Ginsu Guys

Progressive profiling is hailed as a marketing technique that boosts lead generation, improves marketing intelligence, generates more conversions, and helps you gain more information about subscribers over time.

Wow. It’s like listening to a commercial for Ginsu knives: “And that’s not all!”

Progressive profiling isn’t all bad, but it isn’t as good as a Ginsu knife commercial would have you believe either. Here are some guidelines for when to use it, and when to look for other tactics.

Progressive Profiling Works When…

  1. Your offers are all gated. For example, if you offer B2B whitepapers, your audience expects to have to fill out a bit of information to download one. Make sure you gather the information you really need on your initial form (for those leads who don’t download multiple papers).  Then, for leads who return for other collateral, ask follow-up questions to add to your knowledge. This is smart progressive profiling – assuming you ask the right questions, and pass that information along to sales so that it can be used.
  2. You only need a few responses. If you’re not worried about the quantity of responses, then progressive profiling can be very helpful. I once ran a progressive profiling question in the form of a poll for a very tiny audience. There were very few responses, but we weren’t trying to remarket to that segment so it didn’t really matter. The responses allowed us to prove to advertisers that we actually reached that segment (at least with those advertisers who didn’t ask how many responses we had). In this case, progressive profiling worked.
  3. You want to augment an already large segment. If you just want to add more subscribers to a segment that you’ve already defined, progressive profiling can help. For example, Old Navy’s database already has information about who buys boys’ clothes. But maybe they’re missing some new moms. Asking a progressive profiling question about toddlers and tomboys could help them identify more moms who might want to receive segmented emails featuring boys’ clothes.

Progressive Profiling Doesn’t Work When…

  1. You expect to use the data for segmentation (by itself). The reality is, progressive profiling in email will generate only about a 3% to 5% response rate. If you focus some resources on asking, you might get as high as 10%. But then, you’re spending resources on getting responses instead of conversions. Not a great use of most budgets. If you want to identify a new segment for your marketing efforts, you’ll want to focus on external data rather than progressive profiling.
  2. You need the information in order to achieve your goals. If you need it, you should ask for it up front. Thinking back to the average response rate for progressive profiling (3% – 5%), realistically you can’t expect to get a significant percentage of your subscribers to respond after the initial ask. It’s rare for that to happen. I’ve had clients tell me they need to start using progressive profiling. After all, it’s better than Ginsu knives. “And that’s not all!” When I hear this, I often hear that they don’t really know how they will use the information they gather. In fact, they don’t know what information they can or should gather. They just know there’s a buzzword that they need to incorporate into their email program. Good marketing always starts with business strategy and business goals, and tactics such as progressive profiling need to flow from there. If you are pressured to use progressive profiling (or any other tactic), start from your business strategy and try to identify opportunities that can effectively benefit from progressive profiling.

Progressive profiling isn’t all bad, but it isn’t always the right answer either. Keep in mind the response rates you can expect for progressive profiling questions, and make sure that the results you can reasonably expect will align with your business goals.

For more information about progressive profiling and other email marketing tools and strategies, contact Gretchen Scheiman.