31 Ways to Better Circulation Through the Merge/Purge

Mailers often overlook circulation details going into the merge/purge. But by working with your service provider before and after the merge/purge process, you can improve response and squeeze extra profits from your mailings. Skeptical? Answer these 31 questions, then check your results says Jim Coogan, president of Sante Fe, NM-based consultancy Catalog Marketing Economics.

1. Do you have enough gross names going into the merge to net the names needed for output? Check by using historical gross-to-net name percentages from past merges.

2. Do the house and prospect list segments selected have historical sales-per-book results that roll up to the budgeted overall sales for the catalog?

3. When the lists were converted at the service bureau did the lists keep enough gross names going into the merge? Did the collapse show that the list was not generated accurately or wasn’t well maintained?

4. What are the gross to net percentages for the prospecting lists? Too high a percentage that survives the merge means that the list may fail because it’s not similar enough to your house file.

5. What is the list-by-list overlap among the cooperative databases? Are the co-ops providing a unique universe of names? Are the net names provided at an acceptable cost?

6. Is there a buyer frequency test in place to determine if some of the best buyer segments should be mailed more frequently?

7. Is there an incremental sales per catalog test design in place to see if the breakeven point for house segments is being drawn to reflect the breakeven based on incremental sales provided by the catalog?

8. Do the rental list selects ordered match the rental selects that were shipped?

9. Are the model names from the cooperative databases, especially the proven “control” models, the exact same specifications as the last time the models were run?

10. Is the merge on schedule? Is there any reason the merge should not run a week ahead or more of the scheduled milestone dates?

11. Is the version matrix understood by the printer and the merge/purge service bureau?

12. Are the test designs and the methodology clear to all–service bureau, printer, and top management?

13. Has the merge/purge service bureau always sent the finder file back to the call center?

14. Is there a spreadsheet for the list of lists based on historical sales results by list segment? How close are you to the limits of the list universes that meet your financial criteria?

15. Can you squeeze one more buyer remail out of the merge output?

16. When is the cutoff date for the last “hot line” buyer names that go into the merge?

17. Are all the other “hot line” house names such as catalog requests and Web transactions and “ship-to” orders going into the merge?

18. Are the prospects in the same priority in the merge? Are the prospect multibuyers randomly allocated? Are the multis divided into cooperative-to-cooperative, cooperative-to-rental, and rental-to-rental multis?

19. Do you have list hygiene in the merge? NCOA?

20. Are super dupes, which are multi buyer hits to your house file that you have a right to mail when you mail that specific segment of your house file, being flagged and tagged from previous merges?

21. What techniques are being tested to increase response cut costs or cut unprofitable circulation?

22. How many house file optimizations are being run? Are you optimizing first-time buyers, pure Web buyers, low- ticket buyers, older-than-12-month buyers, catalog requesters, and nonseasonal product buyers?

23. Do you break out house file optimization segments where you “draw the line” in order to measure the response rate of the last deciles mailed?

24. Have you reviewed your co-op database modeling strategy with statisticians at the database? Have you provided the databases with your own list of catalogs that are like your catalog and a list of catalogs that are not like your catalog and that you do not want included in the affinity tables built for modeling for your catalog?

25. Can you break down catalog-generated Web buyers vs. Internet-generated Web buyers? Can you segment Web buyers by SEO, affiliates, price comparison engines, etc?

26. Are house file transactions being sent into the merge as transactions since the last merge or as full file replacements? If you are sending transactions since the last cutoff, Coogan says, make sure that there is no gap between the end date of one set of transactions and the beginning date of another set of transactions. Mailers typically use full file replacements periodically to make certain they are mailing the entire house file. You’d be surprised how often good house file segments don’t get mailed because groups of house buyers simply got overlooked. Are there controls in place to make sure all transactions are being included in the data feed going into the merge?

27. Will the merge output and zip strings be built in time to set the press runs for the catalog, or are the mailings being built to fit a predetermined press run?

28. Are rental singles being optimized for suppression opportunities?

29. Have the net-name deals and exchange deals been “tweaked” and reviewed prior to placing the orders for rental names?

30. Are the DMA pander names among your recent buyers being mailed? Are the DMA pander names segmented with their own source code?

31. Are your “ship tos” being mailed?

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