10 Things You Need to Know Before the Merge/Purge Begins

Oct 08, 2007 11:12 PM  By

Most marketers wouldn’t dream of doing a mailing without a merge/purge, But that doesn’t mean they have done their homework.

Ken Lane, president of Hathaway & Lane, offers a list of 10 things that all mailers need to know before they send their lists to be merged.

Don’t think you have plenty of time: Schedule out every step, get consensus from all relevant parties, and include time to forecast all expectations and time to review and understand and variances that may occur.

Make early contacts with your printer: Make sure the customer service rep knows the key dates for your campaign, such as in-home windows and what dates the mail files are due. You also need to communicate any changes from the prior year or mailing. And if you have a new CSR, confirm that all steps are clear.

Make early contacts with your service bureau: They need to know everything you are telling your printer. Plus, you need to confirm business rules in the merge/purge, including identifying multi-buyers, and allocation of first occurrence. Also, ensure their file hygiene initiatives are in place.

Don’t forget history: Review last year/mailing/merge history, segment by segment and source by source. Assuming there were no problems, this functions as your baseline. Include all outside lists, internet-sourced names (email sign-ups, search, pure/multi-channel web buyers), retail buyers, etc. While you’re at it, create your pre-merge forecasts and review your zip model usage.

Segment your file: Maximize your buyer contact potential, determine a contact plan for tracking for Web-only buyers, tag buyer names that have an email address, tag a “score” that can be used for during/post merge ranking needs, treat your COA buyers (from your NCOA) differently, use an external co-op database to reactivate older buyers you would not be mailing otherwise, make sure your system supports de-duping Buyers from Inquiries, and include tests for improved reactivation.

Work your house inquiries and ship-tos: Use an external compiled catalogue buyer database to optimize inquiries. More recent names can get additional contact frequency, and you may want to include some older inquiries in your mailing. And tag the inquiries that have e-mail addresses for future usage.

Don’t forget your exchange ledger balances: It remains a good, low-cost way of prospecting, and ensures names are current. Don’t be afraid to go back for more or better names. Ideally, you want a zero exchange balance every year to make sure no names are left on the balance sheet.

Don’t give up on prospecting: Review your prior year or season’s winners, and review those lists that used to work for refreshed names. And ask yourself these questions for rental tests: Is the roll-out potential of the file worth the test, is the file growing, is the file clean, do the data card selects emulate your own buyers, and are the other mailers using the file have a similar buyer profile to you?

Don’t let the full impact of the postage increases hit your bottom line: be prepared for changes, and don’t be afraid to do add-a-name or drop-a-name. And ask your printer about future co-mailing opportunities.

Keep on testing: If you’re not testing, you’re not trying. Create a “testing continuum” so that you are always pushing/optimizing your contact strategy. And don’t make “tiny tests.” The roll-out potential needs to have an impact on your bottom line.