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List Hygiene — ABCs of Improving Address Quality

June 2007 By Dave Lewis
There’s no escaping the fact that direct mail just doesn’t work with a bad address. The most compelling creative printed on the finest brochure is useless if it doesn’t get to the intended recipient.

Why should that matter to you? The ultimate responsibility lies with your customer and their mailing list, after all. If they give you a bad address and you print and mail it correctly, it isn’t your fault if it doesn’t get delivered. That reaction will probably hold up in court but, in business, you need to do better.

The more you work with your customers’ data, the more they will depend on you as a value-added resource. Data work can also give you an opportunity to add to your bottom line.

The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) wants to help you improve your address quality…or else! New move update and ZIP+4 rules will make address quality more important than ever in securing the lowest possible postage rates.

You can interact with your clients on a number of levels when dealing with their address data. You can simply run the addresses through a basic CASS certification, get into additional address processes such as NCOA (National Change Of Address), or house the data for them and provide a whole range of address quality services. Each level has its own costs and benefits.

Commodity or Partner?

You will need to develop a great deal of expertise and resources to house client address data, but it can easily increase your customers’ loyalty. You may also find that when you provide a larger range of services, you are viewed less and less as a commodity, and more as a partner. Partners get paid better.

There really is nothing complex about assuring address quality. It involves creating a process that does a lot of little things correctly on a regular basis. The USPS suggests appointing a “Data Custodian” to oversee your mailing lists. (I prefer the title “Data Czar.”) The Data Custodian (DC) can be an individual in your organization or an outside resource, like a local mailing and fulfillment company. Either way, the DC is responsible for making sure all of your addresses are correct and current.

These are two distinct and important qualities that are essential to maintaining a good list—accuracy and currency. The address has to be correct, and the person needs to be at that accurate address. The address can perfectly describe and identify a building, but if your prospect has moved out, that address is no longer current or of great value.
 

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