CoviDirect Mail best practice

CoviDirect Mail best practice

Simon McLaven, CEO of The Ark 

This year we have seen the shocking death toll from Coronavirus and are still witnessing its devastating effect on much of the UK economy. Everyone has been, and continues to be, affected by the pandemic. 

As we work towards the new normal, I have spoken to numerous marketing practitioners many of whom are facing a similar challenge – the need to increase direct mail activity in order to recover revenue lost during the last six months and more significantly, remain sensitive to the mood of the country. 

In the planning of a direct mail campaign, it’s important to know that mailing deceased individuals can not only lead to a costly GDPR breach; but is also one of the most frequent complaints received by the Information Commissioner. 

No one wants to cause distress through their marketing activities, particularly while the whole country is feeling vulnerable. Mailing deceased records can also damage your brand reputation and, right now, you really need to be building strong relationships. 

Today more than ever, it’s critical to make sure that mailing files contain as few deceased records as possible, preferably none. The question I frequently hear is – can I do more to stop mail arriving with a recently bereaved relative? 

Unless you are already using The Ark for deceased suppressions, the answer is almost certainly – Yes, you can do more. Here are 4 things to think about when planning your data suppression: 

1. Ensure your suppression strategy has comprehensive coverage 

You may well work for one of the many companies who license just one deceased suppression file. If so, you could unknowingly be putting your brands at risk. A single source of deceased data rarely provides the complete coverage that you need and the differences between deceased suppression files can be significant. 

Evaluations of The National Deceased Register – exclusive to The Ark – shows that more than 30% of its data, about a third of deceased individuals, do not appear in other deceased suppression file. If you’re not using The National Deceased Register, you could be at risk of mailing a significant number of deceased individuals in your database.

 

2. Remain in control of key decisions about your data when outsourcing 

Even if you’re outsourcing to a good data processing bureau, keep in touch with them regularly to make sure you fully understand which deceased suppression files are being used for your mailing. It is vital to stay in control of what happens to your data. The data controller is obliged to protect personal data against loss or compromise and have clear, legally ratified, agreements in place with the processor so that the processor can only act on the instructions of the controller. Clearly, abdicating responsibility for data screening or being unaware that screening is not being done properly, is contrary to GDPR and therefore contrary to the law. The cost of a data breach can be up to €20 million – about £18 million –  or 4% of annual global turnover whichever is greater. As a data controller, you can’t afford to be ignorant about data processing.

 

3. Don’t bypass stringent data checks and processes 

The direct mail process is losing experience and continuity in this Covid 19 era. 

Marketing teams are becoming fragmented through redundancy and furlough. As remaining staff work from home without the immediate support of experienced colleagues, attention to deceased suppression could easily fall through the net; this can be exacerbated if there is pressure to implement campaigns quickly to help businesses recover. 

Companies rushing to market while unknowingly mailing deceased individuals could see their brand reputation seriously damaged.

 

4. Always test your suppression strategy 

All deceased suppression files have a level of overlap, however The Ark’s file holds more than 90% of all deaths. We will work with you to provide a free evaluation of your data as part of our commitment to helping you minimize the risk of mailing deceased individuals. 

Management information gained from this type of test match will demonstrate how many deceased customer records are not being identified using your current deceased suppression, as well as showing the significant savings available. 

One of the UK’s largest insurers recently carried out such a test and found that, of its database of 22 million records, almost 100,000 individuals, flagged as live, were actually deceased. This worryingly large number had gone undetected by all the suppression files it had previously relied upon to keep its data up-to-date. 

 

It is so important at this time that customers can rely on their personal data being treated with respect. Mailing the deceased and upsetting newly bereaved families is a surefire way to destroy the brand loyalty and values that you have worked so hard to build. 

We at The Ark, see the bigger picture; spending a small amount of money can protect your customers’ families and protect your brand reputation.

New whitepaper gives lowdown on your GDPR suppression obligations and opportunities

New whitepaper gives lowdown on your GDPR suppression obligations and opportunities

We’ve just published a new whitepaper in conjunction with DataIQ to help steer your GDPR preparations, including a detailed suppression strategy checklist.

We are delighted to offer you a free-of-charge, independently written whitepaper that gives you the lowdown on the role of data suppression in GDPR compliance, including a detailed suppression strategy checklist to get your preparations on the right track.

The GDPR will be enforced from May 2018 with data accuracy as one of its core principles. It requires that organisations keep customers’ personal information up-to-date and that any inaccuracies be corrected or deleted as quickly as possible. Suppressing the records of deceased customers and updating those of home-movers are inherent obligations, and failure to do so could incur a fine of 2% of global turnover.

Our CEO, Simon McLaven, comments: “Many marketers are occupied with the high-profile elements of the GDPR such as consent and privacy, but they should not overlook the fundamentals of data accuracy. Poor quality databases have long been the bane of marketing but now they could put you on the wrong side of the law.

“Under the GDPR, all types of marketers – including digital and B2B – need to screen their data using suppression files. In our experience, many companies think that they have suppression covered but usually they lack insight into its performance and may well find that their strategy isn’t actually GDPR-compliant.”

Our new whitepaper examines the Regulation in detail and illustrates how you can use suppression files to adhere to the GDPR but also to deliver tangible commercial payback, for instance by improving your campaign performance, reducing costs, boosting customer engagement and protecting brand reputation.

The whitepaper is free to download here.

 

 

Paranormal direct mail activity

Paranormal direct mail activity

Some marketers seem determined to make contact with the other side, offering credit cards, discounts and special offers to the deceased.  It would be an incredible achievement on the part of the marketer to get any take up on the campaign from someone who is no longer living, so why do some companies not remove the deceased from their mailing lists?

There is a potential issue of fraud and identity theft here; reports of direct mail being sent to people who have died appear in the media with alarming regularity, and according to a study conducted by Wilmington Millennium with ex-offenders, 79% of these people believed that identity theft was an easy way to obtain cash fraudulently.  Fraudsters intercept credit card offers and similar pieces of direct mail after checking obituaries or graveyard activity, and use these details to open credit accounts and run up a huge bill using the personal details of someone who has died.  This is very distressing to the relatives of the deceased, as they are left to deal with the authorities alongside the bereavement process.

As well as the issue of criminal activity related to these erroneously sent communications, there is also the issue of negative impact on the reputation of a company that continues to mail out to the deceased.  Elderly relatives that lived in a family home will have played a very important part in daily family life, and to be reminded of that loss with every piece of direct mail can be distressing for the family left behind.  Dealing with unsubscribing from these companies’ mailing lists will not be a priority for the family, so the responsibility for managing the removal of the deceased from the mailing lists rests firmly with the marketer.  When you consider that around two thirds of people would not consider dealing with a company that has sent direct mail to a deceased relative, it is even more important to get a removal process in place.

Companies whose products and services are aimed at the elderly have a much greater responsibility than most to get this right, as their database will have a higher proportion of deceased contacts (and goneaways where the elderly person has moved into a residential or nursing home) than most.   Charities are especially susceptible to a high rate of deceased records due to the older average age of their donors, so proactively managing the suppression process and managing final communications can improve the brand image, whilst addressing the need for removing the deceased and goneaways from their databases.  Charities can take the opportunity to pay tribute to a valuable donor; an action that can provide comfort for the relatives in a distressing time and potentially recruit new donors to continue the good work that was funded by the late donor.  It is a sensitive issue, but when managed correctly can lead to more donors, and a positive reinforcement of the brand image.

Using up to date deceased contact lists is not an onerous task and the small effort required to make sure the database is cleansed against this list, far outweighs the potential negatives of leaving people on there that can no longer receive or read mail.  With that in mind, can any organisation really afford to overlook such a simple, yet important component of data hygiene strategy?

Is it ever acceptable to knowingly mail deceased or gone away customers?

Is it ever acceptable to knowingly mail deceased or gone away customers?

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.

Martin Jaggard
Managing Director

It’s a question of affordability

It’s a question of affordability

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?

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