Show Me The Data: The Fine Points of Business and Government Matching

Business-to-business (b-to-b) and business-to-government (b-to-g) mailers face greater list processing challenges than consumer marketers. These challenges include: the churn of business contacts at titled positions and within companies and more address elements with which to deal. The complexity of business and government addresses can, as I will show, make the tasks of matching customer and prospect files more challenging to match and deduplicate than consumer addresses.

Merge/purge and matchback processes use matchcodes to identify unique names and addresses. A consumer match might work well with a matchcode using the zip code, and five characters each of the last name, first name, street number, street name, and secondary address. Barbara Smith, 123 Main St., Moline, IL 61265 would become: “61265SMITHBARBA123MAIN.” This matchcode will uniquely distinguish that consumer from all others in the country. Urban high-rises present no problems through the use of the secondary address: apartment or unit number.

Business and government matching is more difficult. A b-to-b mailer might want to run the merge using the company or agency name and then slug in a title. My experience is that marketer will likely reach the person in charge of buying what they are selling. “Computer Buyer, Acme Corp., Sales Dept., 123 Main St., Moline, IL 61265” will be processed as “60265ACMECSALES123MAIN.” This matchcode can be expanded to include 10 characters of the company name if necessary, or more of the secondary address to let the mailer limit the number of pieces going to that company and department. The need to identify units within a company should lead you to consider running your business and consumer list processing separately to fine-tune the level of matching apart from the tightness or looseness of the matches themselves.

The b-2-g mailer, however, faces even more complexity. The Purchasing Agent of the Food and Nutrition Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, O’Neill Federal Building, 10 Causeway St., Room 432, Boston, MA 02222 would become “02222PURCHUSDAF10CAUSE” using the standard consumer setting. Dropping the title will move the USDA into better position for matching. Even that move will not give you the detail to keep from matching “Food” with a department such as “Facilities.”

The O’Neill Federal Building is one of my favorite addresses because it is so challenging to parse and match. That address alone demonstrates why separating your business and government merging can be necessary. You should review duplicate listings for zip code 02222 from merge/purge processing of your files and prospect lists to see whether your own mailings are effected by these issues. Some mailers have found that improving their merge/purge and mailing accuracy is worth the time and cost of special processing arrangements. You can work with your service provider to identify and move all the different spellings of the “Tip O’Neill Building” and “O’Neill Federal Building” from the main address line. Your processing might benefit from parsing the department names and room numbers to separate fields. You then will have simplified the task of constructing a government matchcode specific to your files to significantly improve your merge/purge processing.

The final matchcode can easily grow from 22 to 25 or 30 characters to capture enough information from your customer file or rental list to support accurate matching and insure your mailing reaches your intended recipient.

There is a simple rule to remember when dealing with business and government matching – you can never have enough details.

Bill Singleton, president of Algonquin, IL-based consultancy Singleton Marketing, and pens “Show Me the Data” for the Lists & Data Strategies e-newsletter.

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