Many of our clients maintain their own client or prospect lists. It is not a stretch of the imagination to say that these databases are the lifeblood of these businesses and that proper maintenance of these databases is an important step in maintaining a revenue stream for these companies.
In order to keep these databases accurate, there are three important steps that need to be followed. The first two steps are FNBR’s responsibility, but the last and perhaps the most important step must be done by the list owner.
- Correcting the spelling of street and city names.
- Correct/Add suffixes such as Drive, Way etc.
- Correct/Add a zip code & zip plus 4
- Add missing unit numbers for businesses
The next process is called NCOA or National Change of Address. In this process your database is run against an updated post office file of address changes that have occurred during the past 48 months. When there is a match between your database and the NCOA file, the software will update to the new address that it is on file. There are cases when the post office knows that a person/family or business has moved, but they have not filed a change of address with the post office. In these cases, the address cannot be updated but is noted.
The last step in this process that needs to be done is for our clients to use the NCOA address corrections to update their databases. The reason that this is critical is that 48 months after an address correction has been filed with the post office, it is deleted from the NCOA database. During this 48 month period, FNBR has been correcting the addresses every time we do a mailing for you. The problem is that if you don’t correct the address on your database, after 48 months the NCOA software will no longer indicate that an address is incorrect. This means that your client that moved four years ago is no longer going to receive your mail and worse yet you won’t even know that. This is a lose/lose situation for you. You are paying for printing and postage that will never get to the intended recipient and you are not getting any new orders from what is now a former client because they don’t receive your mail.
To learn about all the database services we provide, please visit our Database Services page at fnbr.com/Database-Services.html. FNBR will be happy to supply you with the corrected mailing addresses each time we NCOA a file for you. Just let your sales representative know by calling 888-988-8148 or email email@example.com.
I know that this is your first time mailing, so I’m going to cut you a bit of slack.
Yes, I agree that the USPS rules and regulations are about as complicated as a schematic to build the space shuttle.
You’re right. There is no Do-It-Yourself Heath Kit solution for direct mail, despite what the overly optimistic USPS publications promise.
For starters, your hair was on fire when your secretary contacted us. She explained you had to get your mail out fast! No problem. We can handle it. We do “fast” every day.
She said you wanted to mail 4.25×6” postcards. That’s OK by us.
She said you would print and provide the cards to us. And you wanted to mail at First Class (I talked her into First Class Presort, thus saving you about 7 cents each in postage, remember?)
She said your list was regional, and for us to please provide you with a quote based on those premises. “Then I’ll turn you over to my boss,” she concluded sweetly.
It looked like it was coming to together well. 4.25×6” is a perfect size to mail at First Class Presort. It’s a post office pricing sweet spot. Your job looked like a cream puff, a walk-in-the-park.
And then the wheels started to fall off your wagon.
You and I “met” by email, but never spoke. That’s a problem, but I won’t dwell on your invisible cloaking device here. Despite my inability to reach you by phone so we could clear everything up in 5 minutes, we exchanged emails for 2 days about indicias, wording, positioning, barcode clear zones and other postal related things. Eventually I thought we had everything squared away.
On Tuesday your cards arrived. They were nicely designed and beautifully printed. But they were 6×8″, not 4.25×6″.
Sorry. It was a big deal. While I agree 100% with your decision to upsize from a marketing perspective (and would urge any of my clients to do the same thing) changing the size changed the postal rates—and your quote—totally.
Instead of 20.9 cents postage per card, your rate was going to be 33.5 cents a card.
“That’s over my budget!” you yelped. (Now you could pick up the phone and call me!) “What can you do?”
“Mail at Standard rate,” I countered. “Your postage will be about 23.3 cents each. It will take longer to be delivered, but you’ll be back in the budget range. Of course we’ll need to X-out the wrong language on the indicia and overprint with the right language, but this is do-able.”
First crisis averted, but the second was approaching fast.
Your data arrived. As per our arrangement, we cleaned it, NCOA’d it, presorted it and were preparing to address your cards when you realized you had sent the wrong data. You sent the data three times before you got it right. And then you asked us to merge/purge the various files against each other to be sure you hadn’t sent any duplicates.
At the end of the day, your regional list was national. Surprise!
“Bad news,” we told you again. “Your data is national, not regional. As a result, your postage is nearly 28 cents each. You lost the address density that the USPS rewards with lower pricing.”
Oh, yes. Another itsy bitsy point: your data was 7,000 records; we had quoted on 5,000. And you question why you were over budget?
You were backed into a corner. Your hair was still on fire; the event you were promoting was now less than a week away. There were no options. You sucked it up; we mailed your job.
Now you’ve come to me (by email, naturally) to ask me how to do your job better next time.
- Know your data. That’s the #1 thing that can make postage and production estimates go bad. Since you didn’t know if it was regional or national—and you didn’t even know the count—it led to several huge miscalculations.
- Realize that a postage estimate is an estimate. Until the data goes through data processing, we can only provide you with an estimate. Of course, if you tell us one thing and it proves to be another, then all bets are off. Oops!
- Assign one person to handle the job. In time, this person will become knowledgeable about USPS rules and regulations. Once he/she knows the rules, the budget-busting misunderstandings will decrease enormously.
- Don’t change your package without checking for unintended consequences. An innocent change can be costly. As you found out.
- Find a reliable direct mail provider partner to work with you. Then follow their instructions. Don’t go rogue. The USPS punishes rogues.
Thank you for giving us the opportunity to educate you about the US Postal System. We’re sorry that your education was painful. But that which doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
Or so they say.
FNBR Inc. can be reached at 1-888-988-8148 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Used with the permission of the author — Ellen Paul of Paul&Partners
Just like raising a child, hygiene and nourishment are two vital parts in maintaining a healthy mailing list. For tips on cleaning up a database, see our previous articles “Database Hygiene” and “Data Cleaning Tools“.
Let’s assume that you regularly take the necessary steps to maintain a clean database of previous customers. Now, in order to grow your business, you need to supplement your list of previous customers with future buyers.
The best way to get new customers is to know your present customers. Creating a profile of your top customers will help you to identify what these customers are looking for in your product or service. This profile will help you determine how your best customers differ from your less active customers and will help you to identify prospects with the highest likelyhood of becoming new customers. Armed with the information you have collected from your best clients, you can augment your current client database with a list of high quality prospects to create future sales.
To create a top client profile does require some work on your part. You need to engage these clients in a conversation where you are able to gather personal information from them. Questions such as the client’s age, income, marital status, homeownership, etc., will help you to build your profile. You can try offering a discount off a future purchase, or perhaps a free service, to entice them to respond to your inquiry.
Continue the Conversation:
When you are ready to start, feel free to call your FNBR representative at 888-988-8148 or send us an email at email@example.com. We’ll help guide you with the types of questions that will be useful to help target future customers for your business.