Mailing Lists – NCOA & PAF

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When preparing your mailing list for an online printer, there are many things to consider. One thing in particular is who it’s for. The answer to this question will determine if National Change of Address (NCOA) is right for the mailing list.

The type of mailing will affect who you are trying to reach. For example, if a new Italian restaurant opens in Minnesota, it’s going to need some seriously excellent food to entice someone who moved to Montana. In this case, NCOA is not needed.

Another example might be a real estate agent trying to sell your house in their area. Again, it’s not needed for this. A donor list for a newsletter, however, would definitely need an NCOA.

What Does NCOA Mean?

When someone moves, they are supposed to fill out a National Change of Address form with their new address. Only 40% of Americans update their address after moving, which may seem like a low audience to target, but there are a plethora of benefits to performing an NCOA on your list.

Benefits of NCOA

If Smartpress runs a list for NCOA, we’re telling the post office we’re doing our best to ensure that the mail is going to where they say it’s going. A couple big benefits of this are:

  • Discounts on postage (instead of 50 cents per letter, you can get as low as 39 cents for First Class).
  • The USPS can possibly forward mail to the recipient’s new address even if they haven’t filled out their NCOA after moving.

Ensure Your List is Run for NCOA

For Smartpress’ online printing services to run your list for NCOA, all you need to do is:

  • Fill out and submit a Processing Acknowledgement Form (PAF) with your mailing agent of choice (you can download the form here).
  • This form can be physically scanned or completed electronically.
  • It’s important to note that filling out the “List Owner USPS Mailer ID” isn’t necessary and that NAICS is just a categorization number for a type of business that can be found easily via a search engine.
  • To search, just include a brief description + “NAICS Code”.

The PAF informs the post office that you know the mailing agent has edited the records in your list. Running NCOA and updating the number of recipients who have moved counts as editing, so legally an agent can’t run NCOA without filing this form. It’s valid for one year after it’s been accepted by all parties or if mailing agents have been changed.

Once a mailing list has gone through this process, it is valid for 90 days. It’s important to know that most NCOA processes only search as far back as 18 months, but address changes will be stored with the USPS for 48 months.

Tip: We suggest having your list run for NCOA frequently, as the USPS server is updated weekly to include new moves.

Proprietary Change of Address

PCOA is a service that digs a little deeper than NCOA. In instances where someone doesn’t fill out an NCOA form with the USPS, PCOA uses other methods of detecting if someone has moved.

These methods include reviewing magazine subscriptions or utilities. A potential drawback to PCOA is that errors can happen if someone has moved without being the primary addressee (if a family member has moved and taken subscriptions with them).