Why Scrubbing Your Database is Essential Before Any Direct Mail Campaign

21 April 2020 / By Mike Gunderson
Why Scrubbing Your Database is Essential Before Any Direct Mail Campaign on gundersondirect.com
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Customer data is continually evolving, and your database must evolve, too. A list that’s out of date will cost you time, money, and brand empathy.

Whether you’re compiling, buying, or renting a direct mail list, it’s vital that you analyze your data to make sure that data is clean, accurate, and up to date. Dirty data wastes time and money by sending mail to people who either aren’t there, already got it, or obviously won’t be interested. All of those factors reduce your ROI, while Canada Post reports that cleaning your data can improve your ROI by 5%.

Here are three list maintenance chores that must be performed before every direct mail campaign.

1. Look for duplicates

The first thing you should do when going through your data is scan for duplicates, or “dedupe” the list.

You could be sending the same person an offer more than once, which depending upon your offer could cause your company to look unprofessional and waste money spent on the mailing. There are times when remailing is effective, but you would want to do intentional remailing rather than just remailing because of poor deduping.

There are many reasons this situation can occur. If you’re gathering data from multiple sources, for example, it’s easy for the same person to be on both lists. Sometimes a person signs up for more than one offer with slightly different names (with and without middle initial, for example) or using two different email addresses. When this happens, both entries are recorded as separate records.

You can prevent this from happening by comparing addresses in your deduplication processes, rather than just log-in or sign-up information.

And, with address data, there are different levels of de-duplication: Address, last name plus address, or individual name and address are the most common techniques. It is important to decide what fits your business model best to improve response and reduce wasted mail.

2. Identify incorrect or old addresses and solve those where possible

Another way unclean data can limit direct mail ROI is by keeping old or incorrect addresses in your database.

There are multiple reasons you might have the wrong addresses, starting with the consumer giving you a fake address in the first place.

Of course, customers also change addresses and, sadly, pass away. Updating direct mail subscriptions is hardly a priority in either situation, so you could end up sending mail to the wrong address for years to come.

One way to keep your addresses up to date is to check every list against the USPS New Mover database. A data processor (and sometimes your printer) can run the NCOA/CASS process. Moves that were reported to the USPS can be identified and a prior address replaced with a new address via the national change of address information (NCOA.) The CASS process will ensure that the output addresses are deliverable. You should also track any direct mail pieces that get returned to you as undeliverable and remove those addresses from your lists to reduce waste as well. Your data processor should also remove any known deceased records by matching your data up against the national deceased file.

3. Remove unresponsive prospects

Even the cleanest internal database has its share of customers who just won’t respond no matter how enticing the offer. It’s challenging to know when to cut bait on a lead, but after an extended period of unresponsiveness (perhaps a year or two, depending on how often you mail), you should trim this dead weight from your active mailing lists.

This is when tracking the responsiveness and ROI of your offers comes in handy, because the unique promo codes or URLs you use on those mail pieces reveal a lot about your customers. You can see who is at least checking the offers on their computer or mobile device vs. who is ignoring them completely.

When you notice that a lead never bothers to even check an offer after multiple mailings, that may be a sign the person just isn’t interested in what you have to offer.

For unresponsive prospects in an internal prospect list, it can be very useful to also analyze responsiveness by cohort groups of the same vintage (database creation date, when they became a customer) and source (from direct mail campaigns, social, events, etc.) This is sometimes a quick step towards removing unresponsive contacts quickly and in a purge mode. For instance, you could have 15,000 unresponsive contacts from an event held 10 years ago.

We would remiss if we did not mention that sometimes after analyzing the cohorts of non-responsive contacts, you could find an opportunity to design winback programs for a subset of those unresponsive contacts. Winback programs can be very successful when using the right channel, offer, and message.

Maximize your ROI

So, how do you get useful data?

One excellent method for internal databases is offering incentives to consumers to provide you with accurate names and addresses. So many databases are compiled with contact information that only has email addresses because landing pages are designed to be efficient and quick to fill out. The business goal is to avoid a large drop-off in the process of gathering leads. So, customers might need incentives to provide more information.

It is possible to reverse append email addresses to find postal addresses. However, the match rates are between 15% and 50% at best. Obtaining address data upfront from the customers themselves is the preferred route.

You should also consider working with a direct mail firm that has experience not only collecting data but using it efficiently and analyzing the results for continuous improvement. These firms can quickly scrub data and even help you compile new lists for customer acquisition — reducing your inefficiencies and saving time and money throughout your campaign.

Gunderson Direct has over 16 years of direct mail experience, so we know when to remove a prospect from your list and can help you to collect better data and improve your results. Visit our contact page to learn how we can make your direct mail campaign far more efficient and improve your returns.

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About The Author

Mike Gunderson

Mike Gunderson is the founder of Gunderson Direct, Inc., a direct marketing agency that helps businesses drive new leads and close more sales through traditional offline channels, especially direct mail.