pURLs – Relevance in Marketing or Just Expensive Personalization?

by TedV

The Personal URL (pURL) is a direct marketing tactic. Currently, it just might be the most effective method to encourage someone to look at a particular website. This tactic holds a number of possibilities to bring Relevance to your Marketing efforts.

I say “might be the most effective method” because you can waste a lot of money doing pURL campaigns incorrectly. A pURL simply combines a website address with the name of a specific prospect. For example:

http://www.TedVinzani.RelevanceSells.com (not a valid link)

If your name was in that link, you’d wake up and pay more attention to the email, direct mailer, brochure, or whatever the marketing piece that included your Personal URL.

Though many people by now have seen a pURL with their name included, seeing this type of link still captures their attention, if not their imagination. It’s the kind of marketing prospects identify with.

pURL Success and a Conference

On behalf of a client, in the Spring of 2007 I attended a conference for marketing professionals in the insurance industry. My client developed a powerful portal that could be used by an insurance company’s field sale agents to perform their own local advertising and marketing, among many other things.

We had the names, titles, addresses, and email addresses of most of the conference attendees. We sent a mailer with the envelope addressed using a handwriting font, and their own pURL printed at a jaunty angle to the side. Inside the package we included a 4″ x 5.25″ card. Here’s side one of that insert card:

pURL side of the card

pURL Side of the Insert Card

Notice the simple message. (By the way, this site is no longer active.)

You see, the attendees to this conference basically do two things, brand and advertise the company, AND support the advertising efforts of the field sales agencies.

Field insurance sales agency advertising does two things: 1) generate leads for local selling and 2) recruit new sales representatives. My client’s portal did just that. In addition, the portal made sure the insurance company’s brand was protected in local advertising while preventing the field agency from violating state and national compliance regulations imposed on all insurance and financial services companies.

Our pURL took the person to a mock-up portal with their name and company prominently displayed. While there, they could look at and modify on the fly, personalized, brand protected examples of local advertising. Also, every ad mock-up generated by the portal had the individual’s own name, address, etc. prominently displayed on the mock-up. And they could change their information, press ‘update,’ and see the new info in the mock-up in seconds.

We wanted the attendees to go to the pURL website ahead of time, and a number of them did, but what we really wanted was for them to look for me at the conference for a conversation.

While at the conference, I had my laptop and wireless capabilities. I’d simply enter their name in the pURL format and show each attendee right there how the portal would work for them.

Why This Campaign Succeeded

• The target audience really was interested in lead generation and recruiting
• The call to action was the conversation, though going to the site was great
• Therefore, the message was relevant and the call to action was logical

pURL Failure and a Trade Show

My second example revolves around an industry event also. Actually it is not a failure for pURL technology, just a failure to market properly. No tactic is either good or bad, it’s all in the execution.

In defense of the marketing communications client I worked with, we had just been given marketing responsibilities for this health and wellness technology startup with just about a month to go before the event. This new product to us was one of those rare, absolutely new and unheard of technologies that created a new marketplace. It was sort of like how no one knew they’d want a home computer in 1979.

So, we were tasked with a tightly deadlined marketing project before we could do our market analysis. The event was a Wellness Coaching trade show and conference for personal trainers and lifestyle coaches working in this growing health and wellness arena. Most of these coaches trained individuals or small businesses.

The goal of the show for our startup company client was to have these coaches come by and sign up to be distributors and dealers. To that end, the pURL campaign was designed to bring prospects to the booth. Hopefully they would look at the technology on the website ahead of time and get excited about the potential.

A guru in the industry had just written a new book, and the hook was an opportunity for the pURL receiver to go to the site and enter a drawing for a copy of this new bestseller.

The database of attendees held several thousand names, and each one received an oversized, personalized postcard with their own pURL prominently displayed as well as the contest offer. The website was a topnotch design effort utilizing video and excellent graphics.

The mechanics of this campaign, the oversized postcard, the beautiful website we designed, were all strong – but not enough. There was a fundamental flaw.

Why This Campaign Went Flat

• Weak contest offer – the book was on sale elsewhere at the show for $25
• The technology was too new and complex to grasp in a website
• The target audience was not a good prospect – NO Relevance in Marketing

Remember, we’d just gained the account for marketing. The next few months frustrated my client who spearheaded the effort himself. We finally stepped back and started from day one – Who IS the prospect?

Turns out these coaches wouldn’t sell a $500/20% margin product that they didn’t understand to someone who could spend that $500 on their services. And selling their services made them 100% of the profits.

The target audience of this pURL effort was all wrong.

After I sales-prototyped the product, I ended up calling on the Heads of HR and the Chief Medical Officers of Fortune 500 companies.


In summary, you must give a qualified prospect a personally meaningful message if you want to benefit from Relevance in Marketing. Heck that’s what you need to do to sell anything well.

A pURL campaign can deliver a Relevant Message as powerfully as anything can – better than most tactics – if you follow those tenants.

Most personalization I see doesn’t really follow through on Relevance. That’s why I write these articles.