In my last post, I talked about the Pitfalls of Addressing Mail. Today I’d like to talk about actually creating your mailing list. I have created and maintained many mailing lists over the years, and have learned from my many mistakes how to avoid some of the problems you run across when you create a database. Here are 10 tips for setting up a database for a mailing list to help you avoid some of those mistakes yourself.
- Use an actual database. If you only have a small set of addresses, you’ll be tempted to keep them in Word or Excel. DON’T! Seriously, if you don’t know Access, take a class. It will make your life so much easier and make you more employable to boot. You can do so many things in Access that you can never do in Excel or Word.
- Put all the elements of a name in separate fields: honorific (i.e. Mr., Mrs., etc.), first name, last name, suffix (i.e. Jr., Sr., etc.). This way you can use the database in a mail merge where you use each part of the name separately. “Mr. John Smith” in the address, “Dear Mr. Smith” in the opening, and addressing the person by “John” in the letter to make it more personal. If you put “Mr. John Smith, Jr.” all in one field, you loose a great deal of flexibility in using the database.
- Have secondary addressee fields for use with couples. Again, this gives you much more flexibility in using the database in mail merge letters, especially if they have different last names.
- Put the zip code +4 in a separate field. The 5 digit zip code goes in one field, and the +4 goes into another. It makes for easier data entry, and you don’t have a bunch of empty spaces in your field if you don’t have the +4 code.
- Again for different fields, keep the city and state separate for flexibility in sorting and filtering.
- Give each client a unique code. This is just good database practice, but it also helps when you have 25 John Smiths.
- Don’t forget an e-mail field. Companies are using e-mail more and more to reach out to their clientele.
- Include demographic information if you gather it. Sometimes you might want to target mailings by age or gender. Make sure you include fields for any information your company gathers.
- Add a phone number field to maximize the flexibility of your database. Now it can be used for a phone campaign.
- Keep all your mailing lists in one database. Just use fields to distinguish what mailing list each name belongs to. This has several benefits:
- You keep all data in one place, so only one database needs to be updated when people move.
- If you have one client on multiple lists, you only need one entry per client.
- You are less likely to be creating duplicate entries.
- It’s easier to move people between lists or use queries to pull people from multiple lists for a new purpose.
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