9 Ways to Keep Your Direct Mail Data Up-to-Date

Many times, our data files get old and need a little TLC before we can mail to them. Not only does the post office require you to keep addresses up-to-date, but you don’t want to be wasting money sending pieces that are not going to the intended recipients. There are several options to clean up your data files.

Many times, our direct mail data files get old and need a little TLC before we can mail to them. Not only does the post office require you to keep addresses up-to-date, but you don’t want to be wasting money sending pieces that are not going to the intended recipients. There are several options to clean up your data files.

Methods to clean data:

  1. CASS — The Coding Accuracy Support System is a certification system from the United States Postal Service for address validation. A CASS-certified address validation will standardize your mailing list, update outdated addresses, and verify that addresses are valid and complete.
  2. DPV — The Delivery Point Validation service is a process of verifying that an address is actually deliverable, meaning that mail can be sent to that address. A delivery point is a single mailbox or other place at which mail is delivered. It differs from a street address, in that each address may in fact have several delivery points, such as an apartment or office.
  3. ACS — Address Change Service is a post mailing service that allows mailers to receive change-of-address and other reasons for non-delivery electronically to reduce the number of manual address notifications. This allows you to update your list after an initial mailing and prior to the next one.
  4. NCOA — NCOALink product is a database of approximately 160 million permanent change-of-address records consisting of names and addresses of individuals, families and businesses who have filed a change of address with the Postal Service.
  5. PCOA/ACOA — The Priority Change of Address and Ancillary Change of Address services allow access to more than 60 million address changes reported by sources other than USPS. This allows you additional ways to find consumers who have moved. Changes are contributed by publishers, catalogers, retailers and other institutions, nationwide. It covers a 60-month time period.
  6. Apartment Append — Apartment Append will correct records on your file that have been identified by the DPV process as having either incorrect or missing apartment numbers. After the records are identified, the Apartment Append process updates the missing or incorrect information.
  7. Duplicate Processing — Finding Duplicate records used to be a problem — as they may not match exactly, but still be the same. You can now match accurately even with abbreviations and nicknames to remove real duplicates from your data file.
  8. Deceased Processing — Deceased processing enables you to eliminate deceased individuals from your list. The file contains approximately 40 million records relating to deceased individuals.
  9. Canadian Address Processing — Canadian Address Verification validates, corrects and standardizes Canadian postal addresses.

As you can see, there are many ways to clean your data files before and, in some cases, after you mail. The incentive to do this cleaning is that it can save you money. There is no reason to send mail to people who are not there. In cases where you are mailing presorted standard or nonprofit, you may never know that the post office is throwing the undeliverable pieces away. You can use an endorsement to get those returns, but why not clean your data first then send to only good addresses?

As of January 2018, the USPS changed the method for measuring Move Update compliance to a Census-based approach. The Census Method uses Mail Processing scans to determine compliance. The Census-based assessments will start in April 2018, based on March mailing data. You need to make sure your data is up-to-date, or you will pay the penalty. Are you ready to get started cleaning your data files?

How to Save Money on Postage

When done correctly, direct mail can be a very cost-effective way to reach targeted prospects and customers. Your return on investment typically exceeds most other forms of marketing. However, inefficient list targeting and poor mail piece design can cost you a lot of money. Because postage rates are rising every year, it is very important to keep your postage rates as low as possible. So now, let’s help you maximize your ROI in your direct mail marketing.

This JFK Forever stampWhen done correctly, direct mail can be a very cost-effective way to reach targeted prospects and customers. Your return on investment typically exceeds most other forms of marketing. However, inefficient list targeting and poor mail piece design can cost you a lot of money. Because postage rates are rising every year, it is very important to keep your postage rates as low as possible. So now, let’s help you maximize your ROI in your direct mail marketing.

Lists: Save Postage With Good Lists

  • People: Sending to the right people really matters! Target your lists to reach only the people most likely to be interested in your product or service. There are many tools available to help you to better target people. You can profile your mailing lists utilizing the amazing amount of information accessible today on households and businesses. This will give you valuable information to know exactly who your best customers are and find prospects just like them.
  • Clean: How old is your data file? You can reduce your undeliverable mail by updating your lists at least every three months. There are many data hygiene resources available to keep your list up-to-date, such as Delivery Point Validation to eliminate invalid or incomplete addresses, National Change of Address (NCOA) to get updated addresses for people who move, “Do not mail” purging to eliminate those who prefer not to receive mail, Deceased recipient purging and many others. You can control mailing waste, save on postage and printing. Continue to reach customers even after they move so you do not lose out on sales.

Postage is not the same for everyone. Some people pay more than others. USPS offers significant postage discounts to mail pieces that are designed and addressed correctly for processing on automated equipment. The following tips will help you to insure your mail qualifies for the lowest postage rates.

Design: The Wrong Design Can Cost You a Fortune

  • Size: For lower postage rates, keep your mail piece at letter size, which is a minimum of 3 ½” high by 5” long and a maximum 6” high by 10½” long. Larger mail pieces fall into the flat category. Flats can cost more than twice as much per piece as letters. The maximum allowed size is 12” high by 15” long.
  • Aspect Ratio: Letter size automation mail must be rectangular. The aspect ratio (length divided by height) has to be from 1.3 to 2.5. Mail pieces that fall outside those ratios could cost twice as much in postage.
  • Address: Make sure your address and barcode block on letter size mail fits into the USPS OCR read area. If it doesn’t fit, you pay for it with additional postage. Your mail service provider can give you a template to guide you.
  • Panels: Tri-folded self-mailers must be addressed on the center panel to qualify for discounted automation postage.
  • Folds: On all folded self-mailers, the final fold must be either below or to the right of the mailing address. Any other fold configuration will result in additional postage.
  • Weight: Whenever possible, keep the weight of a folded self-mailer under 1 ounce. You can use minimum 70# text paper and 1 inch tab closures. When your mailer is over 1 ounce you must use minimum 80# text paper and larger tabs. Mailers over 3 ounces must go in an envelope.
  • Thickness: Mail pieces that are too thin will cost more postage, so keep your piece at least 0.009” thick and you can save 25 cents or more per piece. The maximum thickness for letter size mail is ¼” and for flat size is ¾”.

There are many more methods, but these are the most common ways for you to save on postage. Keep your direct mail at the lowest postage rates possible in order to maximize your ROI. If you are unsure of a new design, consult with your mail service provider before you print it. Many times, the only way to get a poorly designed mail piece to be accepted by the post office is to put it into an envelope. This is a waste of a pretty mailer, as well as a waste of money. Start saving on your postage now.

6 Thorny Data Problems That Vex B-to-B Marketers, and How to Solve Them

B-to-B marketers are plagued by data problems. Business data is complex and fast-changing. Customers interact with us through a variety of channels, and often provide us with conflicting information. Our legacy databases are not as robust as we need. New tools and technologies emerge and must be evaluated. It’s a never-ending battle. To shed some light on B-to-B data problems, Bernice Grossman and I compiled a working list of problems and solutions. Here are some of the thorniest.

B-to-B marketers are plagued by data problems. Business data is complex and fast-changing. Customers interact with us through a variety of channels, and often provide us with conflicting information. Our legacy databases are not as robust as we need. New tools and technologies emerge and must be evaluated. It’s a never-ending battle. To shed some light on B-to-B data problems, Bernice Grossman and I compiled a working list of problems and solutions. Here are some of the thorniest.

  1. Data entered by our sales people ends up as mush. They don’t follow the rules; or there are no rules. That may be okay for the rep, but it’s not okay for the company.
    Here’s the best practice: Create a centralized data input group. Train and motivate them well. Give them objective rules to follow. Develop a simple method for testing the accuracy from this group as an ongoing practice. If this group cannot follow the rules, then the rules should be re-evaluated.

    Then, develop a very simple process by which reps pass their data to this group. Dedicate particular group members to certain reps, so the input person builds experience about rep’s behavior and communication style. The bonus: these two parties will team, build a valuable relationship, work together well, and improve data quality.

    Consider enabling the data input group with a real-time interface with a database services provider to prompt the standard company name and address. This can be an expensive, but very helpful, tool.


  2. How do I match and de-duplicate customer records effectively?
    Some approaches to consider:
    • Establish—and enforce—data governing rules to improve data entry, which will keep your matching problems under some semblance of control.
    • Find a solid software vendor with a tool specifically designed to parse, cleanse and otherwise do the matching for you. Test a few vendors to find the one that works best with your data.
    • Create a custom matching algorithm. As a place to start, ask several match/merge companies to show you examples of the results of their algorithm against your data.
  3. When data elements conflict in my house file, how do I decide which is the “truth”?
    The short answer is: by date. The most recent data is the one you should default to.

    But also keep in mind when importing data to enhance your records that appended data will always have its limitations, and is best viewed as directional, versus real “truth.” Be careful not to build targeting or segmentation processes that are primarily dependent on appended data.

    You could consider conducting an audit to validate the quality of your various append sources. (This is usually done by telephone, and it’s not cheap.) Then you can add a score to each appended element, based on its source, to manage the risk of relying on any particular element.

  4. Which corporate address should I put in my database? There’s the legal address and the financial (banking) address, which may be different. Or there may be a street address and a P.O. box address. Equifax and D&B often supply the financial address. The address to receive proxies is different from the address to receive advertising mail. How should I sort all this out?
    As a marketer, your concern is delivery. You care about a bill to and a ship to. Focus on the address where mail and packages are delivered.
  5. Measuring the impact of each touch in our omnichannel world is driving us nuts. Any ideas?
    The attribution problem has heated up recently, fueled by the rise of digital marketing. But it’s really nothing new. The traditional attribution methods of assigning the credit have long been either the first touch (the inquiry source medium) or the last touch (the channel through which the lead was either qualified or converted to a sale). Marketers are in general agreement today as to the deficiencies of either of these traditional methods.

    Digital marketers are experimenting with various approaches to the attribution problem, like weighting touches based on stage or role in the buying process, or by the type of touch—attending a two-hour seminar being weighted more heavily than a content download.

  6. How should I handle unstructured data, like social media content. All this “big data” stuff is getting bigger, and meaner, every day.
    User-generated social media content may offer valuable insights into customer needs and issues. But marketers first must think through how they will use the information to drive business results. First you must develop a use case. Then, you must develop a way to attribute the information to a record. For example, one method to allow the match is collecting multiple cookies to find an email address or other identifier. There may be situations where you want to track sentiment without attributing it to a particular customer but to a group, like large companies versus small. In either case, we suggest that you test the value of the data before you put a lot of time and money into capturing it in your marketing database.

You can find more thorny data issues and solutions in our new whitepaper, available for free download. Please submit your issues in the comments section here, and we’ll be happy to suggest some solutions.

A version of this post appeared in Biznology, the digital marketing blog.

Moving Upstream on Cart Abandonment

After speaking at a conference on the topic of email automation for your online store, I was approached by more than a dozen people with the same question: “If someone abandons their cart, how can the store stay in touch with the shopper?” It’s impossible to contact anonymous visitors—their anonymity means you’ve not yet collected their email addresses and thus you have no way to reach them

After speaking at the WooCommerce Conference on the topic of email automation for your online store, I was approached by more than a dozen people with the same question: If someone abandons their cart, how can the store stay in touch with the shopper?

It’s impossible to contact anonymous visitors—their anonymity means you’ve not yet collected their email addresses and thus you have no way to reach them. Perhaps they were just price shopping or researching. Perhaps they were distracted before completing their purchase. Perhaps they didn’t like your site’s shopping cart experience. Whatever the reason, they’ve slipped away, and you’ve been left with the promise of a sale that’s not yet complete.

According to Business Insider, this is the case with 68 percent of shoppers—those who leave their carts before checking out—and about $4 billion in abandoned carts the world over. The good news is they also estimate up to 62 percent or $2.52 billion is recoverable with automated marketing. Does that mean you simply need to give up hope of reaching those wallets and focus on the known visitors? Well, no. It simply means you need to develop a strategy for teasing away those email addresses. It means you need to move your request upstream.

There are myriad possible tactics of this strategy, but the path you choose depends upon your business, your product and the tools you have for implementing your ideas. No matter which path you choose, be prepared to A/B test like a madwoman until you’ve found the top three triggers and use all three. Don’t settle for just one approach. Meet your potential customers with the sign-up tool of choice—which means giving them options. Let’s look at some ideas. I’m going to call these interrupters, but I’m pretty sure I’ve borrowed the phrase from someone brilliant:

Interrupters can be any sort of dialogue, window, link or button interrupting the user’s shopping excursion and redirecting them to a simple (usually pop-up) form collecting only their email addresses, for instance:

  • Interrupt the product-browsing session with a tool enabling them to upload a photo of a room they are decorating in which they can drag and drop their selected item into place. It doesn’t have to be a perfect UX, just provide them with a rough idea of how the Egyptian vase they added to their cart might look next to their lime-green sofa.
  • After the first product has been added to the cart, interrupt with a message such as, “Wow! That’s a great find! We can save it in your cart for as long as you like. Let’s give your cart a name. Please type your email address.” You could extend this process with a dialogue after each product, displaying different messaging or, go for funny, and provide humorous commentary. Be sure to also provide a checkbox for prevent the message from displaying again.
  • Provide an online calculator allowing them to figure out how much of a product to buy. Let them use the calculator and then offer to save their work using just their email address. You could also offer to email their calculations or illustrations to the address they provide. We used this approach on our personal profiler – they can use the profiler online all day long, but if they would like to print their profiles, we will send the PDFs to their inbox.
  • Offer to send them links to download the installation instructions, case study, or watch a video.
  • Offer to save their cart when they click the browser’s close button.

Be sure you are interrupting your shopper with something of value. Popping up a subscriber window might be a bit annoying on its own, but a subscriber window with an offer of free shipping on the order they are building is going to win some favor.

According to a CouponCabin.com survey, 73 percent of U.S. adults are more likely to shop online where free shipping is offered, and, further, 93 percent of online shoppers said they would spend more if free shipping were offered.

Resist the temptation to interrupt visitors with a long form, or even your regular check out form, or you risk adding to your abandonment rate. Also, be sure to pass the information you collect directly into their account page—don’t make them provide you with their email address again if they continue the checkout process.

Interrupters can easily become annoying, so go slowly and don’t get greedy. You want to be able to capture as many anonymous visitors as possible, but there’s also great potential to drive shoppers away at the same time. It’s a delicate balance, but well worth the effort. Remember, there’s $4 billion dollars out there, and some of that can be yours.

When Is EDDM Right for You?

EDDM (every door direct mail) has gained in popularity. EDDM, as defined by the USPS, is designed to help you reach every home, every address, every time. You can map out a target area, use demographic data (e.g. age, household income, and size) to select a delivery route, choose a mailing drop off date, and pay online—all from your computer. And, you can create your mailings up to 30 days before you plan to mail them. Simply enter an address, zip code or city and state for your target area to get started. Sounds great right? So how do you know if EDDM is right for you?

EDDM (every door direct mail) has gained in popularity. EDDM, as defined by the USPS, is designed to help you reach every home, every address, every time. You can map out a target area, use demographic data (e.g., age, household income, and size) to select a delivery route, choose a mailing drop off date, and pay online—all from your computer. And, you can create your mailings up to 30 days before you plan to mail them. Simply enter an address, zip code or city and state for your target area to get started. Sounds great right? So how do you know if EDDM is right for you?

EDDM is right when:

  1. Your Business can Appeal to a Large Number of People:
    In other words, since you are selecting a geographic area that has a wide variety of people in it, you will need to be offering a product or service that most of them want or need. A few examples of broad appeal are dry cleaners, restaurants, general stores, delis, lawyers and other small business in local neighborhoods.
  2. Small Business:
    The reason that this works better for small businesses is because they do not have marketing departments or people who can handle more complex direct mail campaigns, nor do they have the budgets for them. Small businesses benefit from the ease of use and low cost of postage with EDDM

So, if EDDM is right for you, you have a couple of choices. EDDM Retail is designed for the small business to do it all themselves, while EDDM for BMEU is for a commercial mail service provider to do it for the small business. The benefit of having a mail service provider is that you can mail more than 5000 pieces per day and they can help you avoid problems with design, paper stock and any other issues you encounter. If you need help finding a provider you can visit https://mymailconnection.com/ to find one.

One of the key benefits of EDDM is all the space you have on the mailer to put your compelling message, add coupons and drum up interest in your business. You only need to leave enough room to fit the Postal Customer info and the indicia. This means on an 8.5 x 11 sheet you get to use almost all of the 11 inches. Take full advantage of the space with great graphic design. Make sure that your offer is clear and concise so that it is effective. Coupons are a great way to introduce people to your business and an easy way to track your responses. Even with EDDM you need to know what is working, so finding ways to track who is responding and with what coupons is very important. The only way to continue to improve your response rates is to know what works and what does not.

EDDM can be a great way to get into direct mail for small businesses. It is not cost prohibitive, can be done by the business if they wish to without too much trouble and allows for more room to advertise. Take advantage of EDDM and find a cost effective way to market your small business to potential customers near you. If you need any help with design, copy or have questions about EDDM a mail service provider near you can help.

Why Can’t I Mail It? – Flats

As you know from parts one (postcards), two (self-mailers) and three (booklets) of “Why Can’t I Mail It?,” there are many times a design element causes a mailing to go at a higher rate of postage. This can be frustrating as well as expensive. In order to help you stay away from potential issues, here are some things to keep in mind as you are preparing a direct mail campaign. Finally, let’s look at flats:

As you know from part one (postcards), two (self-mailers) and three (booklets) of “Why Can’t I Mail It?,” there are many times a design element causes a mailing to go at a higher rate of postage. This can be frustrating as well as expensive. In order to help you stay away from potential issues, here are some things to keep in mind as you are preparing a direct mail campaign.

Finally, let’s look at flats:

  1. Flat-sized mail is between 6.126 x 11.51 to 12 x 15. These mailers have fewer restrictions as the equipment they run on at the USPS is very different. They lay flat, mail-panel side up, as they run through. Unlike the letter-size machines that run so they stand up on the edge below the mail panel.
    This means less damage happens to flat-size mail pieces. They also stand out in the mailbox better.
  2. Paper stock must be a minimum of 0.009 thick. The maximum thickness is 3/4 inch for the whole mailer. Usually this is not a problem since many flats are mutli-pages.
    Many people get creative here, since you can go a lot thicker. Just make sure you keep the thickness even throughout the mailer.
  3. No aspect ratio requirement. Since these run laying flat through the equipment, there is no need to adhere to a ratio.
    This gives you more freedom in your size design. If you want a more slender look, you can do it!
  4. Flats are required to have address blocks in the upper half of the short edge. For instance, with an 8.5 x 11 mailer, you would need to address from the top of the piece down only to 5.5, do not address below the 5.5. There is no barcode clear zone for flats. You will need to use an address block that includes the barcode, a 4 x 2 clear area, no varnish, UV coating, text or images. You must also make sure that you have at least a 0.125 clearance for the address block from the edge of the piece and any text or graphics.
    This requirement is not actually for the machines, but for the employees to more easily see the addresses when distributing the mail.
  5. The fold or binding must be to the right of the mail panel. If you are using a poly bag or envelope, this is not necessary.
    The reason they want it to the right is because as they pass through the machines laying down, the lead edge is on the right side.
  6. No tabs are required. In some cases, such as when you are inserting a piece loosely into the mailer, you may decide to use tabs to hold it closed. You may do that if you wish, it is just not a requirement to do so.
    Most people opt to not use tabs even when they have a loose insert, since in most cases they do not fall out.
  7. If you use a poly bag/envelope, the maximum extra space you can have inside the bag from the edge of the piece to the edge of the bag is 0.5. This is very popular now. It allows the recipient to see the creative through the clear material, as if it were just mailed without an envelope and then lets you put loose pieces together like when using a standard envelope.
    You can either address the materials on the inside of the bag or you can label the outside, both are acceptable as long as you are using USPS approved bags.

Your best bet is to design your flat and then send a pdf to your direct mail provider, to have them find any problems with the design. They can help to make sure you are automation compliant and save on postage. As you are going through the process, do not let it stop your creativity. It is the unique and creative pieces that get the recipients attention and increase your ROI. Do not let these regulations limit your design. There are plenty of ways to create self-mailers that standout and get attention! Contact your mail provider for samples and suggestions.

Is Every Door Direct Mail Right for You?

Every Door Direct Mail is a service designed by the USPS to help businesses reach every address in a neighborhood. With a simplified form of addressing that does not require an actual list of addresses, this is meant to make mailing easier and cheaper for individuals at a company

Every Door Direct Mail (EDDM) is a service designed by the United States Postal Service (USPS) to help businesses reach every address in a neighborhood. With a simplified form of addressing that does not require an actual list of addresses, this is meant to make mailing easier and cheaper for individuals at a company.

When you mail with EDDM, you only need room for the EDDM indicia, endorsement and the address block (which would say postal customer and the city, state and zip code it is mailing to). All the rest of the area can contain your images and messaging. This leaves you with a lot of room for design. EDDM works best for retailers and service-based businesses in a local area, such as pizza restaurants, small neighborhood stores, dry cleaners, etc.

As with anything, EDDM has some drawbacks as well. One of the big ones is that you cannot personalize the mail. Everyone in a carrier route will get the same piece addressed to postal customer. That means that the imaging and messaging must be more generic in order to appeal to more people. Another drawback is that the size of the piece is larger for this program, so printing costs more and can eat away at any cost savings. Take the time to consider if EDDM is right for you. In many cases you will get a better return on your investment if you use a targeted list.

The following types of mail are allowable as EDDM (Every Door Direct Mail):

Flat: Mail size is between 6.126 x 11.51 to 12 x 15. A minimum of .009 thick and a maximum thickness of 3/4 inch.

Irregular Parcels: Must weigh less than 16 ounces and includes parcels such as:

  • Rolls and tubes up to 26 inches long and merchandise samples not individually addressed.
  • Unwrapped, paper-wrapped or sleeve-wrapped articles that are not letter-size or flat-size
  • Articles enclosed in envelopes that are not letter-size, flat-size or machinable parcels.

Periodicals: Periodicals consist of newspapers, magazines, journals or newsletters. To qualify for Periodicals prices, they must meet the following criteria and the publisher must be authorized.

  • The publication must be published in a serial format (such as volume 1 issue 1, volume 1 issue 2, volume 1 issue 3, etc.).
  • The publication must be published at least four times a year with a specified frequency.
  • The publisher must have a known office of publication. This office should be accessible to the public during business hours for conducting publication business.

Bound Printed Matter: An economical service for sending permanently bound materials, such as catalogs and phonebooks, up to 15 lbs in two to eight days. Sheets must be permanently bound by secure fastenings, such as staples, spiral binding, glue or stitching.

To get started with EDDM, go to this website:

  • Enter your desired ZIP code or codes.
  • Select if you want just residents or businesses, too.
  • Select the carrier routes you are interested in, or select them all.
  • There are also some general demographics for each route that you can choose from if you want to.
  • In order to process the request, you will need to set up an account.
  • Once you process the order, the website will furnish you with all the paperwork you need and the amount the postage will cost

There are two forms of EDDM: commercial (using a mail provider) or retail (you do all the work and take it to the post office). If you are using the retail version, you can only mail 5,000 pieces per ZIP code per day, and your postage rate will be $0.175 each. If you are doing commercial, there is no quantity limit and the postage is $0.157 each. If you need to mail more than 5,000, contact a service provider to help you. If you do not already have a provider you can find one near you here.