Printips: February 2004
Mail + List Management = Effective Marketing with Advertising Printing
mail is a very popular way to market a company's products or services.
Here at Printlocal.com, we have helped many customers design and create
effective advertising printing . Our direct mail printing is offered as
discount printing to give you and your company the most for its advertising
budget. Our wholesale printing prices make your direct mail campaign much
Printing for Your Direct Mail
offers great wholesale printing prices for your campaign. There's more
you must know about direct mail printing —the success of any direct mail
marketing campaign is more dependent on the mailing list than any other
factor. You can verify this for yourself with a simple hypothetical example.
Suppose the owner of a pizza parlor used direct mail printing and created
a post card that looked exactly like a delicious pepperoni pizza and offered
that pizza free for returning the card. A guaranteed high response, right?
Now suppose that the direct mail printing had been sent to only vegetarians—a
sure case of great advertising printing mailed to a bad list.
Characteristics of a good mail list
The mailing list is usually the least expensive part of a mailing yet,
according to the Direct Marketing Association, accounts for 60% of the
success of a mailing. Despite its importance, the mail list is often the
most neglected part of any mailing.
A good direct mailing list contains names that are correctly spelled;
addresses that are accurate and conform to the United States Postal Service
(USPS) standards for abbreviation and punctuation; and no duplicates.
Mailings addressed from lists that have these characteristics will be
consistently delivered accurately and timely.
If you purchase a mailing list from a reputable list broker, it will have
these characteristics. However, the most important list for your business
to use in direct mail marketing is your own list of customers. And unless
you have exercised real care, it may be that your customer list does not
have these characteristics.
Mail list standards
For any mail list to function optimally, it must be consistent and accurate.
Consistent means that abbreviated address elements (such as street) are
always the same (St) and conform to USPS standards. Accurate means that
names and addresses are free of typos and creative data entry (such as
entering company name in the place reserved for the names of people).
Regardless of what software program you use to maintain your customer
list, it is important that you adopt a structure for your mail list and
enforce data entry standards. Here are our recommendations:
People's names consist of five basic parts - prefix (Mr., Mrs., Ms., Dr.,
Rev., Sen., etc.); first name; middle name or initial (optional); last
name; and suffix (Jr., III, DDS, PhD, etc.). It is best to have a separate
field for each of these elements.
If your list includes names of businesses, create a separate field instead
of entering the company name as if it was the name of a person. Also,
use consistent abbreviations for frequently encountered elements such
as Inc., Corp., Co., Ltd.
* Street Address
The address is the most important part of the data entry process. An accurate
address contains elements that are complete and correct. When an address
is missing elements, contains incorrect elements or fails to conform to
USPS address standards, it will require additional handling to be delivered
or may not be delivered at all.
If a person or company has both a post office box and a street address,
use the post office box and ignore the street address. If there is an
apartment or suite number, enter it right after the street address, preceded
by the number sign (#), and do not put a hyphen or space between numbers
and letters (i.e., #3A, not #3-A or #3 A). Be sure to include street directional
(N, S, E, W) and street suffix (street, avenue, boulevard, road, drive,
way, lane, etc.)
* City, State and Zip Code
The city, state and zip each should be in its own field. Always spell
out city names - no abbreviations, even if the abbreviation is commonly
understood. Los Angeles is a city name; LA is not. State abbreviations
are always two characters and upper case. The USPS provides a list of
If your mailing list contains addresses in foreign countries, be sure
to include a separate field for the country. Do not force a country name
into any other field.
Personalization and data quality
A popular and effective way to increase response rate for a mailing is
to personalize the mailing with the recipient's name in the body of the
letter. But here is an important caveat - effective personalization is
completely dependent on how accurately the data was entered. Nothing is
more noticeable to the recipient than his or her name misspelled - especially
if the recipient is a customer of the business that sent the mail piece.
In addition, certain personalization techniques (such as using the first
name in the salutation) may not be possible if there is not a separate
field containing the first name in the mail list.
Merge/purge and de-duplication
Merge/purge is one method for improving the quality of a mail list. In
this process, two or more different name and address files are combined
(merged) into one list and duplicate records are identified and deleted
(purged). De-duplication is the same process but involves only one list.
One of the main benefits of merge/purge and de-duplication is ensuring
that a single person receives only one mailing.
Your own customer list
For almost any business, the mailing list that will consistently evoke
the best response rate from any direct mail campaign is also the least
expensive - its list of customers. But unless a business shows loyalty
to its customers by a regular regimen of direct mail, customers may lose
their loyalty to the business. That's why we suggest you mail something
to your customers - and perhaps a list of selected prospects - frequently.
We can assist you with determining what kind of mailing will be effective
with your customers. A newsletter is always popular item, as are post
cards. Contact <here insert the name of your CSRs and sales people>
at <here insert contact information> for ideas or to make an appointment.
Cleaned list: a list that is free of duplication and unwanted names and
House list: a mailing list consisting of the customers of a business.
A house list may also contain names and addresses of prospects.
List broker: an individual or company that brings together owners of lists
and the direct mailers who wish to use the lists
List compiler: an individual or company that specializes in gathering
names, addresses and information from a variety of sources to produce
a new mail list
Merge: the process of combining two or more lists into a single list using
the same sequential order, then sorting them together
Merge/purge: the technique used to combine names, addresses and related
data from various mailing lists to identify and eliminate duplicate names
or to create a marketing database.
Purge: the process of eliminating duplicates or unwanted names from one
or more lists.
RFM: recency/frequency/monetary. The key formula used with most databases
to identify how recently and how frequently an individual purchases, and
the amount of money spent by an individual.
Q. What kinds of mail lists are available?
A. In the most general terms, there are two kinds of lists: a house list
consisting of information about your own customers and prospects; and
a rented list consisting of information that has been gathered by others
and offered for use. Here are brief descriptions:
* House list: a house list includes the names, addresses and other information
on customers of a business (customer list). It may also include the same
information about people who have responded to marketing efforts - leads
generated by advertising, trade shows, outside sales people or responses
from sweepstakes or contests (prospect list). As a general rule, a house
list provides the best response rate from a direct mail campaign.
* Response list: mailing lists of people who have purchased products or
services; includes magazine subscription lists.
* Survey list: a list that has been created from information provided
by those who respond to surveys. A survey list often contains detailed
* Compiled list: a mailing list compiled from various public records,
then merged and purged. Compiled lists often contain additional demographic
information such as age range, household income and ethnicity or behavioral
information such as making purchases from catalogs.
* Business list: another form of a compiled list. In addition to business
name and address, a business list may also contain demographic information
such as annual sales volume or number of employees and additional contact
information such as telephone number.
* Residential list: a list of home addresses. May or may not contain names.
Tricks & Tips
The best way to keep your customer or house list clean is to adopt a standard
database structure and enforce data entry discipline. This is particularly
important if you have more than one person doing data entry.
The most common data entry error we see - and the one that is hardest
for us to fix - is forcing data into the wrong fields. This happens most
often when the structure of the database does not allow for all possible
data types. An example is putting the name of a company in a field designed
to hold a person's name. While this may not seem to be much of a problem,
it can create undesirable results in certain instances when we are addressing.
Suppose you would like to send a letter that includes the person's name
and address at the top and uses the name in the salutation. If the mailing
list mixes a person's name and a company name in the same field, the following
situation can result:
Robert C. Smith
123 Main St
Anywhere, CA 91786
The Germaine Company
456 Main St
Anywhere, CA 91786
Avoid these problems - and the extra charges to re-field your data - by
creating a field for company name that is separate from an individual's
An easy way to keep your mailing list up-to-date is to mail periodically
using small post cards. Owing to an anomaly in the postage rates, the
postage cost for a card (defined by the USPS as measuring no greater than
4 1/4 x 6 inches) mailed at the first class rate is lower than for a letter
mailed using the standard rate. (Note: standard mail is the current USPS
term for what used to be called third class mail.)
A card mailed at the first class rate receives all the services associated
with first class - delivery priority and notification back to the sender
if the mail piece is undeliverable as addressed. To take advantage of
this feature, you must have an endorsement - essentially an instruction
- that tells the USPS what to do if the mail is not deliverable using
the address you provided.
Although there are several types of endorsements, all with various levels
of service, the one we recommend is return service requested. This will
result in the mail piece being returned to you with the new address or
the reason for nondelivery provided, and at no charge. Now you can update
your mailing list either by changing to the new address or deleting entries.
The current rate for cards is 23 cents. If you presort the mail, the rate
drops to between 21.2 cents and 17.6 cents, depending on the level of
sortation. For a more detailed explanation of this technique, call us
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