How marketers today are successfully using PURLs

If you’re interested in using PURLs to increase response rates, you’re setting yourself up for failure. From my experience PURLs do not increase response rates. Those that tell you otherwise, are trying to swindle your money.

The primary goal with your PURL campaign should be to simply identify who’s visiting, and then continue to engage those people until they convert.

Let’s break this down a bit… Say that you’re going to send out 1,000 direct mail pieces. It’s possible that you’ll get 50 that visit their PURL. Of those 50, 3 will “convert” by submitting their information. The value here is in the 50 that visit the PURL. The 3 that convert are icing in the cake. The 50 is how you evaluate the overall success or failure campaign.

So if you’re evaluating PURLs for the first time, the question to ask yourself is…

“Is knowing who these 50 people are, of any value to me?”

You may say no… you don’t care who those 50 people are. You only care about those that convert. In those cases, PURLs offer are of no value to you. You’re time is better spent elsewhere. But here’s the thing…

In many cases, PURLs are used with direct mail campaigns. And if you’re using direct mail, chances are that it’s one of your first “touch points.” Prevailing wisdom is that it takes 6 to 8 touches to generate a viable sales lead. So to evaluate your direct mail campaign based on the number of people that immediately convert, is really, quite ridiculous.

With PURLs, you will be able to see exactly who those 50 people are that responded. Successful marketers are placing value on these 50 people, because they understand that this is only the first of many touch points. They are using PURLs to identify those that have shown some interests in their offering, and continuing to engage them until they are ready to convert. This is where the primary value of PURLs lie.

Personalized URLs with Hubspot

Hubpost’s Identity Tracking allows you to track exactly who is visiting your website from an email link. But what if your using direct mail to drive people to a Hubspot landing page?  The best you can do here is to use Hubspot’s Custom Short URLs. But these Short URLs will only tell you how one campaign is performing vs the other.  It will not tell you exactly who is visiting from your direct mail piece.

This is where Personalized URLs (or PURLs) come into play.  You can think of PURLs as “Identity Tracking” links for direct mail campaigns.  With PURLs, every recipient of your direct mail campaign is given a unique/personalized URL.  For example:

  • etc…

And when “Joe” (in our example) visits his PURL, he will be tracked, and immediatly redirected to your Hubspot page.  Downloading a report from Purlem, will show you exactly who visited, and the date/time of their visit.

If you’d like, you can also personalized your Hubspot page to the visitor.  Possibilities here are endless, but welcoming the person by name is a common practice.

Hubspot Personalized URL Landing Page

It’s also possible to pre-populate your Hubspot form with the visitors information. Some marketers choose to do this to help increase response rates.  Hubspot already allows you to auto-populate form fields through a query string.  So when redirecting the PURL to Hubspot, we simply need to include the visitor’s information in the query string.  The final URL, after re-directing to Hubspot would look something like:


Finally, you can also use Purlem’s Zapier integration to pass the PURL results back into Hubspot. This allows you to see your direct mail visitors directly in Hubspot’s platform, and trigger future marketing based on that data.

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.

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.

Email Marketing with Personalized URLs

UPDATE: This feature has been retired.

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.

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.

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?

PURL Power in Real Estate Marketing

When it comes to buying a new home, personalization matters big time. Case studies continue to tell us that prospective homeowners respond enthusiastically to a highly personalized marketing campaign.

Including Personalized URLs (or PURLs) in your next mailing campaign is the perfect way to make an immediate impression on your readers. When they receive your mailer and see that you’ve set up a unique website just for them, they instantly become more likely to hop online and check it out.

Here’s an example of what a PURL looks like: “” or “”

What’s more, you can easily design John’s personal landing page to welcome him by name and entice him with a special offer, both of which are awesomely effective ways of initiating a solid engagement.

To show you just how effective PURLs can be in your marketing campaign, we’ve provided an exclusive case study of a real estate firm called Tampa Homebuilder. Spoiler alert: In the weekend after they launched their PURL campaign, they tripled the number of homes they sold!

Just fill out the top form to the right with your name and email address, and the case study is immediately yours for free. Please feel free to sign up for our monthly newsletter as well.

Once you check that out, we can answer any questions you might have about getting your PURL campaign on. We’ll even throw in a free 30 day trial so you can see what the fuss is all about, no strings attached.

Need ’em? Want ’em? Purlem.