PURLs: A Fresh Tactic for Hard-Pressed Nonprofits
Today, improved technology means that personalized approaches to communication don't need to break the budget. Among the higher-tech options, nonprofits should consider personalized URLs as a response vehicle for members and donors.
Typically sent via direct mail or e-mail, PURLs provide links to Internet landing pages that have been designed for particular campaigns and personalized for individual members or donors.
The strongest asset of a PURL is its ability to track respondent behavior in real time. When your member or donor clicks on a PURL, you can generate additional contacts (a second direct-mail appeal, additional e-mail marketing, a phone call, etc.) right away, based on preprogrammed “triggers.” The process sounds complicated, and it can be, but an experienced direct-marketing production company can provide either a predesigned workflow or formulate a workflow based on your specific needs.
PURLs bring unexpected benefits
Barbour Publishing, a prominent Christian book publisher, tried PURLs to generate interest in a new Mystery Book of the Month Club membership. Beyond good response, PURLs brought unexpected benefits. Barbour’s Karen Miller says, “We have been pleasantly surprised at the number of sign-ups we received through the PURLs. The cost was minimal, and the PURL brought up each customer’s information automatically. PURLs also saved postage, since customers don’t have to send anything back to us via USPS.”
When reaching out to prospective members and donors, a PURL discloses exactly where a response originates, both from which list and from which geographic area. Miller says, “We now have more accurate response rates because when responders sign up via the PURL, we can track their key codes to the list they came from. This helps us analyze each list individually and gather more accurate response data.”
The initial test was so successful that Barbour expanded the use of PURLs to market the company’s Romance Series.
PURLs move donors
The Appalachian Trail Conservancy used PURLs when it embarked on a trek to match donations from a six-figure gift.
Royce Gibson, director of marketing and development, explains that ATC’s solution was a cross-media year-end campaign that was launched when several related stories appeared in its bimonthly magazine. A few days after magazine publication, members received a direct-mail appeal that incorporated a link to a personalized landing page.
The first mail drop garnered a 3.95 percent response rate and $313,000 in revenue. The second mail drop brought another 3 percent response rate and $87,500 more.
Both the PURLs and a special microsite were part of the donation effort. Embedded in the microsite was a flash movie where donors could watch an image of a small hiker move up a trail when they made their donation. The image helped donors actually see that their donations were making a difference.
“Typically ATC campaigns do not come close to receiving a 4 percent response rate,” Gibson says. “The challenge that ATC promoted was new and intriguing for donors, and created a lot of buzz.”
PURLs today are a response vehicle that can take a nonprofit far. In fact, with a stable database like that inherent in associations and fundraising organizations, nonprofit marketers might want to consider setting up a PURL for each member or donor — a personal mini Web page to deliver regular communications or updates as events unfold.
Six crafty ways for a nonprofit to use a PURL
- Make it simple to reply online by prefilling all contact information.
- Promote the best event, class or conference for each recipient based on past behavior.
- Let PURL visitors expand your campaign’s reach by sending new PURL links to friends or colleagues.
- Vary your offer or gift string based on an individual’s history with your organization.
- Collect Web browsing behavior or survey information on individuals that can be used to drive one-to-one messaging.
- Reach out with a phone call, e-mail or mailing to PURL visitors who did not commit to action.
Cindy Kilgore is manager of creative development at EU Services. This article originally appeared in the July issue of AdVents, the monthly newsletter of the Direct Marketing Association of Washington, D.C.