Data – Spending Enough Time on It?

Database Tips for Simple Address Lists: Do NOT take shortcuts in setting up your database field layout. Too many times small organizations submit to “the easier the better” philosophy until they find out that planning ahead and setting up more fields can save time and heartache in the future.

We received a spreadsheet from a local non-profit who had just 4 fields:

Full Name
City, State, Zip

Sometimes the people’s names were in the business field, sometimes the address field had information other than what the USPS wants to see. They also wanted us to put a name to a salutation inside the letter. We’ll start from the bottom and move up.

City, State and Zip – easy to separate with our database tools, however, if the client ever wanted to sort their spreadsheet by city or by state or by zipcode they are handcuffing themselves by including all these in one field instead of a separate column for each.

Address – You want at least 1 field to be nothing but the delivery address and in the format that the USPS.

Example: 54321 W. Apollo Blvd Suite 7

The USPS looks for a street number first and a unit number last. Distinctions like E or W are important because street numbers can exist with both. Be careful with the street name because in our town there is a Center Rd, Center St, Centre St, and Centre Ave. If only one instance of 321 W Centre then you have no problems, however, why take the risk. Be accurate, complete and in the best postal format to ensure correct delivery and the best postage discounts.

If you need to provide more information about delivery, use a second address line.

Joe Smith
National Aeronautics and Space Administration
East Campus, Building 242, Lower Level, Suite 329
54321 W. Apollo Blvd
Houston, TX 77001

Company – This field should only include the proper company name. It should never include personal information.

John Smith, Smith Associates isn’t good for a Company field. A good example is when the company name is John Smith and Associates. Otherwise, John Smith should be kept in the first and last name fields.

If you need additional information like a department in a university it is best to plan ahead with a second name line like below:

Western Michigan University
College of Business
Haworth Building, Second Floor
1903 W. Michigan Ave
Kalamazoo, MI 49008

Names – Do not skimp on keeping the details stored in these fields, because they are so personal that if you present them wrong or awkwardly you could destroy credibility when they first look at the envelope. A well planned personal set of fields would look as follows:

Title – Mr., Ms. Mrs. Dr.
First Name – Just the given first name
Middle Name – Initials are just fine
Last Name – Smith, Smith-Jones, all acceptable
Suffix – Jr, Sr, III, MD

Our software allows us to use a Full Name field that will combine all these fields together so you could get a well formatted full name regards if all the fields are there or not. A result of the full name field could be as simple as…

Joe Smith

or as elaborate as…

Dr. Emily Jane Mendosa-Rodriguez MD

Salutation – We have seen many mistakes when companies depending on combining serveral fields together. The risk is when all of the fields don’t exist and you get poor output. You can never lose the chance to make a good impression when you have a specific field for salutation as follows:

Dr. Mendosa-Rodriguez
Mr. Smith
Bob and Marion

A formal salutation can show respect. An informal saluation can promote a good relationship. You must choose which is appropriate for your business, and you can even choose at the customer level depending on your relationship with them.

REMEMBER: If you want to live by your data, you can also die by your data if you don’t give it the resources to design it for the future, make sure it is complete, keep its integrity and is kept up to date.

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