Make a quality audit the first step in direct mail campaigns

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Cindy Kilgore
Cindy Kilgore

One of our clients recently created an acquisition campaign to find new customers. They created a series of direct mail packages, sent us their list of prospective customers, and we did the production for the entire series. The first job mailed — and surprisingly, nothing happened. No e-mails. No Web hits.

It turned out that instead of pulling a list of potential new customers, they had accidentally sent us a list of their current customers. No wonder they weren't receiving any new sign-ups!

So much of the success or failure of a mailing depends upon the list. Our client's experience demonstrates, once again, that the right list is crucial, maybe even more important than what you put in the envelope.

To prevent disappointment in your direct mail campaigns, be certain to put every list through a quality audit before you mail.

A quality audit (QA) essentially provides a snapshot of the lists you'll be using. This provides a quick indication of whether or not the data looks as expected.

For example, a QA we ran in late October peeked at 15,778 records and found 791 missing prefix fields, one missing name, seven missing address lines, 11 missing city fields, 11 missing state codes, 12 missing ZIP codes, 96 missing ZIP +4, and 22 undeliverables from the US Postal Service's Delivery Point Validation (DPV) and Locatable Address Conversion System (LACS) processes.

Go beyond the numbers in your QA, too.

  • Addresses: What will the longest and shortest lines look like? Imagine these in the mailbox. Will this work in your mailpiece design?

  • Names: How will the longest and shortest composed names look in the salutation? In letter copy? This becomes even more important when designing for color-variable print where data extremes might appear strange if incorporated into the design. You might need to switch to using just initials. 

  • B-to-b mailings, company names or titles: When you see the longest and shortest lines in a name or title, you might decide to remove a field or otherwise rearrange it.

  • States: Who is getting your mailings? In the QA mentioned above, 15,240 people on the 15,778 list lived in Washington, DC, Maryland or Virginia. If that's what the campaign intended, terrific. If not, the QA offers a great time to fix that.

A quality audit discloses how clean (or how horrible) data really is. In these penny-pinching times, QA is one more way to save and succeed.

Cindy Kilgore is manager of creative development at EU Services. Reach her at


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