Lists and Prospecting: Good Hygiene Works for Daniel Smith

For Seattle-based art supplies cataloger Daniel Smith, prospecting is tricky. Not only are professional and noncommercial artists in short supply, but they’re also tough to locate, as they tend to work on their own and at their leisure.

“It’s been four years since we did any cold prospecting, and we have never been part of a co-op database, because we can’t pull out a category of artists,” says information systems manager Tony Weist.

The 25-year-old company built its database mostly by word of mouth, Weist says. But by 2000, the house file suffered from numerous duplicate names and bad addresses. So Daniel Smith launched a data-cleansing program that, by providing up-to-date addresses for past buyers, has helped its sales grow 10%-12% during the past two years. That’s an improvement upon the previous growth rate, which was in the low single digits, Weist says.

Daniel Smith began by regularly running its database through the U.S. Postal Service’s National Change of Address (NCOA) service. “Then did dupe checks to eliminate duplicate names,” Weist explains, “and we found that we were able to eliminate 5% of our database that way, by finding nixie errors.” (Nixies are multiple address records for the same customer that have slight variations that make them appear to be for different customers. For instance, if a file has a John Doe at 123 Main St. and a Jon Doe at 123 Main St., one of those records is almost certainly a nixie.)

The cataloger then ran its house file against the USPS’s Coding Accuracy Support System (CASS), which helped it eliminate more erroneous records — roughly 5% of its database. CASS processing improves the accuracy of carrier route, five-digit zip, zip+4, and delivery point codes that appear in addresses. When mailers run their databases through CASS software, the results provide diagnostics for correcting addressing deficiencies.

Last year Daniel Smith ran its database through Extended NCOA, which detects people who moved as long ago as 60 months prior; the regular NCOA file goes back only 48 months. “We found through the Extended NCOA that we had cleaned up enough addresses,” Weist says.

Also last year, the cataloger began running its file through the USPS’s Delivery Sequence File (DSF), which resulted in catching “another huge group of addressing errors — about an 8% error rate,” Weist says. The DSF contains all delivery point addresses serviced by the USPS. Each record contains the zip+4 code, carrier route code, delivery sequence, delivery type, and seasonal delivery information.

And this year, Daniel Smith began testing a software program offered by Melissa Data, which helps mailers find new addresses of existing customers. Called Mailers+4, the program costs up to $1,299 for an annual subscription, which includes bimonthly updates. Weist adds that Daniel Smith also intends to test two free USPS correction systems: Address Element Correction and Shipping Assistant.

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