Thinking outside the survey – explicit, implicit and emotional profiling.

Over the years, surveys have become a standard tool for capturing customer data at events. In addition to capturing attendance and satisfaction information, surveys still form the backbone of most lead-generation systems. Specifically, the approach that most live (and many virtual) events use is simple – customer information is collected and run through a series of “filters” to determine which customers to follow up with based on their size of their company, stage in the purchase lifecycle and a number of other factors.

While this approach has its benefits (simplicity being primary them), it also presents a number of challenges. For starters, event managers who rely solely on surveys are at the mercy of customers providing accurate and complete information. In addition, surveys are not able to collect behavioral data that can assist in the sales process. A better approach would be to leverage a combination of explicit (what customers tell you they want), implicit (what customers show you they want), and emotional (what customers emotions tell you they want) profiling tools to create a single 360-degree view of each customer. Following are a few examples of how to use implicit, explicit and emotional profiling in your next virtual events.

Important caveat: when it comes to collecting data, it is obviously important to be transparent about what information you will collect and why. Not only will this help you to avoid dissatisfaction, but customers will be more likely to give you accurate data if they know how you will use it.

Explicit profiling lets customers tell you what they want

Explicit profiling involves customers providing information directly and explicitly. For example, pre and post-event surveys are the most common form of explicit profiling used at events. In addition to collecting survey data, there are a number of other mechanisms that can be used to collect explicit information from customers. For example, instant polls can be used throughout the course of a virtual event to solicit responses on a number of topics. By spreading out the information collection process over a number of touches, event managers can increase response rates and data accuracy. Q&A sessions also represent a valuable opportunity to collect customer data. If you don’t have time to answer every question in real-time, make sure that this information is added to each customer’s profile for future engagement. Check out my previous post on   for additional information.

Implicit profiling links actions to expected behaviors

While most companies are familiar with at least a few explicit profiling tools, implicit profiling is less understood and often underutilized. In essence, implicit profiling involves putting customers into different categories based on what they do at the event, not based on what they say. For example, if a customer attends a presentation related to one of your products, her profile would be updated automatically to show her interest in this product. This type of profiling is particularly effective when customers have a choice between different session “tracks” (e.g. business vs. technical). Another type of implicit profiling measures each attendee’s activity and engagement levels. This allows event organizers to identify potential influencers from their audience. Check out my previous post for more information regarding  

Emotional profiling puts you in touch with how attendees are feeling

One profiling approach that only virtual events can offer is emotional profiling. This type of profiling allows users to share their emotional states as they participate in a virtual event. For example, Social27’s “mood-o-meter” gives attendees the opportunity to share their satisfaction (or dissatisfaction) with a particular presentation in real time. Over time, this tool will continue to evolve to provide even more detailed information regarding attendees’ emotional states during an event. Even at this early state, emotional profiling is already powerful tool for understanding which elements of a product presentation resonate with a particular customer… and which elements miss the mark completely.

What do customers want?

For decades, surveys have formed the backbone of most event profiling strategies. In addition to capturing attendance and satisfaction information, event managers use survey-based profiling information as the basis for their lead-generation engines. But, for companies that really want to understand what their customers want, a more comprehensive approach is required. Specifically, getting a 360-degree view of the customer requires a combination of implicit, explicit and emotional profiling tools. The good news is that many of these tools have already arrived. We just need to pick them up and use them.