Improving your merge/purge

A quick way to sabotage any mailing is to take the merge/purge process for granted, says Joe Balaban, vice president of business development at Farmingdale, NY-based service bureau Anchor Computer. Here, Balaban offers specific tips on how to work with your supplier to ensure a successful merge/purge project:

1) Make certain your service bureau knows what to expect. If you plan on following your mailing with a telephone campaign, for instance, make sure your service bureau knows to check for telephone numbers. Or if you need a minimum number of names for a mailing, tell the service bureau so that it can notify you if your list falls short after the merge/purge.

2) If you’re a business-to-business cataloger, make sure your service bureau is familiar with b-to-b issues. Business addresses generally have more fields than consumer addresses, which can make the merge/purge process more challenging.

3) Always run your list against the Postal Service’s Delivery Sequence File (DSF). This file can identify undeliverable addresses and sort businesses from residential addresses.

4) When possible, mail only to zip+4 addresses. But be wary of software programs that assign zip+4 codes based on address location. Such programs will assign a code even to nonexistent addresses by estimating what the code would be if the address existed.

5) On b-to-b lists, consider eliminating addresses of establishments with histories of bad debt. Balaban has found that unprofitable business locations often remain unsuccessful regardless of who operates them.

6) Read-and be sure you understand-the entire merge/purge report. Beyond checking the percentage of dupes, look for specific records and duplicates you knew of beforehand. Only the complete list will show you these. If you notice missing records or systematic problems, the bureau can correct them and run the merge/purge again.

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