Many of the smartest marketers I have had the pleasure of knowing, agree that building an email list is essential to long-term success.

Profiling is a term I use to partition my list into separate sub-lists that can help you identify what products or services are of the greatest interest to your list subscribers. A profile can be any way you want to separate the list members into groups of like interests, wants, needs, demographics or any other predictor of future buying behavior.

Creating a profile will depend on many factors, but for this article’s sake we will focus on using surveys to discover what it is your list wants. A wise mentor of mine once told me, “If you want to know what your list wants, ask them.” Sounds simple, but few if any list managers ever do this.

I highly suggest using a survey to extract information from your list members. The time to do this is immediately after they have signed up. They are new and eager to get at the information you are promising or to send a message to you. This is the best time to start asking them questions as they are already engaged with your pages.

Once they sign up, and you get them past the intended action you want them to take, send them off to a survey. I suggest using or a similar service. They are easy to set up and you can get relatively in-depth information collected and sorted easily for a low cost. I have used both incentivized offers as well as straight un-incentivized paths into a survey. Incenting list users sometimes can skew results, so it is always better to not incent them if you can. If after repeated attempts to get more people to take your survey with no incent, go the incent route but always keep in mind they may have just filled in the survey to get the incent item.

Parsing Data
You will want to construct your survey in a way that is easy to parse the data and even easier to categorize users into profiles. Decide first on what profiles you are looking for. If you run a site that promotes biz opps, you may want to set up profiles based on several different factors which would be directly relatable to the products you are looking to get them to buy.

So for biz opps I might try to cull out profiles such as:
Age Profile: Anyone 45 or older would go in an older profile and those younger in the younger profile.
Preferences Profile: This would help identify which types of money-making programs they prefer. I might have an MLM profile, a franchisee profile, an online marketing profile, a real estate profile, or any other category.
Price/Commitment Profile: They might answer questions regarding how much time and money they would want to invest in getting their new business off the ground.

The number of profiles is unlimited, but you would be wise to keep it to three to five to make your list management easier. What is most important is to identify the factors that allow you to make emails to them much more targeted and engaging to their needs.

Simple Answers
When constructing your survey, you will want to keep your questions in a closed-end format. Do not ask questions where you want them to fill in the answers. This will make it harder for you to sort out when the data comes in. Instead, try to ask questions where there are multiple-choice answers. This will make it much easier for you to parse through the data and eventually end up with a set of answers that can predict future behavior.

Remember that when constructing your survey, you want to ask questions that get the end user to reveal exactly what they want. This is harder than it sounds and sometimes I have done smaller tests that do have open-ended questions only to try to determine the profile categories. This is helpful, and you only need 500 or so people to answer the open-ended questions and review them to see the patterns that emerge.

If you are serious about building a long-term asset from your list, profiling will help you establish a better rapport, and eventually a better understanding of the motivations that underlie the end user’s buying habits. Over time as you refine the profiles, you should see better list response and that translates directly into higher open/click rates and eventually better sales ROI.