Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Mining Merge-Purge Report Can Yield Valuable Nuggets

Merge-Purge reports can be revelatory--and not just for data processing geeks. Savvy direct mail marketers can mine the report to improve mail quantity as well as quality. Thanks to Gina Valentino, president of Hemisphere Marketing as well as dean of marketing for, which shares catalog marketing lessons from industry experts, for a recent blog post pointing out the value of digging deeper into Merge-Purge results. She notes three sometimes-overlooked opportunities to boost the bottom line of mailings. First, she advises marketers to pay close attention to Intradupes in the same key code (list). If the Intradupe rate is high, above 1%, you have reason to negotiate better pricing from a rental list (or drop it). Next, she advises looking closely at the Invalid Drops in the best-performing keycodes (such as Hotlines). Business rules that drop recent high-value customers for seasonal addresses, deliverable AFO/FPO or U.S. territory addresses, or DMA Pander matches, for example, need to be evaluated. Third, she urges paying close attention to gross-in and gross-out numbers for house data. If the net-out rate is low (under 99%), then customer/prospect data may not be entered or aggregated properly. Get a sample to see what is going wrong. But here's the advice that we, as data service partners, like best: "If you’re not sure what is useful with the Merge/Purge reports, spend 15 minutes with your data service provider defining and reviewing each column title of the report. Ask questions. Determine where it makes sense to change the business rules for data processing." For more detail on her tips, read

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Want to Up Mail Response? Don't Neglect the Order Form

We're surprised to see some direct mailers neglecting a key response device: the order form. Although a growing percentage of customers are being driven online to complete response, the old-fashioned printed order form is still important. Cutting corners, all the way to form elimination, to reduce print and postage costs can backfire in terms of revenue and ROI. Statistics show that 10%-12% of mail response can be attributed to the order form, for example. In fact, after the envelope, the order form is often the first piece of a direct mail package that the recipient reviews because it is a quick way to assess offer and pricing. That's why a good order form will repeat the sales pitch simply and powerfully--with a killer headline, briefly restated offer and visual impact. Visually, symbols/icons are especially effective with today's audiences because people are so accustomed to shorthand graphics online and in digital calls to action. It's a given that personalization is vital to direct mail response today, and that power extends to the order form, with pre-filled name and address information for example. (Here's another reason to make sure your mailing list data is clean and accurate!) A good form not only makes it clear how to order and makes it easy to order, it also adds a sense of urgency to close the deal. An order form set aside "for later" may be a response lost forever. For some great examples from real-life mailers, check out order form improvement tips from DirectMarketingIQ, which draws on the mail monitoring resources of Who's Mailing What!:

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Common Design and Data Missteps Can Sink Mail ROI

Even if a direct mailer gets everything right when it comes to list selection, offer and copy, certain common design and data mistakes can boost postal costs, reduce deliverability and cut ROI. Our thanks to Printing Industries of America for a handy summary of avoidable mailing mistakes. The PIA list includes design and mail preparation faux pas, such as creating a flat mailer that could have mailed as a letter for reduced postage; creating an unusually shaped mail piece without calculating the higher postage ramifications; failing to check weight and final thickness and so incurring higher postage; and failing to meet USPS requirements for the address block, either as printed on the outer envelope or viewed via a window envelope. Another group of common errors involves data processing. Mailing list data problems that PIA notes--and that DBM Designs regularly addresses with CASS-certified software, NCOA database matching and merge-purge--include lack of standard USPS abbreviations, punctuation (except the hyphen in ZIP+4), no secondary addresses, no pre- or post-street directionals (N, S, etc.), duplicate names and addresses, and failure to meet USPS Move Update requirements. However, by the time a mail campaign goes to press, it's too late for most direct mailers to cost-effectively avoid mail missteps, even if working with the minority of printers offer mailing services.  Based on DBM Designs' successful direct-mail partnerships, early application of postal and data processing disciplines is the best cure for these common direct mail bugs. See details of all top-10 mailing mistakes:

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

With Bad Data Costing Average Direct Mailers So Much, Going Beyond the Average Solutions Pays Off

The average U.S. company wastes $180,000 a year on direct mail that does not reach intended recipients because of inaccurate data, per a handy report on the impact of bad data. That's not so surprising when a recent Experian survey shows marketers rate a third of their databases as inaccurate, particularly when it comes to addressing. The annual cost of wasted mail is also no surprise if you consider the cost per thousand (CPM) by mail type in the Direct Marketing Association's 2015 "Response Rate Report" survey: CPMs range from about $585/M for postcard and letter packages to $1,000/M for oversized envelopes and $1,200 for dimensional mail. A company mailing out oversized pieces to 100,000 a month with 15% bad addresses/undeliverables will end up with over $180,000 in yearly waste in no time! The biggest source of undeliverable mail (76%) per the U.S. Postal Service is consumer and business change of address from the 17% of Americans who move/change addresses each year. Too many mailers assume that when they qualify for First Class and Standard mail commercial pricing by matching against the Postal Services' National Change of Address (NCOA) database, they've cleaned up the problem. Unfortunately, the NCOA database itself has issues because of lags in recording, look-back time limits (18 months and 48 months), and, most important, the up to 40% of consumer and business movers who do not report their change of address. So in addition to NCOA, mailers should match their data against the several additional Proprietary Change of Address (PCOA) databases that draw on private sources, such as magazine subscribers and financial information, to catch the big chunk of address changes and "dead/undeliverable" addresses that fall through the cracks. The savings is easy to calculate: Using several private data sources to find undeliverable and move data not recorded in the standard NCOA database costs between 15 cents and 25 cents per corrected record. These records will otherwise waste anywhere from 60 cents to $1.20 each in direct mail costs. There's also the lost response from prospects/customers who will not receive the intended mail piece, or any other offers. Even at 25 cents per fix, the savings is huge with mail rates as high as they are. Plus, the improved address correction allows for more effective merge-purge deduping and more savings. For a broader calculation of bad data's business impact, see the Lemonly infographic:

Friday, October 2, 2015

Are You Missing Out on Personalization's Big ROI?

Personalization via variable data printing is a proven way to increase direct mail response and ROI. Any mailer would want a result like this: Melissa Data has reported it found personalized color direct mail typically generated a 6.5% response rate, three times higher than the average 2% response rate resulting from non-personalized direct mail. Yet some direct mailers hesitate to go beyond a "Dear Jon" first-name greeting. It may be because they lack a robust house database and need a long-term data collection process and profiling. Appending and modeling are options to help jumpstart that process. When it comes to personalized prospecting, there are well-sourced, up-to-date rented mailing lists that offer a wealth of targeting data for personalization. Common response factors for B2C include gender, past purchase or donation history, expiration/renewal dates and geographic location (personalized mapping is a proven retailing tool), for example. A remaining personalization hurdle is data quality--inaccurate data, duplicate data, improperly formatted data, or no data at all in key fields. Bad data makes personalization backfire with the wrong name, the wrong address or the wrong offer. Luckily, given the payoff in terms of response and ROI, the low-cost investment in mailing list data hygiene is a no-brainer. Once data is cleaned up, careful mailing list segmentation by target audience preps for variable data printing (VDP) of personalized versions. While working with VDP, consider adding a Personalized URL that sends each contact to a personally customized landing page; research by the Direct Marketing Association and others shows PURLs can further lift overall response (even double it). By the way, if you are in fundraising or in finance and insurance marketing, and you haven't embraced personalization, you are lagging the pack. See the most recent list of top direct mail categories using personalization, courtesy of Who's Mailing What: