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Pre-Cleaning and Updating Addresses in Your Database

By Sasha Peters
Posted Friday, January 28, 2005

When you send a direct mail piece using the Addressed Admail reduced postage option, it can cost you anywhere from 60 cents to $1.25 or more for printing, mail production and postage. Items that cannot be delivered will be “recycled” by Canada Post resulting in your money going down the drain. Not only that, without updating your database you will continue to spend money on undeliverable advertising.

It makes $ense for you to spend time analyzing your database to check delivery information before sending it out for data processing and to update your list regularly.

How to Pre-Clean Addresses

No matter how large your list is please take some time to do the following:

1. Sort your list by city. Scroll through for obvious mis-spellings

2. Sort your list by province. Ensure you have the two letter designations for each province with no punctuation and match the city to the province.

3. Sort your list by postal code: a. Missing postal codes will rise to the top – look them up. b. Scroll through and check that all postal codes begin with a letter not a number. c. Ensure postal codes have one space between the first three alphanumeric characters – not a hyphen or two spaces. d. Verify that the first letter of the postal code is the right letter for the province. Here is a link to the Canada Post website to view a map of Canada showing the first character of the postal code for each province. (

By doing some “pre-cleaning” you will reach a higher percentage of accuracy and increase the odds of having your message delivered.

Updating Address Information

When a customer or prospect moves without notifying you, there are four ways to update your database.

1. Call each one and verify their address – very time consuming method but accurate.

2. Pay to have your list compared against a database of all registered moves within the last 5 years (NCOA – National Change of Address) – not very accurate as the name field must match exactly.

3. We recommend using the Return to Sender service initiated by printing the Return Postage Guaranteed postal indicia on your mail piece – you will receive undeliverable mail back. Cost: $0.75-$1.50 each. You can then delete them from your database or telephone and get the new address.

4. Use the Address Correction service by printing that postal indicia on your mail piece – you will receive it back with the new address or be given a reason for non delivery. Cost: $1.00-$1.75 each. This service is similar to the NCOA process in No. 2 above and we don’t recommend using it. One reason is you will pay 25 cents more to get undeliverable mail returned only to learn they have moved if the post office cannot find a new address.

You may pay a little more for using a high quality data processing firm to handle your database hygiene but the results are in the output and deliverability. The better ones have compiled internal processes to catch as many problems as possible and will save you money in the long run.

All About Mail is in the business of helping you save money on your direct mail costs.

About the Author
This report was written by Sasha Peters who has 16 years experience in the direct mail industry. She is the author of Smooth MAILING, a comprehensive guidebook for using Addressed Admail in Canada. Visit their website at ( for more information and learn how the new publication “Smooth Mailing” can help you! Tel: 604-729-1300


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