With Data, Do It Right From the Start

Dec 22, 2008 10:09 PM  By

For years the direct marketing industry has accepted the fact that when converting incoming files from one layout to another only a certain percentage of the information will be successfully captured.

It may be the result of human error when entering the data to begin with or it may be a result of an error when processing the data at its source. Even with today’s modern technology, the 90-10 rule still holds true. Many companies that receive files the blame the provider, some go the extra mile to make corrections, and some fall in between. This portion of the overall solution is not glamorous and does not appear significant.

But upon further review, the impact of a proper conversion is exponential. Moving data from one layout to another is mostly a manual process, dependent on human examination of the layout generated from the source of the list. But even the cleanest files have instances where data doesn’t match the layout exactly—street directionals can easily be omitted, titles can be misidentified, and personal names and business names can be transposed. Small inaccuracies may not seem unimportant on the surface but a deeper look at traditional processing exposes the truth.

Inaccurate information at the source affects all aspects of traditional data preparation. Data that is not in the proper field or is missing completely affects the match rates to postal and proprietary hygiene services. The National Change of Address file is strictly supervised, the matching logic utilized follows rigid regulations. A small deviation will cause a record to be classified as a NIXIE, a “likely” but unconfirmed match to the NCOA database. Most companies drop NIXIEs from their prospecting efforts. If an NCOA match had been returned the record could have been mailed.

Additionally, these inaccuracies will impact how the mail files match each other in a merge purge environment and how they match demographic databases in append processes. Mailing duplicates or not properly recognizing a household can damage response rates. Without proper demographics, model scoring can be impacted and basic targeting decisions are made without proper information.

Finally, postal savings are lost when records cannot be sorted to the proper levels due to missing or inaccurate information. Carrier route walk sequence discounts or saturation discounts can be lost as a result. These costs along with the loss in revenue from lower response rates are much greater than any additional cost for properly loading and converting a file.

Furthermore, this attitude cuts against the spirit of one to one marketing. If a mailer doesn’t care enough to properly identify who they are mailing at the outset, the financial impact can be significant. However, the psychological impact can be much greater if a customer or prospect doesn’t feel the company is invested in a one to one marketing strategy. Taking this first step at the beginning of a project is more significant that many businesses realize.

Justin Jackson (Justin.Jackson@Donnelleymarketing.com) is an account executive with Donnelley Marketing.