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 A CASS-certified address validation will standardize your mailing list, update outdated addresses, and verify that addresses are valid and complete.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 Your Data Can Make or Break Your Direct Mail Marketing

In this digital world, marketers have access to more data than ever before; which could be great or disastrous. Which has it been for you? We will take a look at some common data problems and ways to avoid them, as well as the great things data can do for your direct mail.

Data mining
“Big_Data_Prob,” Creative Commons license. | Credit: Flickr by KamiPhuc

In this digital world, marketers have access to more data than ever before; which could be great or disastrous. Which has it been for you? We will take a look at some common data problems and ways to avoid them, as well as the great things data can do for your direct mail.

Data issues:

  • Compiled: Sometimes when data is compiled from multiple sources, it can become corrupted or just flat-out wrong. For instance, when compiling data where multiple adults live in the same household, there can be crossover between people. This can come from one person’s buying habits combined with another’s, or one person fills out a survey for another. It is easy to crisscross. How can you mitigate this? Make sure to verify your data sources before you combine them with your in house data. Use only the most well-vetted files.
  • Duplication: Depending on how you wish to dedupe records, you may end up with only one person in the house to send to — who is not the best contact. You want to reach the person most likely to respond to your mail piece. How can you avoid sending to the wrong one? First, run a dedupe — one per person — that way, no one gets two. Then, if you have purchase information or other information that shows you who your targets are, make sure to include that information in a report to look at dupes-per-address. Pulling per address will grab all people in that home in your data. You can then look to the information field to see which records have the key targeting words and keep them while dropping the others.
  • Wrong Address: When people move, they fill out a form with the post office to notify them. Whenever you are sending a mailing, you are required by the USPS to run a form of move update on your file. There are several acceptable ways to do this. One problem that happens is when only one person in a residence moves and the others stay, you can get a false match that others moved, too. Then you end up sending your mail piece to the wrong address. This is frustrating for the person getting the wrong mail piece, as well as to you. The best way to check moves is to verify it with your customers. There are many creative ways to do it.

Are you ready for some data greats?

  • Targeting: Good solid data gives you the opportunity to get very targeted with your direct mail messages. When you know who someone is, what the person likes and what the consumer can’t resist, you have the ability to create a powerful mail piece with a very impressive response rate.
  • Specials: You can use your data to create specials for birthdays or other occasions throughout the year based on information you have collected. The more specific you can get, the more likely you are to get a response.
  • Information: The best part about your data is that it can give you clues about who your best customers are. You can then use that information to find more people like them to send your direct mail to. When you are able to reach the right prospects, your response rates will be much higher.

As you can see, your data can help enhance your direct mail or thwart it — depending on how good it is. You must guard your data from cyber threats, as well as using the three tips above. Your data is your lifeblood in marketing. The more accurate the data you have, the better off you are. So who do you have in charge of your data?

3 Ways to Make Your Postcards Stand Out

Back in the day (yes, I was a creative back then), prior to cheap 4-Color process printing, you had to find creative, inexpensive ways to get your postcards noticed in the mail. I was the king of using two PMS colors in combination to look as if you had full color, and an expert in paper stocks. Most importantly I learned all I could about printing. Why? Because printing techniques were and are one of the best tools in my creative toolbox.

Back in the day (yes, I was a creative back then), prior to cheap 4-Color process printing, you had to find clever, inexpensive ways to get your postcards noticed in the mail. I was the king of using combinations of two PMS colors to portray full color, and an expert in paper stocks. Most importantly, I learned all I could about printing. Why? Because printing techniques have always been one of the best tools in my creative toolbox.

Today I will discuss three of my favorite printing techniques — when applied to your concept, they can help your postcards stand out.

1. Paper

This is the easiest and one of the most effective ways to make your mail stand out. There are so many paper stocks that will make recipients stop and take a second look at your mail. But in today’s 4-Color world, creatives are not considering paper as much as they should.

Consider an ultra-heavy stock, or even sandwiching two sheets together. Most mail is floppy. If your postcard is the most rigid in a stack of mail, it will receive attention. That few extra seconds your consumers spend investigating will increase your response rate.

moothickpaper
Moo doubled up stock with edge color

You should choose stocks heavier than 16pt — double it up and make it 32pt. Print one side of the sheet, sandwich two sheets together and then trim to size. Printing companies like Moo Cards offer this as a standard option.

Your stock could be particle board on which you can use production techniques like embossing, silk screening or letterpress.

Companies like Ward/Kraft are sandwiching your postcard in plastic. I know, I know: Plastic will increase your postage costs. But not with this product — they’re getting standard postage rates. This card is extremely rigid and has options for punch-out cards and tags.

Ward/Kraft plastic pop-out card
Ward/Kraft plastic covered postcard with pop-out cards

2. Texture

Texture is a wonderful way to make materials stand out. Our fingers are amazingly aware and notice anything that is abnormal. Bumpy, sticky, rubbery surfaces — anything that is not the regular feel of paper.

Use a gloss or matte varnish as a texture for sections of your postcard. Varnishes across the entire piece, like matte or glossy, will not create the unique texture you want. You want gaps for your fingers to distinguish the differences. This will also work for spot UV as well, which can create an even more dramatic effect.

Spot Gloss Varnish
Spot Gloss Varnish from tasteofinkstudios.com

Tracking Your Mail Makes All the Difference

Direct mail marketing is very data centric. Marketers are great at leveraging data about their customers and prospects, but many have never thought of leveraging USPS delivery data. The USPS has made many technological advancements over the years to enhance the visibility of mail as it processes through its plants. This allows marketers access to not only delivery speeds, but also accurate delivery dates.


Direct mail marketing is very data centric. Marketers are great at leveraging data about their customers and prospects, but many have never thought of leveraging USPS delivery data. The USPS has made many technological advancements over the years to enhance the visibility of mail as it processes through its plants. This allows marketers access to not only delivery speeds, but also accurate delivery dates.

What information does the post office have available?

1. The USPS has first scan data — the piece is processed after being dropped at the post office.

2. The USPS has out for delivery scan data — the carriers have the mail on their trucks to deliver.

Why does this information matter?

1. Delivery Speeds

The delivery speed of your mail can vary greatly. Some areas of the U.S. process mail at faster speeds than others. When you have the information about which areas are slow, you can plan to mail to them sooner. This becomes really important when you have a hard deadline date on your mail piece. It needs to get to recipients before it expires.

2. Delivery Dates

When you know the dates your mail pieces are delivered, you’re able to coordinate follow-up campaigns. Because most marketers are using more than one channel, it becomes important to know when to send the next message. Accurate in-home dates provide you with a trigger point you can rely on. Knowing when your payments are coming by tracking your business reply envelopes can also be helpful for your accounting departments.

Since direct mail is an effective way to drive people to online content, it’s usually the first step in a multi-channel campaign. Knowing that, the USPS delivery information is the key to the steps that follow it. Since timing is everything in marketing, adding the USPS delivery information can give your ROI a boost.

Depending on the service provider of your tracking, there are many options for you to view the information. Some of the most common are:

  1. Scans by SCF
  2. Scans by NDC
  3. Scans by State
  4. Scans by Date
  5. Scans by DDU
  6. Scans by 5 Digit Zip
  7. Scans by 3 Digit Zip

There’s really a lot of valuable information in these reports. One of the best benefits of this information is being able to know when there’s a problem. If you have start of process scans but they have gone no further for several days, it’s time to reach out to a postal representative to find out what’s happening. If you’re able to catch a problem quickly, you can get a resolution quickly. In turn, your mail will get delivered in a reasonable amount of time.

Consider tracking your next direct mail campaign so you can see when recipients are getting your mail and then you can send out a follow up message. Remember, the more times and ways you touch your customers and prospects, the better response you are going to get.

Have you tried direct mail tracking? What did you like or dislike about it? One thing to keep in mind is that just because a mail piece was not scanned, it does not mean that it was not delivered. This is especially true for flats. Many times flat size mail is not run on the scanning equipment, so we see low scan tracking data on this type of mail. We recommend tracking letter size pieces for better scan results.