What is Direct Mail Data Cleaning?

What is Direct Mail Data Cleaning?

Direct mail data cleaning, AKA the process of cleaning your data, is a direct mail postal optimization technique which makes the task of cleaning and managing mailing lists an efficient process that also saves on your total mailing costs. In addition, it also works to reduce the waste and missed opportunities caused by addresses that are either incorrect or duplicates. 

It has been reported that the average B2B company experiences data errors (up to 25% of the time) when it comes to their customer and prospect mailing lists. Whether the errors are the result of flawed demographic data or improperly entered information, bad data needs to be reduced before a mailing goes out.

It should be noted it is not an easy task to achieve a 100% accurate list. When you are performing a “cleaning mailing list” task, you can be sure mistakes will happen simply because names and addresses change on a regular basis. Having said that, you should strive to limit these mistakes as much as possible. It is sometimes hard to comprehend but a simple spelling error can cause the loss of a valuable lead which can result in lost revenue for your company.

Direct Mail List Management Process

Follow these five steps to manage your direct mail list management process and ensure a successful campaign:

  1. Assign Ownership:
    The task of assigning ownership of your direct mail campaign is essential to ensuring the task is monitored and leads are up-to-date. Ownership of the direct mail process can be assigned to someone on your team or you can outsource the assignment to a third party (while making sure you have an internal point person). The main thing to remember is that someone needs to be designated as the List Keeper and it is their responsibility to make sure nothing falls through the cracks. 
  1. Create a Mail List Management Process:
    Next, you will need to document the direct mail process in order to add, edit, and/or remove addresses on the current mailing list. Mail list management is ideal to make sure your company is following current communication and privacy standards. 
  1. Organize the Direct Mail List by Category:
    There are times when it makes sense to mail your entire database if you have a major announcement or time-sensitive promotion.  On the other hand, what about sending a mailer to one specific group of customers? For example, you might want to offer a discount to a customer who hasn’t made any purchases in the last six months. You might also have the idea to offer a “VIP Special” to your most frequent and valued customers. If you take the time to organize your direct mail list by category, you will start to see patterns that make sense to your business (new customers, past customers, business contacts, etc.)

When it comes to creating and maintaining lists, the more steps you take to personalize and target your direct mail message to a specific list of customers, the better your results will be with each campaign.

  1. Merge and Purge:
    This step is simple and to the point. Identify any duplicates or typos to make sure your list is up-to-date and accurate. The ease of this task depends on your database software so ask your assigned List Keeper or direct mail partner about performing this task.
  2. Audit Your List:
    By auditing and editing your list on a regular basis, you can feel confident your list is clean and your message will be delivered to your target audience. You can also review your previous campaign performance and check the ongoing viability of the list. This task would fall under the supervision and execution of your List Keeper or direct mail partner. 

Now that you know managing mailing lists is easy to perform, you should decide how often to clean your email lists. (Spoiler Alert: The section below answers that question.)

How Often You Should be Cleaning Email Lists

Are you wondering how often you should be cleaning email lists? The task of cleaning your data needs to be performed often as opposed to “every once in a while.” You might even want to schedule a regular item on your calendar that simply says “Cleaning Mailing List.”

If you have a long list of names and addresses, be sure and merge, purge, and check for duplicate entries. The National Change of Address (NCOA) database includes every individual and businesses who took the time to fill out a change of address form in the past four years. You can use this to your advantage by sending your database to the NCOA so you will have the latest mailing addresses of the people and companies on your list.

Methods to Clean Direct Mail Data

You don’t need to commit to the first database you find online. There are several databases for direct mail data cleaning which easily allow you to check whether or not your addresses are correct.  Here are some of the most popular examples:

  • CASS: The Coding Accuracy Support System is a certification system that performs address validation and it is available from the United States Postal Service. CASS-certified address validation standardizes your mailing list, lets you fix outdated addresses and verifies your list of addresses is valid.
  • ACS: Address Change Service allows direct mailers to receive change-of-address updates, as well as other reasons for non-delivery, electronically to reduce the number of manual address notifications that a business receives. This service allows you to update your mailing list after an initial mailing is made (and also before the next mailing).
  • NCOA: National Change of Address is a database of around 160-million permanent change-of-address records. This list of records consists of the names and addresses of any individuals, families or companies who have filled out a change of address form with the Postal Service.
  • Apartment Append: This product works to correct records in your files that have been identified as having apartment numbers that are missing or incorrect. Once these records are identified, Apartment Append updates the incorrect or missing information.
  • Duplicate Processing: The task of finding duplicate records used to be an issue because they might not be an exact match but they would still be viewed as the same. You now have the ability to make more accurate matches so you can remove all duplicates from your data files.

By performing the direct mail management process, you will be able to manage your lists and increase the number of correct names and addresses you reach with your next mailing.

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