Preferences collected during onboarding get old. And while analyzing subscriber behavior can reveal valuable insights, past behavior is not always the best indicator of the future behavior. That's where progressive profiling comes in. Directly asking subscribers questions about their interests and preferences and then using that information to better serve them can be extremely effective.

In my latest Email Insider column for MediaPost, I discuss four elements to keep in mind when you're developing or refining your progressive profiling email program:

  1. Pick your timing well. Asking subscribers about their summer travel plans in December isn't likely to net you much useful information. Ask when a topic is top of mind and then be prepared to act quickly.
  2. Keep your survey short. The longer your survey, the higher your abandonment rate will be-and you want as many subscribers to answer the question as possible. So shorter is almost always better.
  3. Make your questions fun. This is especially important if you're asking a bunch of questions. Think lifestyle magazine quiz, not high school history quiz. And increasingly, think visual quiz, not text quiz.
  4. Act on the responses. If you don't have a plan in place to act on the answers provided to your questions, then don't ask the questions. Failing to respond hurts your credibility and diminishes responses to future progressive profiling endeavors.

For all the details, which include links to several great examples from the Email Swipe File, read my Email Insider column on