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PURLs shine for promoting customer relationships, improving databases

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Customer preferences lie at the center of customer relationships. The optimal database will incorporate consumer preferences drawn from a broad multichannel strategy that pulls in every touch point, including call centers, brick-and-mortar locales, the Web and e-mail.

To this list of touch points I'd like to add PURLs.

PURLs—aka, personalized URLs, or Web addresses that generally incorporate the recipients' names—can be the ultimate response device. When they were first introduced, PURLs were viewed by many as a fancy way to attract attention and then sell something to customers. Today's smarter PURLs certainly attract attention, but they also can educate marketers about customer preferences.

PURLs take customers directly to the targeted information they are seeking (order form, registration info, white paper, etc.). The best PURLs build on what we already know about users and where they are in their buying stages. PURLs also can be pre-filled with personal information that can be confirmed by a customer—a nice touch appreciated by busy people.

From that initial click, the respondent can be taken to a fulfillment or thank-you page that contains up-sell or cross-sell suggestions based on the person's purchase history, title, industry segment, etc. Here, respondents also could provide feedback or suggestions about their preferences across a variety of data.

Perhaps most important to campaign planning and refinement, PURLs can be set up to help track response rates and customer activity from a marketer's desktop.

Excellent as a survey tool
Smart marketers are eager to capture detailed opinions, preferences, complaints and viewpoints from customers, and PURLs work well here as well. Carefully crafted surveys can generate information for strategic planning, with the data electronically fed to CRM databases. So, PURLs can excel as a vehicle for driving accuracy.

Let's suppose, for example, that an association drives meeting registration through PURLs. From there, it's an easy step to offer the viewer a premium for filling out a survey. To bolster response, marketers might consider a highly personalized gift, such as a calendar.

The beauty of PURLs is that premiums can be sent after the survey is completed. These back-end premiums not only generate equal response to the costlier front-end premiums of direct mail, but are also much easier to personalize and, therefore, more meaningful to the recipient. Meanwhile, the personalization information itself can be a data generator.

As Steve Fretzin, president of Sales Results Inc., has said, “It's not just about you convincing a potential client that you are right for them. You need to let them talk as much as possible so you can learn about [them] and, in turn, tailor your approach to fit their specific needs.”

Clearly, rather than a marketing gimmick, PURLs can be an excellent response device. Moreover, as part of the social-media revolution, PURLs open another venue for that all-important conversation with customers. Not only do PURL respondents show us what they're interested in simply by “stopping by,” but the information they choose to leave behind also strengthens their relationships with your company and products.

Crystal Uppercue is marketing manager for direct marketing production company EU Services (www.euservices.com), in Rockville, Md. She can be reached at cuppercue@euservices.com.

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