While collecting prospect data is essential for marketing, marketers need to be wary of overwhelming prospects with requests for information during the lead-generation process.
A CRM is always hungry for more data, but the problem comes when asking for too much too early in the relationship causes you to lose prospects. It's intrusive and can feel like a hard sell to someone surfing around the Web.
Enter progressive profiling, the practice of using multiple Web forms—at different stages of prospect interest—to gather small bits of information on the visitors as they navigate through or return to a site.
For example, instead of asking for 10 pieces of data in exchange for a white paper, a site using progressive profiling might ask for only three—just enough to send an introductory email and perhaps entice the visitor to return.
“The way I would describe progressive profiling is a prospectcentric approach to creating a relationship,” said Bryan Brown, director-product strategy at multichannel marketing company Silverpop.
On the visitor's next visit, the site may collect a few more bits of data while simultaneously using the new information to customize the browsing experience, perhaps by only offering content that fits the visitor's growing profile. Additionally, by recognizing repeat visitors, most progressive-profiling systems allow forms to be prepopulated with user data.
Brown said that with progressive profiling, the initial form must ask only for basic information—name, email, industry—but beyond that first form, there are strategies to employ in subsequent forms for further qualifying leads.
“One question I like is to ask is about which products they are using currently that are similar to yours,” Brown said. “If they're using products similar to yours, they're qualified.”
The best progressive-profiling sites also quickly customize Web form questions to visitors' industries and unique needs, then follow up on the information collected. Too often, Brown said, companies gather all kinds of actionable data but don't design their sites to deliver a responsive experience or adequately follow up on leads.
“If you ask a bunch of questions and don't do anything with it, the customer will have no desire to tell you more,” he said. “But if prospects see it as a better Web experience, they'll give you more information. It's much more driven by the customer than the marketer.”