Data enhancement means adding value to data you'll be using to produce and mail documents processed through your print and mail center. In most shops, data enhancement ends with correcting postal addresses, but other opportunities exist.

Enhanced data can improve the performance of a mailing campaign through better targeting, increased response rates, reduced waste, and improved ROI.

Yes, I know your clients may send you nothing but a name and address list. Your job is to print letters, postcards, or other mail pieces and get them in the mail. You feel you have no opportunity to add value and no authority to change the data.

That’s not always true. Even basic data enhancement techniques can benefit your customer, which builds goodwill and customer loyalty. Ask your customers if they’d like to decrease waste and improve targeting for their mailing and see what they say.

With nothing but a consumer name and address list, you can cleanse the mailing addresses to ensure the mail is accurately delivered by the USPS. Filter out those data records that won’t ever get to their destination because they are missing required information. You can also remove duplicates so your client doesn’t send multiple pieces to the same person or household, and you can correct addresses for consumers in the file who have moved.

Why Eliminate Billable Mail Pieces?

I’m aware that some of those processes will reduce the number of mail pieces you create. If you bill your clients based strictly on the number of pieces you put in the mail trays, removing names from mailing lists will affect your revenue. But the volume-based revenue approach discourages customer loyalty. If your company offers the same service as your competitors, all it takes for a customer to jump ship is a lower price. I’ve been recommending for years that print/mail service providers base their prices on the value they provide, which would include making a profit on data enhancement services that reduce the client’s cost for postage and materials.

Still working with nothing but the client-supplied name and address list, you can run the file against suppression lists such as deceased individuals, prisoners, or do-not-mail. Your customers’ campaigns will perform better because they aren’t sending mail that has a near-zero chance of producing a response.

More Easy Data Enhancements

These next data enhancement services take a little more work. How and when you use them depends on the client, the application, and the content of the mailing.

Geocoding—Postal addresses are unique in that they allow us to identify a physical location. Take advantage of that capability when the response to a mailing depends on the proximity of the recipient to a physical location like a branch office, delivery service area, or retail store. With digital printing, direct recipients to their nearest location or exclude addresses too far away to expect them to patronize the business.

Residence Type—If the message in the mailer is unlikely to resonate with apartment dwellers, then filter them from the mailing. This improves the ROI of the campaign, encouraging your customer to run more of them.

Income Level—You may acquire this information about individuals from third-party sources, but for mailings directed to people of a certain income bracket, the neighborhood in which they live can also serve as a filter. If you’re looking for high-income individuals, then focus on affluent neighborhoods where the average home values are at the upper end of the scale.

Age—Third-party sources can easily supply the age of consumers on your list. Append this information and then use it to control variable offers and images. By tailoring each mail piece to the profile of the individual to whom it is addressed, your customers will realize greater response rates and will be more likely to send future direct mail campaigns.

These are only a few of the ways to use data to improve the effectiveness of mailed communications. Print/mail operations have plenty of options for adding value to the mail they produce through data enhancement. Some, like those described above, are quite easy to accomplish. Others require more complex data manipulations and analysis.

These opportunities won’t be present in every job. Sometimes, your customers do all the data work on their end, but it doesn’t hurt to ask. You’ll probably uncover some value-add chances you didn’t even know existed.

Mike Porter at Print/Mail Consultants creates content for the document industry and helps document operations build and implement strategies for future growth and competitiveness. Learn more about his services at and Follow @PMCmike on Twitter, or send him a connection request on LinkedIn