Every piece of mail is critical today. This is true whether you’re conducting a direct mail marketing campaign, shipping vital goods to your customer base or sending out First Class mail with important financial statements and billing documents. The most crucial element for all these types of mailings is address quality. You need the assurance that pieces are being sent to the right people, at the right location, the first time.
Address quality is often overlooked. But the fact is, it takes constant vigilance to guard the effectiveness of your mailing efforts from the general flux of people and places. People move. Businesses relocate. Streets are renamed. ZIP Code™ boundaries shift. As a result, as much as 23.6% of mail can now be addressed incorrectly.
- More than 2 million new addresses are generated each year nationwide.
Here is your 4-step strategy that will enable you to improve address quality and reduce mailing costs, while helping to increase the effectiveness of your direct-mail campaigns.
1. ELIMINATE BAD ADDRESSES FROM YOUR LISTS
There are many reasons for incorrect and/or incomplete addresses. The majority of them are due to mistakes in data entry. This is compounded by the multiple sources that are now feeding mailing-list databases including errors on paper and website response forms, transcription error by call-center operators, and the lack of standard practices and procedures to keep lists clean and consistent across an enterprise.
To properly verify and clean a mailing list, three distinct areas must be monitored:
Physical address errors
These are issues where the address has incorrect information and/or is not consistent with USPS® guidelines. Examples include listing say, Elm Street versus Elm Avenue, along with simple but consequential transpositions when typing in ZIP Code information.
Not all addresses are able to receive mail: i.e. a cemetery or a golf course. In addition, many buildings and complexes encompass a number of addresses — side, front, rear, etc. — not all of them being active and official.
People who’ve moved
“Mailing lists don’t get better with age, like wine. They spoil rapidly, like milk.” This perspective is evidenced by the fact that approximately 15% of the addresses on a given list will become invalid each year. This means your entire list will effectively turn over in about 6.7 years.
2. FIND THE HIDDEN COSTS IN YOUR MAILING EFFORTS
Incorrect addresses can cost your business in so many ways — and the costs can be staggering.
The most obvious drains on your funds are the expenses of extra postage for redeliveries, wasted labor and address-change fees, along with additional printing and materials. One of the most costly factors is duplicate mailings. This is an area where you can generate immediate and dramatic savings, particularly if you’re a high-volume mail user.
Also consider the secondary costs of undeliverable mail. Reduced return on investment (ROI) for a marketing campaign goes right to the bottom line. Delayed shipments generate redelivery costs along with customer ill-will. Delayed payments can lead to accounting issues and compromised relationships. High-end pieces sent to deceased, incarcerated or bankrupt individuals are a particularly costly mistake. Duplicate mailings make an entity look disorganized and wasteful, especially if it’s a nonprofit looking for donations.
- According to experts, the success of a direct mail campaign is 40% determined by the quality of your mailing list.
3. HOLD DATA COLLECTION TO A HIGHER STANDARD
Today’s consumers are literally bombarded with messages, particularly in the realm of digital and social media. For this reason, address quality is a crucial factor to help maintain the marketing edge offered by direct mail — which has become an even more valuable way to cut through the overall media clutter.
While a poorly monitored mailing list can be a drain on productivity and profitability, it is fairly simple to turn your company’s list into a valuable organizational asset. The creation and maintenance of an accurate and qualified body of data is invaluable to your business acquisition and retention effort. In many cases, it is akin to owning a marketable patent, trademark or copyright.
The crux of this effort is to establish a systematic and standardized way to gather valuable data, correct it at the point of entry/update, and make it consistent across your enterprise. This is a key process to establish early in your customer relationships, as it can become more difficult and costly to do this further down the road.
4. USE ADDRESS-QUALITY SOFTWARE TO AUTOMATE THE PROCESS
With a solid address-quality software program in place, the use of address correction capabilities can lower postage costs by up to 35%, while increasing the accuracy and value of your customer/ prospect data. Currently, you’ll find a number of affordable, user-friendly products and services — available from both the USPS and commercial providers — to clean up and standardize data, correct errors and misspellings and fill in missing components. Examples include:
CASS Certified™ correction software
Based on the Certified Coding Accuracy Support System (CASS®), these applications use the official USPS database — which includes all address changes processed during the previous 8 weeks — to compare, validate and standardize the addresses on your list.
By simply running your customer list through the software, CASS will verify mailability, correct spellings — complete elements such as ZIP+4 codes and official designators (i.e. ST, BLVD, AVE, PKWY, CTR) — and add missing secondary information such as suite designations. Optional features include the real-time ability to correct errors during data entry.
Move Update processing
These applications ensure your addresses are verified, corrected and cleaned through a direct link to the NCOA® (National Change of Address) database. This NCOA data is maintained by the USPS.
The database contains a list of anyone who has filed a Change of Address (COA) card within the last 48 months, including people with “moved/no forwarding” or “left the country” status. In addition to its cost-saving benefits, Move Update processing must be run every 95 days to qualify for certain postal discounts.
Duplicate detection and suppression features
These intuitive software tools are a powerful addition to an address-quality effort. Duplicate-address detection software seeks out patterns and phonetic similarities in names and addresses. Suppression features can help keep higher-end mailings (glossy brochures, product samples, etc.) from being sent to non-productive recipients such as the deceased, bankruptcy filers and prison inmates.
New-wave address correction and move updates
The latest developments in address correction software are focusing on new non-postal sources for recipient data. For instance, credit agencies are a new verification resource that augments traditional USPS databases. As an example, while a person may not have filled out a USPS Change of Address card, he has probably updated information for his bank, magazine subscriptions, etc.
An effort to ensure address quality across a business is one that offers serious advantages in terms of cost savings, profitability and brand/customer relations. If you would like to learn more, contact MCC today for a consult and free demonstration.