How to Avoid Soliciting the Deceased
The emotional havoc that can happen when a surviving spouse, parent or family member receives a phone call, e-mail or mail solicitation addressed to someone who has died is understandable—and completely avoidable. Still, it amazes me how too often database managers and marketers fail to be stewards for their brands when it comes to this delicate matter. The damage to brands can be significant, particularly if marketers repeatedly solicit a deceased individual whose family or estate has made an active effort not to have its late loved one be contacted for solicitation purposes.
Marketers have an obligation to protect their brands and their bottom lines—and to respect consumers in the process. To accomplish this, they must have suppression strategies in place that incorporate screening for the deceased and preventing marketing contact, especially when a family or estate has raised its hand and said, "Please, no more!"
Does Your Company Have a Suppression Strategy?
If the answer is "no" or "not yet," it's time to place this matter atop your "to-do" list. For products and services in the mature market, screening outbound solicitations for the deceased should be an ongoing matter of data management. For brands aimed at parents, especially those of newborns where a higher rate of mortality exists compared to all children, data should be checked prior to any campaign launch. Other brands may wish to build deceased suppression into periodic screening; for example, once a quarter on an entire file. Even business marketing organizations should test deceased suppression—at least when marketing at the executive level—since most B-to-B compiled databases, and even customer databases, do not keep current with deceased data.
Match rates for deceased screening vary depending on the demographics of the prospect/customer base, the sophistication of screening regimes chosen, whether or not such screens are "bundled" with other suppression categories (e.g., privacy opt-outs), and the frequency of screening. I have seen match rates for deceased-only suppression vary all the way from 0.5 percent to as high as 1.5 percent of a given marketer's customer or prospect file. With approximately 3 million to 4 million U.S. deaths each year, there is a potential for huge campaign waste—all with a negative impact on brand reputation and limited resources.