How to Maintain Your Housefile
A catalog company’s most valuable asset (other than people, of course) is its housefile. Obviously, a start-up cataloger has difficulty generating a profit during the first few years of operation. It has to start building the business without the benefit of having a mature housefile.
It can take several years for a housefile to reach the critical mass required to help convert red ink to black on the income statement. And it generally requires very deep pockets to fund operations during the start-up phase. This makes it even more important to properly design and maintain a housefile. A housefile is an extremely valuable marketing tool that enables improved target marketing, facilitates various analyses, and generates incremental income from renting and/or exchanging names with other reputable mailers.
When talking about building and maintaining a housefile, two issues must be addressed: collecting data into your order-processing system, and then extracting relevant subsets of this data to build a marketing and production database—your housefile.
Accurate and Consistent Input is Needed
From an order-processing standpoint, one of the most critical steps is to ensure that you have a system in place to input the data accurately and consistently. Automate as much as possible to minimize keystroke errors. One way to do this is to print account numbers on the back of the catalog and on the order form, which you later can use to quickly access the customer record as an alternative to having to enter a full name and address.
Also consider using “finder files” to easily access prospect names. A finder file is the net names from the output of the merge/purge that are loaded on your system at the time of mailing. In other words, you get approval from the list owner to add its names (the net names you’re mailing) in advance of any purchase.