Reddit: Can we talk about PURLs?

Psychdelight recently brought up a good question on Reddit regarding PURLs. I posted a response to the Reddit thread, but the Reddit gods, or psychdelight decided not to approve the post for whatever reason. But I thought my response was good! So I’ll post it here :)

I’m one of those PURL companies that “hopped on the bandwagon” several years back (not one of the companies mentioned here). You will not hear me tell you that “PURLs are all the rage and super effective,” nor will I be clamoring of your business. PURLs are, however, what puts dinner on my family’s table.

I’ve seen hundreds of PURL campaigns and techniques over the years. I have seen the fad come in go, specifically in the print world. During this fad, printers were ineffectively using PURLs as a gimmicky way to increase response (which doesn’t work). This fad is what led a lot of people to look at PURLs as “trite, inelegant and inauthentic.” Using PURLs as a gimmicky way to increase response rates obviously does not work, hence the busted dreams of so many printers, and the decline of the fad.

But as that fad declined, another, more strategic use of PURLs started to emerge. As ifeelhome mentioned – using PURLs as a means to track and follow up with prospects could be a strategic and effective way to use PURLs. Sure, there are many site visitor attribution tools out there like (such as al_manchester’s Woopra), but these tools will not tell you the exact name of the visitor, unless you somehow tell the tool who it is. With direct mail, your only option to identify visitors is by using PURLs (for now anyways).

So psychdelight, you can let you boss know that by themselves, PURLs will not make you a ton of money. They are simply a tool that has the potential to enhance a campaign, where it makes strategic sense.

Multiple Redirect Rules

Ok guys. This has been a feature you guys have been asking for a while now! As of today, you can now create multiple “rules” to redirect PURL visitors to specific pages, based on their answers.

I put together a quick video to demonstrate the feature:

And you can learn more on our support documentation: Advanced Form Submission Rules

Email Marketing with Personalized URLs

Before today, sending out an email marketing campaign with Personalized URLs (PURLs), has been a tangled mess.  You would first have to upload your list of contacts into Purlem, export the list back out, upload your Purlem list into your email marketing platform, and “mail merge” the PURLs into an email template.  That, is not fun.

To get started, select the “Email All Contacts” link from the Contacts page.


Then, compose your email.  You can personalized the email with the “Insert” dropdown, just as you would the landing page.

Screen Shot 2015-08-12 at 4.00.56 PM

From there, we will personally work with you to test, send and track the email. The cost? 1¢ per recipient.

Personalize any web page with Purl.js

Purl.js is an easy way to personalized a website to the visitor.  Here’s how it works…

1) Use Personalized URLs to send visitors to your website. 

Personalized URLs or “PURLs” are simply a URL that is personalized to each recipient. (For example: or

The PURLs are used to tell your website who is visiting.  This technique requires that you have a list of knows customers/prospects that you want to personalize your website to.  With that list in hand, you can create PURLs for each recipient with Purlem.

2) Use Hashtags to Personalize your page.  

When a recipient visits their “PURL,” they will be taken to a website that is personalized to them.  You can personalize the page by placing variable Hashtags directly into the HTML.  For example, if you wanted to pull in the visitor’s first name into your website header, you would simply use #firstName.

In this example, #firstName is replaced with John.



Here is how to set it up…

1) Upload purl.js
Download purl.js, and upload the file to your server.

2) Add code to HTML
Add the follow code into just above the </head> section of your HTML.

<script src=”/path/to/purl.js”></script>

3) Add jQuery
Purl.js requires jQuery.  If you don’t have jQuery on your site, you’ll want to include it as well. Below is the Google hosted library for jQuery.

<script src=””></script>

4) Add Hashtags
Add the variable hashtags into the HTML.  You can see Purlem’s variable hashtags here.

Zapier Integration

I’m really excited to announce that Purlem now integrates with Zapier!

Purlem Zapier Integration

For those unfamiliar… Zapier is a tool that makes it easy for non-developers to share data between web applications.

What does this mean to you?  Lots!  Here are some ways you might use Zapier to connect Purlem with your favorite apps.

  • Update a Salesforce contact when a PURL is visited.
  • Send a Slack or Hipchat message with the PURL visitor’s details.
  • Move a contact to a different MailChimp list when they visit their PURL.
  • Trigger a tag to an Infusionsoft contact, after a PURL is visited.
  • And the list goes on and on…

With thousands of Zapier apps to choose from, the opportunities here are endless.

Purlem’s Zapier integration is currently invite only.  Contact me if you’d like to try it out.



Tend – A New Life for PURLs

I’m absolutely ecstatic to ring in the new year with a major announcement that has the potential to change the way PURLs are perceived and used… forever.

In the past, PURLs have largely (unfortunately) been used as a gimmicky marketing tactic to draw attention and entice some sort of response. If a PURL campaign does not increase response, or don’t increase the response enough, they are assumed to be a failure.

Early last year I started to notice a trend with many successful PURL marketers.  These marketers weren’t counting on PURLs for increasing response rates at all.  Rather, they were using PURLs to permanently identify their website visitors.  Once identified, they continued to track and marketing to the them through a multi-touch campaign.

It makes sense right?  After all, we all know that it’s going to take several marketing “touches” before our prospects take action.  By using PURLs to identify website visitors, marketers can track the effectiveness of all their future campaigns, across any channel, down the the individual level!

But here’s the rub – as you can imagine, executing a campaign like this is no easy task.  To pull this off, marketers would need to hack together several services and hire a full-time developer to manage it. Although this is possible, it’s simply not realistic for a large number of small businesses out there.  This is where we saw a huge opportunity…

Introducing Tend.  When combined with Purlem, Tend will track all of your marketing campaigns, across all channels, down to the individual PURL visitor.

For example, say that you send an email out to Joe Prospects with a PURL (i.e.  When Joe visits his PURL, he sees a page that is personalized to him.  At the same time, Tend starts tracking Joe. Forever!  If Joe comes back tomorrow through a Facebook campaign, Tend is tracking it.  If he comes back in 3 months from LinkedIn, Tend is tracking.  If he comes back in 2 years, yep – Tend is tracking.


All of this gives you, the marketer, power to see who your hottest prospects are, and precisely which marketing efforts are delivering the biggest bang for the buck, over a given period of time.

We have a special offer for all Purlem users:
Try Tend free for 60 days, when you sign up in the Feb 1st!  
Start converting your gimmicky PURL campaign, into a strategic PURL campaign within minutes!


Study – Marketers are unhappy because they can now measure their performance

One great reason to use PURLs is the ability to track your marketing effectiveness down to the individual. PURLs allow you to see exactly who is responding to your marketing message, when they responded, and any activity they took once on your website.  Pretty cool right!

You’d think marketers would be delighted at the ability to track their marketing efforts down to individual responders, but that isn’t necessarily the case…


This morning I was listening to Growth Hacker on my run with Dillon.  The book mentioned a Harvard Business Review study, that found that 80 percent of marketers are unhappy with their ability to measure marketing return on investment (ROI). Which is no surprise.  But here’s the kicker…. the study points out that marketers aren’t unhappy because they can’t measure marketing performance. They’re unhappy because they now can—and they don’t like what they see.

Marketers are seeing for the first time that their marketing strategies, the same strategies that they have been pushing for decades, are simply don’t work as well as they thought they did.

The study’s findings are exactly on par from my experiences. Recently, I’ve been trying to get out of the office more and talk with PURL users (or past PURL users).

One agency that I met with recently convinced one of their long-time clients to give PURLs a try in one of their campaigns.  This particular client has been sending out the same direct mailer for years.  The only way they measured success was by the number of people that hit their home page.  If they saw an uptick in visits during a particular campaign, they would attribute the increase of visits to that campaign.

When the client sent out the campaign with PURLs, the response was actually much lower than they expected it to be.  Needless to say, there was a lot of finger pointing. At the end of the day, the client decided to discontinue the use of PURLs, and stick with being blissfully ignorant of their campaign’s response.  I’ve seen this situation play out over and over again.

So what is a marketer to do?  My suggestion would be to shift focus from the quantity of responses, to the quality of responses.  It’s far better to have 10 high quality responses, than 100 that don’t mean jack.  Treat those 10 quality responses like gold.  Then, this is very important… Create a plan to continually track and market to those individuals until they are ready to buy. Shifting focus from the quantity to the quality of responses will help set expectation for both you and your client.  It will also pay dividends as those high quality prospects that your paying so close of attention to, being to convert into paying customers.

New Industry Templates

Schools want to boost enrollment rates.  Hospitals wants to improve patient communication. Nonprofits want to increase donations. Auto dealers want to sell more cars.  Whatever industry your in, PURLs can help you reach your goal.

Purlem’s new industry specific templates incorporate the best practices of PURL landing pages to  jumpstart your campaign.  Make the Templates your own by easily adding your images, logos, colors, and content.

Our templates are free for all Purlem users. Enjoy!

PURL Templates

PURL Adoption Funnel

My thoughts on PURLs have changed drastically in the last month.

I used to be of the mindset that PURLs were appropriate for a majority of direct mail and email campaigns.  After all, it makes sense to use a Personalized URL instead of a Generic URL.  It has the potential to increase the response/conversion rates, and allows you to track who’s visiting. Seems like a no-brainer… right!?

However, I’m now of the mindset that PURLs are appropriate for a minority of campaigns.  With this realization, I had to face the “brutal facts” that the potential market size for Purlem has decreased drastically.

PURL Adoption FunnelI know… this is not good news for Purlem. You may be surprised that I’m even brining this up.  I should be pushing the technology no matter what.  After all, PURLs are what puts the bread on my family’s table at the end of the day!  But I think it’s more important to share with you the reality, rather than pitch to you a bunch of BS on why PURLs should be used in every campaign.

The PURL Adoption Funnel is a visualization of the PURL usage to date (as I see it).  It started with the “The PURL Fad” where everybody and their mother wanted to use PURLs.  Then to the the “Realization” phase where we were all forced to look to the actual results of our PURL marketing efforts.  And finally to the “Strategic Users” phase – which is where we stand today.

Before diving into each of the phases, and where I see the market going in the future, I want to give a brief background of how I came to this conclusion…  At the beginning of this year, I set out to “scale” Purlem.  Up until this year, Purlem has been an army of one (me). My goal was to see if Purlem could scale up to a level that could support a team.  I knew I had a good thing going.  Purlem has doubled in size for the last 6 years of business.  I had a passionate user base, but also a problem with churn (the percent of users that cancel each month).

Bacon CampaignTo effectively scale, I first needed to educate prospects on the benefits of PURLs.  After some failed (and desperate – the bacon campaign didn’t turn out to well) attempts to educating people on PURLs, I realized that the technology was simply to niche –  I would need to expand Purlem’s offerings beyond PURLs, to attract a larger audience.  So we decided to take a step back and first approach those that have used PURLs in the past (successfully or unsuccessfully), to figure out how to better position Purlem to scale. For the last month I have been talking people from many different industries and positions that have used PURLs.  This is when I came to the brutal realization that PURLs are only appropriate for a minority of campaigns.  Thus, the PURL Adoption Funnel was born.

The PURL Fad

The PURL Fad started about 10 years ago.  We’ve all seen the case studies about the outstanding 40% response rate using PURLs. The technology was being touted by industry proponents as the biggest thing since the sliced bread.  It would be the savior to print providers everywhere looking to introduce marketing services.  Dollar signs flashed in our eyes.  We thought about the yachts we would purchase from placing a PURL on our postcard.  Business executives gave orders to “Place PURLs on every campaign – no matter what” (This is no joke).


Some things are too good to be true.  As results from the first few PURL campaigns came back, we were disappointed that we didn’t get that 40% response rate.  We may have squeaked out a few extra percentage points, but nothing to write home about. The dollar signs began to fade from our eyes as we realized that we didn’t have a silver bullet that would solve all of our marketing problems. Some of us decided to write off PURLs forever as being only a “gimmick.” The executives that required that all campaigns have a PURL, quickly retreated.

Another interesting thing happened in this phase.  Some decided that they didn’t want to have their marketing pieces tracked at all!  They would rather be blissfully ignorant to the actual response rate of their campaign.   If you think about it, many are given orders to simply “get the campaign sent out by X date.” The are judged by the creative of the marketing piece, and that it is delivered on time.  They point to their Google Analytics, look at an uptick in traffic, and say, “look – this must be because of that postcard we sent out last month.” Everybody is blissfully happy.  But now, using a PURL gives direct and immediate feedback on the effectiveness of an individual marketing piece. Now, those responsible for creative and sending out the campaign on time, were also being judged by the PURL response rate.  They would rather just remove that factor all together and go back to blissful ignorance.  I’m not saying this is a good thing. Simply a reality for this phase of the PURL adoption funnel.

Strategic Users

Today, those that continue to successfully use PURLs have a strategic vision behind their use.  PURLs are no longer thrown on every campaign haphazardly.  Strategic users start with the campaign.  They first perfect the list, creative and offer.  Then, this is key – they plan several follow up campaigns based on response.  Then, and only then, do they ask if a PURL is appropriate for the campaign.  Does the campaign have the right audience, the right creative, and the right offer for a PURL? Will responses from the PURL enhance future campaigns? 

Strategic users are the passionate Purlem users I mentioned above.  These users are the ones that consistently send out successful PURL campaigns because they have a strategy behind them.  I also mentioned above the Purlem has had a issue with churn (the percent of users that cancel each month).  Typically, those that cancel have no long-term strategy behind their PURL campaign. Many still have the dollar signs in their eyes hoping for the silver bullet. I see it happen over and over again.

Future PURL Adoption FunnelThe Future of PURLs

So where are PURLs heading?  We’ll… I’m a glass-half-full kind of guy. I’d like to think that we are all learning how to appropriately use PURLs.  We went through the phase of trying simply to plop a PURL (ha – “Plop-A-PURL” – I should use that more often), on every marketing piece.  We realized that wasn’t the best approach.  We also realized that the 40% response rate is not a realistic goal to have.  And that winning campaigns have a long-term strategy incorporating many different touches, based on past responses.  With this new knowledge, hopefully, some of those that have given up on PURLs in the past, will come back around with a strategic vision. These are the “Future Strategic Users” that will help increase the adoption of the technology.

In a way, it reminds me of the Dot-com bubble.  Nobody really knew how to make money from the internet, but everybody wanted a piece. This resulted in an artificially inflated market that eventually crashed, leaving behind only the best to survive (egh hmm.. Amazon).  This is where the PURL market is today.  Only the best are using PURLs.  Eventually, the stock market recovered, armed with a new found knowledge of how to make the internet work for them.  This is where we are with PURLs today – at the bottom, but poised with a new found knowledge.

The truth is that PURLs work when applied strategically.  For every person out there that say PURLs are a “gimmick” and should rot away in technology hell, there is a person that swears by PURLs as integral part of their overall campaign strategy. If some people are able to make them work so well, we would be ignorant to write off the technology forever.

If your interested in learning more about how to apply a strategic vision behind your PURL campaign, make sure to subscribe to our newsletter.  You won’t be disappointed.

Will Amazon’s FireFly give QR Codes a new life?

feature-firefly._V349252144_Amazon’s new phone has a feature called FireFly that allows you to scan QR Codes (and much more) with a click of  a button.

I have never been a big supporter of QR Codes.  I reluctantly added QR Codes to Purlem’s feature set because of customer’s requests. Give the people what they want, right!?  I have often told customers/prospects inquiring about using QR Codes in their direct mail to expect ZERO people to scan it. Sure… there are some cases that QR Codes have been used with some level of success.  But generally speaking, don’t count on QR Codes generating any responses in your direct mail campaign.

The complaint from QR Code users has been that it simply takes to long to download/open the app and then scan the QR Code.  I know.  This is silly that it probably doesn’t take more than 10 seconds.  But in today’s world, it’s 10 seconds to long!  FireFly removes the 10 seconds it takes to download/open the QR Code app.

Obviously, to hit a critical mass, other smart phones (egh hmm – iPhone), will need to introduce a similar technology.  But the technology does exist, and I think it does have  potential to give QR Codes (specifically in direct mail campaigns) a new life.  I’m not so sure I’d write QR Codes completely off just yet.

What do you think?