Having been actively involved in the direct mail industry for almost 30 years now, I find one constant message that I have been preaching since the beginning — it’s ALL about the data. Sure, all of the other elements are important in any direct mail campaign: creative design, relevant content, a strong call-to-action, but it all starts with the quality and integrity of the data. Without good, solid data, you’re starting right out of the gate at a disadvantage. I’m constantly amazed at how often people overlook or even ignore the quality of their data. It’s almost as if it’s just an inconvenience for them to have to deal with it and most of their interest is in the other aspects of the campaign. Let’s face it: there’s nothing glamorous about data. It’s behind the scenes, never fully recognized for the crucial role it plays in any campaign. But remember this: data is king, and the success of any sales or marketing initiatives is completely reliant upon it. Heck, you could maintain that it’s the foundation of any organization.

Sure, you might argue that all this is just common sense, but I can tell you for a fact that large amounts of poor data still exist in countless systems out there in organizations of all sizes. It’s time to stop ignoring the data and start actively managing it. One way to start is simply by following best practices with regard to data hygiene. The single biggest reason why all organizations should practice good data hygiene is, in the eyes of many leaders, the most important: the mighty dollar. Good data means less money wasted on poor campaigns and less money spent on trying to fix the issue later on. Good data will lead to better conversion rates, so you can quickly find out what is working and what isn’t and spend your marketing dollars more effectively.

As mailers, it is our responsibility to make a conscious effort to spread the word to all of our clients. We have a multitude of tools available to us to assist them with keeping their databases clean and updated. A standard part of our data certification process is an 18-month NCOA (National Change of Address) which has become a mandatory requirement of the USPS in order to qualify for postage discounts. We also have the ability to go back as far as 48 months should it be deemed appropriate.

Another area of expertise we offer to clients is deduping. Sure, we can just click a button and search for exact record matches, but why not take it to the next level? There is a series of built in logic that can be applied to the data we receive. When is the last time you dug deeper, by, say, purging a ‘Bill’ in place of a ‘William’? Once again, my point is that we have vast capabilities amongst us as the experts in handling a client’s data for them. Why not go the distance?

There is a wealth of information, most specifically changes to data that we encompass every day. Here’s the kicker how often does that data make it back to the client so they can then update their database? I can tell you that most clients are not handling the data certification process themselves, so the only way they could update their information is if we, as mailers, provide it back to them after we complete our processing. We need to make a concentrated effort to assist them in feeding that data back upstream into their respective systems.

Putting a procedure in place for managing data is critical. It’s always best to have a single database administrator that is responsible for maintaining the integrity of the data. Sometimes having too many hands in the pot can be counter-productive and can lead to inconsistent data management. There should be written procedures in place and clear timelines as to precisely how and when changes to the database are to be made.

Dave Wacker is the founder of Intech Printing & Direct Mail, Inc, BestPrintingOnline.com and Printing Software Solutions, LLC. He can be reached at 239.643.3430 ext. 375 or dave@intechprinting.com.