5 Things You Need to Know About Personalized URLs
Anyone working in the field of direct marketing and direct mail today has a feeling where things are headed: Smarter targeting, more data-driven communication and increased personalization. Yes, the technology and the data are better than ever, but prospects now demand such treatment if they are going to respond to your mail.
What's the key tool, today and in the future, to deliver such treatment? Personalized URLs (PURLs), for all kinds of companies—merchandisers, retailers, fundraisers, magazines, financial services, insurance companies, colleges, etc.
In the recent webinar p-URLs of Wisdom: 3 Personalized URL Case Studies that I hosted for DirectMarketingIQ, attendees flooded me and the speakers—Carolyn Goodman, president and creative director of Goodman Marketing Partners, and Joe Petrucci, president of WayBetter Marketing—with questions at the end of the session.
The questions reflected the high interest in using PURLs in direct mail campaigns. But because they are relatively new on direct mail, many marketers are unsure exactly how to run a PURL campaign.
Here were some of those questions asked, and which the award-winning creative director Goodman was happy to take on (most refer to her case study on the PURL campaign for public jazz station KCSM-FM in San Francisco):
1. What is the most effective location of a PURL message on a direct mail piece (front/back, top/bottom) and how important is the font?
Goodman: I truly believe the "magic" of a PURL is the combination of simplification of the message, utilization of a creative format that showcases that PURL and the use of a targeted list. The font needs to be legible, but tie in with your overall brand graphics and the look and feel of the piece. Just slapping a PURL in place of an existing URL or m-URL will not increase response, per se.
It's like when personalization became a hot trend; people went overboard and every other word, STEVE, was your name, STEVE. It didn't kid anyone into believing that the message was more personalized, STEVE, just because you inserted my name, STEVE, a few times throughout the package.
2. What about digital printing postcards versus inkjet DM pieces for catalogs? What are response rates for B-to-C versus B-to-B?
Goodman: Personally, I think the quality of digital printing is superior to most inkjet printing efforts—although recently I have seen a few amazing examples. Again, I think it's about how you use the strategy of a PURL—whether in B-to-B or B-to-C, people do like to see their names attached to a website. And, if upon arrival from sheer curiosity alone their names are used in a fun and innovative way, you'll continue to peak their curiosity to keep on clicking.
But I can't stress enough that this is not a magic bullet. Great response comes from truly digging deep into the business problem, identifying key insights to help position the product in a way that will be most appealing to a specific target audience, and then creating a direct marketing creative solution that will have maximum appeal to that audience.
List and offer play a huge part in that matrix. The PURL, when used appropriately, can help create lift.
3. You said the PURL was getting response for 3-4 months—does this mean recipients keept the physical mail pieces for that long?
Goodman: Exactly! We mailed targets the first time with a unique domain name and PURL for our first product offering; 45 days later, we mailed the second product offer with a different domain name and PURL. So we know that when recipients visited their PURL, we knew to which campaign they were responding. Each campaign had a long response tail ... and we're still counting!
4. The personalized T-shirt and bag are a great idea. How did you coordinate the production of the shirts to keep the costs down? Is that a service either speaker offers?
Goodman: To keep costs down, we gathered the names of all the T-shirt orders and then created five different set-ups of art work. To keep costs to a minimum, we grouped the names of the donors by size of the T-shirt. For example, if we had 20 names of donors who ordered large T-shirts, our baseline art had 50 names of real jazz legends, and then sprinkled 20 names of donors among those names and created one piece of artwork (or one artwork set up).
We then took all the people who ordered a medium T-shirt and used our baseline art of 50 jazz legend names and sprinkled in the names of all the medium T-shirt donors, etc. We then went to a regular T-shirt screen printer and printed our shirts with each of the different artwork set ups.
5. What was the dollar value of the sale? The reason for the question is related to the amount of perceived work and time that goes into each project.
Goodman: Since KCSM-FM is a non-profit, our goal was to increase the average order size (or gift amount) from the traditional $40 to $80. We are provided with an annual budget yearly. From that budget we create an annual DM plan, and then execute the plan throughout the year, which includes five to six unique direct mail packages. The budget includes all out-of-pocket costs and agency fees.
This particular project is a lot of work. However, it pays off in spades for our client: It increases the average donation size, increases the number of membership renewals and increases overall revenue into the station. Since it must put our contract up to bid every three years, the results we achieve help us retain this client ... and yes, they are profitable for us.
Plus, we get great press for all the work we do for them, and we've won Echo Awards, Addy Awards and took the Package of the Year Award from Fundraising Success. All great PR which has helped us attract more clients. So, at the end of the day, the investment we've made in this client has more than paid off.
Ethan Boldt is the chief content officer of DirectMarketingIQ, the research division of the Target Marketing Group.