Collect insights! Building a subscriber profile

6 minute read

In theory, to send an email campaign all you need is a subscriber’s email address. In practice, you’re probably going to want a little more information than that. After all, the more you know about your subscribers the more you can target your message content and delivery.

Direct and indirect profiling

Subscriber profiling is the process of building up additional insight about the members of your audience. It may be that a minimal profile is all you need. For example to add a simple personalised greeting to your campaign a first name (or last name if you are more formal) will be all you need. However, collecting more detailed profile information will allow you to personalise and target your messages to a much greater extent.


Subscriber profiling is often referred to as either ‘direct’, that is information that is explicitly asked for and subsequently returned by the subscriber, or ‘indirect’, that is information which is collected by some other means. You may see indirect profiling referred to as ‘behavioural profiling’ – this is where profiling insight is gained purely through observing how subscribers interact with campaigns and websites.

Depending on your objectives, adding simple information like first name, last name and possibly company name can be useful additions. Next you might consider some more specific detail – birthday and geographic location are two of the most common pieces of profiling data. These can be used to create messages like birthday offers and promotions of local outlets or services. Gender may be another useful piece of profiling information, allowing you to target your male and female product ranges more accurately. Birthday, location and gender can all be captured explicitly through the completion of a field on a subscription form. If you are doing this, remember that all are potentially sensitive pieces of information, so take care.

Always make it clear why you are requesting this information, what it will be used for and most importantly why submitting this will be of value to your subscriber. It’s also worth considering that your initial subscription form may not be the best time to ask for this. More subscription questions generally mean lower completion rates so perhaps wait until the next stage in your relationship before you ask for more information. Your welcome email or your first campaign will start to establish your relationship and so are good opportunities to start building up your profiling data.

Subscriber profile fields

Ultimately, using direct profiling you can ask for and collect any information which is relevant to your marketing effort – pets, cars, mobile brand, previous engagement.. Whatever the information, to do this you’ll need to get to grips with subscriber  profiling fields.

Profile already includes a number of pre-set subscriber fields. These cover many of the more common pieces of profiling data like, name, company name, telephone number, birthday, postcode etc. A full list can be be obtained from our Knowledge Base article on data formatting.

Custom profile fields – direct profiling

You can also create your own custom profile fields – so if favourite colour, or whether a cat or dog owner is important to you, you easily create a field to capture and store this information. Custom profile fields can either be text, number or date based. Simply chose the format required and the specify additional parameters (for example with text based whether the response is to be freely entered or selected from a drop down list).

Custom profile fields

Finally you’ll need to specify a column heading for your field. This will allow you to add this field to a subscription form and to have it recognised in any import or export operations.  There’s lots more detail in our Knowledge Base article on custom profile fields.

Custom profile fields – indirect profiling

Indirect profiling information is also gathered in custom profile fields, but in this case there is no subscriber specific request. Instead the information is gathered automatically from a subscriber’s behaviour or action – they may have clicked a link, made a purchase or visited a particular section of your website. Indirect or behavioural profiling opens a whole new area of potential targeting.

Although location can be collected directly it can also be inferred to a fair degree of accuracy from IP address location – this can be good enough for targeting local outlets or delivery areas. Mobile device usage, product or service interests, even which call to action has been historically successful, can all be observed and collected indirectly.

Monitoring subscriber behaviour ‘beyond the click’ (that is after a clicking a link in an email campaign) allows the tracking of subsequent browsing behaviour and the collection of information on online interests and preferences. users will know this process as ‘Audience Insights’ or AI – it’s an advanced technique which is individually customised – so give us a call if this is of interest. We can help you set up the connections and the custom profile fields you’ll need.