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Give Your Address Database an Annual Checkup: Four Steps to Healthy Contact Records

By Wendy Breakstone | Small Business

Any marketing professional will say that their contact database is their most valuable asset.  So, in the same way that we take care of our automobiles with regular tune-ups and maintenance, your address database needs regular proactive checkups to stay efficient and productive.

Your contact lists are dynamic; new contact information is constantly being added to existing entries.  Some of the people on your list will move or change email addresses, requiring you to update their information.  However, if you do not regularly perform address cleansing and verification on your contact database, over time your information becomes dated and obsolete.   Money is wasted on printing and postage of undeliverable mailings that never see a viable prospect.

It’s daunting and inefficient to conduct manual check-ins with every contact in your database.  In some cases, you can gather updated information during sales transactions or follow-up calls, or you can prompt contacts to update information when they visit your website.  However, the best and most accurate way to keep your contact information up-to-date is through the use of an address validation and verification service.

Here are four steps leveraging your existing CRM solution and an address validation and verification service to give your database the checkup it needs.

Step One: Remove the Duplicates

Start first by reviewing and combining duplicate records.  These are entries for the same person or company that may have been entered multiple times into your database. Quite often your CRM solution will have a merge feature that handles duplicate records without losing valuable contact history. By eliminating duplicate records, you are reducing your printing and postage costs. This also has a dual effect of improving your brand image to recipients, who may view receiving duplicate mailings as wasteful.

Step Two: Standardize & Cleanse Existing Records

Next use an address verification service that can validate, standardize and clean your existing address records as a batch. An address verification batch service can append missing address information, standardize ZIP and ZIP+4, correct typos, and flag potential vacancies and addresses returning mail. This is an extremely effective way to tackle a big database clean-up without having to allocate a large block of time or resources to the project.

Be sure that you select a data validation provider that offers USPS Delivery Point Verification (DVP) and Coding Accuracy Support Systems (CASS) built into the software. These features will dramatically improve the quality of the addresses you already have, and help to make your addresses conform to USPS’s addressing system, resulting in higher deliverability.

Step Three: Update Change of Address Records

After your contact database has been validated and cleaned up via the batch processing, it’s time to update your contacts that have moved and changed their address. For this step you can use the USPS National Change of Address Database (NCOA) to scrub your current listings and pinpoint those addresses.  Utilizing an NCOA service will ensure that your direct mail reaches the intended recipient on time, and in doing so maximize your campaign message.

Step Four: Implement Address Validation in Real-Time

After your duplicates are gone and your address records have been standardized, cleaned and corrected, it’s time to put real-time address validation into place for new, incoming records.  This allows for leads, customer information and sales-related transactions to be address verified at the point of entry. Catching, fixing and cleaning contacts when they enter your system will reduce fraud and waste caused by bad addresses.

For real-time API use, your web developer or database administrator will need to assist with the integration process. They can easily program the address validation functionality into your existing web forms, funnels, or ecommerce platform via the real-time API.

By following these four steps, you will maintain a healthy database of address records and increase the quality of your lists.  You’ll realize a higher return on investment through reduced printing and postage costs, as well as higher sales and brand recognition, making the hygiene effort worthwhile.

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