Best Practices for Personalized URLs

By | December 19, 2008

Over the last several weeks, I’ve been stirring conversations about personalized URLs, getting printers and marketers talking about what works and what doesn’t. There was a fascinating discussion here on Digital Nirvana. Plus, I’ve gotten a lot of feedback from discussions I’ve started in digital printing and database marketing groups on LinkedIn.

Although I drew very similar conclusions in “Personalized URLs: Beyond the Hype” (the fourth in my Marketer’s Primer Series now available from the What They Think store), it was fascinating to see printers and marketers reiterating and expanding upon those conclusions in such a powerful and detailed way.

If I had to come up with three summary bullet points of those discussions, it would be these:

1. Have a purpose for your personalized URLs.

One of the greatest values of personalized URL campaigns is the ability to survey your respondents. Make sure you have a well-defined purpose and maximize your real estate on the site to gather the information of most value to you. Are you trying to find a customer pain point? Identify the timetable for capital investment? Showcase your capabilities or reinforce branding? Until you know what the survey is supposed to accomplish, it won’t do you much good.

2. Remember that the personalized URL is not the end goal. It is simply the beginning of the conversation.

If you aren’t going to take that information and use it to deepen your relationship with the respondent, you’re missing the point—and wasting your money.

3. Response rate is a poor measurement of success.

Too many marketers have gotten used to using response rates as the measure of success, but that doesn’t work with personalized URLs. Personalized URLs are merely a response mechanism — much as 800 numbers are — so a “response” doesn’t mean much unless it is converted into a high-quality lead or a sale. So “cost per qualified lead” or “conversion to sale” is a far better measure.

Also remember that because the personalized URL is only a response mechanism, the success of the campaign starts with getting people to log into the PURL in the first place. That means that you need to have all of the basics of good marketing down before applying the personalized URL. This means having the right list, good creative, the right incentive, and great messaging. Otherwise, the personalized URLs will be all dressed up, but won’t have anyone to play with.

“Personalized URLs: Beyond the Hype” is available at the What They Think Store. Printers and marketers  can also purchase licenses to distribute them across their enterprises and use the content for internal training, PowerPoints, customer distribution, and other marketing and educational uses. Licensing can only be purchased from Digital Printing Reports.

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3 thoughts on “Best Practices for Personalized URLs

  1. Bob Raus

    Heidi. I like your work and you make several great points here. I would challenge and build on your statements a bit though.

    You say: 1. Have a purpose for your personalized URLs.
    I think what you describe in the paragraph that follows this is really to have a purpose for your campaign. As you state the PURL is merely a mechanism to interact with the prospect. It’s the content – that draws them in – that counts. Once they are compelled to act (i.e. go to the PURL), it adds value by facilitating the interaction in a personalized way. Like the message, the call to action needs to also be targeted and personalized based on what you already know about each respondent and their inputs via the PURL interface.

    You say: 2. Remember that the personalized URL is not the end goal. It is simply the beginning of the conversation.
    I agree, and the conversation can occur – and indeed is most successful – when it occurs via multiple media. Today the PURL. Tomorrow direct mail, next week email, text message, etc. Also, lets not forget that a lot of people out there (over 30) still prefer to actually talk to someone on the phone from time to time – assuming they initiate the call to the company and they are not calling us during dinner. If they call and don’t use the PURL, the campaing is still a success!

    You say: 3. Response rate is a poor measurement of success.
    Agreed 100%. However this is no different for PURLs than for any other communication media used. Yes, Direct Mailers and 1:1 software companies will tell you that increased RESPONSE rates are great (and there is some truth to that), BUT good Sales people and savvy execs know that the bottom line is king (always). We marketers have always known this of course, but it is easier to talk about response rates because truthfully it can be very difficult to actually and factually track where sales come from. This is an issue of needing to justify every cent spent as if every program is stand alone. Of course if that was the case, we’d never need to spend a dime on branding, customer service or product quality. But, that’s something for another article!.

  2. Heidi Tolliver-Nigro Post author

    Hi, Bob.

    On the first point, I agree completely. Technically, “Have a purpose for your personalized URLs” should read, “Have a purpose for your personalized URL campaign.” It’s sloppy language from a technical perspective, but I think most people will understand what I mean.

    Yes, personalized URLs aren’t the only approach for which response rate isn’t the best measure of success, but I do think it’s a particular problem for personalized URLs. In a 1:1 non-personalized URL campaign, the way of gauging response might be the purchase of a product. In this case, the response rate and the conversion rate are the same. But in most personalized URL campaigns — at least the way they are implemented — direct sale is often not the primary motivation. Thus, there are layers between the hit to the personalized URL and the ultimate goal of the marketer, making the “response rate” method of gauging success even more problematic than it is for other types of 1:1 marketing.

    This said, I agree that response rate — unless it’s also the conversion rate — should not be the primary measure of success in any 1:1 campaign, whether it’s a personalized URL campaign or not. This is also one of the best practices listed in “1:1 (Personalized) Printing: Boosting Profits Through Relevance,” which is the companion Marketer’s Primer on 1:1 printing. I think it’s just something marketers have to be doubly careful of with personalized URLs, especially since “response rate” is so easy to track.

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