ABCs of Data Processing - Issue #1

I've been working in Direct Mail for over 17 years in the data processing field. I now own a marketing firm, but always wondered why it's so hard for people to understand the concept of data processing. Of course I live and breathe it so it's easy for me to say that, right?

A client of mine suggested that I should take all of my knowledge and write a book to help other people. He also commented that I explained things in laymen terms so people could truly understand what was being done to their data so I am going to do my best to help and you are my first readers.

Most Important thing about Data

The bottom line with any direct mail campaign is the data. You can have the best graphic design and obscene amounts of money to throw at the campaign, but if the data is crap, then your campaign is going to fail.

We are going to use a fictitious company for the beginning stages of data processing to keep things in laymen terms. Okay, here we go.

Company ABC (an automotive dealership) has a customer list that they've been building for years. This list has amassed to over 48,000 customers and there have been many different people inputting the data into the database over time. Now they want to use this list to do a mailing because they have a big event coming up.

Where does the company start? They will start by extracting the data from their database and sending it to a qualified data processor (like myself) to help them understand what's in the database. Almost always, the mail house that you send your data to has a data processor on staff. * Data extractions will be covered in Issue #2.

Now Company ABC wants to target specific people. Let's say that this dealership wants to target all of his customer list with vehicle years 1998-2003 because they are the most likely to be ready to buy a car. In his database there is a lot of information and he needs to know what he has so he can get the best prospects in his door.

Now my job as a processor is to perform a number of functions on the data in order to pull the data that will best suit Company ABC's needs. I will give you the high level breakdown and then in upcoming issues, I will explain things in more detail.

The following processes are performed once the data is received:

1. The data is reviewed to make sure all of the necessary fields are available and that the format is useable.

2. Data hygiene is performed on the data. This includes address certification, pulling out bad data, removing duplicates and preparing reports that break down the counts after data hygiene.

3. Once Company ABC gets the data breakdown via reports (I will show you samples in upcoming issues), they will see a summary of the data they have to work with (ie: qty of each year, qty of each make, state counts, etc)

4. After the data is selected by the client (Company ABC), the data processor will extract the necessary data and presort the data for the best possible postal discount.

5. If back end reporting is requested, the data processor will match the names of the mailing against a current list of Company ABC's data to see who has responded and what happened when they came in. Did they buy a car? Did they have it serviced?


Address Certification - Address Certification (CASS) enables the Postal Service™ to evaluate the accuracy of address-matching software programs in three areas: (1) ZIP+4 delivery point coding, (2) carrier route coding, and (3) five-digit coding.

Data Extraction - The process of pulling data out of a current customer database to be used for prospecting.