How to Avoid the Biggest Pitfall in Progressive Profiling

by Eric Wittlake03/20/15
Avoid the Biggest Pitfall in Progressive Profiling
The foil to building prospect profiles: it's not safe to assume prospects will fill out a second form.

According to Google, progressive profiling is “a method of asking questions incrementally, gathering more information about a prospect over time.”

With progressive profiling, instead of putting a 15-field form in front of your next potential prospect, use progressive profiling and only ask for the first couple pieces of information. Then, as they come back over time, continue to gather a little bit more.

And then it all falls apart.

The Problem With Progressive Profiling

Most people simply don’t come back to your site that frequently and they don’t see that much content from you.

According to DemandGen Reports’ 2014 B2B Buyer Behavior Survey, only 38% of buyers said they viewed more than 4 pieces of content from the vendor they ultimately selected, and that includes videos, articles and other content that doesn’t require registration. (Source, Page 6)

Most of your potential prospects will never even see your second form. Even the people who ultimately buy from you will never see it!

The Biggest Progressive Profiling Mistake

Marketers bury critical information they need to identify a prospect in the second, or even the third, form.

Unfortunately your prospect never gets the chance to provide it. Marketing never gets the opportunity to identify and deliver a lead.

Alternatively, consider the math (stick with me, this isn’t that hard):

  • Without progressive profiling, you may get a 5% form complete rate on your landing page.
  • With progressive profiling, let’s be generous and assume you get a 3x form compete rate, or 15%! Now they are in your database. Next you send three emails and get a unique click rate across those emails of 30% (wow, that’s generous). If 35% of these visitors complete the second form in your progressive profiling sequence, the complete rate from the initial visit is 1.6%.

Thanks to progressive profiling, your database is a bit larger, but your conversion rate dropped by more than two-thirds with a very generous set of assumptions. Your reality is likely much worse. Return visits will only close the gap a little bit.

Fixing Progressive Profiling

Instead, the first form needs to include the critical information that identifies a potential prospect. For many marketers, this minimum can be as simple as name, email and company.

Progressive profiling can then be used to capture additional nice-to-have information, from location to current purchase plans to preferences and attitudes that can shape the following communications from both sales and marketing.

If you sell cloud services, your progressive questions could capture additional information about preferences (public vs. private clouds), current state of cloud adoption or perspective on security in cloud computing. Each response helps to build a more complete profile, but it isn’t critical information.

Finally, if your critical, must-have information includes 15 fields, you don’t need a new form solution, you need to re-evaluate your lead requirements.

Your Turn

Have you frequently been on the receiving end of progressive profiling? If not, is it because you don’t give most companies the opportunity to put multiple forms in front of you over time? Let me know on Twitter (@wittlake).

Comments or questions regarding this post? Or do you have a story idea for “Connectors”? Let us know at connectors@dnb.com.

Eric Wittlake is a digital and B2B marketer with a broad background in media, marketing technology and analytics. Based in Portland, Oregon, he is currently in charge of the media group at Babcock & Jenkins.

This post was licensed for publishing on Connectors.