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Mailing List Hygiene and the NCOA

When you submit a mailing to a direct mail house, they run your list up against something called the NCOA (national change of address) database. This list of physical addresses is updated quarterly using the information that mailing recipients provide when they move to a new home or office.

In an era of ever improving printing equipment, we’re increasingly seeing businesses manage their mailings in house. Especially for smaller quantities, the benefits of outsourcing your mailing simply for a pre-sort discounted just aren’t realized and if you have the time, patience, staff and equipment to run it in house: go for it. The problem here lies with the quality of the list.

When a business gets the idea to send a mailing, they dig old business cards out from the cracks in their desk drawer, export records from outlook that they collected three jobs ago then pile everything together with their coworkers in Excel. An administrative person (or other poor soul) takes responsibility for “cleaning” the list which essentially means making sure there is data in all of the right fields and presto, they have a mailing list.

The problem is that the people you worked with or sold to three jobs ago have likely made the same migration and now your list stinks just as bad as those business cards you found under the snack food and gooey candy in your desk drawer. And unfortunately even if you could submit your list for NCOA update, individuals don’t file a change of address when they switch jobs so you’re still stuck with junk in your file.

While I’m not advocating you dump those records entirely, it is important to take the time to look at the end product then actively monitor you returns. Make sure you delete records for mail pieces that are returned (pay for First Class postage on the first mailing to ensure you receive those returns). As you slowly add names to your list, be sure each comes with a date attached then don’t be afraid to remove records once you see no activity for a predetermined period of time (this period depends entirely on your business offering). And if you’re unsuccessfully pursuing a certain business that you know is still in operations, it may be time to target a different contact. So pick up the phone and get that name.

Don’t think this advice is just for direct mailers. If you’ve gone to all electronic mailings, the same process and lessons hold true.

Why all this effort? Because owning a list of 500 or even 5000 names that you have never taken the time to clean is just a license to waste money. Scrub that list and you’ll be reaping the reward of a much smaller, much more productive mining effort.

If you’re looking for an NCOA service provider, try Melissa Data.

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