Simply put, says David Robidoux, vice president of marketing services: "We're using PURLs to sell PURLs."
The mailings showcase the companies' capabilities, like data services and creating QR codes and yes, personalized URLs. Ten times a year, the company drops around 160,000 mailers on behalf of between 350 and 400 franchises. Each piece is customized to an individual location, and each features PURL response mechanisms.
For business to business marketers PIP and Sir Speedy, there are additional benefits. The pieces showcase some of the services franchises offer in a package that touts the benefits of integrated marketing campaigns. "Typically you are only consulted on that when you are dealing with an agency," Robidoux adds. "Franchisees have the opportunity to go after small- to mid-sized clients – those too small to be on an ad agency's roster, yet too large to benefit from freelance marketing services."
Some of the mailers actually incorporate three response channels — PURLs, QR codes and telephone numbers personalized to the individual location nearest the recipient. "To increase response rate, we opted to allow [recipients] to use whatever medium they felt comfortable," says Robidoux.
A Mix of Customers and Prospects
For each wave of mailers, individual franchises submit around 500-1,000 prospects. Robidoux recommends locations use a mix of 75% new names and 25% existing customers, but this is not a requirement.
Vertis Communications, which provides the printing and back-office operations for the campaign, generates highly customized pieces which include the PURLs (and sometimes QR codes), phone numbers keyed to individual locations and personalization. The company will also append information and provide data hygiene and postal validation functions when needed, says Kurt Meeder, a sales executive for Vertis's direct marketing services division.
"We work with up to 400 franchises [at a time], taking lists from them, aggregating the lists, generating PURL domains with subdomains and assign campaign-specific, franchisee specific phone numbers and other appends," Meeder says.
In the case of PIP and Sir Speedy, the PURLs and QR codes lead to a video, which gives an overview of the offerings and gave viewers the option of linking to a landing page for whichever location was featured on the mailer. At the landing page, respondents can answer a quick survey about their business needs and ask for a follow-up call. If they request to be contacted, their information is immediately transferred to the location in question, and the system generates a "thank you for your interest, and a salesperson will call" e-mail.
Franchises agree that speed is the key to responding. "We have two additional sales people, and the response is near instantaneous," says Don Sanders, owner of an Amarillo, TX-based Sir Speedy. "We've learned that in a PURL campaign the largest number of respondents are going to respond very fast."
The response lead information, including whatever information is gained through questions asked about a respondent's business needs, is sent immediately to Sanders and his associates via email. If the prospect is near his downtown location, Sanders will call and ask to drop by. He constantly carries promotional items with him, and is able to show up on a prospect's doorstep with a pitch-and-gift at a moment's notice.
Targeting Local B2B Clients
The number of names Sanders submits for a given wave is manageably small. It varies from campaign to campaign, but is pulled from a prospects and file database of around 700 names. Amarillo, he notes, is not a large community, and there are perhaps 6000-7000 businesses in the area.
"A lot of the clients are just not valid [prospects for this service] in terms of their volume of business," he says. "We like to find that client who has a marketing budget and an idea of structure and business planning. Sometimes that might be a two-person company, sometimes it's a 100-person company."
If a campaign yields one viable lead for Sanders, he considers it successful. That said, a given wave often produces multiple leads. At very worst, the pieces that reach current customers provide "another touch, and they solidify the relationship."
Jimmy Brumley, who co-owns a PIP in Burlington, NC with his wife, Judy, uses the PURL efforts primarily as new business generators. Around 80% of his mailings are to prospects, he says, and he actively rents lists of firms that employ between 25 and 30 individuals and have annual revenue of under $5 million.
"In companies of that size, the marketing and growth function falls on the president's desk," Brumley says, adding that his pieces quickly reach decision makers.
Recent campaigns have featured an iPad giveaway: When Brumley receives his seeded copy of the mailer, "I know that the phones and the computers are going to start going off. It's up to us, when we do get a hit, to follow up quickly."
Fifteen to 20 strong inquiries will usually yield between two and five $10,000 accounts. "Once a prospect has taken the time to call us, we have captured their information and are acting on it," Brumley adds. "If we know [which sales rep has dealt with the recipient before – a bit of information Vertis can append to the lead, if available] the lead goes directly to them."
PURLs tend to generate fairly high response rates, says Franchise Service's Robidoux, but the inbound phone calls usually yield the most viable prospects.
"A phone call is a big commitment from a respondent, especially a prospect," he notes.