A while back I published an case study on how Capital One managed to get me to open junk mail through a rather clever method. Apparently that article caught the attention of the folks over at Updater, a great company that helps consumers and businesses with staying up to date on addresses.
After they contacted me with an awesome offer to help me get rid of junk mail, I saw an opportunity to possibly profile a business that operates in the realm of direct mail. Well, President and Founder David Greenberg was open to the idea and provided me some excellent answers to my questions.
What inspired you to create Updater, especially as it relates to businesses? What need did you see your concept filling in the business/consumer world?
About two years ago, I was moving and needed to change my address. I started making a list of all the places that I needed to update and I realized that it would take me well over an hour to contact all the places I needed to reach out to. I searched online for a service that would help me through the process. Surprisingly, I couldn’t find a trustworthy site to help me (or the 45 million other Americans who move each year) change my address efficiently and safely.
After more research I found that virtually everything related to postal addresses is inefficient for both consumers and businesses. I learned that consumers have no control over who can access and use their address; that businesses experience incredible database decay; and that there is an enormous black market for offline consumer data. I decided that a good, user-friendly website that gives consumers control over their own address could solve many of the inefficiencies I learned about. I then quit my law firm job and got to work.
Why do you think businesses need help keeping their databases updated in regards to address changes (how do you make this process more efficient, essentially)?
Over 40 million Americans move homes and engage in a change-of-address process each year. Nearly all continue to update their contact information inefficiently: they separately contact the post office (for mail forwarding) and some affiliations that they care about, while failing to update many others – either because they forget or because of the inconvenience. As a result of the current process, most businesses and organizations experience rapid decay in the accuracy of their contact information databases. In fact, I have met with some universities that only have accurate address data for less than 50 percent of alumni.
Businesses and organizations that seek to improve the accuracy of their contact information databases are currently forced to rely on archaic and inaccurate data cleansing methods, such as periodically comparing their databases against postal change-of-address files and massive consumer contact information files held by large database marketing firms. Inefficiencies resulting from inaccurate address data cost U.S. businesses hundreds of millions each year and undeliverable mail costs the United States Postal Service well over a billion each year. We believe that current “data cleansing” systems are archaic and inefficient.
We are the first to offer businesses, schools and organizations a near real-time feed of user authorized address updates.
You offer some free services and others at a premium. What is the difference in levels?
Our Change of Address service is free. We file an official USPS mail forwarding form on behalf of our users. In addition, we notify all businesses, schools, and organizations of the user’s choosing. While the Postal Service will forward mail, it is still necessary for individuals to update the businesses and organizations that they have relationships with. That can be an incredibly complicated and time-consuming process. That is where we come in.
Our Address Privacy service is our premium service that prevents the user’s name and address from being accessed by any unauthorized mailers. We will also send “do not mail” notifications to any company that a user no longer wants to receive paper mail from. We have essentially created the first spam filter for paper mail. We want to give customers better control of their addresses by deciding who can access and use their postal address. We also want to help businesses implement respectful direct mail practices. By making it easy for customers to opt out of direct marketing lists and update the mailers that they care about, direct marketers will develop more targeted lists, saving money and resources by mailing only those who want to be reached.
How does a business get on your “respectful mailer” list? What recommendations would you give to marketers who are involved in direct mailing on how to be respectful?
We want to help businesses implement respectful direct mail practices. We urge all mailers to respect consumer preferences, whether the request comes directly from the consumer or via Updater.
Are you planning on expanding your services, either to consumers or to businesses?
Yes, in the near future we are planning to enable users to send their billing companies change-of-address updates as well as requests to “go paperless” (for paperless bills). Updater will not be involved in the delivery of paperless bills, only in the delivery of the request to go paperless. In addition, we will soon provide an API to subscribing businesses and organizations, allowing them to pull new address updates and/or paperless billing requests directly into their databases.
Updater seems to be a consumer-first business model, with their information being the priority. How does that, in the end, help business owners?
Our focus is definitely in protecting consumer information and providing users with precision control over their postal address. But, by enabling our users to efficiently distribute their new information to all of their businesses, schools and organizations from one place, we can actually help businesses maintain a more accurate database. With Updater, businesses and mailers can now access timely data directly from their customers, members or alumni.
Here at Make Marketing Happen, we’re all for businesses having cleaner lists and more efficient ways of going about the billing process. Updater is giving consumers real-world filtering options (it’s like pressing unsubscribe in email newsletters!) in a world where you’re lucky to have an email spam filter actually function as you want it. You now have digital options in the analog world.
If you want to learn more about Updater or you want to show some support to a company that is helping to promote ethical direct mail practices, check out their website, ask questions at their Facebook page (after you “Like” them of course!) and engage with them on Twitter!