Mailing Lists and Deceased Suppression

Nothing is more insensitive, embarrassing or costly to a direct mailer than sending a mailing piece addressed to someone who is deceased.

Sending direct mail addressed to a deceased individual can be upsetting to the family members left behind and costly to the mailer. Slogans meant to catch the recipient's attention can seem cruel when received by a relative of someone who has died. Headlines such as, “A beautiful smile can make a world of difference,” “You're preapproved” or “Once in a lifetime offer,” could be considered insensitive.

Recently, a woman complained after she received a direct mail piece, addressed to her deceased husband, that promoted a romantic getaway on a Caribbean cruise. In another case reported to The Privacy Rights Clearinghouse based in San Diego, a woman filed a complaint against a hearing aid company after she repeatedly received direct mail addressed to her deceased mother six years after her death.

In a recent analysis, direct mail sent to a deceased individual was collected for up to four years from the time the person had died. The analysis indicated that direct mailers would benefit from deceased suppression processing services. Financial institutions are the worst offenders when it comes to mailing to the deceased. Charities, political campaigns and the telecommunications industry were among the other top offenders.

Taking a proactive role in preventing these situations is best for everyone involved. Direct marketers repeatedly state that mailings to the deceased are strictly unintentional; however, these mailings are getting through. Most companies have detailed information in their customers' records, but few have procedures in place notifying them when a customer dies. The reason is that most direct mailers do not perceive deceased suppression as an easy task to achieve.

However, these perceptions are false. There is a solution that can reduce mailings from going to deceased individuals. A number of direct marketing firms have been providing deceased suppression processing, and they have found that it significantly reduces complaint mail resulting from inadvertently mailing to deceased individuals, as well as increases cost savings on printing and postage.

Direct solution providers offering this service have found that marketers are being served better than ever before in terms of this cleansing service, and the majority of their direct marketing clients who use the service find it effective.

Deceased suppression software can be licensed for internal processing or files can be cleansed externally with a quick turnaround. Exchanging files electronically also expedites the transfer process, and improved PC processing capabilities enable the process to be completed within one day, if not faster.

So, why would direct marketers use deceased suppression as part of their pre-mail processing procedures? First, it addresses the issue of privacy and adds another level of sensitivity to customer relations. Second, it reduces mailing costs by reducing wasted printing and postage.

The following case studies illustrate the value to direct marketers of performing deceased suppression processing. It should be noted that match rates vary by the nature of the file, frequency of updates and address maintenance procedures, but marketers often use a benchmark of 1 percent.

Case study 1: leisure travel company. A large leisure travel company has dramatically reduced its complaint mail, lowered promotion costs and improved response through the use of deceased suppression processing. The company removed more than 19,000 records per million (almost 2 percent). This represented a net postage and material savings of $7,100 on just the first mailing — a 284 percent return on investment.

Case study 2: financial company. A major national financial company was extremely satisfied with the results it achieved with deceased suppression processing. The company discovered that for every 1 million records processed, 22,700 names were deceased individuals (almost 2.3 percent). This represents a net postage and material savings of $8,850 on just one mailing — a 354 percent ROI.

Deceased suppression processing is an important step in the address cleansing process. This service should be incorporated into the address purification process along with National Change of Address, merge-purge, as well as many other established techniques.

In today's unpredictable economic environment, marketers and database owners must be keenly alert to customer relationship management techniques and cost containment options to improve their return on investment.

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