Personalized URLs in combination with direct mail or email campaigns have emerged as a valuable marketing tool. A Personalized URL (PURL) is a web page or microsite that is tailored to an individual visitor. A common example of a PURL is a web page with a URL such as www.retailstore.com/johnsmith, where “John Smith” is a target prospect or customer who receives a direct-mail or email communications that encourages him to visit the web page. For each recipient within the campaign, the web address is unique and personalized to the recipient. The content of the web page (PURL) should also be tailored to each recipient through the use of variable fields allowing pages to be linked to a database that contains information about each potential visitor.
PURLs are a stark contrast to a GURL, or generic URL, which is more common in direct mail and email campaigns. For example www.phonecompany.com/SummerSavings where PhoneCompany is offering the same call to action to everyone who receives a campaign offering discounts to new customers during a certain time period (I think I’ve received 3 this week!) If the offer is compelling and the design is effective, a GURL can work pretty well. But a variety of research (PODi.org, Aberdeen, Jupiter) tells us that personalization offers a significant lift over generic campaigns, but personalization comes at a price.
While software can be purchased to allow marketers to generate PURLs at lower cost per URL, more commonly, marketers are using 3rd party services to generate the PURLs and track response. For third party services, costs range from .05 to .50 per PURL per campaign depending on volume.
Before spending the money, consider that the degree of personalization that can be created on PURLs is highly dependent on the amount of data your organization has gathered about its target audience. When good data is available, keep in mind that an overly detailed and personal level of information in a PURL may lead a visitor to feel his or her privacy is being invaded.
Here are the biggest drawbacks I see with PURL implementations -beyond the “Creep Effect” above:
- Many marketers are so enamored with the idea of putting John Smith’s name on a web page that they don’t spend the time making sure that the page meets John Smith’s needs;
- Often, John Smith’s needs aren’t radically different than, say, Karen Jones’ needs. In fact, there may be only a handful of drivers that make the campaign relevant to the individual.
- Relevant messages are more effective than those that are only personalized – so a PURL without a relevant message is a poor use of resources.
The real driver of response rates is relevance rather than personalization. PODI.org cites research indicating that relevant campaigns generate, on average, 300% better response than those that are simply personalized. The level of customization to make something relevant to the recipient is usually not 1-to1 or even 1-to100. It may be more like 1-to-10,000.
Here is where Customized URLs or what I call “CURLs” come in. You can tailor a particular web page to the level necessary to make it highly relevant to each group of recipients. Perhaps tailored by length of relationship, level of purchase power, industry or region. You can still personalize the direct mail or email campaign that directs the recipient to the website. For example,
Pharmaceutical executives like you spend an average of $4,000 per year on rental car expenses. Visit www.rentalcarco.com/pharmaexecs, for discount programs and other tips that can help you cut your costs by up to 20%.”
Assuming that the message was being sent to a list of 100,000 prospects and tailored for 10 different industries, this campaign could be launched with out any specialized PURL generating software or services. In contrast, the same campaign with PURLs would generate 100,000 individual microsites at a cost of $10,000 to $20,000 before the cost of the direct mail or email blast.
So save some money and still get results:
- CURLs are at least as effective as the typicall PURL implementation at a fraction of the cost
- Spend your time and budget coming up with great, relevant offers and supporting creative to increase response
- If you generate the CURLs internally, make sure you have a method for measuring response
Whether you use PURLs, CURLs or GURLs using combining direct mail with online media to get your message across and measure response is a big step in the right direction.