Direct Mail: Data Structure Really Matters

Many times, one key aspect of direct mail marketing is overlooked and that is the structure of your database. What information you put in each field can really make a difference when you process data through CASS, DPV and NCOA. The postal service has a set of expected fields for each type of processing and when your data does not match that structure, you will have issues with correct output from the software.

Many times, one key aspect of direct mail marketing is overlooked and that is the structure of your database. What information you put in each field can really make a difference when you process data through CASS, DPV and NCOA. The postal service has a set of expected fields for each type of processing and when your data does not match that structure, you will have issues with correct output from the software.

First and foremost, your data should be consistent within each field. If your data field is “company name,” then the only data found in the field is “company name.” Likewise for all other fields. If the information is not consistent, the coding programs cannot find the proper information which can cause them to code the record as invalid. This means it will cost you more money to mail it, as it will not be able to mail at automation postage rates. You can, of course, choose not to mail bad addresses, but it could have been a good address if the information were where it should be in the record. There is no reason to lose out on contacting a prospect or customer just because of your data structure.

You are welcome to have as much information in your database as you need. We always recommend keeping purchase history and any other information you collect to be used to target people to the right offers. You will just add that information into additional fields. Never add extra information to fields required by the USPS, it will be stripped off in the CASS/DPV process or it can cause the address to be found invalid. Create new fields to hold extra information.

So what does the post office require for processing with CASS and DPV?

  • Address
  • City
  • State
  • ZIP code

If you want the process to add information for full-service barcoding your mail service provider will need to add required blank fields to your data, they will be populated by the process. Once complete, your file will contain information on which addresses were found and which were coded as bad addresses. You may choose how you wish to deal with the bad ones.

What does the post office require for NCOA?

  • Name
  • Company
  • Address
  • City
  • State
  • ZIP code

You must have either a company name or a person’s name in order for NCOA to match. The verification process looks to see if that person or company is at that address. You can expect your processed data to come back to you with fields that code records as good, moved or moved, no address on file. You are then able to use the new addresses for the people who moved, as well as remove the bad ones.

So what other pitfalls are there in data structure? Many times, it is unrecognized characters that get pulled in by exporting lists from CRM software. The most common one are hard returns in fields, those need to be removed before data can be processed. There are others that crop up too, such as foreign characters. Each filed needs to consist of only letters or numbers. Commas and periods are okay, as well, but keep in mind the post office prefers no punctuation. The cleaner your data file is, the better results you will get when processing them for mailing. If you are at all concerned about your data structure, contact your mail service provider, they can help guide you.