The Purlem Story

It was 2005 – I was a recent graduate from Bradley University and found myself working in advertising sales for a Chicago radio station. I went to school for web design, so radio sales was a bit of a divergence. At the time it offered a nice paycheck so I was blindly following the money. I enjoyed moonlighting with web design projects on the side, and dreamed of one day escaping the monotony of corporate life. I’ve always been an entrepreneur at heart.

Around that time, one of my web clients was a printer.  He told me – “Marty, I want to give these PURL things a try, but they’re way to expensive.” It seemed like a pretty simple concept, so off I went hacking together a basic PURL platform. It ended up saving him thousands. Literally, thousands. I came to realize that there may be a need in the marketplace for a simple and affordable PURL solution – and Purlem was born.

MariKate and I

My wife, MariKate, had the opportunity to do some travel nursing. Essentially, we’d pack up and go live somewhere new around the country every few months. It was an incredible experience that really helped to solidify our marriage. Before leaving for our first travel assignment, we made a deal that if Purlem was not at a level that could support a family, I would revert back to white collar. I was very lucky in that the travel opportunity allowed me to work full-time on Purlem right from the start, without the pressure of making money.

I created the first version of Purlem using Dreamweaver (the only application I knew).  Really this was my “Minimum Viable Product” – although I had no idea what that meant at the time. I did some testing with Google Adwords, which proved there was a demand.  And off I went to hire a professional software developer to really make Purlem shine!  Two horrible outsourcing experiences later, I realized that if I was going to make Purlem work, and remain bootstrapped, that I would have to learn this software development stuff myself.  So I put my head down and pushed forward.

I remember during our second travel assignment in Stamford, CT, when I received my second paying Purlem user.  I was ecstatic to say the least.  I told MariKate on one of our jogs together – “there is no way we’re not going to double to 4 paying users, and then 8!”  It’s strange looking back, and how I had no doubt that Purlem would succeed. Possibly even stranger, is that there was not a doubt in MariKate’s mind either.

During the first couple years, I focused nearly all of my time on development and SEO. Being that I was in a relatively niche market, I was able to rank on Google fairly quickly, which ended up being the source of nearly every new Purlem user at that time.

Although Purlem was not at a “support a family” level when we were done traveling, it did prove itself enough for me to pursue full time.

Today, Purlem is one of the largest Personalized URL platforms with passionate users around the world. I’m still my only employee, but refuse to hire for hiring sake.  It’s been a slow journey that took a significant amount of dedication, persistence, and patience.  I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

Add to Calendar Link for PURLs

Want to give your PURL visitors a way to add an event to their calendar?

Screen Shot 2013-10-16 at 6.45.54 PMI recently had a client ask me if it would be possible to add a “Add to Calendar” link to their Personalized URL (PURL).  I was very intrigued by the question and some of the possibilities.  So I created a quick example campaign that allows the PURL visitor to add an event to their calendar based off the date they selected.

We’re able to accomplish this through using the iCalendar (ics) file format.  Essentially all were doing is customizing this ics file with the PURL visitor’s data, and allowing them to download it.

Below is a video of the example campaign I put together.  You can also see step-by-step directions on how to add a personalized “Add to Calendar” link on your PURL landing page.


Lyon College uses Personalized URLs to increase applications

Lyon College hoped to receive 655 new applications from their Personalized URL “PURL” campaign.  They wound up with a whopping 1,116 new applications!

Lyon College sent approx 42,000 PURL postcards to prospective students with the chance to win a new iPad. The postcards were followed-up with 800 personalized emails, that also contained a PURL.

When asked what the reason was for their success, they said the offer, creative, relevant messages/images, and the PURLs all combined to create the success.  I would have to imagine that their list was also very solid.

See the full case study here (PDF) 

Personalized URL Postcard from Lyon College

Personalized URL Postcard from Lyon College

Personalized URL Email from Lyon College

Personalized URL Email from Lyon College

Personalized URL Landing Page from Lyon College

Personalized URL Landing Page from Lyon College



Consumers Prefer Personalized Communication

Mass marketing is rapidly coming to an end. Replacing the “spray-and-pray” tactics is a target, personalized approach.

The premise is really quite simple – would you rather receive a piece of junk mail, or something that is personalized and relevant to you? Today, consumers prefer personalized communication, as made obvious in The Future of Mail & Transaction Documents study by CAP Ventures.  The results are not surprising.

personalized vs non-personalized direct mail and email preferences

Ya, ya, ya… The fact that personalization will out perform mass marketing is old hat. We all know that.

81% of marketing executives agree that target direct marketing campaigns outperform mass-market campaigns.

– Data-Driven Print, Patricia Source

The sad truth is, however, that few actually act on it.  Your competitors know they should be engaging their customers with personalized messages, but they aren’t. They may intimidated, confused or just plain refuse to change their ways. Whatever their reasoning, this opens the door to differentiate yourself by engaging your prospects and customers in a personalized, one-to-one communication – the way they want to be marketed to.  How you ask? One simple way is through Personalized URL (or PURLs).

PURLs actually place your prospects name into your URL, for example –  The next time you send Joe and email or direct mail piece, you say… Hey Joe, I created a personalized web page just for you at 

And when “Joe” visits his PURL, he will see a website that is personalized just to him.  It can show product recommendations based on past purchase history.  Or exactly how much he could save by switching to your company. Or.. the sky is the limit.  Your prospects get what they want – a personalized experience.  You get increased response rates, higher conversion rates, and the ability to track each respondent. Everybody wins!

The takeaway – Personalization works. Most don’t act. PURLs make personalization easy. Go use PURLs.

White Papers Hurt Conversion Rates

I’ve never really liked white papers. According to wikipedia, white papers are suppose to help readers make a decision.  But these ancient documents are often several pages long and contain WAY to much information to make a concise decision.

I’m currently reading through The Art of Explanation, and found it very interesting that they never mention white papers (not even once!) as a good medium to explain something.  The simple fact is, that other technologies and mediums do a much better job of explaining a product or service.

But you can put my personal feelings on white papers aside.  Recently, Dr. Oldroyd has proven that white papers suck in his Lead Response Management Survey.

Dr. Oldroyd wanted to find what methods companies use to incentivise visitors on their web site to fill out a web form, and what are the effects of those offers on their lead qualification and close rates. His findings…

Offering an eBook, Proposal Request, and Price Quotes all have a strong positive relationship with increased close rates, while offering White Papers actually decreased close rates!

Offer by Close Rates



So think twice about adding White Papers to your next Personalized URL “PURL” campaigns.

First Trade Show

Had my first experience exhibiting Purlem at Print13 last week. In fact, it was my first time exhibiting Purlem at any trade show. For those unfamiliar, Print13 is the largest trade show for print providers in the country.  Being that many Purlem users are printers, I thought that it would be a natural fit. My thought was – if this trade show ends up being a flop, then no trade show would work for Purlem. I left the show with a slightly different perspective.

Purlem Print13 Booth

I knew going in that it would be hard to justify the costs of doing a trade show.  With Purlem’s prices being so low, I would need to acquire a ridiculous number of new users to justify the expense – which was, by the way, about $10,000 all-in. But I wanted to give it a shot.  There was a last-minute booth available at a good price, and McCormick place is just a couple blocks from my home, so no travel expenses.  Seems like if I were going to feel out the trade show waters, Print13 would be the best option.

The first day of the show I tried to stand in front of the booth and engage people as they walk past.  It didn’t take long for me to realize that a majority of people walking by had no use for a product like Purlem.  They were there to purchase printing equipment and could care less. I was surprised with how much twiddling of thumbs happens. Not just at Purlem’s booth, but at most other booths around me.  What a waste of time! So, after the first day, I resorted to sitting at the booth and working until somebody stopped by. It was very encouraging that those that stopped by, were very impressed by Purlem.  I got a lot of “This is exactly what we have been looking for.”

photo 2

I also created a fancy landing page, that I showed in my last post, which allowed people to register a free 30 minute consultation. You know how many people used that website to register – 0.  A big fat 0.  I did, however, get about 30 decent leads and scheduled several follow-up meetings via email.

There was also the intangible value the show provided.  I met with a lot of very interesting people, industry leaders, and Purlem users.  Being at the show certainly helped to solidify these relationships, and it’s hard to place a monetary value on that. The #1 bit of feedback I received was that Purlem’s prices were way to low. I received this feedback from several people, including existing Purlem users.

I left the show realizing that Print13 was probably not the best venue for Purlem.  But at the same time, I can see how some other, probably smaller, more marketing-focused shows could be quite effective. Being at the show also helped me to come up with some pretty cool ideas for ways to better engage attendees, as opposed to just sitting there working, or being a creepy sales guy.

So all and all, I think I’ll call it a wash.


I’ll be exhibiting Purlem for the very first time at Print13 next week. Looking forward to actually meeting many of you that I’ve otherwise only known online.  If your going to be attending, make sure to stop by and say hi.  I’ll be at booth #4675.

I’ll be giving away a free 30 minute consultation to all Print13 attendees, where we will work together to create a PURL campaign. I’ve been to many trade shows in the past where everybody goes on and on about how wonderful PURLs are, and how XYZ Corp made millions of dollars using them.  I’m going to take a slightly different approach – How about instead of just talking about how great PURLs are, let’s get our hands dirty and create a live, fully-functional PURL campaign!

This is the screen I’ll have up at Purlem’s booth…

Screen Shot 2013-09-05 at 11.10.49 AM

Wow your PURL Visitors with Response Time

In 2007, teamed up with MIT to figure out how response time correlates to actually making contact with, and qualifying that lead.

The findings were quite outstanding, and have direct implications with your Personalized URL (PURL) marketing campaigns. What they found was that if you contact a lead within 5 minutes, your 100 times more likely to make contact with the lead, than if you wait 30 minutes. 100 times! The chart below shows how the chances decrees every five minutes you wait to reach out to your new PURL lead.

Initial Dials to Leads that became Contacted

But what was even more surprising, is that if you wait more than 20 hours, every dial that you make actually hurts your ability to make contact and qualify your lead!

The bottom line, the quicker you contact the leads from your Personalized URL PURL marketing campaign, the better chance that you’ll make contact with that visitor. If you wait more than 20 hours, better off not to respond at all.

To actually put this into practice, use Purlem’s Email Alerts to setup instant email notifications to go out to your and your sales team.  Instruct your sales team to immediately follow up with the leads received from your PURL landing page.

When actually put this into practice, they found that if their sales person contacts the new lead within 3 minutes, the respondent quite often reacts with, “wow, that was fast! You are impressive.” They have been told that they feel that the sales representative must be really on top of things, and that is the kind of person and company they want servicing their account.

Do yourself a favor and give your PURL visitor’s a WOW experience – just make sure that they are expecting your call! #dontbecreepy

New Feature: Multiple Logins

Just released a feature that allows you to create multiple logins into your Purlem dashboard. This also allows you to restrict certain logins to the results only.  A nice way if you want to protect the rest of the campaign from certain people.   This was another highly requested feature that I’m proud to have finally launched!

Learn more about creating multiple logins.

Screen Shot 2013-08-19 at 3.23.05 PM