Mistakes in Mailing

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So, you’ve designed a professional-looking marketing mailer or brochure to promote your credit union’s products and services–or perhaps a big event–and are finally ready to send it out. But now you’ve come to the next stage of the process, the mailing itself. While this may at first seem self-explanatory or simple, there are a number of things to consider.

First, you need to make sure your envelope looks professional and personal. Second, you need to ensure the address and information are correct and clean. There are many potential errors that could send your beautiful invitation or brochure to the wrong address or back into your own hands.

Handwritten or typed?

The first thing you should decide on is whether you want to use a handwritten or typed envelope. This may seem unimportant, but there are positives and negatives to both that could determine whether your reader even opens the envelope. The popular opinion is that a handwritten envelope is more likely to be opened and read because it won’t be classified as junk mail. People see handwritten envelopes and trust that the contents are personalized to them. If you have neat penmanship, a handwritten envelope will look more personal, and the recipient may be more inclined to open it.

However, others argue that a typed envelope looks more professional. Any time you are promoting a business, product, or service, you want to deliver it with a professional image to ensure the recipient takes notice. Therefore, if you have trouble reading your own handwriting, then typed is your best option. Bad handwriting not only looks unprofessional and will limit the chances that someone opens it, but also increases the likelihood that it will be lost in the mail or sent to the wrong address. However, the general consensus runs 50/50, so it is entirely up to you how you want to present a mailing to your members or vendors.

Make sure your mailing list is complete

Your next step is to make sure you have a clean, updated mailing list. What’s on the inside is up to you, but it’s important to follow specific guidelines for the outside of the envelope to ensure your letter is sent to whomever it’s intended for. Always start with a clean mailing list, using full and complete addresses. If you are unsure what the full address or ZIP code is, the United States Postal Service (USPS) has a ZIP code lookup tool on its website.

But how do you make sure your mailing list is clean with deliverable addresses? First, make sure you get full and complete mailing addresses from your members, vendors, and applications. For example, someone may provide you with the following street address: 123 Main, but when you look up the address on the USPS website, they give you the following options:

  • 123 Main St NE
  • 123 Main Ave
  • 123 Main Ct

Verifying the information with the member or vendor will ensure that mail is delivered to them in a timely manner. Take the time to compare your mailing address database with the free resources available at USPS.com. Fill in any missing information to your stored addresses and be sure to make this a common practice when adding new clients or vendors to your database. When mail is returned to you with an address correction sticker, be sure to update your database with this new information from the post office. Also, you will want to share this information with anyone else in your organization that may have their own mailing database.

Consider CASS™ Certification software

If you are still not sure your mailing list is USPS ready, or you don’t have time to look up each individual address using the tools on the USPS website, then you may want to look at enlisting help from a company that has CASS™ (Coding Accuracy Support System) Certification. This software will standardize addresses so that they follow USPS mailing requirements.

In simple terms, the CASS™ certification process is designed in cooperation with the mailing industry to improve the accuracy of mailing addresses and postal codes (five-digit ZIP code, and ZIP+4) that appear on mail pieces. Submitting your address database or mailing list to a company that has CASS™ Certification for cleanup will have fees associated with the process. The cost advantage is that you will be getting a clean mailing database back giving you a strong foundation for maintaining your database contents going forward.

Watch out for errors in mailing addresses!

Once you have your mailing list all set and ready to go, make sure it’s gets translated correctly onto the envelope. How mail is addressed will determine whether the recipient receives it, reads it, or sends it to File-13 (the trash can). Below are some addressing examples that can delay the mail piece from reaching the desired recipient, and an example of a correctly addressed mail piece.

Example #1 Example #2 Example #3 (Correct)
Jaen Simth

Simple Credit Union

123 Main Street

Anytown, USA

Jane Smith

Sample Credit Union

123 Main ST

PO Box 0123

Anytown, USA 12345-1234

Jane Smith

Sample Credit Union

123 Main ST

Anytown, USA 12345-1234

Example #1: This mail piece will be rejected by the automated sorter at the post office because of an incomplete mailing address as there is no ZIP code. It will then need to be manually examined and a ZIP code applied before it moves on from there, which can delay the mail significantly. The post office could also decide to return it to the sender for an incomplete address, as the ZIP code was omitted. The second issue is with the spelling errors. Some people may look at the misspelled name of the recipient and credit union and be put off by it thus tossing it without even opening the mail piece.

Example #2: This mail piece is typed and there are no misspellings, but where is it going? There are two addresses listed, a physical address, and a PO Box. Keep in mind that a physical address could be miles away from the PO Box being used. Did you know that the 4-digit ZIP code extension narrows down the delivery destination to an exact location?  In this example, the sender used the 4-digit ZIP code extension for the physical address. The 4-digit extension would be different for the PO Box. This mail piece will be rejected by the automated sorter at the post office because of the dual addresses. The post office may opt to deliver it to the physical address identified by the 4-digit extension, or they may return it to the sender for improper addressing. Either way, this will delay mail delivery.

Example #3: This mail piece is typed correctly with the full and complete mailing address. It will be processed quickly using the automated sorter at the post office. The recipient will receive the mail piece in 1-3 business days and is more likely to open it and read the contents because of the professional look.

Keep up-to-date databases!

Database management takes attention to detail and determination to get it right the first time. Once the cleanup project is complete you can breathe a sigh of relief, pat yourself on the back for a job well done, and send your mail with confidence knowing that your marketing materials will reach their intended destination.

To keep your database current, you will want to remind your members and vendors on a regular basis to notify you when they have a change of address so you can continue to provide them with exceptional service. Communicate address changes with the rest of your organization so that everyone can benefit from a clean, up-to-date database.

Think about ways you can improve on the outgoing mail practices at your company or credit union to ensure you capture the attention of your targeted audience.

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