Category Archives: Data Processing

Resident VS Consumer: Which List Do You Need?

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With any direct mail campaign, one of the most critical components is the list. If you’re not mailing to your customer data base, then that means you need to purchase a mailing list. But how do you know which one is right for you? And what are the different types? In this blog, we’re gonna look at two different ones. Before diving into the specifics of both a consumer and resident list, let’s first lay the groundwork by defining what the difference is between the two.

Consumer and Resident Lists

A resident list is a compilation of records based on housing addresses. So this list would give you the house address, city, state and zip code. And if you would like, you can also buy the name of the resident associated with the address. When selecting a resident list you can filter categories of the type of residency. These are: single family dwelling, city routes, multiple family dwelling, rural routes, trailers, businesses and PO boxes. Something important to remember is this: it does’t provide any further information about the residents living at these addresses. It only provides information about the type of residency.


type of list

If you want to choose a list about the specifics of the people living at the address, then you’d look into a consumer list. This type of list can select records based on the qualifications and requirements you set. You can filter these selections by hundreds of different demographics. Some of the more general categories are: age, gender, home value, household status, income, marital status and housing characteristics. But if diving into something more specific like “individual” for example, you could filter it by: date of birth, education level, number of children, occupation, and voter party preferences.

Pros of a Resident List

Moving on to the positives of each list, there are distinguishable benefits of both types. With a resident list, the most glaring benefit is the cost. Often times, this can be considerably cheaper. And in some cases, even 10x cheaper! With the low cost, it allows you to buy more records than you would be able to with a consumer list. Let’s say you buy 10,000 records at $12/m. That list would only cost you $120. If that was a consumer list with several specifications, it could cost $25/m, which comes out to $250. So in this scenario, you’re getting the same amount of records for only half the cost.

Pros of a Consumer List

On the flip side, how can a consumer list prove to be more beneficial? The most beneficial aspect is the detailed targeting characteristics you can select. Say you’re opening up a new chiropractic clinic in the south side of town. You can select 3,000 people between the ages of 45-70, within a five mile radius of your clinic, who suffer from back pain, and have an income higher than $65k. That’s going to be a pretty effective list! And because it’s so targeted, you don’t have to purchase as many records to reach the goal amount of qualified prospects. In this scenario, you could only mail 3,000 people at $25/m instead of 10,000 people at $12, and still reach the same goal.

Cons of a Resident List

But, what are the downsides to each type of list? To start, the biggest disadvantage of the resident list is that you can’t select specific types of people. You have to just ”blanket” neighborhoods instead of selecting individuals. You can’t narrow it down to the characteristics you need. So if you own a pediatric dentistry and mail 5,000 houses, there’s a good chance that half of those people either don’t have kids living with them, or don’t have kids in the correct age range. You’re wasting a lot of money on people who will never buy your service because it’s not even practical for them. You could save that money and invest it elsewhere.

Cons of a Consumer List

With a consumer list, the biggest negative is the cost. As illustrated earlier, a very specific list with lots of requirements can be up to 10x more expensive! And in some cases, it can be hundreds of dollars for a couple thousand names. The more specific you go, the more expensive it becomes. This can be cost prohibitive if the type of list you need is very specific. The other downside is the selections you make are not always 100% accurate. For example, you could select someone who was in a car accident less than three months ago. Well by the time, their record is updated in a list company’s database, it could be six months past and they’ve already received the help they were looking for. So there is a slight chance you’re paying more for information that isn’t completely up to date.

When Should You Use Each Type of List?

So if you’ve read this far in this blog, you’re probably thinking to yourself, Ryan, just tell me whether I should use a consumer or resident list for my  ____________ (insert mailer description). Okay, okay, here are my recommendations for when each list is appropriate.

I would suggest to use a resident list when the product or service you’re selling or advertising, applies to everybody. For example, a postcard with $15 off your next oil change is great to send to 5,000 residents surrounding your shop. Because pretty much everybody needs to get an oil change for their cars at some point. But if you’re advertising your pool services in an neighborhood where 90% of people don’t have a pool, then that’s not going to be very effective.

A consumer list is great for sales letters, or creative mailers targeting specific types of people. I recommend using a consumer list for most mailings because you can be sure that the right people will always be receiving your piece. This can be especially effective when it is a targeted list. For example, sending a weight loss supplement check mailer to people who have bought similar supplements in the past six months. You can be confident that you’re targeting the right audience.

Regardless of which type of list you choose, spend time weighing the pros and cons. Keep your target recipient in mind and you can make the right choice to make your mailer as successful as possible.

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3 Types Of Evidence Your Pieces Mailed

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Have you ever left for work and suddenly remembered you forgot to lock the door? I know I have, and it’s a nasty feeling. I can’t focus on anything, knowing an intruder might be tearing my place apart and soon dash with my hard-earned property. It feels like things have slipped from my control.

You might feel something similar when you send mail through your mail house. You worry about a flurry of questions: Did the pieces make it to the post office? How do I know they mailed all the pieces? Did they mix my mail with another person’s? Did they mail on the right date? If only you had verification – that’s it. Then you’d have peace of mind and could finish the day knowing all’s okay.

Just breathe. Relax. We got you covered. When you send a mailing out, there are a few ways to prove your mailing made it to the post office and mailed as promised. Here are three ways to know that your pieces mailed.

Postal Verification Form

For whatever postage class you’re mailing, you’ll receive from us a Postal Verification Form, an official document from the USPS that details a number of things about your mailing. It provides information about the number of pieces mailed, the mailer ID, postage class of mailing, postage cost, and much more. We receive this from the Post Office and are happy to send it to you at no extra cost.

Below is an example of a postal verification form.

pieces mailed

Seeding Your List

We also ask that before you send us your mailing list you put “seeds” in it. A seed is a name in your mailing list known only to you. These aren’t necessarily people you want to market to, but just people who’ll receive your mailing. You can make up a name or use a real name and have all the addresses go to a location where you can check on the mailing. Again, you don’t need to tell us anything about these seeds; these are just for you to know that your pieces mailed. It also assures you that your pieces are produced with high quality and accuracy since you will received a “live” mailed piece.

Your Mailed List

After we run your list through our data processing software we can email you that mailed list if you would like. This is the same list we run your envelopes, your cards, your newsletters – whatever – with. And it matches the exact mailed count listed on the Postal Verification Form.

If you have any more questions or would like to know more about direct mail, check out our other blog posts here or give us a call. We’d love to chat.

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What Is NCOA?

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Last summer, my wife and I bought our first house here in Wichita. We bought it from a sweet, old lady named Karen. We love it and have done so much already to improve it and shape it into our home. However, fast forward about eight months to now, and we are still receiving mail in our mailbox with Karen’s name. Why the heck are we still receiving her mail?!

That is where our little friend called National Change of Address or more commonly known as, NCOA, comes into play. Let’s unpack exactly what is NCOA, and why it is important.

What Is NCOA?

It would probably be best to hear it straight from the horse’s mouth:

Every year, approximately forty million Americans move their place of residence and/or business, but their old addresses often remain in mailer’s databases. As a result, mailings continue to go to old addresses and not the new ones.”

The National Change of Address is a secure database containing approximately 160 million permanent change-of-address records. This is maintained by the United States Postal Service who track the records of names and addresses of individuals, families and businesses who have filed a change-of-address with the USPS.

How Does It Work?

With every job, our data processing department performs a series of steps to prepare and clean up your list. Obviously, one of these steps is submitting your list to the NCOA database. Using our exclusive mailing software, we submit all of the records in your list including these fields for each record: “Name,” “Company,” “Address,” and “Zip code” (+ 4 digits if possible). Then the NCOA data base compares and contrasts these records against what it has on file, and makes the necessary changes and returns the list to us with the updated records.

As well as updating the address, it also makes any corrections or address resolutions needed. Depending on the state of the list being submitted, there could be anywhere from 4-5 records changed to 1,000 records changed if it’s in poor shape.

Here is an example of the results of a list after being run through NCOA.

what is ncoa

Why Is It Important?

Let’s look at the importance of running your lists through NCOA with a few simple math problems. “Rob” owns an auto shop, and is mailing a newsletter to his customer list of 3,500. Well, Rob doesn’t NCOA his list and there are 42 undeliverable addresses, 78 people who have moved to a different address in town, and 24 that have moved out of state. So there are now 144 newsletters that he will be paying for, that will not be delivered to the intended recipients. First, from a financial standpoint, he is spending .84 cents per piece, which comes out to a total of $120.96 that he is pretty much throwing in the trash. Secondly, from a marketing standpoint, that is 144 people who aren’t receiving the offer he has in his newsletter. With each potential conversion netting him $45, that’s a lot of revenue he’s missing out on.

As you can see, it is extremely important to have the most current addresses for each and every record. Besides saving you money, the USPS actually requires your list to be NCOA certified if you’re going to be mailing at a discounted rate, i.e. Presort Standard, First Class Presort, etc…

So flashing back to my story about Karen, there could be two causes for why we’re still receiving her mail.

  1. She hasn’t submitted her new address to the USPS database.
  2. These various mailing companies, have not run their lists through NCOA.

If you’ve moved recently and realize that you haven’t submitted your new address to the USPS, here is the link for you to do it.

Just remember,  you don’t want to become a Karen for the person who moves into your old house!

If you’re still scratching your head with the question, “what is NCOA?”, please reach out to us and we would love to teach you more about it.

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What Is Data Processing?

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Let me share with you a scenario that happens every so often when I am giving a customer an estimate or an invoice.They will ask me about the line item simply named “data processing.” So what exactly is data processing? I’m gonna let you in on a little secret…

The list the customer gives us doesn’t magically transform into the list that is mailed out!

Allow me to walk you through the journey of your list. When our customer service representative receives the list from the customer, it is put into a designated folder associated with a job number on our server database. Once the paperwork is made up by the rep, the data processing department is the next stop along the route as the job passes through the shop. One of our data processors accesses the list with our advanced software and then begins to follow a series of steps and check offs that have been developed over years of experience. This list processing checklist covers each and every detail that goes into a developing a final mailed list.

For example, some of these items include: removing duplicates, correcting fields, removing floating fields, updating addresses from NCOA, unifying the case of the text, checking the length of the longest record, postage verification, etc… All in all, there are 31 different items on this checklist that they work through by the time they are done with the list.

This eliminates any opportunity of error for grabbing the wrong list, including bad records and addresses, or even sending an incomplete list. Working through this process can take anywhere from 45 minutes for a cleaned up list, to four or five hours for a complex, messy list. Other factors that can add to the length of the data processing are how many fields are being included with each record or the amount of lists being merged together to form the final mailing list.

If the customer’s spreadsheet list has four or five different tabs or several excel files, that can take a lot of time for our data processors to import into the mailing software we use to presort the lists.

Well, as you can tell, there are a lot of little steps that are taken to ensure your mailed lists are as accurate as possible. Because these steps are executed correctly, we can provide the best mailing list for your direct mail campaign.

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