How to use progressive profiling

Richard June 17th 2015

Data collection is a natural starting point for any business wishing to capture quality leads and in doing so, its often desirable to gather as much information about your potential customers as possible from the outset.

The more you learn about your leads the better placed you are to market to them. Filling out large cumbersome forms however, can be off-putting for potential customers, especially those seeing and hearing about your product and services for the first time. This can be deadly for your conversion rates.


If you suspect you are losing out on potential sales leads due to the lengthy forms your presenting people with then progressive profiling could provide the right solution.



Progressive profiling is the act of obtaining relevant data about your clients and customers through incremental steps. The approach is used to reduce the amount of work required for a lead to hand over information about themselves in order to increase the number of users who comply with your requests. In other words, the easier you make it for someone to approach you, the more likely they will be to do so.



The process works by offering shorter forms that concentrate on obtaining key information to start with, then on subsequent visits or meetings asking for secondary information based on previous answers. The aim is to build up a profile of a person over time.


For example, in the first instance of a new user viewing your websites registration page, you might simply ask for a persons name and email. The next time they visit you may build on that by requesting their job title, company name and company website. On subsequent visits you may follow those up by asking about their area’s of interests, products previously purchased or goals and aspirations.


This technique is effective for a number of reasons;

Firstly, it increases initial conversion rates which makes perfect sense. Nobody likes filling out long drawn out forms about themselves, offering up all that personal information before even putting the company or service to the test. A simple name and email though is much less of a commitment and more likely to produce a toward response.


Secondly, the act of offering those initial details instigates the compliance consistency rule (that marketing psychologists are all too aware of). By making a seemingly insignificant gesture, people will often be more willing to make bigger sacrifices for a similar cause at a later date. This works by changing a persons state of mind into subtly thinking they are more in favour of a certain idea or entity.


by gradually learning the details you want to know about your customers and avoiding repetitive inputs not only are you providing a better user experience, you also increase your chances of developing quality leads whilst building trust and respect in your organisation.



Ask the most critical questions first

A successful form conversion doesn’t necessarily mean a new customer, you still need to be able to follow up after 1 entry. Usually an email address is sufficient for this however your marketing team may require a different route to contact.


Only ask for the information you really need

Its tempting to add a few more fields in here and there but remember the idea is to make it as easy as possible for the user, the nice to have info can come later.


Start broad before homing in on the details

By fleshing out a broad image of a persons habits you can begin to build a picture for how they like to be dealt with. You can then start to tailor your requests to specific personas. If you know for instance that a customer in the past was happy to login using Facebook to your service but not willing to give you their email, you might try using social media for your next approach.


Include the users name on subsequent forms

Saying “Hello John” before asking for some more details, reminds the user they’ve already been here and shows you recognise them. This will reinforce the compliance consistency rule and help ensure you gain valid data.


Dynamically generate forms based on missing data

Never ask for details you already have answers to, its an unnecessary waste of your users time.


Align questions with your sales cycle

Keep questions relevant and on topic. If your presenting a form that will lead to a sale on a particular product, now might be a good time to ask about your customers previous buying habits in this area.


Give the option to edit

Allowing the user to edit previously entered information not only helps improve your datas accuracy, it also offers a better user experience.



By basing your information requests on the order and relevance of previous answers, over time you can build intelligent profiles of you client base that allow you to make informed decisions about how you will market to them. If you know a user took a certain route to register for instance, and only provided certain key data about themselves you can make qualified assumptions on how they are likely to respond to future requests. This kind of behavioral data can be invaluable when designing marketing strategies.


If your aim is to improve your data and encourage users to offer more about themselves, you must make it worth their time and effort. Including a strong value proposition is vitally important, especially for new customers. By taking an incremental stepped approach to building relationships not only will you gain more contacts more quickly but over time those contacts are only likely to increase their implied investment in your business which will lead to more retention and greater sales.

Author Richard Creative Director

Richard is a designer, whiskey drinker, music lover and Creative Director. After an early career in publishing saw him oversee the production of a range of global titles he turned his eye to digital, managing several design teams in UK agencies before founding Gather with fellow director Paul.