PURLS Gone Wild

Brian DeaganOne slick way to bring together online and offline marketing channels is with the use of PURLs (or “personalized URLs”). These individualized web experiences are a way for marketers to extend the personalization, segmentation and measurement inherent in direct digital marketing, addressable from, say, an email or a direct mail piece. (Read more about PURLs and how to use them to provide meaningful message to the customer in this post from Dutch.)
While PURLS can be an effective element of a larger direct digital marketing strategy, I want to share a “secret” with you – a personal example of how PURLS can go wild – and wrong.
I recently received an intriguing package in the mail. Nice glossy black envelope, hand-addressed in silver ink. There was something chunky inside, some sort of gift or product.

I opened it to find a tiny Book of Secrets. This little book contained secrets from how to cook perfect rice, to the secret of happiness, to the secret to quiet a crying baby. But the real secret was the company who sent it to me! My only clue was wedged inside the book, the hook of the promotion. I was intrigued to see what this was all about.

Apparently, by visiting this PURL, I would learn some kind of secret. So I typed in the address from the bookmark to “pull back the curtains.” And was surprised to see this:

Not the experience I anticipated, to say the least.

For all the effort and expense by the marketing team for this mysterious company, the PURL was a real disconnect. At that moment, they had me, then they blew it. I wanted the pleasure of a personalized online experience. It’s a shame, really. The company had created a direct-mail package that caught my attention, included an element personalized to me, but failed to either purchase the domain name for the campaign, and/or test to make sure the domain and PURL were working correctly.

So, here’s my secret (one you won’t find in the book): Test. When creating and deploying any direct digital marketing campaign, test everything.

As Dutch noted in that earlier post on PURLs, employing a customer-centric approach to marketing goes far beyond putting a person’s name on a piece of paper. It’s about building relationships and providing them with content they value.

What’s the secret I was supposed to discover in this experience? I’d still like to know.

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