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November 09, 2015

Fact or Fiction?  100% Accurate Direct Mail Campaigns

direct_mail_customer_dataI've been in the direct mail industry a long time.  For many years, I was the marketer working with my vendor partners who printed and produced the campaigns I toiled over.  I would get sign-offs, and as long as my data and codes matched up with the correct versions, all was good in my world.  I moved on to the next thing on my to-do list.

Several years later, I became the direct mail and printing vendor and I learned just how much I was taking for granted about the production of my marketing campaigns.  I was blissfully ignorant to how much could go wrong and realized I probably should have been requiring more quality control measures to be in place.

Sometimes Stuff Happens…

 Machines are great.  They can produce direct mail pieces quickly and reliably, but sometimes stuff happens.  Machines break down.  Or jam.  Or misfeed.  And for the majority of direct mail campaigns, it’s not a big deal when this happens.  The jammed stock is counted as spoilage, the machine is reset and production continues.

But for some direct mail campaigns, this is a big deal.  For these campaigns, there can’t be spoilage because they contain information so sensitive that 100% accuracy is imperative.  They contain account numbers, healthcare information, or may be legally required to be mailed to all stake holders.

…But, There Is a Way To Make Sure Your Direct Mail Campaigns Are 100% Accurate

Luckily, there are ways to ensure your sensitive marketing campaigns are 100% accurate. 

  1. Make sure your direct mail vendors have the right equipment

Making sure your direct mail vendors have the right equipment to match the security and accuracy parameters of your campaign should be at the top of your list.  Depending on your project, you will want to make sure they have camera-match inserting, read and print capabilities, variable page accumulating and inserters with output verification reporting. 

The first three options use 2D barcodes to make sure the correct inserts are going in the correct envelope.  But machines with output verification reporting take it a step further.  These systems use barcodes and cameras to identify and report double stuffs, insertion errors and missing envelopes midstream.  They also provide real-time audit reporting down to the record level so you can be confident your mailing is 100% accurate.  (Click here to see a sample of Streamworks’ output verification report.)

  1. Make sure your direct mail vendors have the right teams

It may seem obvious, but if you have a direct mail campaign with sensitive variable data being printed, you want to make sure they have a team of experienced programmers on staff to handle your data and set up those projects.

The same holds true with the team running the machines we just talked about.  How long have they been an employee?  How experienced are they?  What training do they receive?  Are background checks being done on all employees?

  1. Insist on quality control and audit reporting

All direct mail and printing vendors should have some quality control measures in place.  But if you’re considering a vendor to produce campaigns that contain sensitive data, it stands to reason their quality control measures should be more stringent and held to a higher standard. 

Do they have audits and controls in place to ensure the integrity of your project throughout the production stream?  And more importantly, are they willing to accommodate additional quality control measures you may require to feel confident in the accuracy of what’s being produced?  Can they produce audits and reports that verify the accuracy of your campaigns?

  1. Review the security standards of your vendor partners

Data security is a real business concern these days, as evidenced by the too-often reports of data breaches in the news.  Ultimately, you are responsible and liable for the safety of your company’s data, so make you’re entrusting it to a partner who has strict security standards in place. 

 Even better, make sure you’re using a direct mail partner whose quality control processes, physical and data security standards are independently reviewed and certified by a third party to ensure they’re current and adequate for the services being provided.  Examples of certifications and compliances to look for include SOC1 and SOC2, HIPAA (for healthcare information) and PCI (if you have credit card data).

  1. How are they handling your data?

Speaking of data, how is your direct mail vendor handling it?  Is it encrypted? Is it being stored on separate and secure servers? How long are they storing your data?  Do they have measures in place to shred pieces with confidential information?  Do they have secure facilities to limit the access to servers or the final, physical direct mail pieces?  Remember, you’re ultimately the one responsible for the integrity of your data so take the time to evaluate your direct mail and printing vendors well.


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