Direct mail and the web. Not that long ago, it wasn't the closest of relationships. Maybe a general URL next to a little computer icon? Maybe a similar campaign that emerged from an email silo?
But now it's different. They're integrated because direct marketers know that an integrated campaign using multiple channels is a more effective campaign. Simply put, in a stressed economic age that's full of prospects less willing to spend, donate and sign up, direct mail and the web need each other.
While closely coordinated direct mail and email campaigns are both popular and successful today, perhaps the most effective demonstration of the offline-online marriage are personalized URL (PURL) campaigns. PURLs are explored in great deal in the report PURLs for Profit: Your everything-you-need-to-know guide to personalized URLs, including: Best Practices on why they work, campaign strategy, multichannel creative, analytics, and 10 Case Studies.
One section of the report talks to leading marketers about the steps necessary to harness the power of PURLs:
1. Focus on Analytics
Many services are springing up that offer marketers the ability to customize URLs for prospects and customers. Be sure the back-end analytics are also state of the art. For PURLs to work, there must be a feedback loop between driving transactions and improving data, and they must be leveraged intelligently with your goals and metrics in mind.
In other words, tracking is a big deal. "It's one of the main reasons you'd use a PURL," says Crystal Uppercue, marketing manager at direct marketing services provider EU Services. "It allows you to collect data in real time and respond with additional messages or push the data out to others in your company for follow up."
"The ability to track is far greater than just identifying a level of response. It allows you to break down customer behavior and trends," says Shawn Burst, founder of Dukky, a custom landing page and analytics software platform. "You can see and monitor who responds, shares, carries influence, redeems, etc."
This gives companies the ability to tier their customers based on their activity and interaction with the campaign, then brand and market to those consumers based on their level of interaction.
2. Put This Project on the Front Burner
The way technology moves, we can assume that PURLs will become commonplace at some point. The benefit of initiating PURLs now is that when everybody else is doing it, you'll be doing it better, having already established a feedback loop between yourself and your customers. They'll already understand your business meets them with the best offers, personalized to their needs. That's the beauty of PURLs.
Indeed, many marketers believe that you can't wait too long. "One day everyone will be doing PURLs," asserts Mike Robinson, vice president of Performance Direct Marketing. The days of prospects being freaked out by prepopulating forms on a website are gone. For a big PURL campaign for a major newspaper, for example, he encountered very few complaints.
Robinson also mentions the recent Direct Marketing Association statistic: 42 percent of people who respond to a direct mail offer would rather respond online. "That's just online. Add a PURL, and you're talking even higher," Robinson predicts.
3. Explain That PURLs are a Tactic, Not a Strategy
"We view PURLs as a tactic, not a strategy," states Neil Feinstein, director of brand and creative strategy at True North, a marketing agency. "PURLs allow marketers to get hyperpersonal, thus generating higher response rates. So for us, the typical strategy around PURLs is hyperpersonalization."
For example, if the objective is to increase sales from existing customers, the strategy would be to use the information in the database to hypersonalize communications so the message is more meaningful to the recipient, describes Feinstein. And as we all know, relevance increases response. In this case, the tactic could be to use PURLs to create that hypersonalized experience on a landing page.
Based on this logic, the challenge with PURLs is having a robust database underlying the program. Just using a name in a PURL in a direct mailer so that a user types in her name and then sees it on the top of the landing page is merely a gimmick. "But if you can infuse personal information about that customer onto that landing page, the online experience will be more meaningful," claims Feinstein.
Say this customer bought a red sofa at Crate and Barrel, and the landing page has a picture of that sofa with matching pillows, chairs, tables and rugs. She can see the accessories that match the sofa she just bought and can easily envision her in her new living room.
"We've spoken with just about every one of our clients about using PURLs. They're all interested in the concept, but often need expertise in the implementation. That's where we come in," notes Feinstein.
To read more about what this PURLs report contains, visit our online bookstore.
Ethan Boldt is the chief content officer of DirectMarketingIQ, the research division of the Target Marketing Group. Reach Ethan at email@example.com.