Planning your circulation strategy is about more than just selecting which prospect names or housefile segments to mail. Merge/purge is critical to the success of your mailing, too.
How you instruct your service bureau to run the merge can affect your mailing results. This month, I’ll discuss how to assign list priorities, treat multi-buyers and deal with family groups.
Of course, the main reason for running a merge is to identify and eliminate duplicates from your mail file. A merge will identify two types of duplicates: duplicates between files (known as inter-file dupes) and duplicates within a file (or intra-file dupes).
When duplicates are on a file, the merge can assign the surviving record randomly across all lists or based on a defined priority by list. That is, the merge assigns which list retains the record that appears on more than one list.
The merge also creates a file of duplicated records for future mailings — these are called multi-buyers. They’re names that have “hit” on one or more rented lists.
Normally, they’re categorized by how many times the record appears in the merge (for instance, a two-time multi is a record that appeared in the merge twice). It was mailed for the first time under the list where it was assigned, and it can be mailed a second time in a future mailing for no additional list-rental expense (after all, you’ve already paid two list owners for the same name). Multis are captured only for outside lists since there’s no benefit to pulling housefile names out of their RFM (recency, frequency and monetary value) cells.
The surviving multi-buyer information also is retained in the merge. When the merge assigns duplicates based on random or prioritized allocation, the duplicate name that’s retained is tagged as a multi-buyer. Typically, the merge report identifies the following: “singles” that appear in the merge only once; “multis” that appear in the merge more than once (and were retained on that list); and “output,” which is the combination of the two.