Posts filed under ‘Address Hygiene’

US Postal Service: Address Change Info

Your question:  How can i obtain the forwarding address that a person provides the United States Postal Service when they move? I am quite certain this is avaiable, because I see companys track me to new addresses, despite having not offered the new address directly, only told the Post office to forward mail to a new address. In addition to marketers, it seems creditors can find you when you move also.  I am the later, with a judgement against a dead beat tenant. I tried going to the local post office and asking for their forwarding address, but the ditz behind the counter thought it was “private”. Thank you for your reply!!!

Our Answer: You’re absolutely correct in thinking that the United States Postal Service (USPS) does make address change information available to marketers and other companies (including creditors) for list updating purposes. 

The service is called National Change of Address (NCOA). Essentially, a handful (about 20) of large data processing firms have been licensed to process consumer and business lists against the USPS file of address changes, to identify if any of their customers or prospects have filed a change of address.

Essentially, rather than having the USPS forward mail, the data processors identify consumers and businesses who have moved, allowing direct mailers to update their records and send the direct mail to the new address.

This all comes at a fee, of course, and the USPS receives revenue from the licensed service bureaus.  Likewise, the service bureaus charge the mailers for the updated addresses.  The USPS also realizes cost savings because it’s quite costly to manually forward mail.

The process is also highly regulated.  For example, mailers are prohibited against building ‘new mover’ type lists using USPS data.  And, most important to you, perhaps, the NCOA service is only offered for mass mailers–companies that are trying to update a large list of customers or prospects.

You cannot go directly to the USPS and, as an individual, request and receive someone’s new address. Sadly, the ‘ditz’ at the USPS was correct–mover data is not something that the USPS makes available to regular people…

Sorry for the bad news–good luck collecting your debt. And, if anyone out there has any other ideas, please comment.

February 20, 2009 at 10:28 pm 5 comments

Increasing Cost of Direct Mail

Q:  We have traditionally used direct mail as the channel for the majority of our direct marketing budget.  With the continuous rise in postal and lettershop costs, along with lower response rates, what are your ideas on how to get the most out of each direct mail campaign?

A:  You are right, direct mail isn’t getting any cheaper based upon all of the factors that you mention — and the increasing difficulty of getting your prospect to pay attention to your mail piece instead of all of the rest of them received on a daily basis.  It’s a tough order!

More and more, in order to get your message through and responded to, you have to insert intelligence in your direct marketing strategy.  When I say intelligence, I’m talking about increasing efficiencies in everything you do.  From the way you collect your data and clean it, to more effectively targeting those prospects who are going to be most highly likely to respond, to really stepping back and assessing your overall direct marketing strategy — you’ve got to not only think of it all but improve in as many areas as you can.

I’m not trying to make this sound like a daunting amount of work . . . it’s almost like taking a “Spring Cleaning” approach.  For example, how long has it been since you’ve really examined your data cleansing techniques?  I know it sounds simple, but with prices increasing across the board, ensuring that your customer data will absolutely be received  by whom you intend it to be received by.  And, make sure that whichever vendor you purchase your prospect data from practices good address hygiening techniques as well.

Next, take a look at how you determine your mail segments for each campaign.  Are you using a solid analytical approach?  Have you recently performed customer profile studies to really understand what those folks who are buying from you look like?  Performing such a study will give you the intelligence that you need to then target those particular prospects that look most like those customers who buy from you today.  In my humble opinion, it’s simply madness not to use an analytical approach — using analytics will not only increase your response rate, but it will decrease your mail costs because you’ll be mailing less — ratcheting in on only those who are most likely to respond to and buy from you.

Finally, think about testing other channels to make your direct mail more effective.  For example, you may want to test e-mailing the message first (announcing that you will be sending a mail piece), then direct mailing the piece, then following up with an additional e-marketing piece.  Many clients that we’ve worked with have found this to be a good approach — it gets their mail pieces read more often than when you send out the piece without using any other channel.

We hope these ideas spark some good discussion in your business.  Best of luck!  And let us and our readers hear about your success!  Thanks for the question.

March 25, 2008 at 2:38 am 9 comments


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