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Progressive Profiling: The Key to Collecting Data Without Weirding People Out

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by: Bryan Brown (@getvision)
09 May 2011

Imagine you’re at a business conference where you’re seated next to a fellow marketer. He leans over, introduces himself and asks your name. “I’m Tom,” you say. “Full name?” he asks. A bit uneasy, you offer your last name, half wondering if he didn’t want your middle name as well. “Where are you from,” he asks. “Knoxville, Tennessee,” you reply.

“Hometown, birthplace and date of birth?” he inquires without missing a beat “Uh, I’m originally from Texas,” you respond, moving your seat slightly further away. “Do you have kids?” he asks. “Yeah, two,” you reply, praying for your cell phone to ring. “And their names, interests and preference for Twilight or Harry Potter?” he adds. And that’s when you remember you’ve got a meeting to make and politely excuse yourself.

Fortunately, most people have the good sense not to shake your hand and ask for your entire personal history within the first 30 seconds. Yet that’s essentially the approach some companies take when they ask customers and prospects to fill out lengthy forms requesting information that seemingly has nothing to do with the original offer. Simply put, asking all these questions before you’ve established a relationship can create distrust and lead to form abandonment.

It’s understandable that companies would want to collect this data, since it’s essential to learning about contacts, providing more relevant content and developing a successful nurturing program. But how can you do this without using long, cumbersome forms that cause people to lose interest or become impatient?

The answer lies in progressive profiling. With robust new marketing automation technology features, such as Silverpop's new Progressive Web Forms builder, marketers can pose new questions each time a contact visits their website or landing page, steadily gaining deeper insight into their interests.

For example, let’s say a visitor to your website is interested in downloading a product guide or Webinar recording. Instead of asking the contact to fill out a laborious 15-field form, you could use progressive profiling to initially just ask for email address and first/last name. After the visitor peruses your fabulous materials and returns to the site later to download something else, your marketing technology platform recognizes the contact and serves up a new form asking for different info such as city, state and interests. On the next visit, you’d collect more information, and so on.

With Silverpop’s Progressive Web Forms builder, the process of incorporating this feature into a campaign is as easy as simply prioritizing the list of questions you’d like to ask your contacts and indicating how many should be addressed during each exchange.

The result of this approach is both a welcome decrease in contacts freaking out when they see how long your forms are, and a deeper understanding of your customers and prospects that will ultimately help you increase revenues. And whether or not you’ve ever had a stranger ask you for your shoe size, political leanings and most embarrassing childhood memory within the first minute of meeting them, it’s easy to see that progressive profiling is a welcome addition to a marketer’s toolset.

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