Catalog Marketing – using merge/purge to fine-tune your strategy

Merge/purges are an important, yet frequently overlooked, strategic component of catalog marketing. Merge reports can be confusing and many catalogers don’t understand how valuable these reports are. Ask your merge/purge provider to explain their report to you and then make sure you follow these tips to fine-tune your catalog marketing strategy:

    1. List priorities — it’s very important to set priorities for all the lists going into the merge (i.e. suppression file, buyers ordered by recency & other variables, catalog requests and rental lists).
      • Why do priorities matter? Your list of list (LOL) provides the logic to decide which record is retained and which ones (the duplicates) are dropped from the mail file.
      • If you place your buyers below the rental lists, then any buyer who matches a rental list will be coded and mailed as a prospect instead. You don’t want to do that.  You just decreased the size of your house file, artificially inflated the list rental results, and lost the ability to reduce your rental expense if you have a net name arrangement!


    1. Suppression files (AKA your “do not mail” file) should always be placed at the top of your hierarchy unless you are running a test, and the control group needs to be positioned elsewhere in the hierarchy.


    1. Merge logic — think about the type of catalog and your target audience. Do you need to match by address, by family, or by individual?
      • If you match by individual, you could be sending two or more catalogs to the same house. One to the husband, one to the wife, and anyone else who shares the same surname. Can you afford to do this?
      • If you match by address, then only one catalog is mailed to each address. Is this the right decision if your catalog targets businesses?


    1. Merge reports – read your catalog merge reports and make sure you understand and check the following
      • Number of records that were dropped because they matched a suppression file.
      • Number of intra- and inter-duplicates.  An important indicator of both database hygiene and rental-to-house file matches.


    1. File input – segment your mailing list and apply key codes before running the merge/purge.  The key codes define your segments and are an important part of reading a merge/purge report.


  1. Review how many records from a rental list overlapped with your active customer file. This report is usually called a matrix or an interaction report. One of my favorites!

If you implement these tips before your next catalog merge, then you’ll be in a better position to read your merge reports and gain insight into the condition and profile of your customer database as well as its interaction with any outside lists.