketing to:

  • Increase the number of form conversions: Research indicates that reducing each field on a web form increases conversion rates by about 3% to 7%.
  • Arm sales more effectively for conversations with leads. Progressive profiling allows for deeper insight into prospect needs, so that marketing is able to deliver significantly more relevant, usable information to sales.
  • More accurately qualify leads. Progressive profiling will allow sales to waste less time interacting with unqualified leads and more time going after qualified individuals, which fit the sales-ready profile - based on their Budget, Authority, Needs, and Timeline (BANT).

As eMarketer’s recent report states, data collection has been going up in an effort to create individual customer profiles and there are more tools available to help doing that – progressive profiling is definitely one of these useful tools.

“To gather information and form customer profiles, respondents had expanded the data types and quantity collected, gathering everything from location information to demographic, psychographic and social details”, eMarketer stated, besides reporting that interestingly, only “14% of marketers said they were strongly capable of creating a single view of the customer, so the rest most likely feels the pressure, as the emphasis on a single customer view isn’t going away anytime soon. Nearly half (47%) of respondents said that achieving a single customer view was critical to long-term success.”

For me it just proves that progressive profiling will continue gaining momentum.

By Daniela La Marca