Part II: Decoding the Intelligent Mail Barcode
Focus on List Hygiene
Improved data hygiene is another feature of IMB's all-electronic acceptance and feedback. For full-service IMB customers, Address Correction Service (ACS) comes free for First Class mailings, but with Standard mail there's a caveat that all corrections be applied within a 30-day time period, punishable by a fee.
For those mailers sending millions of Standard mail pieces, Howard believes 30 days is a bit of a stretch to avoid getting penalized with a fee. In this way, the ACS requirements almost incentivize increased hygiene activity during preproduction. "Best practice is actually to use the suite of NCOALink products before you do the mailing. But also use ACS because even in NCOALink there will be things that are missed, so you want to use both premailing and postmailing solutions to keep your lists up-to-date," Day shares. "Most of our client base for example, they use NCOA, and they either do their database every 60 days or so or they do their mailing file," Howard adds.
Day says IMB will force many mailers to take a closer look at overall database management policies. "IM raises the bar. What you have to do is really understand the architecture of your system and the various databases you are maintaining. You've got to coordinate among multiple databases to make sure the correction information gets to all of the databases. In an ideal world, you'd have one single source of address data; unfortunately, there's many companies that use more than one source," he says.
"Direct mail works, but it only works if it gets there in the window that it's targeted for. We need reliability and consistency," Howard asserts. Ultimately, the IMB system promises to benefit mailers and the USPS by providing crucial data which will improve future performance. "We can measure how mail performs at certain [service] levels, so we can tell that the stuff that seems to be late is always this type of mail. If you can identify that, then you can do something about it, as a vendor or as the post office," Howard enthuses.