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Winning Strategies

The Best Way to Do Progressive Profiling and Lead Scoring: Keep It Simple

Inbound Marketing's effectiveness hinges on our ability to create valuable content for our potential customers. Accomplishing that goal is so difficult, many people forget the possibility of utilizing their content for opportunities to progressively profile their leads.

For most people, a static form with basic fields is as far as they get. For others, a massive static form with a ton of fields is their chosen method, which kills their conversion rate. So how do you keep forms simple, and get all the information you need while still providing a frictionless user experience? 

How to Do Progressive Profiling

Studies have settled the science on one important thing: The more fields you have on your landing pages, the lower the conversion rate will get. For each additional piece of information you require to download your content, there will be fewer people downloading.

This is where progressive profiling is your friend. In tools like HubSpot, smart fields allow you to keep your forms small and simple while adding up the information you need over time.

Think of it like this, your potential customers are taking part in a buyers' journey, or they are going down the sales funnel, whichever vernacular you use. If you are doing inbound marketing correctly, you will have premium content offers that will nurture them and educate them into the next stage of the journey or funnel.

You don't need to know everything about them when they are in the top-of-the-funnel. You only need to get their permission to market to them. Usually, their name and e-mail are enough. But as they download more content, you can insert new questions, one or two at a time.

By the time they reach the buying decision, as a general rule, you should have the information you need to qualify them and provide sales with the information they need to close the deal.

Step 1: Identify Your Qualifiers

What do you need to know about a website visitor to determine whether they are a good fit for your company? For Lean Labs, it's pretty straightforward: they have to have an established marketing or website need. If our leads feel their marketing is working great, and their website is top-notch without us, we will never be able to sell them on our core services.

So our number one qualifier is to discover if they have an established need. Once we determine this, we can worry about things like budget, timeframe, etc. But there's no need to ask those questions until we qualify our lead.

So we have determined, our Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL) is someone who has an established need.

How do we determine a need? We ask!

When you download one of our content offers, our form will eventually ask you to rate your own marketing and website. If your marketing is suffering, it may make sense for us to talk about a business relationship. In that case, we enter you into a workflow where we educate you about our process as we learn more about you through progressive profiling.

Step 2: Identify Buying Triggers

Now that you've identified what your ultimate qualifier is, you need to figure out what causes those qualified leads to choose to buy. 

What pulls that trigger?

Once you identify the buying trigger, you can set up a lead nurturing workflow that walks a lead naturally to that point. But if you don't know where to take them, you'll probably have a lot of workflows that don't accomplish anything.

For Lean Labs, the buying trigger is when a lead with an established need raises their hand to have a mastermind talk with our experts. When someone cares enough to speak to us about that need, we have a high success rate of building a successful partnership. 

Step 3: Determine What Information You Need

Notice, it's need, not want. Sales want all the information they can get, understandably. But what information is absolutely necessary for you to do lead nurturing?

For local businesses, this could be location information - is the lead in your service area or not? For other companies, it could be what service your lead is interested; like web design vs. marketing for Lean Labs.

The goal is to identify all the required information you need to facilitate a progressive profiling system. For instance, one of our clients offers three services that are connected to each other, but very distinct. To nurture their leads, the first thing we absolutely must know is which service most interests them. 

We can do this in two ways:

  1. Website interactions (content have they visited, offers have they downloaded).
  2. Asking through form fields.

Step 4: Setup Your Buyer's Journey Logic

In HubSpot, this is very easy from a technical standpoint. From a logical point of view, it can get complex. So the rule of the game is to keep it as simple as possible. 
The goal: To determine the triggers for each funnel stage change. What does a lead need to know to move him from the Top of the Funnel (TOFU) to the Middle (MOFU)? That's the content you must create and in that order.
Start by creating your TOFU content. The ultimate goal of TOFU content is to capture the lead and get their permission to market to them. Then, create the content that will trigger the move to MOFU.
On the TOFU landing page, ask only the questions you need to start the nurturing process. For some, Name and Email may be enough. For others, like our client, we have to know what their area of need is, so we can send them content tailored for them.
Then, you replace answered questions with any questions that need answering to offer them relevant nurturing content.
  • Landing page 1, we ask them Name, Email, and Necessary Question 1. 
  • Landing page 2, we replace question 1 with question 2.
  • Landing page 3, replace question 2 with question 3.
  • Rinse Repeat

You need to use smart fields to replace questions, but they have to be in the order that supports your workflow logic. If you need to know the answer to a question in order to segment your list for the next stage of the buyers' journey, that question must be asked before the workflow of the next phase can begin.

Example Scenario

A Real Estate agency may ask whether a lead is looking for residential or commercial property as necessary question #1. This way, they don't send an enterprise content about buying a fixer-upper home. However, they may have 2 different buyer journeys for rural customers and city customers. They may want to segment their city customers into buyers and renters, so they can nurture them with relevant content. So necessary question #2 must be about buying vs. renting so they can move to that stage of the workflow.

Leads who are interested in renting in the city may be further segmented by budget type. So necessary question #3 would be about monthly budget. Those with larger budgets can then enter a nurturing campaign for high-rises and luxury apartments. Those with low monthly budgets may enter into a campaign that educates them on why they may be happier in outlying rural areas at a lower cost.

The goal is to order your necessary questions to compliment the stages of the buyers journey. When done successfully, your leads are nurtured at the same speed as you learn and qualify the lead.

Step 5: Setup Lead Scoring

Lead scoring is an easy way to tell which leads your sales should focus on, vs. which leads might be a waste of time at this stage in their buyers' journey. For Lean Labs, leads who have an established need have a much higher score than those who do not. This way, we can create smart lists based on score, rather than cherry picking leads.

The most common mistake I see with lead scoring is points awarded without an identification system in place. Most people just start adding and subtracting points for what they think are important signals. Scoring should be thought of as a grading system - and grades should mean something.

In school, we know that a certain score gave us an A. We know the consequences of getting a B, both from our parents, our report card, and for those with enough forethought, what it meant for their college choices down the road. It should be similar to your lead scoring.

When you see a score, do you know what it means without drilling down into the lead's information?

If not, you need to rethink your scoring.

Go back to your triggers and identifiers, and score them starting with the most important to the buying decision. Score that on a 1,000 point scale. Now, everyone who has a score positive or negative 1,000 is easily identified based on trigger. Then, move to the next important and score them on a 500 point scale. Then, 100 points, Then 10 points. Then, single points as needed.

For Lean Labs, anyone who says their marketing is bad and needs help, they score 1,000 points. If they say their marketing is great, they score negative 1,000 points. We have more qualifying questions down through the scale.

I can build a list based on leads who score 1,601 - and know exactly what that means from a qualification standpoint. For me, leads scoring is now valuable. 

If I see a lead with around -500 points, I also know they think their marketing is going good, but their answers to other questions are giving me signals that it's not performing as well as they say. However, if their score is below -1,000 points, I know they think their marketing is doing well, and they haven't given any other clues they need help.

Leads scoring less than -1,000 points are placed into a Negative Persona list, and after a few attempts to get more information, will eventually be dropped from our marketing list. 

There's no need to keep bad fits in your marketing system. Lead Scoring helps you cull your list of bad fits, and target the leads that are the best fit.

Making Your Progressive Profiling Strategy Work

Don't make the mistake of trying to get it perfect from square 1. Too many people waste a lot of time trying to build the ideal system from scratch - and usually end up never making it, or getting really frustrated with it.

Instead, stay super-simple. Anything that can be cut should be cut. Focus on the must-have's and build those out first. Then, measure and learn from the successes and failures of each e-mail and each stage in the workflow and scoring system.

Iterate on that, and build on over time. Eventually (and I do mean eventually as it is a long, detailed process) you will have a marketing machine based on value for the customer, and relevant key information for marketing and sales.

Written by Ryan Scott / July 8, 2015

is the Inbound Marketing Artist at Lean Labs. His marketing experience ranges from colleges to SMBs, and tech startups. When not marketing, he's sure to be enjoying something nerdy.

Articles by Ryan Scott