Monday, May 18, 2009

Dear upset client...

Dear Upset Client,

I've gotten your envelope with the returned mail pieces.

Yes, we did run NCOA (National Change of Address software) against your data before we mailed the job for you. You thought it was unnecessary, but we insisted. “It’s my list. I know them. Been mailing to them for years!” you said. But it really didn’t matter. New USPS regulations say we must run NCOA on any presorted classification of mail that includes a recipient’s name. That means First Class Presort, Standard or Non-Profit. That means you.

So we NCOA’d your data.

We corrected your bad addresses where possible. Your data was ugly, frankly, and we corrected what we could for you. You’re welcome.

Yes, we did update the recipient’s address where possible. You hadn’t cleaned your data since the flood—OK, since 1953, but that’s an eon in marketing. Even the best NCOA list only goes back 48 months. 1953 is two generations ago!

And yes, we did delete a lot of folks. Not surprisingly, a huge number of your folks are dead. Let’s see, if they started donating in 1953 at age 50, they’d be 106 today. 106-year olds just don’t donate the way they used to.

Yes, it was a surprise to us, too, that 25% of your list was deceased. Maybe that’s why they left no forwarding address. Maybe that’s why your response rates have been going down the drain of late. Maybe that’s why you’re paying more in postage and printing and production and seeing fewer dollars back each year. Go figure.

We didn’t—but could have—run your list against a list of people currently living at government expense in Leavenworth, Kansas. Knowing your database, we didn’t think that was necessary.

We differentiated for you between individual moves (ie divorces, going away to school, moving to a nursing home, etc) and family moves and did as you directed us to do on each one.

And yes, we eliminated the folks who had moved overseas, addresses with fatal flaws, and businesses that had closed.

We also did an internal dedupe, so that you would send only one letter to the Smith household. When we started with your data clean up, the Smiths were getting 5 letters. One to Bob and Mary Smith, one to Robert and Mary Smith, one to Robert Smith, one to Mary Smith and one to Bob Smith. Remember we told you that 40% of your list was duplicate addresses? That’s what we meant. The Smiths were getting five letters from you each time you mailed!

So we did all this clean up for you, and then we gave you your data back. Ignore what we sent you at your peril. We don’t want to go through all this with you next time. It would be like taking the same hill twice.

I’m truly sorry you are disappointed that your list went from 136,000 people to 28,000. I think you’d be glad. Instead of mailing 108,000 bad and iffy addresses, you’ll be mailing to 28,000 good ones. If those 28,000 people give like they have been giving, your response rate will skyrocket even as your costs plummet. Now that’s a win/win in my book. Sorry you don’t see it that way.

Now about those 86 bad addresses you sent me.

In 100% of the cases, the yellow stickie labels say "Unable to Forward." They do not say the address was bad--which substantiates the value of the NCOA. They say "Unable to Forward."

In this economy people are moving in the dead of night. They simply leave the key in the mailbox and drive away. It’s one way to temporarily avoid creditors. Dying is another. Both result in “Unable to Forward” stickies.

Currently, 40% of those who move do NOT send their new address info to the Post Office which means that that 40% will not be caught on an NCOA.

Please contact me in a month when your campaign is running at full tilt.

I bet those 86 records that are aggravating you today don’t look so bad then.

Thank you.

43670 Trade Center Place, Suite 150, Dulles, VA 20166
Phone: 703.996.0800 Fax: 703.996.0888 1.866.365.2858

1 comment:

David said...

Excellent article and well worth reading by ANYONE who uses the mail for anything other than personal correspondence.

This is really basic direct mail today.