Can Better Data Improve Mail Performance?

Neglecting to validate or refresh data before mailing can lead to embarrassing customer interactions, wasted efforts, needless expense, and poor campaign performance. No one wants to spend money printing and mailing items that are doomed to have no impact. Improving the data beyond the minimum standards can yield greater returns.

Most mailers will use approved software on every project to make sure addresses conform to USPS standards and have updated the records according to the National Change of Address file (NCOA). These measures are a good start, but plenty of other tools to improve deliverability and lower costs are available.

Move Update

There are two reasons NCOA is only part of the solution:

  1. Records stay on the NCOA file for only 48 months. If mailers or list vendors have not updated the data, anyone who moved over 4 years ago will not be included in the NCOA database. Mail addressed to these households will be misdelivered.
  2. The NCOA file includes only individuals, families, and businesses who file a change of address notices with the Postal Service. Someone who moves without filling out an address change form will never be included in NCOA.

Mailers may improve deliverability by passing their data against other commercially available databases. These supplemental archives use sources other than the official USPS system to find people who have moved but left no forwarding address.

Deceased Suppression

Besides wasting money on production and postage, continually sending mail to deceased persons can be offensive. Reduce calls to customer service from distressed family members by removing the records of deceased individuals before mailing. Databases exist specifically for this purpose.

Duplicate Detection

It seems simple to avoid, yet mailers often send identical mailpieces to individual addresses. Here are three ways this can happen:

  1. Tools used to find duplicates are inadequate. General-purpose software like Excel or Access is effective only if data matches exactly. Software specially designed for name and address files will allow organizations to recognize names like Bob, Bobby, Robert, or Rob living at the same address as potential duplicates.
  2. Mailers perform duplicate detection on individual databases, but neglect to compare across data files acquired from several internal and external sources.
  3. Duplicate-matching criteria vary, depending on the application. Mailers that rely on the same criteria for all their projects may pass along some duplicates they should have eliminated.

Apartment Number Append

Running a file through Coding Accuracy Support System (CASS) software will flag records with missing apartment numbers, but it won’t make them deliverable. The US Postal Service destroys undeliverable Standard Class mail, typically used for direct mail marketing. Money spent to produce mail without apartment numbers is wasted.

Seasonal Addresses

Some vacation communities are nearly deserted during off-seasons. Mailing time-sensitive offers or other current communications to these addresses is a complete waste. Mailing lists featuring these types of communities can be trimmed, depending on campaign timing.

The US Postal Service requires none of these supplementary processes. Mailers that follow the minimum specifications for address standardization, move update, and presorting will receive workshare postage discounts. These extra steps though, can further decrease their postage bills.

Consult with your mailing professionals at EarthColor to decide if list improvements are beneficial for your next project.

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