Management Rules to Improve Your Bottom Line Today
By Greg Brown, Marketing Director
at Melissa Data
Whether you use your customer database for direct
marketing, transactional mailings or provide mailing
services for your clients, the latest postal
increases—effective May 12, 2009—will have an impact
on your bottom line.
When you add the postal increase to skyrocketing
energy prices and an uncertain economic outlook for
2009, there is no better time than the present to
make some simple changes that will provide immediate ROI. By implementing these five address management
rules, you’ll be able to save money, reduce costs
and improve response rates.
Rule 1: Clean It Up or Clear It Out
What good is an address if you can’t deliver to it?
But unfortunately many companies are doing just that
– sending mail to undeliverable addresses.
Undelivered mail is truly junk mail and it costs
American businesses over 1.8 billion dollars a year.
Not only are companies wasting money on postage and
printing, they are missing opportunities to
communicate with customers and prospects and grow
Thankfully, cleaning up addresses is easy these
days. Mail preparation software is available that
will reduce errors due to missing or incorrect
directionals, incorrect street names, missing or
incorrect suffixes, incorrect ZIP® codes, and more.
Make sure that the
mailing software you purchase is
CASS Certified™. To be CASS Certified, software must
pass an annual USPS® test to verify and correct
addresses to the ZIP + 4® level with 98% accuracy,
among other requirements. Starting in 2008 CASS
processing now includes DPV™ and LACSLink™ for a
greater level of accuracy. DPV confirms an address
has an actual point of delivery, while LACSLink
identifies and updates business and residential
rural route addresses to street-style addresses.
Additionally, mail preparation software will presort
and barcode your mailings, helping you qualify for
the lowest postage rates and applicable discounts.
Here’s how one company achieved their goals.
A college magazine publisher mailed out thousands of
copies of their monthly publication but needed to
find ways to cut down on their costs. They
investigated and purchased mail preparation software
to barcode their mailings for postal discounts. Not
only did the software qualify their mailings for
presort discounts resulting in thousands of dollars
a year in savings, it also verified and corrected
incomplete and incorrect addresses which
dramatically cut down on the amount of returned
Rule 2: Get a Move on It
Another culprit in the high cost of undeliverable
mail is your customers – they are a constantly
moving target. An estimated 43 million Americans
pick up and move every year. That means up to 20
percent of the people or companies in any database
could have a new address – a fact that presents some
pretty big hurdles to maintain quality mailings
lists, and low postage and production costs.
Today NCOALink processing every 95 days is
mandatory to receive First-Class Mail® and Standard
and presort discounts.
The USPS maintains a database with approximately 160
million records or 48 months of permanent address
changes. It’s called the NCOALink® product. You can
submit your mailing list or database records to USPS
approved vendors for
NCOALink Move-Update service to
match your addresses to the records on file with the USPS. Since 1986 when the USPS introduced the
product, NCOALink has saved mailers billions of
dollars that otherwise would have been wasted in
paper, postage, and labor costs.
Here’s an example of the volume of bad records that
can be found in a database. A state Republican Party
submitted its voter lists to be matched against
NCOALink. Of the 3.9 million voter records
processed, about 528,000 records were matched to
recent movers in the USPS file.
Rule 3: Eliminate Duplicates
Picture this. You walk out to your mail box and
discover you’ve received four solicitations from
your favorite charity -- one addressed using your
full name; one addressed using your initials; one
addressed to your spouse; and one addressed to your
entire family. Why are they wasting my donation on
multiple solicitations you wonder?
While receiving duplicate mailings annoys
recipients, the problems it causes sending
organizations are even more significant. Especially
considering the average customer database contains
10 percent duplicate records. Maintaining that level
of duplicate records costs companies money, reduces
response rates and hurts marketing efficiency.
Thankfully, there are easy-to-use
software programs available, as well as data hygiene
services, which can quickly dedupe your list – or
multiple lists. And you can dictate the type of
matches you’d like to find in your database from
names, addresses and city/state/ZIP structures to
telephone numbers, customer numbers or email
Keep the records you want – and for budget’s sake,
get rid of the duplicates.
Rule 4: Put a Little ZIP into Your Database
They may look like just nine simple numbers, but to
a direct marketing specialist, the ZIP + 4 code on
an address is a golden opportunity for effective,
responsive target marketing. Using the ZIP + 4 code,
you can access the following information:
2. Census data
3. Carrier route codes
4. City and county statistics
5. Area code & time zone – and more.
With this information, you can effectively identify
the demographics and geographics of your consumers,
target your best market, reduce postage, eliminate
waste, and of course, increase delivery and response
One direct mail services company helps customers
develop targeted mailings using ZIP codes, and by
offering demographic filters and a street selection
process to zero in on specific neighborhoods. To
make it easier for customers to develop a
list, the company uses a
geocoding product that adds
latitude and longitude coordinates to the ZIP + 4
level to each address in the mailing list. This is
helpful for realtors who farm a neighborhood around
a house they have sold. The company also creates mashups with Google maps so that its customers can
see exactly where the materials will be sent – down
to the individual houses to which their mail will be
Rule 5: Tap into the Power of a Name
B-to-B and B-to-C are no longer the marketing
buzzwords of the day—today P-to-P (person to person)
communication is king. Customers prefer personalized
communications and it shows. A recent survey by Yes
Mail revealed that response rates increase
dramatically (5- to 10-fold) with a corresponding
increase in the number of personalization elements
within the communication.
And nothing is more important to the success of a
personalized mailing than the name. If you spell a
person's name wrong, or use an incorrect salutation,
your direct mail piece will likely hit the can
without even being opened.
There is software on the market that will fix typos
in the name, as well as truncations, abbreviations,
OCR errors, and common data entry errors. Some
software can genderize your entire list and split
names into their structural components i.e. Prefix
(Mr., Ms, Dr, etc.), First name, Middle name (or
initial), Last name, and Suffix (M.D., Ph. D.). And,
most importantly, the software should be able to
All in all this type of software will help increase
the impact of your communications by tapping into
the power of the name with personalized variable
elements that are already in your database – driving
response rates up which leads to new business.
Catching undeliverable mail before it leaves your
door is one of the easiest and most effective ways
to save on postage, while keeping production costs
low. And, regularly cleansing your database of
outdated addresses and duplicate records gives you
an additional cost-saving measure to cope with
increased postal rates. But at the end of the day
it’s all about generating response—and the best way
to increase business is with highly targeted,
personalized marketing that delivers the results you
need. Remembering five simple address management
rules when putting together your marketing campaigns
has never been easier or more affordable, nor has it
ever been more of a critical bottom-line issue to
the success of your business.
---Source: Greg Brown, Marketing
Director at Melissa Data
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