Complacency when it comes to data suppression could be sabotaging your campaign performance and may also derail your GDPR compliance plans.
That’s the reality facing even those marketers who already use deceased and gone-away suppression services but who do not regularly evaluate their providers and put the health of their databases to the test.
Holding out-of-date records (whether knowingly or not) is a clear infringement of several key areas of GDPR, not least the basic principle of data accuracy. What’s more, you need to demonstrate compliance – and that means being able to prove the effectiveness of your suppression solution.
So what are the starting points to creating a watertight suppression strategy?
Guard against inertia
Despite the widely adopted practice of supplier switching in the consumer arena to reduce costs or improve services, there is often much resistance within businesses. This may be because the decision-makers are also responsible for implementation and it is simply easier to stick with the status quo rather than tinker with something that is deemed to be working. Sometimes there is also the perception that change would cause unnecessary upheaval to the wider IT systems in which suppression is embedded.
Whatever the reason, relying on outdated legacy suppression files will certainly result in deceased and goneaway data slipping through the net.
Your chosen suppression files should be evaluated regularly to make sure they are doing their job – reducing campaign wastage, providing the building blocks for advanced data insight and keeping you compliant.
Be rigorous in supplier management
In our experience, much of the procurement decision-making in suppression is still reliant on human judgement rather than an objective data evaluation. But GDPR (and the threat of large fines) is likely to change this.
Each organisation needs to have a structured approach to supplier evaluation, selection and review. This should be underpinned by clearly defined criteria and well communicated processes, so that you can make evidence-based decisions that will stand up to scrutiny. Indeed the evaluation in itself would provide valuable supporting evidence to the ICO that you are taking proactive steps to keep your databases as clean and compliant as possible.
Don’t put all your eggs in one basket
Every supplier of suppression data should be included in your evaluation. This is because relying on a single file rarely identifies all known deceased, and it is simply wrong to claim otherwise. Although there is a degree of overlap, each file is created from different data sources and you need to understand how they vary in terms of data provenance, verification method, speed to market and proportion of unique records.
Take the example of one of the country’s largest general and life insurers. They recently evaluated our flagship product, the National Deceased Register (NDR), and found 89,000 deceased customers that had gone undetected by the two deceased suppression files they had been relying on for decades. This clearly illustrates the risks of relying on legacy suppression files without evaluating newer entrants in the market.
Plus, suppression services are evolving with new, innovative products coming on to market so keeping on top of the latest developments will ensure you remain ahead in data strategy.
Beware ‘biggest is best’ claims
One of the most misleading selling points from data suppliers is file size. We are proud to say that a recent independent evaluation of the main files on the market revealed the NDR as having the highest proportion of unique records despite being the smallest file.
So why does file size vary so dramatically? Some include records that date back to the mid-1980s, whereas we have chosen only to include deaths notified from the turn of the century. It is our view that older data is redundant because any organisation that has licensed suppression files in the past will already have flagged or deleted these customers. Also, some files are inflated by the inclusion of individuals who are thought to have died but where further verification is necessary. We stringently check our data and filter out those that remain unconfirmed.
If you would like to evaluate your data simply download our free evaluation tool here. You can download our new whitepaper on GDPR compliance and the role of data suppression here.
If you knock at the front door of one of your customers you will know when they answer whether they are the person you are trying to reach, but how do you ascertain whether your direct mail communications are reaching the right person when you can’t visit each and every home you are contacting?
Thousands of people move home (in some cases leaving the country altogether) every year and this figure is increasing, but the lowest priority these people have is updating their contact details with every company they have ever done business with; updating address details with banks, credit card companies, utility suppliers, mobile phone providers, loyalty cards, pension providers, solicitors etc. can be a mammoth task alongside the general hassle of moving house. Perceived as an unimportant activity for a mover, it is unsurprising that customers fail to inform companies about a change of address.
The incoming tenant often has to deal with months of unwanted post addressed to people that have long since moved away, and many people throw this away instead of returning it to the original sender. Although a lot of direct mail is returned each year as a result of house moves and people wishing to unsubscribe from future mailings, there is a huge amount of direct mail that disappears into landfill, never reaching the intended recipient nor making its way back to the sender for removal. Further to this, many companies never action these returns, or take so long doing so that sending continues, despite having the information that some people have moved or do not wish to receive any further communications. This inaction on the part of the originating company can lead to negative perceptions of the business and its practices.
Research by The Software Bureau indicates that each piece of returned mail costs the originating company £4, yet many companies continue to print and send mail to these obsolete addresses, quickly amassing a huge bill that could be avoided through undertaking regular database cleansing. Estimates put a figure of 40% of returned mail being due to unsubscription requests, and 60% being due to goneaways. Printing and sending communications to addresses that are no longer related to a genuine customer is a waste of money and resources; funds and time that could be more efficiently assigned to attaining a cleaner and more reliable database.
One reason businesses do not remove goneaways from their databases is to avoid incurring the associated costs, but this is a short-sighted view as the costs of continuing to mail people who are not there will far outweigh that of keeping the database clean. Using a cleansing file like Re-mover means your database will be up to date to within one month of all house moves at any given time – that is much quicker than relying on new tenants to return the odd bit of unwanted post. If a direct mail campaign involves sending several iterations or reminders about a service, there is every chance that time and money has been invested in contacting a customer who has moved. If the new tenant then eventually returns all the unwanted mail you could be looking at a cost of £40 per record over a period of a few months – this adds up fast and cuts into the available marketing budget as well as skewing ROI figures.
Companies that regularly use Re-mover and other suppression files will see a much better return on investment from their campaigns, a lower overall campaign cost (due to reduced print and postage costs) and a much better reputation for not sending unwanted or irrelevant postal communications.
During my time in the direct marketing and data industry I’ve heard first hand from several companies who (in some cases proudly) claim to knowingly mail households where the customer has died or gone away. For some this is simply a matter of not wanting to spend budget on cleaning up their act, whilst for others their justification is based on response rates.
If response rates truly are that good one has to wonder why? Is it a factor of using inaccurate suppression data or (as some of the mailers claim) simply that the current occupier of the property will probably be a similar profile to the (now departed) customer and buy their products anyway?
Whatever the “justification” is it morally right to knowingly mail these records? The FCA, British Bankers Association and the ICO would not support or endorse these practices. It’s especially wrong when the communication contains sensitive personal information which can be used by those who are minded to commit fraud or other devious acts. This aside, the distress caused by continually mailing the relatives of a deceased loved one is something any marketing manager should be extremely wary of. The Daily Mail awaits it’s next victim ……..
For us the act of mailing deceased or gone away customers / prospects is inexcusable given the tools available to any company who wants to do the right thing. By carefully selecting the right suppression files (those with a proven accuracy , not just the same old files you might be familiar with), we can help businesses to de-risk their marketing activities and save them money. We’ve all seen for ourselves what happens when an industry turns a blind eye to best practice and compliance and leaves the decision making process to external 3rd parties – I’m sure all those in the charity sector would love to be able to turn the clock back and have another go at recruiting new donors – if they could. The same could yet happen to those businesses who still won’t do the right thing – it’s probably only a matter of time before they get their knuckles rapped.
So, for anyone who still isn’t convinced that suppressing deceased and gone away records is a good thing – please get in touch – I’d really love to have that debate with you.
The National Deceased Register has proven to deliver between 30% and 50% unique data when compared to other deceased suppression files available in the market. To give you some idea, a recent match to the customer base of a large and well known insurance company (who have been using other sources of deceased data for many years) revealed a further 135,000 deceased records on their customer database that they simply weren’t previously aware of, raising the following questions:-
- Can you afford to continue mailing people who are dead on your database? For the above client this cost equated to over £400,000 per annum, not an amount to be sniffed at
- What if just one of the relatives of those 135,000 people complains that you are continuing to mail their loved one long after they has passed away, causing them further upset. Can you afford that type of damage to your brand? Especially with a number of the mainstream press now highlighting the issue of mailing the deceased, this kind of pressure from the press has led UK banks to work harder to stop mailing the deceased as it’s a risk they can no longer afford to ignore
- If your customer mailings contain any amount of personal and confidential information you could well be gifting identity thieves the means to fraudulently steal from your customer and their relatives. It’s the largest and fastest growing crime in the UK not something any of us can afford
- What about your own customer analysis? All successfully businesses rely on the depth and quality of information contained within their customer base to make informed decisions and strategies to the benefit of their customers and themselves. So what if a large percentage of that customer base is dead or have moved – how does that affect your decision making?
Set against the relatively small cost of removing deceased and goneaways from your customer base is it really something that you can afford not to do and as The National Deceased Register contains so much unique data when compared to its 2 main competitors can you afford to ignore it and not run an evaluation of your own in order to find out for yourself?