Eliminate your non-deliverable mail and avoid the return fees and costs of re-mailing. It sounds simple, doesn't it? And it is. By keeping your address records clean and up-to-date with the new addresses of people who have moved, you'll get more mail delivered, enjoy a greater response, and save money on postage and printing. Now that's just good sense.


Start cleaning up with NCOALink  

If you haven't been updating the movers in your house list, now is the time to begin a regular data hygiene program using the Change of Address (NCOALink®) service, NCOALink is already a mandatory requirement for First-Class Mail® automation and presort discounts, and it will also become mandatory for Standard Mail® in 2008.


According to the USPS®, more than 44 million individuals, families and businesses move each year. That means up to 20 percent of the people or companies in a database could have a new address - a fact that presents some pretty big hurdles to maintaining quality mailing lists, low postage and low production costs.


NCOALink matches a company's mailing list against a data base of address changes submitted to the USPS. The file contains over 160 million records and 48 months of address changes. Since 1986, NCOALink has saved mailers billions of dollars that otherwise would have been wasted in paper, postage, and labor costs.


Here's an example of the volume of bad records that can be found in a database. A state Republican party submitted its voter rolls to be matched against NCOALink. Of the 3.9 million voter records processed, about 528,000 records were matched to recent movers in the USPS file.


MedicAlert, a nonprofit organization with 2.4 million members in the United States, is another organization that has seen the benefits of ongoing data hygiene. From its headquarters in Turlock, CA, MedicAlert coordinates large direct mail campaigns to its members. The mailings are sent two to three times a year to prompt members to update their personal medical and contact information and return the data to MedicAlert. To improve mail deliverability, MedicAlert uses NCOALink matching prior to each direct mail campaign, which typically averages more than one million pieces.


The next step beyond - mCOA

MedicAlert also passes its records through mCOA (multi-source change of address). mCOA is a proprietary extended service that uses multiple data sources other than the U.S. Postal Service, including magazine subscriptions, catalog houses, insurance groups and financial institutions, to find people that have moved in the last five years and may not have filed a change of address with the Postal Service. In fact, over 20% of all of all movers do not file a change of address with the USPS, especially the younger generation. mCOA enables organizations to identify many of these movers as well as those who were identified as "near matches" through the NCOALink Return Codes.


Taking the address hygiene process a few steps beyond NCOALink and mCOA, marketers and mailers are now being encouraged to tap into other services than can eliminate duplicate records, update addresses with rural route conversions, and determine the deliverability of addresses by noting if they are seasonal or vacant, or business or consumer.


Regular data cleansing has become a critical bottom-line issue. Not only does it enable you to qualify for postage discounts, but it is an absolutely essential cost-savings measure to cope with increased postal rates. Catching undeliverable mail before it leaves your door is one of the easiest and most effective ways to save on postage, while keeping production costs low.  


Chris Rowe is vice president of Data Enhancement Services for Melissa Data, a leading provider of mailing solutions and postal hygiene services. He can be reached at 949.589.5200 x109. For more information, visit www.MelissaData.com