Hello… is anyone at home?

Hello… is anyone at home?

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.

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

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