It's Time to Clean Up Your Mailing Lists

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It is time to make New Year's resolutions. For marketers, this means sprucing up mailing lists for 2005. The U.S. Postal Service processes a huge volume of mail daily, which can challenge catalogers and mail carriers. The most effective strategy for a cataloger is to take whatever steps are needed to ensure catalogs have no deliverability issues and reach the right mailbox on schedule.

The new year offers a great time for marketers to use a sophisticated list cleansing strategy. Identifying the freshest records improves mailings, saves money and boosts profits. Here are 10 ways to refresh your lists to ensure mailings are delivered correctly and in a timely manner. Each improves deliverability and saves postage and printing costs while increasing response rates.

Use the postal service's National Change of Address. The NCOALink database provides information on 160 million address changes that were filed directly with the USPS in the past four years. Benefits include:

· Mailing to the new address lifts response more than 400 percent on average over mailing to the old address.

· Catalogers can experience up to a 1 percent match rate for each month since NCOA was used last.

Identify name and address duplicates. Duplicates can be a cataloger's largest waste of advertising resources. Sophisticated service providers can save you a lot of money by reducing, if not eliminating, duplicates in the mail. Strategies include:

· Use enhanced software or service providers that detect duplicates where the first letter of a last name is not the same. The ability of software and service providers to identify duplicates varies.

· Identify special situation duplicates, such as the female married/maiden name duplicate.

Use customer data integration linkage to identify more duplicates. CDI is a data management process in which prospects and customers are linked through the use of a historical repository that ties records together, even if they don't have the same address, and thus identifies more duplicates. For example, you may have a Jon Smith in Dallas and in Houston. CDI linkage can determine whether this is the same person and, if so, the more current address on record.

Use special suppress files. Special files that can identify undesirable mailings include deceased suppress files, prison suppress files and old address suppress files.

Code more records by using multiple ZIP+4 engines. To meet USPS automated sorting standards and achieve maximum postage discounts, mailing addresses must be appended with ZIP+4 and carrier route codes. Accurate ZIP+4 coding lets you reduce undeliverable mail, lower postage expenses and increase response. Using multiple ZIP+4 engines lets you code up to an additional 1 percent of input records.

Use supplemental processes to ZIP+4 code more records. Some service providers, via proprietary processes, can ZIP+4 code additional records that could not be coded by ZIP+4 engines (for example, adding a street numeric to an address with no street number).

Use supplemental processes to correct records with missing or invalid secondary numbers. Proprietary processes from some service providers to append missing secondary information (such as an apartment number) are worth the investment before your mailings. Tests have shown that on average 25 percent to 40 percent of the records destined for a high-rise building without an apartment number or with an invalid apartment number can be repaired.

Consider proprietary change-of-address systems. You can identify and verify more address changes by using proprietary COA systems. It has been estimated that 35 percent of people who move each year do not file an official change of address with the USPS. Yet they may notify their favorite publication, utility, direct mail company or bank of the change. Proprietary databases can give you access to millions of address changes reported by sources other than the USPS.

Use the Second Generation Delivery Sequence File (DSF2). USPS-licensed DSF2 can be valuable in determining your file's actual makeup. Matching your records to the DSF2 database, which contains 140 million addresses, lets you verify that each of your addresses represents an actual delivery point.

For example, if your input address is 8220 Lake St. N, ZIP+4, which utilizes ranges, will put a +4 code on this address if 8200 through 8298 Lake Street N is a valid range for this street. This would indicate that the input address is a good address because it falls within the ZIP+4 range for this address. However, DSF2 matching would reference the input address to individual addresses on the file - 8218 Lake St. N, 8222 Lake St. N, 8228 Lake St. N and so forth - and if it does not match an individual address, the output would indicate that 8220 is not valid. DSF2 is important because a large percentage of the records that don't match to DSF2 do not get delivered.

Consider using the Locatable Address Conversion System. This USPS-licensed product lets you convert rural-style addresses on your files to street-style addresses, thereby correcting delivery points that are altered (for example, when local government renames or renumbers streets). Records on the LACS database are considered a conversion, not a move, and the information is not on the NCOA database and would not be applied when using NCOA processing on your file.


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