Personalized emails can dramatically outperform one-size-fits-all messaging. But to send personalized emails, you have to have the right data. We see so many brands stop at first name personalization, but that’s just scratching the surface of what data-driven marketing can do for your email campaigns. By investing in really getting to know your subscribers, you can deliver messages that are that much more relevant.
“Email is a personal medium—so send personal emails.” -Justine Jordan, Litmus’ VP of Marketing
Enter progressive profiling, an important tool in every email marketer’s toolbox to deliver relevant, tailored experiences to your subscribers. Here’s why you should be looking into progressive profiling—and how to do it:
What is progressive profiling?
Progressive profiling is the practice of gathering information over time from a prospect or subscriber to build a more complete profile of them.
A common way to do this is via signup forms. Forms are often used throughout marketing to create leads, but with progressive profiling, you can still get the data you need without asking for a person’s life story upfront.
You can start by asking for a few key pieces of information at first, and then ask for more information the next time that person fills out a different form. Here’s an example of what Litmus uses for one of our webinar registration forms:
We make sure to include an email address, as well as an explicit opt-in to comply with international email regulations.
With progressive profiling, we can gather more information about our subscribers later, once they’ve built a stronger relationship with our brand.
How is progressive profiling useful?
Progressive profiling spreads data collection over several interactions, dramatically reducing friction during those earliest interactions. This drives quicker time-to-value for any leads you do receive.
Ultimately, progressive profiling helps you learn more about subscribers without overwhelming them at the beginning of your relationship. Imagine landing on a form to download an ebook that looks like this:
That’s a lot of questions to ask when it’s the first time you’ve ever talked to them.
What are the chances that everyone who lands on this form is going to complete it? While it’s great to have some of that information up front, you don’t really need all of it all at once. If that person is already in your ecosystem, and they continue to see the same long form for every piece of content you gate, it only leads to frustration—and abandonment.
Instead, progressive profiling allows you to build trust gradually from the various interactions someone has with your brand. They may read a few blog posts, subscribe to your newsletter, register for a webinar, and download an ebook before you get the full picture.
How Progressive Profiling Works via Forms
Each time a person fills in form fields, other form fields are triggered for the next time they visit.
For example, if you have a weekly newsletter, you can start with just a few fields (even just an email address). Instead of creating a long list of form fields that a person fills out all at once, progressive forms break those fields down into smaller pieces that build off of each other with each visit. We’ll use ours as an example:
For a prospect’s first visit, you can ask for just the basics: The email address they wish to subscribe with. Once the prospect submits their email address, the database records this information for the future.
Now, let’s say this same prospect visits your site once more, this time to download an ebook. With progressive profiling, the form already knows that their email address is on the books. Instead of asking for it again on this piece of gated content, the form can ask for further info, such as:
- First and last name
- Job title
- Job level at company (such as manager, director, etc)
- Company website
- Company size
- Company vertical
The list goes on. Remember not to overwhelm your subscriber with too much, too soon. If you continue to produce great content that makes them want to visit your site repeatedly, you’ll be able to collect additional information with progressive profiling.
The one big caveat with these progressive profiling forms is that your prospects must have cookies enabled in order for your site to recognize them and trigger new form fields. However, so long as you always ask for the person’s email address, you’ll be able to add any newly collected information to their profile, even if cookies aren’t enabled.
Tips on Setting Up Progressive Profiling
Every email service provider (ESP) is set up differently, and support varies for progressive profiling. It’s best to reach out to your ESP or whomever manages your forms to see how you can implement this technique.
Here are a few questions you may want to ask your ESP:
- How many fields can I use when building a progressive profiling form?
- What types of forms should I use progressive profiling on?
- What are some ways that other users have successfully built progressive profiling forms?
- How do I embed the forms on my site or in my mobile app?
Real talk, email geeks: Progressive profiling can change your entire email program. The more data you can acquire about your prospects and customers, the better informed you’ll be—and the better your marketing will perform.
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Erin King was the Senior Email Marketing Manager at Litmus