Let’s face it, nobody likes filling out online forms, but when we get something of value in return, then we are willing, provided the form isn’t a mile long.

The concept of progressive profiling, introduced a few years back, helps companies reduce form length while still allowing them to gather the data they require. The idea was to combine implicit, behavior-based data (e.g. email open rates, Web site visits, white paper downloads) with explicit information acquired through a sequence of Web forms (vs. just one long form) in exchange for high-value content.

Initially, this process helped companies boost form submissions and decrease form abandons. Yet over time, marketers determined that visitors often were unwilling to provide additional information at multiple intervals and that available implicit data did not completely fill the gap.

To solve this problem, best-in-class companies have evolved their progressive profiling process by using new approaches and technologies that address the basic flaw in progressive profiling – getting people to respond multiple times. This newer process can best be described as dynamic profiling, where only the buyer profile data that you do not already know, or cannot determine by other means, is requested. Technologies and processes that support this approach include:

  • Dynamic forms show only the fields for which data is not currently available (e.g. an email address is requested first, then a real-time call to the contact database(s) is made to determine what, if any, information is available about the individual or company).
  • Reverse IP technology can identify the industry, company size and location of visitors, even before they identify themselves, to augment their profile. This data can also be used to provide more targeted, highly relevant content to help increase form submissions.
  • Real-time contact-appending services help reduce form length by matching basic visitor data with more robust information such as industry, SIC code, company address and other data that no longer needs to be requested via a form.
  • Creative Web site design can be leveraged to provide more detailed implicit data based on visitor activities. For instance, Web sites that provide pre-defined navigation paths based upon specific segments such as industry or company size, or that ask a series of questions to guide navigation, enable the capture of this data upon form submission, reducing the need to ask for it on the form itself.

The key to increasing form submission is to use a combination of processes, technology and implicit Web behaviors to elicit more data without relying too heavily on forms to build visitor profiles.