4 Ways PURLs Can Enhance Marketing

Describing what Personalized URLs (PURLs) are, let alone the benefits of PURLs, can sometimes seem like an overwhelming task.  When somebody asks me what I do, the conversation typically goes something like this..

Are you familiar with landing pages?
– Yes

I created an online application that personalizes those landing pages to the person viewing it.
– How does that work?

Well, there are typically links to a website on emails and junk mail you get… right?
– Ya

Purlem will personalize those links by actually adding the persons name to the link itself.  So instead of honda.com, it would be JoeSmith.honda.com.  And when Joe visits his “Personalized URL,” that landing page would be personalized to him.  Say… “Hi Joe, thank you for purchases your ’07 Accord from us last year.  We see that your up for an oil change.  Bring this coupon in for an oil change on us.”
– The response is usually an inquisitive or slightly confused…  Ahhhh ?

The other day I cam across an article by Chris Fuller – “4 Ways PURLs Can Enhance Your Intelligent Systems Marketing.”  I thought that it very precisely and simply articulated the benefits of PURLs for those that had no idea.  So when your trying to describe PURLs to customers or prospects that still just dont get it, maybe some of Chris’ suggestions will help…

  1. Online and offline can work together. Digital is definitely overpowering print as a vehicle for marketing, but with a PURL you can jumpstart your print piece. When people see a print piece with personalized content they may be that much more inclined to check it out.
  2. Easy to use. One snag you may come across in digital is long, unmanageable URLs that destroy the ascetics of any design and are practically impossible to type into a browser, unless you use a program that shortens URLs. PURLs, on the other hand, are automatically organized, easy to read, and easy to type. Plus, they are easy to remember.
  3. Sharing. With a PURL you can affect a recipient on a more personal, emotional level. The content may feel more important to them or more interesting to pass on. Therefore, you are not only going to hit the recipient, but the recipient may pass it along; for example, through social networks like Facebook, Twitter or Google+, or through email, text, or IM. Your content will spread exponentially. SquareTrade ran an incentive based PURL campaign to 18,000 recipients. With the ability to easily share the link the campaign brought in 60,000 shares and $100,000 in sales (read full case study).
  4. Tracking. With the advancements in metrics and site analytics you are now able to track who comes to your website and how. What better way to do this than through a PURL. You will directly see who came to your, as well as, how many people they shared it with.

4 Tips to Zero Inbox

The other day I was talking to a friend of mine, and he told me that he currently had over a hundred emails in his inbox.  What!  Over 100!  Really!  I think I would hyperventalate and pass-out from the stress! (I think I may have a little OCD when it comes to my inbox).

I have been operating on zero inbox for the last few years.  Ad besides helping me to cope with my inbox OCD, I attribute the zero inbox to being the single most important factor in remaning efficient and productive.  I understand that everybody handles their email differently, but if you to are interested in earning the zero inbox badge, here are 4 tips that I personally use…

 

  1. Treat your inbox as an immediate to-do list
    I say immediate, because you should only try to read the email once.  If it is something that you can answer/solve in five minutes or less, answer it immediately and delete.  I say this is the case for me about 90% of the time.  If it is going to take more time, place the email into a task manager (such as Omnifocus) to address it later, and let the sender know a rough timeframe for a response.
  2. Don’t let email interrupt you
    Turn off all alerts (on both your computer and phone), that notify you of incoming emails.  This way you can get chunks of productive, un-interrupted work done.  I personally check my email about every 30 minutes when I’m at a good stopping point.
  3. Unsubscribe often.
    If your focused on being productive, email is simply not the right medium to be receiving these un-solicited or advertising based  messages.  I probably hit the unsubscribe button 5 times a day.  In some cases these emails may contain important industry trends or news on business that you need to stay on top of.  That is what the next tip is for…
  4. Use Google Reader for to stay on top of the news you care about.
    Google Reader allows you to subscribe to news feeds of specific industires, companies or individual blogs.  This is the alternative to having these news items clogging up your inbox.  The difference is that you intentially set aside a time of day to look at these news items.  Personally, I look at these when I first wake up before rolling out of bed.  A product like NetNewsWire will allow you to sync Google Reader with your computer and phone.

 

Personalized URL Infographic

I ran across this infographic today from Deliver Magazine that showcases how a fast food chain used PURLs to gather leads and new business. Great for the visual learners out there.

PURL Infographic

A VC Perspective – Work over Family

Last year I wrote a post asking if Purlem should accept VC money.  This past week I had a Purlem user email me and ask if I ever did end up accepting any financing.  My answer was No – I never took financing, and don’t plan to any time soon.

The user, who will remain anonymous, was kind enough to share with me on his experience on accepting VC money.  I thought it was so profound that I received his permission to share it with you.  He told me that he accepting VC for his business 5 years ago, and that it was the “biggest regret in his life.”  He went on to say…

It is their belief that all people think and act like they do, and can understand what they are solving for and therefore they should get 100% support from everyone all the time.  A recent comment from the managing partner about one of my employees was “oh he is one of those guys that feels his sons football practice is more important than getting us our reports.  Those employees that put such a high value on quality of life never work out in the long run.”

If anything, it helps solidify my position that accepting VC money should be far from a top priority for any startup.  Instead, focus creating a great product and growing the company organically.  For the first time in history this is possible because large amounts of money are no longer required to launch an Internet startup.

He went on to clarify that he does not believe that all VCs have this perspective.  And I agree wholeheartedly.  The VC Brad Feld stands out to me as one exception.  Although I have never met him, or know anybody that has directly worked with him, I do follow his blog religiously. I could be wrong, but I do not believe Brad would share this same mindset.

There is part of me that actually feel bad for VCs that live life this way.  Don’t they realize there is so much more to life than getting their 5 times return on Investment?

Adding PURLs to your MailChimp Email

Here is a quick tutorial to show exactly how to pull in the Personalized URL (PURL) for each of your email recipients.

Step 1: Upload PURLs into MailChimp

Exporting you contacts from Purlem will give you a spreadsheet of each contact, including their PURLs.  You can then upload that spreadsheet into MailChimp, adding the PURL as a custom field.

MailChimp Personalized URLs

Step 2: Create a new MailChimp Campaign

Here is MailChimp’s tutorial for creating a new campaign.

Displaying the Personalized URL (PURL) in your MailChimp email is the same as displaying the person’s name.  You do this using MailChimp’s merge tags.

Step 3: Pull in the PURL

Select “PURL” from the Merge dropdown.  This will place the proper merge code to dynamically pull in each recipient’s Personalized URL.

Personalized URL Merge MailChimp

 

Step 4: Send the Email

When you send the email, each recipient will receive their Personalized URL to click on.  Wacth your clikc-through rates soar!

Personalized URL Email

 

 

The only things certain in life…

“The only things certain in life are death and taxes.” -Benjamin Franklin

That’s all I have to say today.

Use Buffer to Optimize Online Networking

Bit.ly recently launched a study that showed the best times to post on Twitter, Facebook and Tumbler.

It found that on Twitter  you should post on Monday between 1:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. ET.  However on Facebook, Links sent between 1:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. get the most traction.

With this in mind, I often found myself posting a all of my content, tweets and posts at the beginning of the day.  This is when I read other blogs and write, so naturally, it is when I interact on social networks as well.  The problem is, that according to this study, a lot of my efforts are not being leveraged as much as they could.

I recently discovered Buffer that solves this problem.  It allows me to time my content, tweets, and posts to push out to the networks at specific times of the day.  This allows me to share my content at the appropriate times.  Buffer has plugins with most major browsers that makes sharing extremely easy and user friendly.  I plan on making Buffer a part of my daily routine.

Exit Strategies – Like handing your baby to a stranger

Stranger Exit StrategyI’m often asked what my exit strategy is for Purlem.  A sale? merger? IPO?

The question is warranted.  Conventional wisdom will tell you that every new business needs an exit strategy.  The old-schoolers out there would say that you can’t start a business without an end in mind.  And when I tell them that Purlem doesn’t have an exit strategy, they look at me like I have 3 heads.

Exit strategies are like planning to hand over your baby to a stranger.  They are not only a waste of time, but they directly contradict the level of passion required to succeed.  Let me explain…

When you have a new startup, you have a few “theories” in mind.  For example, they might be – “People have a to much many things to do” and “They would be willing to pay $100/mo to a personal assistant.”

At the early stages of your startup, the only thing you need to do is to prove your “theories” to be right or wrong.  Its not to write a business plan, and it’s definitely not to think about an exit strategy.  At this stage, there are to many unknown factors and un-proven theories.  Thinking about an exit strategy at this stage is simply a waste of time.

Beyond being a time waster, exit strategies contradict what should be your reason for starting the business in the first place. When you start a business you are putting your heart and soul into making it become a reality.  You should be so passionate about your business, that there is nothing in the world that you would rather be doing.  This is the level of passion that it takes to succeed.  Having an exit strategy is like figuring out the best way to hand over your baby to a stranger.

After I tell the old-schoolers out there that I don’t have an exit strategy, and they look at me like I have 3 heads, I go on to say that even if I sold Purlem for $100 Million, and bought a yacht, I would get bored an want to build something like Purlem again.  I love Purlem, the challenge, the business, and the lifestyle that it provides.  It would take a lot to seperate me from my baby.

Of course, it is easy for me to say all of this now.  I don’t know how I would act if somebody did actually dangle $100 million in front of my face. But the point is that you need to have this level of passion to drive your startup forward.  If your not this passionate about what your pursuing, scratch it, and pursue something that you are this passionate about.

My position on this topic was supported by The Slicehost Story.  Check it out for a real life example of founders that handed their baby over to a stranger.

Getting your Prospect’s Email

Today I was asked:

How do you go about getting email addresses if my client does not have them?

Great question!  Assuming that you have the mailing address of your prospect, Personalized URLs (PURLs) are a great marketing tactic to procure your prospect’s email addresses.  Here is how…

Send out a postcard to your prospects.  The call to action would be something like “Visit your website at http://yourdomain.com/Mike.Jones to claim your special limited time offer!

And when “Mike” visits his Personalized URL, the landing page will again be personalized to him.  Here you would request that Mike enters his email to receive his “special offer.”  And wa la!  You have Mike’s email!

Below is an example of how Tarrantino’s Pizzeria (a fictitious Pizza company) executed an email procurement campaign similar to this:

 

THE POSTCARD:

PURL Postcard

PURL Postcard

 

THE PURL LANDING PAGE:

PURL Landing Page

PURL Landing Page

Startup funding worth the stress?

In the early days of Purlem I made a very conscience decision to not accept investors.  My reasoning was that with investors comes a high level stress and unnecessary risk.

Today I ran across this guest post by Paul DeJoe, founder at Ecquire.  It re-affirmed my position on investors.

Here are some of the negative things about being CEO of a startup from Paul’s perspective:

  • Very tough to sleep most nights
  • Weekends don’t mean anything to you anymore.
  • There is constant pressure from investors
  • It’s impossible to “unplug”
  • You feel guilty when you spend time on anything else
  • It’s difficult to talk to friends outside of the startup world
  • You have the responsibility for other’s (employee’s) lives

As the “CEO” of Purlem, I can relate with Paul to a certain extent.  It is impossible to “unplug” and it can be difficult to relate with friends and family outside fo the startup world.   But that is about all I can relate with.  I sleep great, have long weekends whenever I choose, and the only pressure I have is what I place on myself.

I understand that not all startups can go the bootstrapped (unfunded) route.  There are certain business models that require a large amount of up-front capital.  I get it.  But for the large majority of Internet startups, the barrier to entry is extremely low.  Funding is not required to get started.  It can take a lot of time and determination, but it is possible to successfully bootstrap a startup without funding.

By not taking on investors, Purlem has given me a lifestyle business.  It’s a business that I absolutely love, and allows me to do what I want, when I want.  To me, all the “excitement” of running an funded startup would not be worth the stress that comes along with it.