Mailing 101: List Maintenance

If you’ve done a lot of direct mail, you are acutely aware of how much you spend on postage.  It’s generally the most costly portion of any direct mail campaign.  So any measures you can take to reduce postage costs should be carefully considered, right?

Well, ask Joy (our CEO) or any one of our Marketing Consultants and they will all tell you to be repetitive with your mailings.  Why? You need to keep yourself in front of people so they’ll think of you next time they need your services.  That usually means you’re mailing to the same list over and over again.

If you send your cards out First Class, you know how many undeliverables you get.  The postal system is imperfect and even though you check all the addresses on your list (hopefully using a USPS-approved address validation system), you will still receive a handful of returns.

The question becomes: “What should I do with these returns?”

There are two options: (1) you can leave them in the list and keep mailing to them or (2) you can remove them from the list.

If you keep mailing to them, chances are they’ll keep coming back to you and you’ll pay postage on them every time.  If you don’t plan on using your list many times you may choose this option.  However, if you’re going to continue using the list for some time, it makes sense and saves money to remove those undeliverable addresses from the list.

If you choose to remove them, make sure you take note of the reason the Post Office gives for returning the card.  These reasons are usually noted on the card, sometimes on a yellow sticker.  If it is simply vacant, you may want to keep the address in your list and hope someone moves into that address soon — especially when addressing your mail to the “Current Resident” or “Current Business”. However, if it simply says “undeliverable as addressed” you’re better off removing it.

Here’s a few ways to clean the undeliverables from your list:

1. Hire someone to go through and delete each record one by one.

How much do you save by doing this?  If you pay the person doing the list deletions $10 per hour and it takes them an hour to delete 300 addresses and you planned on mailing to that list another six times, you paid $10 to save approximately $360 in postage (if mailing 4×6 postcards). Well worth it!!

2. Buy a barcode scanner

A Barcode scanner can upload the address on the postcard into a file on your computer simply by scanning the barcode. Be sure to get one that can read an Intelligent Mail Barcode (IMB).  You’ll probably spend a few hundred dollars on a scanner.  But then the same 300 pieces will only take 15-20 minutes to scan.  You can then send us the file and we’ll purge those addresses from your mailing list.  And you can do this with every list you ever use.

3. If you work with a mail-house, see if they have the option to ship the returned cards and have them remove the addresses from your list.

In any case you’ll save quite a pretty penny on postage when you send out subsequent mailings using that mailing list.


Keep mailing smarter,


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