Feb. 6 2009 02:26 PM

Americans have become more overloaded on information, more short on time and more environmentally conscious. These trends combined with the 2003 ratification of the Do Not Call Implementation Act, increase the possibility of some form of Do Not Mail legislation passing. In 2008 alone, the legislatures of 12 states had Do Not Mail bills on the agenda. At the same time, various consumer surveys are reporting that up to 89% of respondents would like some kind of universal Do Not Mail resource. On the bright side, most people want to receive their favorite catalogs, coupons for services they use and other relevant offers. According to the USPS, over 40 million Americans change their address each year, and roughly 25% choose to have their catalogs forwarded. Perhaps even a few are looking for that ideal credit card offer to pop up in their mailbox. The problem is actually irrelevant mail, which is considered junk mail. Junk mail, like email spam, is any mail the recipient doesnâ¬t have an interest in.

To reduce the threat of Do Not Mail legislation, there are steps direct mailers can take, including making their mailings more relevant to recipients. These steps are not expensive. Yet making these changes, direct mailers can build good will with qualified prospects, reduce mailing costs and increase the results of direct mail campaigns. The first step is basic marketing 101: make sure mailings are targeted to the recipient. The second, and equally important, is to practice good address list management.

Good address management enables mailers to reduce undeliverable mail, optimize use of materials, eliminate duplicate mailpieces and respect the wishes of consumers who prefer not to receive mailings or prefer to receive fewer mailings. Though it may seem counterintuitive, there is no better way to gain the trust of a potential customer than to respect their wishes â¬" even if it means not sending them mail. Trust combined with need, or want, is a key element in turning a prospect into a customer and an existing customer into a repeat customer. Factoring the money saved on postage and materials, removing these non-prospects can only improve the return on investment for a mailing. Address management software makes the task of comparing a mailing list to a suppression list a simple matter of running a query or filter.

Properly cleansing and updating address lists also reduces the environmental impact of a mailing. Removing or correcting undeliverable addresses before printing and mailing saves the paper, ink and energy that would otherwise have been wasted on mail that could never result in a return on investment. Thus, address management represents the most pain-free and economical method to improving a mailerâ¬s impact on the environment. Mailers can further address concerns about the environment with judicious use of recycled and Forest Steward Council-certified paper.

The USPS spends so much time and energy on undeliverable mail that addresses must be cleansed and updated for mailings to qualify for postal discounts â¬" and these requirements are steadily becoming more stringent. As of November 23, 2008, the Move Update standard expanded to require that addresses used for Standard Mail as well as discounted First-Class Mail be updated or supplied by the addressee within 95 days of the date of mailing. This is nearly twice as often as previously required.

The most relevant mailings are those sent to an organizationâ¬s house list â¬" a list made of people who have purchased products or requested information directly from the mailer. This list is built through other lead generation techniques: search engine advertising, display ads and, of course, direct mail to rented lists. When renting lists, mailers who take the extra step to eliminate current customers from the prospecting mailing will ultimately be more successful. Nothing takes the steam out of a well-crafted personalized mailing than the recipients⬠realization that they already use this service or product and the mailer hasnâ¬t bothered to check. That passing irritation can turn a current customer into a former customer.

This most valuable house list should be nurtured and strengthened through both regular targeted mailings and good address list management. This is the most vital time to practice good address management through point-of-entry address verification. The point at which an address enters an organizationâ¬s data stream is often the only time errors can be easily corrected. After all, the person making the entry is the best person to fix an error before it is lost inside a massive address file. If the address doesnâ¬t pass verification, more information can immediately be requested. Good point-of-entry software includes a process that validates the deliverability of each address. Itâ¬s not enough to collect the street address for an apartment or office building. The apartment number or suite is equally important for delivery.

Duplicate address entries also fuel the fire for Do Not Mail legislation. Consumers on some Do Not Mail-oriented blogs feel that one request to have their name removed from a mailing list should remove all instances of their address regardless of the spelling or abbreviations used for their name or address. Good address management includes standardizing each address so that each element is similarly formatted regarding abbreviations. This makes it easier to find and remove or merge these duplicate addresses. Even loyal customers would prefer not to receive duplicates of a mailing piece, catalog or other message.

The mailing industry provides valuable benefits to vendors and customers, and it must continue to work hard to make sure that onerous Do Not Mail legislation is not passed. Good address management and white-hat mailing practices will ensure that your mail is welcome.

Randy Hoefer is Vice President of Research and Product Strategy for Satori Software, Inc., a developer of industry-leading address management solutions, which include address verification and postal presorting. For more information, visit www.satorisoftware.com or call 206-357-2900.