6 Steps to Direct Mail List Management

How to Give Your Direct Mail Lists a Good Spring Cleaning

Your mailing lists are the linchpin in your direct mail campaign. But just like closets packed too tightly with unused clothes or a basement overflowing with outdated equipment, a direct mail list rife with incorrect data, duplicate addresses or outdated information clutters your marketing efforts. Now is the ideal time to commit to “spring clean” your direct mail lists.

Data Becomes Outdated More Quickly Than Last Season’s Fashions

Mailing lists are the foundation for effective, targeted marketing outreach. Yet they’re incredibly difficult to manage. The clutter and disorganization happens subtly: recipients move, names change and lists aggregate from varying sources leading to misaligned data. Compounding the problem is the lack of centralized ownership dedicated to maintaining and cleaning up these fundamental resources.

The costs can sneak up on you as well. The obvious ones include wasted campaign dollars spent on purchasing duplicate or similar data as well as excess production, postage and execution. Less discernible are the costs to workflow and operations; time wasted by busy marketing managers looking for the correct, most current lists… and then correcting them.

The price is ultimately paid in the underperformance of your direct mailer; in unopened or returned mail, ineffective targeting, inability to properly segment and a lack of personalization. The solution, like cleaning out that cluttered closet, may not feel glamorous, but can be highly rewarding in terms of increasing in the efficiency and success of your direct mail campaigns and your data-driven marketing efforts overall.

If You Haven’t Worn It In The Last 6 Months…

Well, if you haven’t taken a hard look at your data in the last six months, chances are you’re due for a thorough list cleansing. Take these steps and you’ll be on the way to cleaner, more accurate mailing lists that save you time and money, and ensure optimum performance of your campaigns:

  1. Give The Job To One Person
    By assigning ownership and management to one person, not only are the lists easier to update and control, the workflow is streamlined under one “roof” and everyone knows where to go to submit updates, and who to ask for what they need when they need it. Think of this person as your Data Ambassador and assign them the role of a dedicated Mr. (or Ms.) Fix-it to keep your (mail) house in order.
  2. Define Or Update List Management Standards
    If you haven’t already, set standards for managing mailing lists and how they will be maintained. If those standards already exist, now is the perfect time to revisit those standards and processes, to evaluate how they’re working and if they’ve evolved with your latest data optimization strategies. Ensure there are strict enough data entry and modification standards to inform and enforce compliance. Update standards as needed to lay the ground for more fertile direct mail efforts. And ensure that each time you purchase a new list, these standards continue to be adhered to.
  3. Refresh Outdated Contacts
    Tap into the post office’s National Change of Address (NCOA) service to ensure your list stays current, even when your addressees move. If you manage direct mailing in-house check to see if the software being used includes this service. Or, if you’re using a third-party list vendor, ask if they offer this as part of their standard services. Additionally, cross-check with Customer Service and Sales teams, as well as CRM software also used by your team, as there are times these sources have information that is more current than external data providers.
  4. Eliminate Duplicates
    With a proper merge/purge you can eliminate duplicates, but more difficult to detect are the tiny changes or errors that hide duplicate entries. For instance, you may have two records for the same person, but one of the records has a misspelled email address. Thus if you only de-dupe by email, then that duplicate record will remain. If you don’t have the expertise in your team to help rectify this, it is a great time to reach out to data specialists in your organization, find software that will automatically resolve it or ask your agency or list provider for help with this.
  5. Organize And Align Your Lists
    You have multiple lists, utilized across multiple campaigns, updated by different people all the time. And they each have slightly different organizational and formatting methods. As the number of people touching those lists increases, the potential for human error creeps up rapidly. Like lining up your shoes, employing naming standards, storage instructions and access and versioning rules are a handful of ways you can facilitate accuracy, consistency and hygiene across multiple lists and versioning. But at some point, there’s a limit to what even the best human practices can achieve. This is where technology and software solutions can come into play.
  6. Utilize Software For Mailing List Management
    When multiple users across different departments, locations and job functions need access to the same lists, keeping them in a central location reduces the burden on the list managers and expedites the campaign process. It also helps ensure that only the appropriate and/or most current lists are made available. Cloud-based solutions where you can store and manage your lists via one tool are well-suited for this purpose and allow you to maintain greater control of the data.

Often, third-party vendors offer hygiene and optimization as a part of mailing list services. If you aren’t currently working with a list vendor, or are unsatisfied with the hygiene and “current-ness” of their data, now may be the time to consider another source.

Additionally you could look into Marketing Resource Management software that includes list management as a feature, or a system designed specifically for web-based direct mail execution. The technology equivalent of the Ultimate Closet Organizer, these cloud-based applications can include all the benefits noted above as well as others you may not be aware of. Some applications allow you to house your direct mailers within the platform, and sync your lists directly to specific mailers, allowing you to execute the entire direct mail campaign within the application.

At Strata we have decades of experience in data-driven marketing, list and data services and technology solutions that support and optimize direct mail campaigns. Clients also choose to utilize our full-service production services, including variable data printing and mailing, so they have end-to-end support instead of having to coordinate efforts through multiple vendors. To learn more about how we can help you optimize your data-driven marketing efforts, contact us here or call 610-941-6100.


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