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In a recent blog post, we outlined the four ways you can maximize your direct mail strategy. Now that you’re ready and you’ve taken all the steps needed to create an outstanding direct mail piece, it’s time to focus on the consumers who will receive it. No matter how hard you’ve worked or prepared, the success of your direct mail campaign will ultimately rest on the quality of your mailing list.

Why Data Hygiene Matters

According to the US Census Bureau, 11.2 percent of the population moved during 2016. That may not sound like much, but what would happen if you lost contact with 11.2 percent of your customers, year after year? When you fail to maintain current address data in your mailing list, your mail pieces will eventually become undeliverable as addressed (UAA). In 2016, the United States Postal Service delivered 153.9 billion mail pieces. Even excluding UAA pieces that were forwarded, there were more than 5.86 billion pieces that were either returned or wasted in 2016 alone. Undeliverable mail can cost a lot of money in unnecessary printing and postage, as well as in lost contacts, sales and opportunities.

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Tools for Reducing UAA

Two of the most important services to ensure your data stays healthy and deliverable are CASS and NCOA data processing. These are data hygiene tools that increase the accuracy and deliverability of your mailing records. A mail house can perform these processes on your data, and provide documentation to the USPS to show that steps have been taken to reduce the amount of UAA pieces generated from your mailing. In return you’ll receive the cleansed mailing data for updating your records, as well as a postage discount on bulk mailings.

CASS stands for Coding Accuracy Support System. The main goal of CASS is to make sure an address exists and is valid. This process standardizes your data by correcting common misspellings, converting address elements to postal standards such as changing “Avenue” to “AVE,” correcting zip codes or adding the 4-digit zip code extension. CASS confirms that an address is deliverable, probably deliverable, probably not deliverable or undeliverable.

To maximize ROI and lower postage costs, bulk mailings are usually only sent to addresses identified as deliverable or probably deliverable. Addresses identified as probably not deliverable or undeliverable are considered “bad” addresses, and should be removed from your master data file so that you don’t waste future postage, and also so you’ll know to ask for a new address when next interacting with your contact.

stack of junk mail

NCOA is the National Change of Address database. NCOA processing will check the name and address of your mailing recipients for matches in the NCOA database. Full processing will look back at the past 48 months of reported COA moves, and limited processing will look back at only the past 18 months. When matches are made, the record will be updated with the new address where available.

This service is important because forwarding expires one year after the move date. Once the move date is older than the NCOA database range, it can no longer be updated with the new address, and the mail piece will become undeliverable. Sometimes a match is made to the NCOA database, but a new address hasn’t been provided by the mover. These records will be identified as undeliverable, and these addresses should be removed from your master database.

man checking all of the mail

CASS and NCOA data cleansing, combined with applying the moved and undeliverable data updates to your master database, will go a long way toward making sure your mail pieces reach every recipient, every time.

When you maintain healthy mailing data, you increase the ROI for your mailings, and enhance your ability to connect with your recipients. Give your database a little love, and you’ll give your direct mail efforts the very best chance for success.

Laurie McCormick

Author Laurie McCormick

Laurie is a Direct Mail Marketing Manager at InQuest Marketing and handles all things data. She compares the excitement she gets when working with a giant data file to the feeling of solving a mystery. Outside of the office, Laurie designs and creates custom clothing and jewelry. Her favorite meal (at any time of day) is a classic diner-style breakfast and her favorite movie is The Shining.

More posts by Laurie McCormick

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