Merge/purge tends to be the least favorite part of a mailing campaign. Many marketers look at it as a necessary evil—a step that needs to be performed, but can be purchased as a commodity and is pretty standard throughout the industry. However, smart direct marketers realize that if lists aren't prioritized correctly and list hygiene isn't maximized, the mailing will yield much poorer overall results. Over the years, good list hygiene pays great dividends for mailers.
There are a couple of new ways to improve the merge/purge process that can save you money and help maximize response. One technique is employed before the merge, and another after the merge is completed.
This is not a new technique, but surprisingly few direct marketers utilize it. When lists arrive at your merge/purge house (at Boardroom we use Creative Automation), they can be run against a huge proprietary database that is able to calculate what percentage of each list is identifiable as male or female.
Why is this important? Many mailers use gender selects when ordering particular lists and this program confirms the lists ordered were pulled correctly. You’d be surprised how often this program will identify a list that was pulled incorrectly. Usually it’s a case where a specific gender was selected but the opposite gender was pulled, or a specific gender was selected and the list has an even gender distribution, meaning no gender select was applied. These errors occur because of a mistake on the part of the list manager or mailer not following instructions to select a specific gender. Occasionally, the mailer or broker provided incorrect instructions about gender selection when ordering the list. Either way, it's not the list you ordered.
If there is still time before the list cutoff, the list manager should be asked to rerun the file correctly. If there is not enough time before the cutoff, the mailer can simply drop the names identified as being the incorrect gender—mailing less names in that list, but at least the mailer will know the names are correct.