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Progressive Profiling: Gain More Lead Information by Requesting Less

By Karen TaylorOct 3, 2017

progressive profilingGetting to know your leads is essential to conducting successful inbound marketing campaigns. To get to know them, you need to gather essential data about them. With this data in hand, you can send them more targeted messages, attain more conversions and generate better results.

However, there’s a catch to this ideal scenario: You need a lot of information to improve your results. But website visitors are not fond of sharing a lot of personal information in online forms. As a result, people often abandon long forms, leave out data or give wrong data.

According to a study by Integrate, 40 percent of all B2B leads suffer from “poor data quality,” including duplicate data (15 percent), missing fields (8 percent) and invalid addresses (6 percent). A study by Demand Metric corroborates this reality: Only 30 percent of B2B companies say their data has a high degree of “completeness.” HubSpot researched the contact forms of 40,000 customers and found conversion rates increased by almost half when the number of form fields was reduced from four to three.

There is a solution to this data-collection conundrum for inbound marketers—progressive profiling. It’s a technique that allows marketers to gradually collect more data on leads at strategically timed intervals throughout the buyer’s journey. It involves requesting a few pieces of data at a time, rather than asking for too much all at once. Each interaction involves the exchange of something of value, such as an eBook, for a bit more data. This continues until, finally, a marketer has a complete picture of their leads and can send them to sales.

How Progressive Profiling Works

Progressive profiling is possible thanks to dynamic web forms in marketing solutions, like HubSpot, that collect new information from leads each time they download a piece of content. When a lead returns for additional content, the marketing automation system can detect what information already has been provided, then create a dynamic web form asking for the next level of detail.

Here’s a basic example of how the progressive profiling process works as a lead travels through the buyer’s journey:

  1. Awareness Stage. A visitor comes to a website and downloads a piece of content, such as an awareness “tip sheet,” in exchange for a couple of fields of basic information, such as his or her name and email address. The lead is now in the sales funnel, and begins receiving regular email offers.
  2. Consideration Stage – Part 1. In one of the subsequent offers, the lead clicks a call to action (CTA) for more content, such as a white paper, in exchange for data that targets and qualifies leads, such as industry, job role and job title.
  3. Consideration Stage – Part 2. Leads often stay in the consideration stage for a while. So, the next time this person requests content, such as a webinar signup, the progressive profiling system asks them for additional data to help segment them further, including company name, company size and number of employees.
  4. Decision Stage. When the lead reaches the stage where they are requesting more advanced information, such as a product video demo, this is the time to start collecting deeper data that can support sales, such as budget range, time frame to implementation, phone number and purchasing authority. At this stage, the lead is qualified to be passed on to the sales team.

Gain Progressive Profiling’s Many Benefits

Progressive profiling is a win-win for companies and their contacts. The answers leads share make companies smarter so they can create more effective and meaningful marketing campaigns. Contacts gain content valuable to their role in their industry and company. This value exchange is at the core of your relationships with leads: They will give you the information you need to drive more relevant conversations in exchange for valuable content.

Done correctly, progressive profiling helps organizations gain multiple benefits including:

  • Qualifying leads. By collecting vital information and building robust data on each lead, marketers can determine where he or she is in the buyer’s journey and decide the best course of action to move him or her along to the next levels.
  • Fine-tune buyer personas. Progressive profiling helps gather essential information to build better personas over time. As a result, marketers can craft nurture campaigns with targeted messaging and content based on job role, industry, company size and more.
  • Accelerates the buyer’s journey. Because marketers know more about their leads, they can reach out to them more often with greater confidence, knowing they will likely welcome the communications because they deliver value. This speeds up leads’ journeys through the buyer’s cycle.
  • Increase conversion rates. The more marketers know about their contacts, the better they can target their messaging. The better target the offers, the easier it is to increase conversion rates.
  • Optimize sales time. Progressive profiling allows marketers to ask progressively more detailed questions as leads move closer to sales decisions. This results in more qualified leads being sent to sales, which, ultimately, improves the company’s bottom line.
  • Improves customers’ experience. Leads appreciate the valuable data that marketers share in exchange for only a few pieces of data at a time. In particular, they appreciate not having to repeatedly enter the same data every time they want content.

4 Steps to Implement Progressive Profiling

Are you ready to gain the many benefits of progressive profiling? Here are four essential steps to implement the process.

Step 1: Do your research. Begin by thinking about the relationship you have with your customers, the questions you want to ask them and the value you can offer them in exchange for answering your questions. Before you ask your leads for data, ask yourself the following questions first:

  • What don’t I know about my leads that I need to know? Think about upcoming campaigns. Identify the gaps in current data.
  • How will I use the information I collect? Plan how you’ll act on data you collect.
  • How will I put a plan into place? Create a strategy to optimize your offers according to your customer data.

Step 2: Build your progressive profiling system. Implementing progressive profiling works slightly different on different marketing platforms. HubSpot’s process, for example, includes the following steps:

  • Go to the Forms section under Contacts.
HubSpot forms
  • Click on any form you’d like to edit or add a new one. Make the field “smart” by clicking on the button with the two squares and arrows.
HubSpot smart
  • Add fields to the Queued questions section of the form editor to replace smart fields once they have a known value.

HubSpot queued

Step 3: Create content your target audience will find valuable. The real power of progressive profiling is the content you offer leads in exchange for the information you receive from them. Be sure you always create content that delivers targeted value.

Step 4: Assess the performance of your profiling program. After launching your progressive profiling system, measure the results and assess whether or not your program helped your performance. For example, ask yourself:

  • Did your questions help accomplish your goals?
  • Did you use the information leads shared effectively?
  • Did the data move the needle by allowing you to have better engagement and conversations with leads?
  • What improvements need to be made?

Progressive Profiling Pro-Level Tips

Once you’re comfortable with progressive profiling, you can take the process to the next level with these pro tactics.

  • Alter Questions Based on Buyer Personas. Each persona is unique and, thus, you need to adjust your questions accordingly. You will ask for different data from sales execs and CMOs, for example. Don’t waste valuable space on questions that may not be relevant to all personas to make future sales follow-up more effective.
  • Utilize the Power of Your CRM. By simply asking leads to provide their organization’s website URL or company email, CRMs like HubSpot Sales can provide you with the lead’s company, company size, industry, region (and so much more) without ever asking for this information on a form. This advanced setup can drastically shorten forms and encourage more people to convert on your offers.

Progressive profiling solves a critical problem in digital marketing—how to gain the critical data you need to create high-converting offers. Progressive profiling reduces the psychological barriers of sharing too much too soon. Instead, leads share bits of valuable data over time. In this way, you can gradually build robust databases that help you meet your inbound goals—faster, easier and smarter.

Effective Lead Generation and Lead Management Strategy eBook

Additional Topics: Marketing Automation , HubSpot
Karen Taylor
The Author

Karen Taylor

Karen Taylor is a professional content marketing writer with experience writing for over 100 companies and publications. Her experience includes the full range of content marketing projects — from blogs, to white papers, to ebooks. She has a particular knack for creating content that clarifies and strengthens a company’s marketing message, and delivers optimum impact and maximum results. Learn more at KarenTaylorWrites.com.
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