Check The Merge/Purge for Freebies

Fresh eyes are usually a welcomed opportunity and in the Circulation Business, developing mail plans for clients allows me to look at the merge/purge data that most people don’t. And let me tell you, lotsa good stuff in the merge/purge data.

Here are a few quick tips that may allow you to find some additional mail quantities (the “freebies” in the title of the blog) that you probably hadn’t noticed. The merge/purge report is your friend. Look at all the pretty tabs at the bottom of the workbook and find  the report that has the Merge Edits, Drops, Omits, and Invalids, plus several other data headings. The report will have the keycodes down the left column and description of the data elements across the top.

  1. Find the column title for Intra Dupes. These are duplicate records found within the same keycode (yes, within the same list.) The number of duplicates should be a very minuscule percentage…unless your data is not deduped prior to going into the merge. If rental lists a have high dupe rate (over 1%) talk to the list owner because their data should be cleaner than that (allowing you to either not use the list or negotiate better pricing.)
  2. Find the column for Invalid Drops then look for the keycode for your best, most recent segment (such as the Hotlines or 0-3mo buyers) and review the reason codes for Invalid Drops. Specifically for Hotlines or your most recent segment (and maybe you’ll conclude you want to change the business rule for other segments) but here’s where to look first:
    • Sometimes you’ll find “snowbird” or “seasonal address” reason for dropping the record. When these invalids are dropped from the hotlines or best segment, you may want to reconsider this rule because aren’t they at that address right now?
    • Look for the “business shopping center” invalid reason code and then review the addresses that were dropped. There are so many mixed-use developments now that are zoned for retail shopping and have condos above them.
    • APO/FPO, VI, GU and any other U.S. Territory. These get delivered (if you’re not sure, double check with whomever is doing your mailing)  and if you are dropping these addresses from recent segments (Hotlines, 0-1month, 0-3month), you may want to reconsider.
    • DMA Pander (these are the names from the Direct Marketing Association’s Do Not Mail/Mail Preference Service.) Make sure you’re not running the DMA Pander against your own customers. Prospects, yes. Your customers, no. Keep in mind if you have your own internal list of Do Not Mails, you must run this list on your own customer file as well as rental lists. However, these drops will be found in the “Customer Suppression” column and not in the Invalid Drops.
    • If there is an invalid code for “vacant” ask your service bureau how this is determined. Just like the “snowbird” code, if this address is for a hotline or your best 0-3mo buyer, aren’t they at this location? You can also review these records against the customer’s ship-to address to make sure there wasn’t an undeliverable package or address correction with the delivery.
  3. Always look at the percentage of net-out records to gross-in records. If your data is in a data warehouse (whether at your company or outsourced) the data should already be de-duped. Meaning, when a current customer places an additional order, the new order is aggregated to the customer’s existing account. If this is the case, your net out rate should be in the high 90% (like 99%) for your best customers and the majority of your customer file. If you’re seeing low 90’s or 80% or even lower, there could be a problem. It’s best to review a sampling of records to determine what is happening.

If you’re not sure what is useful with the Merge/Purge reports, spend 15 minutes with your data service provider defining and reviewing each column title of the report. Ask questions. Determine where it makes sense to change the business rules for data processing.

Merge/Purges are a very important data processing tool. Use them to your advantage. I bet you’ll be curious enough to go find a recent merge/purge report and research the Invalids to see how many records you could be mailing!


Gina Valentino
Dean of Marketing,
President, Hemisphere Marketing, LLC

Catalog University