Mailing List Hygiene and Merge/Purge
There are not many topics that are as boring or dry to discuss in direct mail as list hygiene, the maintenance of an e-mail subscriber list, and merge/purge, when data from multiple lists is collected and sorted, with duplicate and unwanted data being deleted. However, the experts at Macromark advise that these are very important and critical factors for the success in any direct mail program.
What’s the point of doing a mailing if it doesn’t get delivered to the right person, especially if you are using highly targeted mailing lists? The more targeted the list, the more important it becomes that the person you are trying to reach receives the mailing.
List hygiene is about deliverability: making sure first and last names are as accurate as can be and that the postal address is in its proper format, with the carrier route coding included in the zip code so that you can qualify for the best postal rates possible.
Once your list is clean and verified for deliverability, it’s time to make sure all the duplicates are knocked out of the mailing; a duplicate would be the same mail piece going to the same person. I’m sure you have received multiple copies of the same exact mail piece delivered to you on the same exact day, as everyone has. This is a very bad thing! Not only is it not cost-effective, it can be annoying to the person receiving it—so much so that they may choose not to buy from you, whereas had they received one solicitation, they may have completed the sale. If it costs you $0.75 in postage, printing, and list costs to mail someone and they receive four mail pieces on the same day, you just spent $3.00 to prospect to that name. Ouch! Of course, they are highly unlikely to buy from you if you were to do that, as that really doesn’t give them the feeling that you know who they are, let alone what they need or want.
Name elimination can be done in many ways. This includes at the postal address only, where you only allow one mail piece per mailing address; on last name only and postal address, so that different last names in the same postal address can both receive a mail piece; and on the first initial of the first name and same last name with the same postal address, so that multiple people in the same home or apartment complex can receive the mail piece, as you are assuming they are different people.
Name and address elimination or merge/purge are processes with many different levels of priorities. There are a few standard procedures which were outlined above, but they can be as simple or as complex as needed. The key is to understand the goals of what you are trying to accomplish and how those goals or strategies are likely to impact the outcome of your mailing and your overall return on investment.