Your customers are the most important asset of your business. There's no denying it. Whether they've made a recent purchase or haven't been seen in a while, these people are familiar with your company and are most likely to bring you future business. Marketing to your customers several times a year just makes good business sense, and direct mail is a great way to reach them.
Every year, an estimated 40 million individuals move to a new residence. Most likely, your company is not on top of the list of who they need to notify. You may not be on that list at all. If you are using direct mail marketing based on your customer list, it is critical that you get their new addresses before mailing to ensure timely and accurate delivery. This holds true whether your customer base consists of consumers or other businesses. While companies don't move as often as individuals, some do and we certainly know that some simply go out of business.
There are numerous benefits of getting current address information for people and firms on your mailing list. They all have an impact on the potential success and return on investment (ROI) of your direct mail efforts. To illustrate this point, let's review how the U.S. Postal Service handles mail sent to someone at an old address when a Change-Of-Address Notice has been submitted. First, handling depends on your postage class, First Class or Standard (Bulk) Mail.
First Class Mail
- At no additional charge to you, the Postal Service forwards pieces to a new address only for the first 12 months after a move. However, unless you use an Ancillary Service Endorsement, you don't find out what that address is. (We'll talk about ASEs later)
- For the next 6 months, instead of forwarding your mail piece, they return it to you with a label that shows the new address.
- Starting in month 19, the labels on returned pieces simply say "Forwarding Order Expired" or "Not Deliverable As Addressed".
Standard (Bulk) Mail
- Starting with the first day after a move, Standard Mail is not forwarded or returned unless you use an Ancillary Service Endorsement and pay an additional fee for each returned or forwarded piece. The Postal Service "wastes" these Undeliverable As Addressed (UAA) pieces through their award-winning and internationally recognized recycling program.
So, how does this impact your direct mail success? Forwarded mail is delayed in getting to customers so they may miss your special event or sale. Returned mailers that don't contain new addresses and pieces that are recycled by the Postal Service become money you've wasted on printing, mailing service fees and postage. On top of that, there's the lost opportunity to make a sale to those folks that never received your marketing piece. Now, if you could take a few easy steps to eliminate these costly consequences before mailing, of course you'd jump at the chance!
The Postal Service has a significant vested interest in your direct mail success and in reducing UAA mail which costs almost $2 billion each year to handle. They have developed several tools that will meet their goals while helping you achieve more lucrative mailings. The recommended best-practice is to update your list BEFORE sending your mail. This strategy serves to avoid mail forwarding delays while saving you money by removing recipients that have moved and left no forwarding address.
NCOALink® is a database of the change-of-address (COA) notices submitted to the Postal Service during the last 48 months. This file includes the old "moved from" and the new "moved to" addresses, as well as moves with no forwarding address. NCOALink® processing matches your mailing list to this file before your mail is sent. When a match is identified, records with new addresses are updated and those listed as moves without a new address are deleted. You end up with a list that has the highest chance of accurate and timely delivery with minimal wasted postage.
There are two options for NCOALink®, a Limited Service that uses the last 18 months of the COA file and a Full Service that uses all 48 months. While not provided directly by the Postal Service, these services are available through approved NCOALink® Licensees. Charges for NCOALink® processing vary, but the Full Service is generally more costly than the Limited Service. Modern Postcard offers both options. You can contact our Customer Care team or a Direct Marketing Specialist for pricing and further details. They can be reached at 1-800-959-8365.
Ancillary Service Endorsement
Another approach is to make POST-MAILING corrections to your list, but this strategy only helps your ROI on future mailings. By placing an Ancillary Service Endorsement on your mail pieces, you instruct the Postal Service on how you want them to handle mail that is undeliverable to the original addressee. The endorsement you select is printed on the address side of your mail piece and is recognized by Postal Service mail processing equipment. The most common endorsements are:
Return Service Requested
- The mail will be sent back to you instead of being forwarded or recycled.
- Each piece will have a sticker showing the new address for the first 18 months after the move occurred.
- After 18 months or if the mail is completely undeliverable, the sticker will show Forwarding Order Expired or Undeliverable as Addressed.
- This option is FREE when mailing First Class while Standard Mail has a fee of 50¢ for each returned piece.
Address Service Requested
- For First Class, mail is still forwarded for the first 12 months after a move. However, during this period you will be mailed a separate printed notification of the new address.
- Your cost for this service is 50¢ per returned notification. This fee will be "Postage Due" and collected by your Letter Carrier upon delivery.
- From months 13-18 after the move, the original piece will be returned to you at no charge with a label showing the new address.
- If a piece is completely undeliverable, it will be returned to you at no charge with the notation Forwarding Order Expired or Undeliverable as Addressed.
- This is a less desirable endorsement for Standard Mail due to an additional fee that is charged for the forwarding of pieces for the first 12 months.
Committing to a smart address updating strategy will pay big dividends in your direct mail marketing. Your customers are important to you…make sure you keep up with them when they move.