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Progressive Profiling in Classic Forms


You can gate the premium content in your Media library by requiring visitors to register on an Act-On form before accessing the content. Progressive profiling rules can be set up to decide which registration form to use based on what is already known about a visitor.

For example, if an anonymous visitor clicks on a gated white paper link on your website, a form that only asks for the name and email address can be shown. Later, if this same visitor clicks on a different gated link, a form that asks for their job title and industry can be displayed.

Why progressive profiling? Using short simple forms increases the likelihood of visitors completing registration forms. By using a sequence of simple forms as described above, you can build up a more complete profile of a visitor over time.

Here’s an example of a typical progressive profiling experience:

Visit # 1 Visit # 2 Visit # 3

A visitor arrives on a landing page for the first time and decides to fill in a form for a valuable piece of content. The form presents him with a bare minimum of required fields, just name and email address. The short form is easy to fill out and creates no barriers between you and your prospect.

When he returns, the form dynamically replaces the original questions with new ones. Perhaps it asks for a company name. The form may also be pre-populated with the name and email address he previously supplied on his first visit. This adds a level of confidence because the site recognizes and acknowledges him.

During the next visit, the form again displays another set of new questions that continue the qualification process; this time it might be phone number and time frame to purchase. Over time, your picture of the prospect is filled out, the prospect learns what to expect from you, trust builds, and everyone wins.

  • Think about the types of profile information that you want to collect from your website visitors, and the order of importance of this information. 
  • Create a series of forms in your Forms library where each form contains a subset of fields that you want to collect about your visitors at each stage.
  • Define a series of progressive profile rules.
  • Generate gated content links to one or more of your media assets that will use these progressive profiling rules.
  • Place these gated content links on your site.

Number of fields: To keep it visitor-friendly, consider asking for just two or three new fields in each form. For example, you may want to ask for first name, last name, and email address in the first form, then move to company and industry in the second form, and then phone number and address.

Confirm previously submitted information: In each of your forms, you may want to also display previously-captured information back to the visitor. For example, you may want to reference their name and email address on return visits. There are two easy ways to do this:

  • Simply include these form fields again in your subsequent forms. They will automatically be pre-filled with the data that was previously collected.
  • Insert a Rich Text block in your form and place personalization variables in the text. To add a personalization variable, simply type '((fieldname)).'  For example, you could say, 'Welcome back, ((First Name))!'

AOmegaphonesmall.pngPlease note:

Use care with this type of personalization if you plan to use the form outside of the progressive profiling context.

Form Naming Convention: If these forms will be used solely for progressive profiling, consider a naming convention that will help you remember the order of information stored in each form.

Create a series of forms in your Forms library

  • Create your forms by clicking Content Forms
    • See the Forms User Guide or watch the self-paced video to learn how to create forms. Links are included in the References section below.
  • Make sure to select the same signup list in Step 3 of each form, so that all of the collected profile data is added to one location.
  • Click Content > Progressive Profiling.
  • Click New.
  • You may find that you only need to set up a single series of rules. However, the option to create additional rule sets exists, if, for example, you have different rules you want to apply to another website. 
  • Give your new progressive profiling series a name.
  • Select the list that contains the profile information you will be collecting -- this should be the shared list that is assigned to the forms you created.
  • Click Add Rules to select the forms that will display at each stage of the progressive profiling. 
  • For the first rule, select the first set of fields you are interested in, and which form to use to capture this information. When a visitor is anonymous, or is known but has not yet submitted all of these specified fields, this is the form they will see.
    Tip: Hold the Ctrl key down to select multiple fields.
  • Click Submit.
  • Click Add Rule again and select the next set of fields you want to capture, and the corresponding form that should display.
  • Keep repeating this process until you have identified all of the desired profile information you plan to collect from visitors.

All of the forms associated with the Progressive Profiling Rule you create, must have “Always Append” turned OFF (unchecked). If you are experiencing problems with progressive profiling looping back and forth between the first and the second form, most likely the form submissions are set to “Always append”.

This guide will explain why having “Always Append” turned ON (check box marked) will make Progressive Profiling appear to be broken.

Here is a very basic, three form, progressive profiling rule. It is set to ask for the user’s First Name, Last Name and Email on their first visit. On their second visit, they will be asked to make a selection from a Drop List. Finally, their third visit is requesting Job and Mailing Address information. Each of the forms associated with this Progressive Profiling Rule have “Always Append” enabled.

Here is an image of the first two visits/form submissions:

After submitting the first form, the user clicked the link of the Gated Content a second time and the cookie told Act-On that it already knew the users First Name, Last Name and Email because it was associated with the record of this list that had those fields filled. Therefore, the second form was presented, but when the user submits the second form, a new record is created in the list that does not consist of First Name and Last Name. When the user goes back for a third visit, the cookie is now associated with the second visit submission which does not consist of the users First Name and Last Name.

Progressive Profiling Rules always run from top to bottom and the first rule set for this example is:

“if anonymous, or if known but First Name or Last Name or Email is missing”

Because the cookie is now associated with my second visit submission, and the fields are blank, the user will be presented with the first form again.

To prevent this from happening, turn OFF (uncheck) the “Always Append” option and the cookie will always be associated with the same record in the list, each time they visit.

  • Click Content > Media Files.
  • Hover over your document or media link and click the drop down arrow > Gated Content URL.

  • Click Add.
  • In the drop-down list, you will see any existing progressive profiling rules display at the top.
  • Choose the desired set of progressive profile rules, and click Create. The URL will appear in the Gated Content URL window. 

  • Repeat this step for each media asset you want to tie to progressive profiling rules.
  • Now take each of the links and place them in the appropriate locations on your website.

When visitors come to your site and click on any of these gated content links, they will be shown the first form in your progressive profiling series. Once the form is submitted, the visitor will be redirected to the requested document or media URL.

The next time the visitor comes back to your site and accesses that asset, or another asset with a gated content link tied to the same progressive profiling series, they will see the next form in the series. This process will continue on each subsequent visit, until all of the desired profile information has been captured.

Once a visitor on your site has submitted a form tied to your progressive profile rules, the grace period is the amount of time you allow them to access additional gated content on your site without having to provide additional information. This allows a more positive interaction with your site for the visitor.

Once the grace period expires, the next time the visitor tries to access your gated content they will be asked to fill out the next form in your progressive profile series.

Note about form response pages::
When a form is used as a gated content URL for your media assets, the media asset is displayed in place of any response page you define in Step 2 of your form. Other actions defined in Step 2 -- such as triggering a confirmation email, syncing submissions with your CRM, or sending user alerts -- will still be implemented. And your defined response page will still be displayed when submitting the form through a Public URL instead of a gated content URL.

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