Most People are using PURLs for the Wrong Reason

So your out researching PURLs, and think you stumbled across a magical way to increase the response rates? I’m here to burst your bubble – Don’t count on it…

Using PURLs as a means to increase response rates is the “traditional” way to use PURLs. But, after seeing hundreds of PURL campaigns over the last several years, I’ve found that this is one of the worst ways to approach PURLs. Let’s see how the traditional route typically plays out….

You have a list of 1000 potential customers that your excited to send a direct mail piece to. The goal of the campaign is to get people to fill out a questionnaire, in exchange for a gift card. You decide to add a PURL to increase the response rates. After dropping the cards in the mail, you site back, put your arms behind your head, and hope that your server doesn’t drop from the masses that will surely start streaming into your site. Of the 1,000 that received the direct mail piece, 20 people visit their PURL. Of the 20, 2 filled out a questionnaire to redeem the postcard.

So was this campaign a failure? With this traditional approach – you bet! Those damn PURLs were suppose to generate a 30x response rate, and all we got was a measly 2 people to fill out the questionnaire! This approach is what pissed off so many printers over the years.

Let me share with you an industry secret. PURLs will NOT increase your response rates. Okay, sure, we’ve all seen those case studies where PURLs generated a 100x increase in response. But these are the exception, not the rule. Sure, there are instances where PURLs do increase response rates. But there are also times where PURLs decrease response rates (It’s just that nobody wants to talk about those campaigns). At the end of the day, it’s safe to assume that PURLs will have no effect on your response rates.

Instead of focusing on the response rates, you should focus on using PURLs as a simple way to connect the offline and online worlds.

Without a PURL, the prospect that received your postcard, and visited your website is anonymous. We have no idea who he/she is. However, with a PURL, we know exactly who is visiting. The ability to to identify your website visitor from an offline marketing piece, is what makes PURLs valuable. Not the hopeful increase in response rates.

Let’s take a different approach with the same campaign as above – You send out the same 1000 postcards, and the same 2 people fill out the questionnaire. However, we also had an additional 18 people that visited the site, but did not fill out the questionnaire.

It’s quite obvious right? In most cases, a direct mail piece (with PURL) will be one of the very first touch points. It is very likely that the recipient has never heard of your product/service before. Chances are, the they are not ready to fill out a questionnaire, let alone buy your product.

Tip: If you don’t have yet have the email addresses of your PURL visitors, it is imperative that you ditch the questionnaire all together, and simply request an email in exchange for you offering. You’ll see why in a bit.

Back to the campaign.. These 18 contacts are extremely valuable. Essentially they have told us that they are somewhat interested in what we have to offer, but are not ready yet to pull the trigger. With the traditional approach to PURLs, these contacts are very often forgotten. With our improved strategy, it’s just the starting point.

So we now have three segments of prospects:

  • 980 People that did not visit the PURL.
  • 18 People that visited the PURL, but did not fill out the questionnaire.
  • 2 People that filled out the questionnaire but did not buy (but we now have their emails).

It is now our job, to take each segment and encourage them individually down the sales funnel using a variety of online and offline marketing tactics. Here are some things we can do for each segment..

People who did not visit their PURL

  • Continue to drip direct mail marketing pieces (consider taking off your list after X attempts)

People who visit the PURL, but did not fill out the questionnaire

  • Continue to drip direct mail marketing pieces (consider taking off your list after X attempts)
  • Add them to a google remarking campaign

People that filled out the questionnaire but did not buy (but we now have their emails)

  • Start a drip email campaign
  • Add them to a custom audience in Facebook, Twitter and Google

Tip: I want to draw special attention the custom audiences listed just above here. Custom audiences are an awesome new feature that has recently been rolled out by Facebook, Twitter, and Google. What custom audiences allow you to do is target people on all of these platforms by their emails! This is huge. No more guessing who your marketing to. Now, you can market directly to your prospects that have shown interests by visiting the PURL, but have not yet converted. This is why it’s so important to ditch the questionnaire, and simply request emails from your PURL visitors.

Over the next few months, we apply a variety of the above tactics to our example campaign. If you do the same, you’ll start to see how people you initially reached out to a few months back from your PURL campaign, finally start converting today.

An obvious next question to ask is – How do you know if a person that visits your site today, initially came from a PURL campaign several months ago?

For example, if our friend (who we’ll call “Joe”) visits his PURL, we can obviously track that he visited that particular PURL page. But what if several months later Joe returns to our home page? How will we know that Joe is back?

The answer is Tend. For the past year I’ve been working with Ryan to create solution to that will easily track PURL visitors, forever into the future.

Tend picks up where Purlem leaves off. It’s Purlem’s job to bring the offline prospect online, and identify him. It’s Tend’s job to continue to track Joe forever into the future.

With Tend, you’ll see a timeline for each of your PURL visitors. Starting with the initial PURL visit, and ending with a conversion. It could look something like this.

Visited from PURL – Jul 24, 2015

  • /about
  • /blog

Visited from Remarking – Nov 11, 2015

  • /home
  • /services
  • /learn-more

Visited from Facebook  – Dec 22, 2015

  • /home
  • /services
  • /blog
  • /learn-more
  • /contact

In this example, Joe visited from the PURL 6 months ago. This is when we first identified him. Since then, we continued to market to him on a variety of online channels. Two months later, he came in through Facebook. And yesterday, he finally contacted our sales team.

So the lesson in all of this is to forget the response rates. Instead, use PURLs as a starting point. A way to bring an offline prospect online, track him, and continue to market to him until he/she is ready to buy.