Plan Before you Mail!

Most businesses have learned that a targeted recipient list, a compelling offer, a call to action and the right timing are all essential parts of a successful direct mail campaign. Yet all these important elements depend on one critical factor - having solid addresses on your list. Misfiring on your mailing list can make an otherwise well-planned mailing a disappointing failure. Keep it clean and lean.

Our company handles a lot of mailing lists and we see common problems that can lead to delays or inaccuracies in mailings. The good news is that it's not difficult to get your mailing list in good shape.

Here are some easy tips to help you create a clean list and save you time in working with our mailing services.

Export only the info needed for mailing, when possible. Many contact database programs have wizards that make it easy to specify which fields to export. Skip the phone numbers, email addresses and other data that isn't relevant for addressing. If you must export more data than needed, be sure to specify which fields you expect to be used.

  • Make column headings or field names clear. If you have multiple address fields, label the column you want to use as the primary address as "Mailing address." This will help you better manage the data for future mailings and takes the guesswork out of addressing your mail pieces.

  • When you need to include Customer IDs in the mailing, be specific on which fields to use to ensure accuracy.

  • If the software that generates your list can export the data in a variety of formats, try to use one of these common file formats and extensions for mailing lists:

  • If the list will be broken into separate mailings, such as staggered mailings with weekly drops, let us know how you want the delivery sequence to happen. Which states, regions or customers should get them first, second, and so on? We are happy to work with you to sort or split the list based on your plan.

  • To help avoid delays, take a few minutes to review your list before sending it to us. If it looks confusing, seems to be missing critical address data or doesn't match your instructions, use the tips above to clean it up. Please call us early in the process to save time and frustration.

Following these simple suggestions to create a clean mailing list will help ensure your mail goes out to the correct addresses on time with the info you want included. Yet a clean list is only part of the equation for successful mail delivery.

Tools of the trade

You may have the right addresses for your target audience, but that doesn't mean the U.S. postal service can deliver mail to them. Formatting errors, typos and roving recipients in the list can reduce the number of pieces that get delivered successfully. That's where two services performed by comes to the rescue: CASS and NCOA.


CASS stands for Coding Accuracy Support System

and it helps improve the chances of your mail pieces being delivered to the right address. "CASS Certified" software is used to format addresses according to postal requirement and to identify addresses which are deemed "Undeliverable As Addressed," or UAA. This not only helps flush out any incorrect addresses that need fixing, it also saves you money by removing the UAA addresses from the mailing. The rule of thumb is that, more often than not, mail sent to UAA addresses are not delivered and not returned. We can help you decide how to best handle the "bad" addresses for your mailing needs.

While the CASS service certifies the validity of an address, it does not check whether the occupant is still at that address. We have a second trick up our sleeve to locate a person or business' current address, called NCOA.


NCOA refers to the National Change of Address

service which checks whether the mail recipient has moved and updates the address before the mail is sent. Your mail house can then send you the updated list to help you keep your address records current.

NCOA is the best option for most mailings. New postal regulations require some type of Move Update and NCOA is the most efficient way to update your lists. We use NCOA on virtually every mailing to ensure the greatest list accuracy possible.

NCOA should always be used it if you are targeting specific individuals or businesses. If you are blanketing a given neighborhood or zip code, CASS may be sufficient - if you want the address set up to say 'OR CURRENT RESIDENT', or another generic name. This alternative address format will not return a corrected address and the Post Office will not forward or return your mail piece. It will simply deliver your mail to the address supplied even if the names do not match.

Keep in mind that NCOA does not make your list 100% deliverable. Misspellings, movers who do not file change notices or incorrect move notices will still cause a mail piece to be returned.

By working with a mailing services provider to manage your mailing list, you can increase the number of mail pieces that reach their targets, reduce your mailing services costs, and ultimately boost response rates on your mailing campaign.

Give us a call to find out more about how Hall Letter Shop can shape up your mailing, list at 661-327- 3228 and also check out Mail Services Help.

Getting Your Mail List Ready

List Processing Disclaimer is not responsible for verifying that the data in your list is accurate and properly formatted for mailing. Our list preparation process will standardize address formats, but will not create mailable addresses from incomplete or improperly formatted information, nor will it correct format errors.

Acceptable List Formats

When submitting your mailing list, we will review it for basic format, and to ensure it can be processed by our system.

Lists not meeting our specifications may incur additional costs and delays.

To expedite your order, we prefer lists to be submitted as PC based "text, tab delimited" files. However, we do accept PC and MAC files, they must be saved or exported in one of the following extensions: .txt, .ascII, .asc, .csv, or .dbf (dbfIII). If you submit your list in a different format, it may need to be converted which could result in processing delays and additional costs.

Extensions are simply the types of files you save (example: bestcustomerlist.txt or bestcustomerlist.asc...). You can save list files from a number of different programs for the PC such as ACT, Microsoft Works, Excel, QuickBooks Pro, Filemaker Pro, Label Maker Pro, and Outlook. You can also save list files from a number of different programs for the Mac such as ACT, Microsoft Excel, Filmmaker Pro.

Digital Formats

Below are the most common extensions used for mailing lists:

  • .CSV - Comma delimited.

  • .DBF - Database File - dBASE.

  • .TXT - ASCII text file.

  • .XLS - Excel file (Multiple worksheets within a single file will be processed as separate lists)

Note: To see if your file is one of these types, check the file name, and look at the 3-letter extension at the end of the name. Files that say .txt, .tab, .csv, .asc, .dbf, .xls are acceptable formats. However; this does not guarantee that your list is usable.



We do NOT accept Cheshire labels, tapes, tape cartridges or DAT tapes.


Mailing Labels

While we can apply your labels instead of ink jet addressing, we will not be able to apply postal barcodes to your mail, therefore no presort discounts are available. Your cost for the mailing will be the full First Class postage, plus a Mailing Services fee and a per piece charge to hand-apply the labels. Contact customer care for details and a cost estimate.


Organizing Your Database

Your database should be set up so that each record is contained in its own row. The individual elements of each record should be contained within separate fields in the same row. We do not accept lists containing addresses that are separated into multiple rows. This includes lists in mailing label format. All data for each record must be contained within the same row in a database.


Organizing Your Records

The fields below will be inkjetted in order displayed. Maximum of 50 characters per line, including spaces, punctuation, etc.

  • Name (Optional): Addressee information on the finished card may be submitted as either 1 field titled "Name", or as a combination of any of the following 5 fields, provided that the total number of characters when combined does not exceed 50:

  • Title (Optional): Professional title ("President", "Sales Manager", "Marketing Director", etc,)

  • Company(Optional): Company name

  • Department (Optional): Department name ("Sales", "Customer Care", etc.)

  • Address2 (Optional): Second line of address (Suite#, Apt#, etc.)

  • Address (Required): Deliverable address

  • City (Required): City

  • State (Required): State

  • Zip (Required): Zip code (either 5 digit or 9 digit)

  • Country (Required if mailing outside US): Full name of country

Note: All lists will be processed and inkjetted using fields listed above. Additional information (i.e. customer codes, promotional codes) will only be inkjetted if explicitly requested.


Address Standardization

Addresses will be automatically standardized according to USPS guidelines:

All information will be capitalized ("Chad Smith" will become "CHAD SMITH").

Punctuation will be removed from all fields ("MR. CHAD SMITH, JR." will become "MR CHAD SMITH JR").

Abbreviations will be substituted where applicable ("STREET" will be changed to "ST", "AVENUE" to "AVE", etc.).


International / Canadian Addresses

If possible, these records should be sent in a separate data file or have separate fields for the Province, Zip Code and Country fields. If these records are included in your domestic U.S. list, make certain that you do not have international postal or zip codes in the field designated for the US zip codes. We are unable to verify foreign addresses and all address data provided will be inkjetted as supplied. International/Canadian mailings are priced separately. Contact us for details and a cost estimate.


Duplicate Removal

Duplicate removal (deduping) is an automated process that removes duplicates from a mailing list based on several criteria. The process is dependent upon several variables, and cannot be made 100% accurate.

The options for removing duplicates from your mailing list are as follows:

Dedupe by Name and Address (default)

Fields containing name and address info will be compared. Only records that contain duplicate name AND duplicate address info will be removed.

Note: The deduping process looks for EXACT matches. If there is any variation between the names or addresses of two records, the duplicate will not be removed. For example:


Dedupe by Address Only

Address field will be compared with all other records in the database. Only the first record will be kept.

Do not Dedupe

List will be processed as-is, no records will be removed. Unless

Remember, we're here to make your mailing a success and not to baffle you with technical jargon.

If your goal is a successful mailing project, you can relax. We'll get you there!

Call now and speak to one of our helpful CSRs at 661-327-3228 or Email your inquiries to

What is Move Update All About?

Beginning in August of 2007 the new, Postal regulations went into effect for all classes of postal mail. CASS, DPV, LACS & NCOA are all address list hygiene software utilized by Hall Letter Shop, Inc. to meet these new regulations and reduce the UAA’s (undeliverable-as-addressed) in all our direct mail projects.

With over 40 million Americans changing their mail address each year, maintaining a high-quality deliverable direct mailing list becomes a formidable task. Hall Letter Shop, Inc has invested highly in the mailing software and technology that could potentially save thousands in returned, undeliverable, or destroyed mail.


Here are the 4 Steps we use to ensure Mailing List Quality and Deliverability:


Stage 1: CASS


CASS is the Coding Accuracy Support System that improves the accuracy of postal carrier route, five-digit ZIP®, ZIP + 4®, and delivery point bar codes that appear on mail pieces. CASS standardizes the address, checks for delivery range accuracy, adds the correct zip+4 and Carrier Route, and provides error codes for failed addresses.


Stage 2: LACS


LACS Link is the Locatable Address Correction Service. It is a secure dataset of converted addresses that primarily arise from the implementation of a 911 system, which commonly involves changing rural-style addresses to city-style addresses. The LACS Link Product also contains existing city-style addresses that have been renamed or renumbered.


Stage 3: DPV


DPV is Delivery Point Validation. This process takes the CASS certified file and further verifies the specific mailing address. Every valid deliverable address in the United States is maintained in this file. DPV certifies that the addressed mail piece is deliverable to a specific address. Additional error reporting is provided to better resolve address deliverability failures.


Stage 4: NCOA

NCOA Link™ is the National Change of Address, database. It is a secure dataset of approximately 160 million permanent change-of-address (COA) records consisting of the names and addresses of individuals, families, and businesses who have filed a change-of-address with the USPS. This dataset goes back 18 months tracking all registered moves within the United States. Extensive error code reporting provides the mailer with accurate address failure explanations.


Before we can get started-

The Post Office requires that you fill out a NCOA Link Processing Acknowledgment Form. This form is basically a release form to allow the USPS NCOA processor permission to handle your confidential mailing list. It will only need to be filled out one time.

Hall Letter Shop, Inc will fill out the form for you and send it to you for an authorized signature. Once you have returned the Acknowledgement form we can begin processing your mailing list.

Hall Letter Shop, Inc has the technology in-house to help make your mailing a success.

Call now and speak to one of our helpful CSRs at 661-327-3228 or Email your inquiries to

NCOA Link™ is a registered trademark of the United States Post Service. Hall Letter Shop, Inc is a non-exclusive, licensee of the USPS NCOA Link™ Service. Pricing of NCOA Link™ services being offered by Hall Letter Shop, Inc is not established, controlled or approved by the United States Postal Service.