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Personalize Direct Digital Mail with Variable Data and PURLs.

What’s the next best thing to personally shaking the hand of every potential customer? Sending them marketing that is personalized to them using variable data and a personalized URL, or PURL. Imagine, you get two direct mail post cards. One is to a generic resident at your address; it includes the web address of a generic website that you can visit. The other card addresses you by name; it includes an offer to visit a website that has been set up just for you. Which do you respond to?

In our last blog we talked about digital print marketing versus digital online marketing and concluded that it was not really an issue of one or the other, but of using each media for the right purpose – and sometimes combining digital print and digital online for great results. Variable data printing and PURL marketing used together are one way to achieve better marketing results than either print or online marketing alone.

Defining Terms: Variable Data, QR Code, and PURL Marketing

Variable Data Printing

Offset printing is a mass production process: each sheet of paper that comes off the press contains the same images and text as all the other sheets of paper. Digital printing is a custom process: each brochure or post card that comes off the press can contain different images and text. That leaves room for a lot of data customization and message personalization! Variable Data Printing (VDP) is a database driven process using variable data fields to personalize the text and graphics of a printed piece. It can be as simple as a personal salutation – Hey John!. Or as complex as adding messages and images that speak directly to John.

For instance, say you’re in the rental car business and you are promoting a discount program. You know that John is an executive. So in your variable data fields, you address John by name and add: “Executives like you spend an average of $X,000 per year on rental car expenses. We can reduce that to $3,000 with our executive discount program.” You send the same offer to Susan, who is a salesperson. Only now your card reads: “Dear Susan: Salespeople like you spend an average of $X,000 per year on rental car expenses…”

With variable data printing, suddenly digital printing is as customizable as email.

QR Codes

QR, or quick response, codes are those small squares of squiggly lines you see everywhere now. A QR code is an easy way for anyone with a phone and a scanning app to get to a website without the laborious process of typing in a (long) URL. Adding a QR code to your digital direct mail makes it quickly “clickable” to a website, helping to smooth the conversion process. Best practice (since everyone does not have a scanning app installed on their phone) is to also include the website URL.

PURL Marketing: Closing the Loop Between Digital Print and Online Marketing

PURL stands for Personalized URL (Universal Resource Locator). A PURL website is the online equivalent of variable data printing; it can be customized using variable data fields that are database driven. That means, using our examples above, that when you send a post card to John he will click to a landing page like this: Using variable data that website will not only welcome John by name, but it can contain further content that is directly relevant to John (and all executives), including an offer than John simply can’t refuse.

That’s how variable data printing and PURL marketing work together. But why go to all this trouble? Why not just send John a personalized direct mail piece? Well, there are two very good reasons: increased conversions and the ability to track results more effectively.

Better Response, Better Conversion Using PURLs

Studies have shown marketers improving their response rate (defined as prospects visiting a website) by as much as 50% using PURLs. Does that mean your PURL campaign will improve response by 50%? No, because there are a number of contributing factors, including how relevant and well-executed your campaign is. According to a Marketing Sherpa study, advertisers can expect to see a 20% lift on conversion by implementing PURLs. Again, is this a guarantee? No, it’s an average – but it’s a very good average!

Easier Results Tracking Using PURLs

Variable data printing combined with PURL marketing lets you precisely track who responds to your offer. You know exactly who visited your landing page and what they did there, whether they converted or abandoned page. Now you can qualify leads and send custom follow-up offers. In addition, PURLs make it easy to track your campaign results in real time, so you no longer have to wait to determine the success of the campaign. This means that you can make mid-campaign adjustments if necessary to improve effectiveness.

Need Help with Your VPD and PURL Marketing Campaign? Call Us!

We’re the digital direct mail experts in the Portland, Oregon area. For more information, check out our website at: Or better yet, give us a call at: 503-233-2477. We’ll be happy to answer all your questions and help you set up your PURL marketing campaign.

Rhino Digital