Proper Database Management Can Improve Yields
It is very easy to overlook your in-house database when planning your annual budget. There are several processes that are imperative for successful communication. If the post office cannot find your students, then you cannot communicate with them.
Data hygiene is not an unmanageable mystery, you simply need to have a specific plan and choose a trusted partner to handle the process. Data hygiene can be cost-effective. In fact , it is less expensive to keep your lists clean, than pay the cost for wasted postage and wasted print materials sent to inaccurate addresses.
Just about every database manager does the bare minimum – identifying Do Not Call (DNC) numbers and running an annual national Change of Address (NCOA) process. This is a start, but there is a lot more to be done if you are to effectively manage and maintain your student and prospect databases.
KNOW YOUR DATA
When was your file last updated? Do you have a schedule set up for NCOA, or CASS certification (part of NCOA also)? Do you know which telephone numbers are DNC numbers? What else has been done to your file? You will need to know these things when you talk to your list hygiene vendor.
What do you want to accomplish in the hygiene process? What problems have you noticed within your database? Are there specific areas that have errors? This will help you to judge your hygiene vendor – did they identify problems and did they solve them?
WORK OUT THE SCHEDULES
Talk with your vendor. Discuss important issues such as the level at which to eliminate duplicates – address level or individual level. This match logic will determine the end result for your data and is crucial in building your own data hygiene process.
BE SPECIFIC ABOUT FIELD DEFINITIONS
Discuss field-specific information such as what to do with year of graduation, telephone numbers, dollar amount fields – do you round them or leave decimals ? What about missing data?
DISCUSS THE HYGIENE SERVICES AVAILABLE, PRICING AND NEED
This step deals with postal qualification rules. If you miss this step, you end up paying more for postage, having more misdirected mail pieces, and increase mail production costs. Here are some of the possibilities.
– Address Standardization – conforms to USPS deliverability standards.
– CASS Certification – adds zip +4, delivery point barcodes, carrier route codes, identifies undeliverable addresses, and enables your mailing to receive the highest allowable postal discounts.
– NCOA Link – updates your database with the latest address updates reported to the USPS.
– DPV – contains the complete postal valid address file and compares your file to identify non-valid locations.
– LACS – identifies new street addresses given to rural routes for the purpose of 911 systems. This improves the deliverability of your mail to rural areas.
– Deceased Suppression – compares your database to the social security file of reports deaths to eliminate these names from your database.
– The FTC Do No Call phone database suppression – flags any DNC numbers that are in your database. This allows your telemarketers to make a decision on whether or not to call these households. As non-profits , you are likely not under this legislation, but now you can decide case-by-case whether to call.
Be aware that you can enrich your database with additional elements of house hold information,. You can add household income, ages, number of children (Future students?), date of birth, and many more pieces of information. This information allows you to analyze the house holds in your database, thus enabling you to know more about them. After enhancing your database, you can “find” more prospect households that “look” like your students. This “mining” of your database will help you to target particular segments of your market.
If you don’t have the capability in-house to analyze your database, the data hygiene vendor you choose will be able to do a database profile on your data. They typically will add 10 to 15 data elements to your file, run reports showing the results, and advise you on how best to use this information.
ADD PHONE NUMBERS TO YOUR PROSPECTS
Your data hygiene vendor will also offer the ability to add and verify phone numbers in your database. If you obtain prospective student lists, you may want to call them. The small cost of adding a telephone number can enhance your ability to realize recruitment goals.
Ask your marketing advisor for a referral to the recommended data hygiene vendor. Make sure the vendor is in sync with your data goals and understands what you want to do. Set a schedule for accomplishing your goals with the vendor, and then make sure you budget for ongoing updates of your file. You might as well take advantage of the gold in your database and utilize it to reach your recruiting goals.