Jan 08

Three Ways to Use Seed Lists to Your Advantage

If your organization does any amount of direct mail, you should be using seed lists.

A seed list is an extra set of addresses that are added to your mailing. The seed list names are added to the mailing regardless of whether they match the target criteria used to develop your list. They generally include you and perhaps other key people inside or outside of your organization. The term comes from how mailing list companies scatter (or “seed”) decoy names and addresses into the lists they sell. This allows the list company to monitor how their list is being used and safeguard against unauthorized use.

Marketers can also use seed lists to their advantage in at least three ways:

1. Track delivery time and quality
By adding yourself, your direct reports and call center staff to mailings, you’ll be able to know when pieces begin to arrive in consumer’s mailboxes. Plus, your staff can let you know about problems that occurred in the mail stream, such as ink rub-off from postal equipment, damage due to insufficient paper weight, additional tabbing done by post office because your piece wasn’t secure enough, or other design and mail house issues.

2. Keep your administration and key staff informed
While you may not want to swamp C-level staff with mailings, adding your boss or other key administrators to your seed list can help them have a better sense of what is being done in the Marketing or Public Relations Department. Unlike television ads or brochures, direct mail efforts often go unseen. Seeding the list with key staff or service line leaders can help the organization have a better idea about otherwise unseen communication efforts. You can even add your mother to the list if you feel guilty about not calling her often enough. And don’t forget your ad agency account executives.

Of course, anyone that you add to your seed list should give their consent and understand that they will be getting more than the normal amount of company mail. Home addresses are generally better to use in such situations than work addresses. You may even want to develop a one-sheet explanation of the seed list concept to hand out to new additions to your standing list.

3. Exchange mailings with like-minded organizations
New ideas are the lifeblood of good communication efforts. One way to have a constant stream of ideas is to see what other organizations are doing on a regular basis. Non-profit organizations in particular will benefit from getting on the mailing lists of likeminded organizations from around the country. Vendors will often also host user groups or client conferences where the astute marketer will seek reciprocal exchanges of newsletters or direct mail seed list placements. Much of the material you receive will be trashed, but the gems can be kept in a swipe file for future reference.

To create a seed list, simple develop a spreadsheet with names and addresses that you collect from those who agree to be on your seed list. Your mailing service will likely appreciate if this follows a standard field layout that they use. Then create a standing order with your mailing firms that specify the list be added to every outgoing project. Most mail houses are familiar with this process. After first initiating a seed list program, check in with those on the list to let them know that you appreciate them letting you know of any problems or concerns.

Seed lists are easy to create, easy to implement and will return benefits to the communication professional that puts them to wise use.

Additional Resources

1 comment

  1. Gail Dobbins

    There’s another reason to add seed lists to your mailings. While working for a direct mail/database marketing company, we often sent huge (hundreds of thousands of pieces) for large national companies. One such mailing accidentally did not include the seed list. The mailing received no (that’s zero) response which is odd, and we could not confirm with the US Postal bulk mail division that the mailing even went out once it was checked in to the post office bulk mail department. We searched the concrete floor for the bags of mail and could not find any trace of it. Without the seed list, we could not prove the mailing reached consumer mail boxes. Bummer for the unhappy client!

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