I recently got off the phone with Frank McPherson, president of Custom Data Imaging Corporation, who is widely recognized as one of the leaders in 1:1 (personalized) printing. I just released an update to my primer “Personalized URLs: Beyond the Hype,” so we were talking about personalized URLs.
He said, “You know, I keep waiting for someone to stand up and say, ‘Here are the kind of PURL applications that are guaranteed to work.’ I’ve been waiting a long time . . . and I’m still waiting.”
It was a good time. We started batting around some examples of personalized URL applications that, by all “official” standards, should have worked. They all had good creative. They were all produced well. They all had a high-value incentive to respond. Yet, they bombed. Not just bombed a little bit. They bombed badly.
What went wrong? Stepping outside of the “official” box for a moment, I put myself into the shoes of the person receiving the postcard.
One offered the opportunity to win a digital camera. Well, I don’t know the company, on the surface have no interest in the product being sold, and I have two digital cameras, so the incentive was meaningless to me. Next.
Another was a B2B association asking members to fill out a survey asking about the elements of the conference they found the most valuable. If I’m a member of the association, I probably decided long ago whether I was going to the conference or not, and I since I probably do pretty much the same thing every year and at the moment, I have a lot of work on my plate, I probably tossed it aside without really even reading the offer. Next.
A chance to win a sweepstakes? No impact. I never win sweepstakes, so that one isn’t worth spending my time on. How about a $25 Amazon gift card? Maybe, but how long is the survey? Usually, for out-and-out cash incentives, the survey takes longer to take than I earn in that amount of time. I may get “free” money, but I lose money doing it. Next.
Then there are those prospecting mailers from companies I’ve never done business with. When I go to a personalized URL, I know I’m going to be tracked. If I wanted this company to track me, I would have done business with them in the first place. NEXT!
Look at most of the personalized URL campaigns out there. Really, if you received the postcard, would you respond? Seriously, would you?
I think one of the reasons so many personalized URL applications bomb is because there isn’t enough thought put into how well the offer is matched to the recipient, whether it’s relevant to the recipient, and whether personalized URLs are the right response mechanism for this campaign in the first place.
So here’s my answer to Frank. There are no guarantees in marketing, but if I were creating a campaign and put myself in the shoes of my customer, here’s at least a decent litmus test: If I would respond to the offer myself, there is a good chance the campaign will work. If not, you can be pretty well guaranteed that it won’t.