Posted Friday, January 28, 2005
HOW YOUR LIST AFFECTS POSTAGE COSTS AND WHAT YOU CAN DO ABOUT IT!
The quality and accuracy of address information in mailing lists is one of the areas least understood and largely overlooked by most businesses using direct mail. To get an advertising message delivered the address must be correct! Many firms that use direct mail neglect this vital aspect. Is there a “printing” mentality of creating “one” and reproducing it “thousands” of times? The “one to one” aspect of valuing each individual’s information must be applied to every single record in a list.
Quality data entry and following input guidelines consistently generates accurate street, city, province and postal code information. Consistent data entry also improves the ability to match records and eliminate duplicates. Every duplicate mailed results in a poor company image and costs double in printing, mail processing and postage to reach the same person twice. Direct marketers need to be concerned about how many duplicates are in the list, determine how much it is costing and ask what can be done about it!
What may look like a correct address may not be true when compared against the Canada Post master list of all addresses in Canada. To receive the reduced postage rate for mailings of 5,000 or more, a list will go through a computer process to verify or “validate” that the addresses are deliverable. It must show a 95% rate of accuracy to qualify for the usual postage. A penalty of 5 cents each will be added to the regular postage cost for those records below 95%. What does this mean? On a mailing of 20,000 records, attaining an accuracy rating of 75% is 20% below the required percentage. 20% of 20,000 records is 4,000 invalid records x 5 cents = $200 additional in postage to send out mail that may not get delivered.
If it costs approximately $1.00 per record for printing, mail processing and postage for 4,000 addresses that may end up in the recycle bin anyway, you have now spent $4,200 more on your mailing with no sales results. It is cost effective to look at those records deemed “invalid” and correct or eliminate them before your next mailout.
Records are deemed “invalid” when the street, city, province and postal code information do not reflect a “deliverable” destination and can be caused by any of the factors listed below.
Common Errors Affecting Address Accuracy
* Obsolete postal codes
* Invalid or missing postal codes
* No street direction included in address
* Numbered street name entered incorrectly
* Station qualifiers missing for post office boxes and rural routes
* Non address information in address fields
* Unusual characters and unnecessary punctuation
Obsolete postal codes Many rural delivery services have been restructured by Canada Post and now include the civic address and/or a new postal code. Re-development and growth of older urban areas, amalgamation of towns and growth of urban areas can create restructuring resulting in new postal codes being assigned. Therefore, addresses that were once correct may now be out of date and undeliverable.
Invalid or missing postal codes Data entry of postal codes could be incorrect or not included at all! The postal code can be tricky to input. Here is how a postal code should be input: V6P 2K7. There should be no hyphen between the first 3 and the last 3 characters, simply put one space not two or none and use capitals for the letters.
No street direction included in address You must specify the complete direction of an address. Examples:
34 AVE NE 800 GEORGIA ST W 24 ST E
There may be a 34 AVE NW so if it is input as 34 AVE or 34 AVE N, the postal code will not match. There could be an 800 GEORGIA ST E so without the full address and the right direction the record may be deemed “invalid”.
Numbered street name entered incorrectly Treat numbered streets like any other street name and enter them like this: 468 23 ST Do no put “23rd St”. That is old fashioned and confuses computer programs. Same goes for 25th, 22nd and 1st. Numbered streets with a letter attached to it like “23A ST” should have the “A” right next to the number.
Spelling errors Street names, city names and provinces must be spelled correctly. Streets like “Georgia” often appear as “Georgai”, cities like “Mississauga” or “Tsawwassen” can easily be misspelled. And provinces should be two letters only, with no punctuation. This has created confusion as previously there were province abbreviations like Alta for Alberta which is now AB. Nfld for Newfoundland which is now NL (and this has recently been changed from NF)!
Station qualifiers missing for post office boxes and rural routes A postal station is identified by a “station qualifier”. Example: PO Box 436 STN C. The station qualifier “STN C” must be present along with the PO Box 436. There could be 20 postal stations in a city with a PO Box 436, but STN C tells the post office in which outlet the PO Box is located. Be sure and include that part!
There are also retail postal outlets in office buildings, 7-11 Stores, etc. The qualifier is usually an “RPO” designation. Example: PO Box 457 RPO Bentall
Rural addresses must include the “station”. RR 4 STN MAIN
Non address information in address fields Non delivery information such as the name of a building like “The Pender Building” is not considered to be “delivery information” and will confuse the Address Validation and Correction program. If you wish to include the building name, place it in the field above the actual street info. Computer processes read addresses from the bottom up starting with the postal code, province, city, street2, street1 information in that order.
Unusual characters and punctuation The post office uses high speed scanners to process machineable mail. A number sign # should not appear in the address.
Rural addresses like “R.R. #5 STN MAIN” should be input as “RR 5 STN MAIN”.
COMP 52 SITE 13 RR 5 is more easily scanned and matched than COMP. 52, SITE 13, RR #5. This format also saves keystrokes on data entry!
Commas and unnecessary inclusion of the period (.) should be avoided as scanners are looking for letters and numbers only.
Preferred input style for apartments: 345 MAIN ST APT 301 Acceptable style: 301 – 345 MAIN ST
When an address relates to a “4th floor” rather than a suite input it as: 400 – 341 MAIN ST or else place the “4th floor” in the street1 field and “345 MAIN ST” in the street2 field.
WHAT YOU CAN DO NOW
1. Create quality data entry guidelines and maintain consistency of data entry.
2. Keep your list current and have it run through the Address Correction and Validation program at least once a year no matter what size your list is. This procedure will “correct” or “reformat” most addresses and generate a report showing your percentage of Address Accuracy. The updated list will include a new field coded in such a way to show which records were “corrected” and are “invalid”. You may then take action to update your database.
3. Eliminate duplicates with your updated, refreshed and reformatted addresses to save yourself lots of money on your next mailing.
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 (www.bulkmailcanada.com) for more bulk mail information and free tips on how to mail in large volume.
Tel: 604-729-1300 Email: email@example.com