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Merge/Purge Instructions.

It’s always a good idea to give the company doing your merge/purge and suppression the scope of your project to help them understand what you are hoping to mail and how you want the final output split for the tests you are doing. 

You should provide the merge/purge company with the names of the lists you have ordered and the quantity for each as well as the key you want to correspond to each list.  Providing a test grid as an example helps the supplier understand how you want your lists split for each test panel.   Due to the amount of space I have available here, my sample test grid shows that we’re mailing five lists (of which two are test lists) and testing a package and an offer. 

In reality, you might have 20 lists and many more tests.  Remember, it is not a good idea to mail test lists to a test package.  Test lists should receive your control package because you know how your control package performs.   The test package should get your continuation lists because you have history on the performance of those lists.  If you have several variables in one test panel then you can’t accurately read your results.

If you want to prioritize your lists you would include a list hierarchy with your instructions showing how you rank the lists based on previous response so the merge/purge company understands which list to keep a name from should it be duplicated on several lists.  

I usually provide the key structure along with the lists and quantities ordered so it is easy to see how each list will be keyed for each test panel.  After the suppress and dup-elimination are done you will probably have to make some adjustments depending on how many names remain after the merge/purge.   You may have to drop some names if you have more than you can afford to mail or you may need to adjust the test panel quantities if you lose more names than expected.

Remember this is only an example and you can construct a test grid to fit your own direct mail campaigns easily.  The key structure is dependent upon the fulfillment company’s specifications and will change from company to company.  Be sure you understand how your fulfillment company keys promotions.
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When you deal with subcontractors always speak plain English.  Don’t be intimidated by technical terms.  If you explain your objectives, suppliers can figure out how to help you.  If you’re unsure about what to do, talk to your account representative. 

Karen Tyson is Vice President of Tyson Associates, Inc. a CT-based direct response marketing and outsource management company.