Database Marketing Tips, National Change of Address

Database Marketing Tips:  NCOA your data!

Database Marketing Tips

Chris Ohm from our Data and Design Team

Building a clean and efficient database is the keystone to your direct mailing projects. Without such you may subject yourself to such “side effects” of higher postage rates, returned mail, low response and turnouts, and ultimately  un-reached clients.

Compiling a completely accurate list of your clients can take a long time, such as months and sometimes even years! By the time you decide to do a mailer, a quarter of those clients could have moved.

These clients would never receive your offer in the mail, and it would be mailed to the return address…you! If you have a 10,000 list of data and 100 people may have moved, this can result in a lot of people who will not receive your mailer. That’s where NCOA processing can save you some serious cash.

“National Change of Address” or NCOA, is a process in which your data is processed through a USPS backed second party. Once ran through the NCOA process anybody who had updated their current address through the Post Office, after moving, will have their address updated to reflect the new one. This can save a bundle of money and increase your advertisement’s response percentage.

You’ll want to utilize this with all mailing lists. On top of the NCOA process appending new addresses to old ones, It also produces a batch of addresses we call “NCOA BADS” these would be your clients that have moved, but did not update their address with the post office.

Here is an example of some percentages NCOA cleans in your data:

  • 80.92% Forwarded moves containing delivery point confirmed–New address provided
  • 1.18% Moves containing unconfirmed addresses – New address not provided
  • 13.80% Moved, left no address
  • 3.92% PO Box Closed
  • 0.18% Foreign moves

As you can see, a good portion of your data can potentially be un-mailable or returned back to you at great expense. Why waste the extra money of your print and postage costs?

Very few companies offer this service correctly, and even fewer offer it with the knowledge and capability that CSG provides for its customers.  For example, CSG can return you an updated list including the records that were corrected, the ones that did not move, and the few that moved but did not update their address.  Using this service maximizes your data’s efficiency so that your mailers will have higher response rates.

NCOA your data and the results can be rewarding!

Don’t forget to ask us how to get all that cleaned data back into your system.

Database Marketing – Quick Tips for Database Bliss

Database Marketing starts with a database.  Database tips for our friends in direct mailing marketing.

Here at CSG Direct, we’ve seen every type of “database” you can think of, from mailing labels copied into PDF files to multiple relational SQL monstrosities. We’re always dealing with new challenges and finding new solutions for making your database the powerhouse it can be.

So here are a couple of tips from our data team

Even though Excel is a spreadsheet program, it is one of the most widely used mediums for database storage. I can hear you now, saying, isn’t that the same thing as a database? Well not necessarily… “A spreadsheet is a computer application that simulates a paper accounting worksheet” Excel is designed to quickly handle financial calculations, numbers and formulas. Therefore when using it as a database, there are a few precautions one should take.

1) Sorting: “So let’s see if I’m in the database” you say and quickly highlight the last name column and hit the A-Z button at the top, you see your last name, figure “ok! Good enough” and hit save. This is one of the most common and most destructive mistakes that can be made in Excel. What just occurred is that all your other fields stayed exactly as they were, while the last name field was placed in alphabetical order by itself. Now everyone in the database has the wrong last name.

2) Numbers: Remember that Excel is a spreadsheet! It loves to perform calculations and “properly” format numbers for you. Quick things to keep an eye out for, would be: Account numbers being formatted oddly, east coast zip codes missing their leading zero, cash amount fields having differing decimal places, even phone number fields having math done on them (something like 775-852-9777 turning into -9854)

3) Line breaks: In the final stretch of putting the finishing touches on your Excel database, then you realize this record has a secondary address, so you just place a carriage return and put the secondary address in the same cell below the first. In an Excel Cell its easy to add a line break, the problem is that when exporting a database out of Excel most database programs won’t recognize odd characters within a field and either jumble the record or completely leave it out. When in doubt it’s always better to just add another column.

4) Coding: There have been many great looking spreadsheets out there with colors that dazzle, but remember that when you use cell colors to delineate between multiple tiers of a database, they won’t translate over into real databases. It’s always best to use a separate field and populate it with whatever alpha-numeric signifier you might need! That way when the database is moved out of Excel it’ll still be there!

Until next time… Keep the data flowing to CSG Direct Mail

New Postage Rates for 2012

Beginning early next year, it will cost just a penny more to mail letters to any location in the United States, the first price change for First-Class Mail stamps (Forever stamps) in more than two and a half years. The new 45-cent price for Forever stamps is among price changes filed with the Postal Regulatory Commission.

“The overall average price increase is small and is needed to help address our current financial crisis,” said Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe. “We continue to take actions within our control to increase revenue in other ways and to aggressively cut costs. To return to sound financial footing we urgently need enactment of comprehensive, long-term legislation to provide the Postal Service with a more flexible business model.”

Highlights of the new single-piece First-Class Mail pricing, effective Jan. 22, 2012, include:

• Letters (1 oz.) – 1-cent increase to 45 cents
• Letters additional ounces – unchanged at 20 cents
• Postcards – 3-cent increase to 32 cents
• Letters to Canada or Mexico (1 oz.) – 5-cent increase to 85 cents.
• Letters to other international destinations – 7-cent increase to $1.05

Prices also will change for other mailing services, including Standard Mail, Periodicals, Package Services and Extra Services. This announcement does not affect Express Mail and Priority Mail prices.

More information on the new pricing is available Here. Download the PDF

While actual percentage price increases vary, the overall average price increase across all mailing services is capped by law at 2.1 percent, the rate of inflation calculated based on the Consumer Price Index.

For business mailers, this announcement offers good news for First-Class Mail Presort mailers. When the new prices go into effect on Jan. 22, the second ounce for presorted letters will be free. “This gives companies expanded opportunities to advertise new services and products to their customers as part of bill and statement mailings,” said Paul Vogel, president and chief marketing/sales officer.

And new for all customers is a 3-month pricing option to rent PO Boxes, perfect for people on the move and others who need a PO Box for a short time period.

The Postal Service receives no tax dollars for operating expenses and relies on the sale of postage, products and services to fund its operations.

Find out more on USPS.com

EPS Direct Mailing Marketing Awards

The EPS award acknowledges great direct mailing marketing design and execution as well as follow-through, tracking, results and strategy. Campaigns and mail pieces recognized by EPS are exceptional in marketing and creative detail. These entries interact with their target audience in a fashion that creates profitable results.

“EPS” is an industry insider abbreviation for “Envelope”, so it is all about direct mailing marketing. As the marketing industry has changed the EPS judging criteria has too. EPS evolves with the times and if certain criteria and modern postal and response methods are not utilized than it affects the scoring of entries.

We live and breath results and our best clients measure those results.

The EPS award is not  limited to print oriented results. We thrive in new and emerging areas with mobile, web, text and email components included. We dig into the campaign and judge it by effectiveness, thoroughness of how well the physical mailed piece drove the action.

EPS Awards categories:
1) Best Mail Piece Design
2) Best Direct Mailing
3) Best Mailing Campaign

Primary Qualifications:
1) Effective Creative Design
2) Call-to-Actions
3) Overall Marketing Strategy
4) Tracking of Results

The EPS awards are judged for the best ideas, most creative uses and the finest executions.
We acknowledge the best of your entries in direct mailing marketing!

If you are interested in us presenting awards to your group please contact us: service@csgdirect.com or 800-881-2150 x12

We may be willing to sponsor or contribute to your AAF Meeting, PCC Meeting, Ad2, American Marketing Association, PR group or other similar awards functions.
(Award categories are chosen to best meet your events members, theme or goals)

Past Winners:

Meyer Rosene -Best Mailing Campaign

A. Carlisle -Best Mail Piece Design

DRGM -Best Direct Mailing

DynaGraphics -Best Direct Mailing

KPSB -Best Mailing Campaign

DRGM -Best Mail Piece Design

Peppermill Hotel Casino, Reno NV -Best Mail Piece Design

Cirus Circus Hotel Casino, Reno NV -Best Mail Piece Design

Smith & Jones -Best Mail Piece Design

GMAA -Best Mailing Campaign

CSG Direct Mail with Raving Consulting Company


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact CSG Direct Inc. For media inquiries:
800.881.2150
Michael.hemphill@csgdirect.com

 

CSG Direct Mail joins Raving Consulting

-CSG Direct Mail joins forces with Raving Consulting to create the most comprehensive set of robust full service casino direct marketing solutions to the casino gaming market.

CSG Direct specializes in casino direct marketing for clients such as Silver Legacy, MGM, Harrah’s Entertainment, Tropicana Entertainment, Atlantis Hotel Casino, Peppermill, Eldorado, Stations Casino and many others in the gaming industry.

CSG Direct is known for innovations in casino marketing and creating the Greatest Value in casino direct mail. As direct mail trainers and mailroom managers they live and breathe direct mailing and variable data printing strategy and results.

CSG Direct has a long history of innovating the direct mail marketing industry:

• America’s 1st Live Direct Mailing Job Tracking System -1999

• America’s 1st public bulk US Mail Tracking System -2008

• iTunes Store 1st iPhone Direct Mail app -2010 (Track all of your Direct Mail Projects)

• Over 25 USPS MQC Certified Employees working on all aspects of your projects

• Over 2 decades in personalized variable data digital printing and more

Also with the opening of a Las Vegas Direct Mail offices CSG Direct is more than excited to offer its services to the Las Vegas entertainment industry and their interests. CSG has also joined the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce and supports the Las Vegas business community. In partner with Raving it will be a pleasure to help gaming companies worldwide in strategically improving their marketing, service and operations.

Raving Consulting is a full-service gaming resource for marketing, slots, tables, database, player development, management and hosts. When you get right down to it, it’s the role of your hosts; ambassadors and players club staff to drive business through sales! I’m not sure why so many people are so quick to say, “I am not a sales person. I am not in sales. I am in marketing. I am in service. I am in management. I am a casino host.” If you work in a casino, then you are in sales, folks; your job is business development, especially if you are a host.

Direct Mailing Innovations and the best Variable Data Printing from CSG Direct Mail as well as Technologies and Experience from Raving Consulting will get you Better Results Fast.

“There are a lot of direct mail companies out there and everyone talks a good talk. We know that our gaming clients need this critical resource to execute their direct mail campaigns. We believe we have found the right partners in Michael Hemphill and his team at CSG Direct Mail. What’s unique about CSG, and especially boy “technical wonder” Michael, is that they are always looking for the latest tools to keep their clients at their most effective. They are not only a partner of Raving’s, we have been their client as well. We look to our partnership with the CSG Team – and sharing them as a strategic resource with our customers.” -Dennis Conrad, President and Chief Strategist, Raving Consulting Company

Click here for more information on CSG Direct, Inc.
Click here for more information on Raving Consulting.

New Intelligent Mail Barcode Requirements

Direct Mailing ManThe US Postal Service has come down with some new deadlines for full implementation of Intelligent Mail Barcodes (IMB).

Full Text Here: http://csgurl.com/IMB_Requirements

They seem to be putting a huge emphasis on packages, however mailpieces references are sprinkled into all the text as well.

” On January 7, 2013, the Postal Service finalizes the implementation of this final rule by requiring an Intelligent Mail package barcode (IMpb) for all commercial mailpieces that include a tracking or extra service barcode …” seems to refer to all customers using 2 barcodes currently which apply to people using postnet barcodes and planet codes combined. (quit laughing, some people still do this, lol)

We of course have been using these barcodes and developing  new programs around these new barcodes since 2008. It’s nice to see that they are finally asking the rest of the country to step up the plate or get out of the game.

The first deadline is January 2012 with some limited flexibility until July 2012, Then again January 2013 with flexibility until July 2013.  A weak roll-out but they are going to get to embrace their cool new features even if they have to drag all the rest of the public forward.

The symbol versions of QR Codes

Each QR Code symbol version has a max data capacity according to the amount of data, character type and error correction level. In other words, as the amount of data increases, more modules are needed to make up the QR code. Let’s say for example you have a rather long web link or you want to include multiple fields in a contact form. This is what makes larger QR Code symbols.

The symbol versions of QR Code range from Version 1 to Version 40. Each version has a different module configuration or number of modules. The module refers to the black and white dots that make up QR Code.

“Module configuration” refers to the number of modules contained in a symbol, commencing with Version 1 up to Version 40. Version 1 is 21 x 21 modules and Version 40 is 177 x 177 modules. As you can see in the image below each higher version number comprises 4 additional modules per side.

Error Correction

QR Codes have error correction capability to restore data if the code is dirty or damaged. Four error correction levels are available. Raising this level improves error correction capability but also increases the amount of data QR Code size. The bigger the QR code, the better chance it has of being read properly without error.

To select error correction level, various factors such as the operating environment and QR Code size need to be considered.
Level Q or H may be selected for factory environment where QR Codes get dirty, whereas Level L may be selected for clean environment with the large amount of data. Typically, Level M (15%) is most frequently selected.

From a graphic design perspective Level Q or H are great to work with. One can remove parts of the code, implement an image, icon, or design and still get full functional readability. On thing to keep in mind while doing this is that most people don’t have a fancy smartphone and may be using an older less effective camera-phone when scanning your code. You want to make sure that the code will work with all smart phones.

You can color a QR code as long as you use dark enough colors that maintain good contrast for the camera to recognize. You can also use the black areas as a mask over a photograph. Indeed you can be very creative with QR and not have the boring robotic look of generic QR codes.

Another thing to keep in mind while designing is to leave the white border around the code. This border allows the camera to zero-out and know what areas to read and decode. A general rule-of-thumb is to maintain a 4:1 scale of white border to the smallest module, or pixel, within your QR code.

State of the Postal Service Part 2

Continued from Part 1

As we continue to review our volume, revenue and financial projections for fiscal years 2012 through 2015, it has become apparent that our financial situation is becoming even more precarious. First-Class Mail volume is declining even more rapidly than we had previously predicted. Standard Mail volume is flat, and in any event cannot adequately compensate for the declines in the much more profitable First-Class Mail that we are experiencing. Therefore, it is clear that we must reduce costs at an accelerated pace.

Our most significant area of cost is in compensation and benefits, and one key driver of those costs is simply the sheer size of our workforce. Therefore, the Postal Service has to be able to reduce the size of our workforce if we are to have any hope of insuring that our costs are less than our revenue. Based on current revenue and cost trends, and assuming a move to 5-day delivery, the Postal Service can only afford a total workforce by 2015 of 425,000, which includes approximately 30% lower cost, more flexible, non- career employees.

Attrition and certain other measures will allow us to achieve a portion of the savings needed to match expenses with revenue by 2015. We estimate that attrition will only result in a staff reduction of approximately 100,000. However, in order for the Postal Service to reduce complement to meet projected volume degradation, we must eliminate roughly 220,000 career positions between now and 2015.

In order to eliminate the remaining 120,000 career positions by 2015, to restore the Postal Service to financial viability, it is imperative that we have the ability to reduce our workforce rapidly. Unfortunately, the collective bargaining agreements between the Postal Service and our unionized employees contain layoff restrictions that make it impossible to reduce the size of our workforce by the amount required by 2015. As explained below, it is not likely that the Postal Service will be able to eliminate these layoff protections through collective bargaining, given the nature of collective bargaining and interest arbitration. Therefore, a legislative change is needed to eliminate the layoff protections in our collective bargaining agreements.

As a Solution we recommend that reductions in bargaining unit postal employees should be governed by the RIF provisions applicable to federal competitive service employees. These provisions must supersede existing contract provisions and should not be subject to modification or supplementation through collective bargaining to avoid conflicts of law and to maintain necessary continuity among bargaining units.

Applying the federal statutory and regulatory competitive service process to the postal bargaining unit workforce could be done in a manner that would produce the following positive results:

The Postal Service could quickly reorganize and right size its bargaining unit workforce utilizing one set of established rules.
Postal bargaining unit employees would have the substantive and procedural protections provided by RIF rules, but collective bargaining agreements would be prohibited from having no lay-off clauses. Issues related to lay-off and reassignment to lower levels would be removed as subjects for collective bargaining.
Postal bargaining unit employees would challenge their lay-offs or involuntary reassignments to lower levels to the MSPB rather than through the grievance procedure.
Veterans’ preference is preserved.
The Postal Service would have a significant tool to return to financial solvency, thus protecting businesses and the majority of jobs for the hundreds of thousands of postal and other employees in the postal industry.

The recommended statutory change would be to modify Title 39, United States Code, to apply the RIF provisions of Title 5 and implementing regulations governing the competitive service to the Postal Service’s bargaining unit employees and to make clear that collective bargaining cannot modify or add to such rights, nor limit the rights of management that are part of the current federal competitive service RIF process.

In Conclusion We recognize that asking Congress to eliminate the layoff protections in our collective bargaining agreements is an extraordinary request by the Postal Service, and we do not make this request lightly. Indeed, the Postal Service generally believes that it and its unions should be free from Congressional mandates as to the provisions of its collective bargaining agreements and that the Postal Service is best served when the bargaining parties can resolve their differences through collective bargaining. However, exceptional circumstances require exceptional remedies.

The Postal Service is facing dire economic challenges that threaten its very existence and, therefore, threaten the livelihoods of our employees and the businesses and employees in the broader postal industry and overall economy, of which the Postal Service continues to play a large part. If the Postal Service was a private sector business, it would have filed for bankruptcy and utilized the reorganization process to restructure its labor agreements to reflect the new financial reality. Because this option is not available to the Postal Service, we believe that this extraordinary request is a key to securing our future and our continuing ability to provide universal service to our nation.

We are urgently engaged with Congress and the Administration to achieve a legislative resolution that will allow us to best serve our customers. Whatever the outcome, not only will it affect the Postal Service – it will shape the future of the entire mailing industry. Meanwhile, our commitment to providing excellent delivery service and connecting senders and receivers across the nation remains unchanged. We will continue to focus on our customers, and to partner with the mailing industry to ensure that together we are positioned to fulfill the changing needs of American customers.

State of the Postal Service Part 1

Information provided by the US Postal Service:

This recession has been particularly cruel to the postal service, already battered by the popularity of e-mail. Total mail volume is declining and just Last year we saw the biggest decline in mail since the Depression: volume fell by 4.5%, or about 9 billion pieces.

The postal service continues to loose volume in it’s largest, most profitable segment: First class mail. The postal service ended the 2008 fiscal year with a $2.8 billion loss, and the next two years may well be worse.

In response to the continuing decline in mail volume and revenue, the Postal Service has taken unprecedented steps over the past decade to reduce cost in areas within its control, including cost reductions totaling $12 billion in the past four fiscal years. The Postal Service has already identified and is pursuing a number of needed legislative changes that would help to return it to solvency.

Actions have been taken across the board to address the financial situation including: Work hour reductions, distribution compression, national distribution center realignment, facility optimization, equipment optimization and restructuring efforts.

The Postal Service is also undertaking, or has proposed, a number of additional steps to help it achieve the cost savings necessary to restore financial solvency. With respect to its delivery network, the Postal Service has and continues to aggressively pursue an optimization initiative that has led to fewer delivery routes, despite the growth in delivery points, along with more efficient usage of vehicles and fuel. In addition, the Postal service has urged Congress to allow 5-day delivery, an essential step in right-sizing the delivery network to reflect the fact that the Postal Service is now delivering a decreasing amount of mail to an ever-expanding number of delivery points.

The Postal Service is also closely examining its retail network, to identify opportunities where postal-operated facilities can be consolidated or replaced with alternate access channels that are both more cost-effective and provide greater access and more convenience for customers. The first step in this process was recently taken by the identification of approximately 3,700 retail facilities that will be studied for possible closure or conversion to contract postal services.
The Postal Service is also moving forward with efforts to streamline its mail processing network.

Currently, the Postal Service has over 500 facilities where mail is processed. Because of the decline in mail volume, referenced above, and the change in mail mix that has led to fewer pieces of mail requiring end-to-end processing, efforts are underway to continue to optimize this network using Area Mail Processing studies and other consolidation initiatives. We anticipate reducing transportation miles and costs and reducing the number of processing facilities to below 200.

Continue to State of the Postal Service Part 2

Lower Postage Rates for Full Service Intelligent Mail Option

The Intelligent Mail Barcode is a 65-bar code for use on mail in the United States. The term “Intelligent Mail” refers to services offered by the United States Postal Service for domestic mail delivery. IM is intended to provide greater information and functionality than its predecessors POSTNET and PLANET. The Postal Service was going to require use of the Intelligent Mail barcode to qualify for automation prices beginning May 2011.

Some of the benefits for Full Service Intelligent Mail barcodes include: Better visibility into the mailstream, Ability to track individual pieces, handling units and containers, Receive information about mail preparation and address quality, Determine when a mailing was inducted to the postal system, Address correction services, if requested Mail induction (start-the-clock) information and Optional Confirm Service.

Mail pieces prepared in accordance with full-service requirements are eligible for the applicable discount. Full-service discounts are summarized as follows:
• First-Class Mail Letters, Cards, and Flats: Subtract $0.003 for each automation piece that meets the requirements of the full-service Intelligent Mail option.
• Standard Mail Regular and Nonprofit Letters: Subtract $0.001 for each letter that meets the requirements of the full-service Intelligent Mail option.
• Standard Mail Regular and Nonprofit Flats: Subtract $0.001 for each flat that meets the requirements of the full-service Intelligent Mail option (not available for saturation).
• Periodicals Letters and Flats: Subtract $0.001 for each addressed piece that meets the requirements of the full-service Intelligent Mail option.
• Bound Printed Matter (BPM) Flats: Subtract $0.001 for each flat that meets the requirements of the full- service Intelligent Mail option.