Like other misunderstood newcomers, the use of URLs in direct mail was not too long ago a novelty item that companies liked to trot out with pride for their customers, but had yet to figure out its intrinsic value.
“I started seeing [URLs] in direct mail in the mid-90s. It was before the bubble, so everyone was so enamored of the idea of having a Web site, but didn’t quite know where they were going with it,” says Neil Feinstein, director of creative strategy at New York City–based True North Inc., an advertising agency that specializes in direct marketing, print and Web design. He explains that the metrics, tools, capabilities and technology behind these Web sites had not been developed yet.
Now, of course, URLs are a major player in the direct mail game. “It has only been over the last year that including them in direct mail pieces has become a best practice,” comments Peter Figueredo, CEO and co-Founder of NETexponent, a New York City–based online performance marketing agency that focuses on search and affiliate marketing.
Here are the three principal ways in which URLs can score in direct mail.
#1: Fulfill the Original Purpose: Drive Traffic
“As the Internet started to take off, leading-edge marketers knew they wanted to drive traffic only,” says Russell Kern, president of The Kern Organization, a fully integrated offline and online direct marketing agency in Woodland Hills, Calif. This main intention remains the same, according to Kern, who says such marketers seek to drive response from their mail packages to the Internet to allow for more education, as well as to reduce the cost of paper fulfillment and speed up lead capture.
Rather than using URLs to convert these leads into sales, the original purpose was to provide a resource for additional information. “Direct mail pieces usually offer limited real estate to convey product selling points, so a URL gave the advertiser the ability to have pages and pages of Web content that promotes the product/service,” illustrates Figueredo, who also mentions that at a very basic level the purpose of including a URL in a direct mail package was to ensure ad dollars spent on TV, print, etc. were getting full credit as many users trolled the Web after viewing an ad.