Have you ever seen a Web site sign-up form with separate boxes to enter city, state and ZIP code, but only a single line for address? The Web designer made things simple and fast for the visitor. Unfortunately, the marketer is then left with an unusable address.
Historically, businesses have compartmentalized for efficiency. And this is one reason why database marketing isn’t easy. Unless you can control the focus, another department’s objective may become your problem.
The value of your database rests on small things. Many of your larger purposes will depend on how well your addresses can be matched up to external data. The addresses on your database are your gateway to accurate data appends, merge/purge, analytics and ultimately successful direct marketing.
As such, your primary objective should be to set all addresses against a common yardstick—to make your database consistent with other databases. This process involves both data collection and data correction.
A good place to start is with the U.S. Postal Service (USPS). Follow its standards for data entry. These standards not only are used to build USPS databases, they also are incorporated in the CASS-certified software that standardizes and adds ZIP+4 codes to mail files.
USPS standardization is only concerned with the address elements a letter carrier needs to deliver the mail. This breaks down to six basic pieces of information: name, street address (or PO Box or Rural Route), apartment or suite, city, state, and ZIP code. Everything else is extraneous data.
If your customer addresses are loaded with miscellaneous data, you first must identify the information that is important to the USPS and isolate it in an easily accessible place. Make a place elsewhere in the record for “extraneous” data.
USPS standardization includes several tables of abbreviations. Unless you have a savvy staff, you probably shouldn’t convert your input information to conform to these abbreviations. Incorrect abbreviations sometimes can lead CASS software to produce aberrant results.