How to Capture More (and Better) Lead Intel With Progressive Profiling

    by Pamela Vaughan

    Date

    February 7, 2013 at 9:00 AM

    kids raising handsintermediate

    Raise your hand if you hate filling out forms!

    So if I had to guess, I'd bet that a lot your hands are raised right about now. Heck, so is mine! But any savvy inbound marketer knows that forms are the way of the online conversion world. After all, how would we generate and reconvert leads as effectively without them?

    But as you can understand from all the hand raising, from a website visitor's perspective, forms are a rather annoying part of redeeming offers on the web. Surely, there's a way we can make the form completion requirement a little bit easier on them. It's about creating lovable marketing after all, right?

    Advances in marketing technology to the rescue!

    Depending on the sophistication of your marketing software, you may already know about what we at HubSpot like to call Smart Forms -- dynamic forms that leverage the power of context and adjust in length based on whether a visitor has already completed one of your forms in the past. In other words, Smart Forms know if someone has already filled out the form fields you're asking for, and thus asks only for the critical information (which is usually even pre-populated) you need to ensure your contacts database stays up to date. 

    But there's another dynamic content kid on the marketing block, and his name is Progressive Profiling. Let's talk about what makes this guy so awesome, and how you can leverage him -- err, it -- to help you increase your website's conversion rates and capture even more valuable lead intelligence along the way.

    What Is Progressive Profiling?

    Progressive profiling technology, a feature that is usually an extension of dynamic form fields, allows you to set up iterative forms that enable you to designate which questions appear based on what you already know about a particular lead. That way, every time a lead fills out a form, you are progressively collecting valuable new information about them while keeping your forms short and easy to complete. This enables you to build up the amount of information, or intelligence, you collect about your individual leads without causing more friction in the conversion process. Ultimately, progressive profiling technology enables you to collect the right information from your leads -- at the right times.

    While the specific setup process will largely depend on the capabilities and nuances of your marketing software, it will typically involve specifying which questions you want to be included in your progressive profiling queue -- and in what order they should be shown to your leads. These questions will be shown only when other Smart Fields have already been completed by that particular lead. 

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    Let's talk a little bit more about why progressive profiling is so beneficial, and how you can leverage it in your marketing.

    Why Is Progressive Profiling Beneficial?

    I'm so glad you asked! Progressive Profiling is beneficial for a number of reasons ...

    1) Shorter Forms Lead to Increased Conversion Rates

    You mean shorter forms mean higher conversions? No surprise here! Just like with regular Smart Forms, progressive profiling technology enables you to keep your forms short and sweet, without ultimately sacrificing valuable lead intelligence. Instead of asking for someone's information all at once, you can iteratively ask different questions over time while keeping your forms short, meaning you don't have to squeeze everything you want to know about your leads into the very first form they see.

    Because of this, the use of progressive profiling technology can decrease some of the friction associated with form completion, and as a result, increase your website's conversion rates. After all, would you prefer to fill out a form with 4 fields, or a form with 14? Judging by all those raised hands earlier, I'd bet on the former.

    2) Progressive Profiling Avoids Repetition

    If your business has gained a reputation as an industry thought leader and a provider of valuable content, chances are that new visitors aren't the only people redeeming your offers. This means you probably have existing leads -- people who have previously converted and are already in your contacts database -- filling out your forms, too. So what's the point of asking them to answer the same exact set of questions every time they're looking to redeem one of your offers? To us, that seems like quite a lost opportunity.

    With Progressive Profiling, problem solved! Instead of being repetitive in the questions you ask, you can ask new questions every time a lead converts, enabling you to ask the right questions at the right times. Which leads us to benefit numero three ...

    3) It Allows You to Capture More, Valuable Lead Intelligence Over Time

    In an ideal world, you'd have tons and tons of information about each of your leads so you can better segment your marketing campaigns and nurture your leads -- and so your sales team has more lead intelligence that enables them to sell to those leads more effectively. And while sophisticated marketing software can help you capture behavioral data about your leads over time -- such as the types of content they're reading or downloading, and the pages they're visiting on your site  -- sometimes the most effective way to learn about a lead is to directly ask them the questions you want to know about. But as you can imagine, asking them for all this information at once can lead to some pretty lengthy forms which will destroy your conversion rates -- leaving you with absolutely no lead intelligence at all.

    So why not spread out your ideal questions over time and in a way that aligns with the lead's stage in the sales cycle? With progressive profiling technology, you can do just that, asking for just the critical information the first time a lead converts, and then progressively asking for more detailed information over time as they become more qualified. For example, on a lead’s fourth or fifth visit to your site, you can pose more sales-centric questions, such as “Are you currently evaluating vendors?” or “What other products are you using?” As a result, progressive profiling can even help you shorten your sales cycle, as you can more accurately pinpoint which leads are sales-ready.

    It's for the very same reason you wouldn't bombard someone who has never visited your website and doesn't even know what you sell with a call-to-action for your 'Contact Sales' offer. Again, it's about asking the right questions at the right times. In this way, progressive profile allows you to build a more complete profile for each lead over time.

    4) It Saves You Time

    Last but not least, progressive profiling technology can also save you the trouble of creating separate forms tailored to different landing pages on your website. For example, you might think that someone who ends up on your product demo request landing page is further along in the marketing funnel, and as a result, you might want to display a form that asks some more sales-specific questions. But with a progressive profiling tool like HubSpot's, you can reuse the same forms across many different landing pages and rest assured that the right questions are being asked at the right time. This can save you a ton of time from creating a variety of specifically targeted forms.

    How to Leverage Progressive Profiling

    There are a number of ways in which progressive profiling can help you improve your marketing. Let's talk about a few powerful use cases as well as some progressive profiling best practices to consider if you're just getting started.

    Great Progressive Profiling Use Cases

    • Maximize the Impact of Your Secondary Calls-to-Action: Offering secondary calls-to-action (CTAs) can be a great way to reconvert and nurture your leads, especially if the CTA is for an offer that naturally progresses the lead through the sales funnel based on their previous conversion event. But because a lead has already converted, Progressive Profiling will enable you to optimize your form for that second conversion, allowing you to capture additional lead intelligence you can use to better segment, nurture, and sell to that lead in the future.
    • Improve the Effectiveness of Lead Nurturing Workflows: Naturally, you'll also want to surface different fields for the leads in your lead nurturing workflows that appeal to their varying stages in the sales cycle. As you can imagine, Progressive Profiling makes this extremely easy and helps you get more lead intelligence out of your nurturing campaigns -- which can be extremely helpful for your sales team. 
    • Push Referral Traffic Further Down the Sales Funnel: Driving traffic to your landing pages from external sources such as PPC, organic search, or social media sites? Because Progressive Profiling will show a set of very broad questions to new visitors and more specific questions for visitors who are already familiar with your content and company, you'll be able to optimize your campaigns for both high conversion rates for new visitors and lead quality for known contacts.
    • Use as a Survey Tool on Your Blog: Because a business blog typically attracts a lot of repeat visitors, consider embedding a progressive profiling form on the sidebar of your blog that acts as a survey, asking readers iterative questions about your blog, such as the types of content they're interested in or other types of reader feedback that can help you improve your blog's strategy and performance. It'll never ask visitors the same questions twice!

    Progressive Profiling Best Practices

    • Ask the Most Critical Questions First: While it may be tempting to make the first version of your form extremely short and sweet, make sure you're still asking for the critical information you need to properly contact, segment, and nurture that lead in the future. After all, you'll still want to be able to send them relevant content even if they never come back and convert on your website again organically.
    • Start Broad and Then Get More Detailed: As you're planning the order of your Progressive Profiling fields, start with the most broad questions first and then get to the more detailed, product-focused questions later when you have a stronger, more familiar relationship with the lead. Think about how you would logically conduct a conversation with a lead. You wouldn't ask what their budget is before even determining if they're a good fit for your product, right?
    • Align Questions With Leads' Likely Stage in the Sales Cycle: As your ordering your questions, also think about what stage in the sales cycle a lead would typically be in at this particular conversion. It might be helpful to conduct some analysis into your customer base about their average number of conversion events before closing as a customer, as well as the average length of your sales cycle. This can help you figure out the right questions for particular points along leads' conversion path.
    • Tailor Progressive Profiling Form Fields to Various Buyer Personas: Finally, consider crafting different Progressive Profiling form questions based on different segments of your leads. Then add these forms to any segment-specific landing pages you may be using on your website or in your lead nurturing workflows to enable you to capture the lead intelligence that's specifically beneficial to that audience -- making future segmentation and sales follow-up even more effective.

    What do you think about progressive profiling technology? How else can you leverage it to improve the context and personalization of your marketing?

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