NCOA: Your first step to a clean file

Eric Niebergall
Director, Data Processing Products & Services

National Change of Address (NCOA) should be the cornerstone of any direct marketers’ mailing initiatives. It is an effective way to keep your customer file as clean as possible while also being a cost-effective solution.

#1.

What is NCOA?

National Change of Address (NCOA) processing helps to ensure the accuracy of the addresses you have on file by identifying undeliverable-as-addressed (UAA) records and updating your customer records to reflect the change. With that in mind, a consistent process needs to be implemented by your company to maintain the integrity of your file. 

#2.

How often should I update my customers through NCOA?

That is a great question and one we get a lot here at Yes Lifecycle Marketing. The recommendation really depends on who you are mailing and how often. If you are mailing your full house file and are mailing quite frequently, say monthly, then updating via NCOA should probably be done on a monthly basis. 

#3.

I mail more frequently and to my most recent customers (12, 24, and 36 months), how often should I run NCOA?

This is where it can get a bit tricky. However, for the vast majority of clients we consult with they’re only mailing their most recent customers – those within the last 3 years. If this is you, then you need what I call the “left hand / right hand approach” to updating your house file via NCOA. In your left hand you have your full house file, which is everyone dating back all the way to the beginning of time. In your right hand you have your most recent customers (12, 24, or 36 months) for your next direct mail campaign. 

First, the left hand aka your full house file, this database of names should have its own program for NCOA processing. Since you are only mailing the most recent customers then the whole house file can be cleansed less frequently. Our recommendation is quarterly or semi-annually depending on the size of the database and available budget. Having a program like this in place will ensure that the whole house file is at least on a semiannual basis being run through NCOA and receiving change of address updates. This way if you ever want to execute a reactivation campaign at least the file has been cleansed and the names and addresses of your past customers will be in decent shape. 

Next, the right hand aka your most recent customers, this “file” will be utilized for your most recent direct marketing campaign. In the above example, the left hand / full house file, these records would’ve gone through NCOA either quarterly or semiannually. However, due to the time in between updates of the full house file they will need an “out the door” cleansing via NCOA to ensure that the names and address are fully up to date and that they conform to the USPS 95 day rule for NCOA processing. 

#4.

What else should I keep in mind when implementing NCOA

It is very important that your vendor sends you back the Change of Address records that are identified through this process. This way those records can be updated in your database also.

Author Bio

Eric Niebergall

Eric Niebergall is our resident data processing expert. Having been with Yes Lifecycle Marketing and Infogroup since 1993, Eric brings a wealth of insight, thought leadership and best practices to the direct marketing industry. As Director of our Data Processing products, Eric oversees all operational aspects of our clients' data processing needs.

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