A Clean List for Mailing Services
A Clean List: The Foundation of a Successful Mailing
By Wes Kirk
You've crafted the message and packaged it in the perfect vehicle to send to your target audience. Now how do you ensure that your postcard, brochure or catalog gets into the right hands at the right time? Our mailing service expert says it's all a matter of mailing list magic.
Most businesses have learned that a targeted recipient list, a compelling offer, a call to action and the right timing are all essential parts of a successful direct mail campaign. Yet all these important elements depend on one critical factor - having solid addresses on your list. Misfiring on your mailing list can make an otherwise well-planned mailing a disappointing failure.
Keep it clean and lean
As someone who handles a lot of mailing lists, I see common problems that can lead to delays or inaccuracies in mailings. The good news is that it's not difficult to get your mailing list in good shape. Here are some easy tips to help you create a clean list and save you time in working with your mailing services provider or mail house.
Why leave it up to someone else to guess at the right address or proper ID to use when your marketing dollars are at stake? Here are some easy tips to ensure your mail house can execute accurately on your mailing to help you maximize your response rate.
- Export only the info needed for mailing, when possible. Many contact database programs have wizards that make it easy to specify which fields to export. Skip the phone numbers, email addresses and other data that isn't relevant for addressing.
- Make column headings or field names clear. If you have multiple address fields, label the column you want to use as the primary address as "Mailing address." This will help you better manage the data for future mailings and takes the guesswork out of addressing your mail pieces.
- When you need to include Customer IDs in the mailing, instruct your mailing services provider on which fields to use to ensure accuracy.
- If the software that generates your list can export the data in a variety of formats, check with your mail house staff on the best format to use. They can advise you on what format would be both easiest for you to manage, and a format they can use to process your list.
- If the list will be broken into separate mailings, such as staggered mailings with weekly drops, let your mail house know how you want the delivery sequence to happen. Which states, regions or customers should get them first, second, and so on? A good mail house can work with you to sort or split the list based on your plan.
- To help avoid delays, take a few minutes to review your list before sending it to your mail house. If it looks confusing, seems to be missing critical address data or doesn't match your instructions, use the tips above to clean it up or call your mail house for assistance early in the process.
Following these simple suggestions to create a clean mailing list will help ensure your mail goes out to the correct addresses on time with the info you want included. Yet a clean list is only part of the equation for successful mail delivery. There are some additional steps that your mailing services provider can do to help you get your mail where it needs to go.
Tools of the trade
You may have the right addresses for your target audience, but that doesn't mean the U.S. postal service can deliver mail to them. Formatting errors, typos and roving recipients in the list can reduce the number of pieces that get delivered successfully. That's where two services performed by most mail houses come to the rescue: CASS and NCOA.
CASS stands for Coding Accuracy Support System
CASS helps improve the chances of your mail pieces being delivered to the right address. "CASS Certified" software is used to format addresses according to postal requirement and to identify addresses which are deemed "Undeliverable As Addressed," or UAA. This not only helps flush out any incorrect addresses that need fixing, it also saves you money by removing the UAA addresses from the mailing. The rule of thumb is that, more often than not, mail sent to UAA addresses are not delivered and not returned. Your mail house can help you decide how to best handle the "bad" addresses for your mailing needs.
While the CASS service certifies the validity of an address, it does not check whether the occupant is still at that address. Mail houses have a second trick up their sleeve to locate a person or business' current address, called NCOA.
NCOA refers to the National Change of Address
The NCOA service checks whether the mail recipient has moved and updates the address before the mail is sent. Your mail house can then send you the updated list to help you keep your address records current.
NCOA is a great option for certain types of mailing lists. Consider using it if you are targeting specific individuals or businesses. If you are blanketing a given neighborhood or zip code, CASS may be sufficient - especially if you want the address set up to say 'OR CURRENT RESIDENT', or another generic name.
Keep in mind that NCOA does not make your list 100% deliverable. Misspellings, movers who do not file change notices or incorrect move notices will still cause a First Class piece to be returned.
By working with a mailing services provider to manage your mailing list, you can increase the number of mail pieces that reach their targets, reduce your mailing services costs, and ultimately boost response rates on your mailing campaign.
Give us a call to find out more about how PFL can work magic on your mailing, or visit our Mailing Services Help Center at Mailing Services Guide
. We can also provide you with a mailing list to best target your marketing efforts. Call us for details.
Wes Kirk is team lead of the Pioneer Team, PrintingForLess.com's mailing services specialists. Pioneer's expert team members can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 1-800-930-6040.