Ten tips for squeaky clean lists

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More than ever, list hygiene is critically important to direct marketers' mailing success. After all, there are the USPS' modified Move Update requirements to consider, as well as public concerns about the environmental effects of direct mail. But most importantly, reaching your best potential customers is key, experts say, so making sure your lists are clean is essential. Here are 10 ways to make sure your lists are as tidy as they can be:

1 Understand your responsibility The mailer is the one responsible for making sure Move Update requirements are complied with, says Jerry Ceresale, SVP of government affairs at the DMA, so it's important to take action. “Make sure you know your vendors well,” he says, “and that they are properly scrubbing the lists using the NCOA directory.”

2 Consider Address Change Service (ACS) ACS is a process for mailers to receive address changes electronically from the Postal Service to update their next mailings. Elizabeth Lombard, national postal carrier manager at Pitney Bowes, says that the address correction fees are significantly cheaper with this method, and the address change information is accessible to the mailer more quickly. “More timely information is helpful, especially when mailings are frequent,” she explains.

3 Use the DMA's Mail Preference service This free service from the Direct Marketing Association allows consumers to go online to opt out of the mailing lists of individual brands, for free. “This offers win-win opportunities for direct marketers to practice environmental stewardship and reduce waste, while improving the deliverability of their mail,” notes Jim Wilson, manager of address technology at the USPS.

4 Mail to the addresses that meet your needs It sounds obvious, but targeting properly is something that all mailers need to pay close attention to, Wilson points out. “For example, have business delivery addresses been removed if your mailing is directed at homeowners?” he asks.

5 Use the National Change of Address Linkage system This system leverages the most current USPS address information, including standardized and delivery point coded addresses, for matches made to the NCOALink file for individual, family, and business moves. “Use NCOALink solutions that provide 48-months of change of address history to increase your opportunity to correct addresses,” Lombard advises.

6 Take advantage of ancillary service endorsements These allow mailers to obtain, on request, a forwarding address if a recipient has filed a change-of-address order with the Postal Service or for non-delivery. Approved endorsements a mailer can receive include Address Service Requested, Return Service Requested, temporary Return Service Requested and Change Service Requested, says Lombard.

7 Confirm address with CASS (Coding Accuracy Support System) software CASS enables the Postal Service to evaluate the accuracy of address matching software programs. Make sure addresses confirmed by CASS software are valid at both the primary and secondary address levels, says Wilson.

8 Mail at the last possible moment Running each of your mailings through the national change of address system closer to the mailing date might save money in the long run. “If you perform an NCOA update at the last possible moment before a mailing, you will meet the Move Update requirements and may in fact save money on having most up-to-date addresses,” says Cerasale.

9 Keep accurate records If a mailer faces an assessment against them for Move Update noncompliance, it really helps to keep good records, advises Cerasale. “You can't just say to the Postal Service, ‘Oh, we actually did do this in compliance with Move Update,'” he says. “You need to have to have records to show them you did everything the right way.”

10 Always test This is good advice most good direct marketers know, but it bears repeating. “Test a sample of a list before mailing to the entire list,” says Wilson. “Also consider testing different versions of catalogs.”

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