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Top tips in data suppression

By Scott Scott Evans

February 14, 2012 | 5 min read

Scott Evans, head of data at Charterhouse, explores the actions marketers must take to reach the right person every time.

When it comes to targeted communications, many marketers’ first thought is of segmentation – defining the groups most receptive to the message based on criteria such as age, gender, income and interests. Another is how to get the greatest ROI on the campaign, and for this it is essential to start with entirely accurate data.

It’s an uphill struggle trying to keep up with consumers. Thousands of people change jobs, get married, have children, move house and pass away every day. Yet, with increasing pressure on marketers to do more with less and deliver a powerful ROI, it can no longer be the Holy Grail; ensuring the right messages reach the right people is now vital.

Industry Suppression Files are one of the most trusted tools to manage this, but there is a vast number to choose from and they need to be refreshed regularly. Drilling down into this data also requires specialist expertise, but the price of not doing so is enough to make any marketing director's eyes water; incorrectly addressed mail costs UK businesses around £50m every year.

Incorporating data suppression into direct mail (DM) can achieve thousands of pounds in cost savings per campaign, improve brand reputation and contribute to environmental policies by minimising waste. Many marketers are also opting for smaller runs of digitally printed DM that is highly targeted and integrated with other mediums such as eCRM, to get the most from their marketing efforts.

To get the most out of your data, consider these top tips:

1. Using the right files

Every company has a legal obligation to screen data against the Mailing Preference Service (MPS) no more than 90 days before carrying out a “cold” DM campaign. Existing customers must also be checked for opt-outs.

There are numerous other files to consider, from the Royal Mail's National Change of Address (NCOA) scheme to name changes by deed poll. We recommend using the Royal Mail’s Postal Address File (PAF) as an absolute minimum to validate customer addresses before suppression screening against gone-aways, home movers and deceased. This will avoid the most sensitive errors and the greatest volume.

Also, assess the relative importance of Industry Suppression Files for your business as some may be more relevant than others. This review of what’s necessary will ensure you are fulfilling your legal and moral obligations, as well as maximising ROI.

2. Data management lifecycle

Data management must be a fully integrated component of the DM lifecycle in order to work effectively. As well as consolidating the process into existing activities and streamlining the process, capture live feedback from customers so that their requests are honoured next time.

More and more companies are beginning to realise the benefits of consolidating their online and offline marketing production under one roof. Realigning agency roles and responsibilities can remove a considerable amount of duplication while greatly enhancing brand management.

3. Housekeeping

Databases need to be constantly updated to capture important details and ensure that mail is going to the right homes. In the UK alone, 7.2 million people move house every year – that’s a lot of addresses to potentially get wrong.

Whether you use Industry Suppression Files in-house or through a third party, keep on top of the latest updates, which are issued monthly on average. Anything less frequent is likely to ramp up the cost of campaigns and miss thousands of vital new entries.

Don’t forget your legal obligation to inform customers of certain changes to the business and services, including banking terms and conditions. It is imperative that change of service mailings get to the right people on time.

Direct mail can be one of the most successful tools to spark interest in a brand, with its tangible qualities and the opportunity for genuine targeting. Marketers will only realise its full potential however when paired with accurate data, and ultimately put into the right hands.


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