It’s Time for Spring Cleaning . . . Data, That Is!

By | March 18, 2016

It’s time for spring cleaning, and that includes your data. I was reminded of this today when gathering the contents of my mailbox. In it were two letters, identical except for the personalization. On the first, my name “Heidi” was sprinkled everywhere. On the second — an otherwise identical mailer — was coated with my husband’s ex-wife’s name.

It’s not the first time we’ve received mail to my husband’s ex-wife, and it’s usually from the same company. Not only is it unnerving for obvious reasons, but also because she  has never lived at this location. Nor have the two of them been married for a very long time.

This week, I also received mail with my former married name, which I haven’t used in more than five years. That company needs to do some spring cleaning, too.

But it’s not just outdated names that can wreck a direct mail campaign (particularly a personalized one). It can also be duplicates.  I could just easily have received two mailers for “Heidi” and “Heidi L.” To a database, these are two separate records, even though they point to the same person.

My father-in-law, Lt. Col. John Walker (Ret.) USMC continues to receive fundraising letters to Mr. Usmc, John Ret, and a host of others.

Some of the companies messing up my family’s identities and composition are huge, sending millions of direct mail pieces every month. If they send a few pieces to ex-spouses, use outdated names, or confuse branches of the military with last names, I guess it doesn’t matter much to them. The cost of updating and cleaning up those databases doesn’t outweight the savings they achieve by using them the way they are. But when your client has a much smaller mailing list, each record matters that much more.

In the springtime, we “spring” our clocks forward an hour. In the fall, we set them back. Safety experts encourage us to use those events as reminders to change our smoke alarm batteries. Spring forward, change your batteries. Fall back, change your batteries. Maybe we should do the same with data. Change the clocks? It’s also time to clean, update, and de-dupe.


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