You’re certain that the holiday card your business is sending this year is a winner. You’ve invested effort, and maybe even money, in creating a unique design. Your hand is still cramping from the time spent writing short personal messages and signing each card. Plus, you cleaned up your contact database and know the addresses are 100% accurate.

Now comes the part you can’t control: Will the recipient open it? When you consider that the U.S. Post Office delivers 17.9 billion cards, letters, and packages, between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve, there is a chance your meticulously crafted, heartwarming holiday sentiments will go straight from mail bin to dust bin if it isn’t as tempting as that one present under the tree wrapped in completely different paper and tagged, “from Santa.”

Direct mailing professionals make their living finding ways to entice people to crack the envelope adhesive. Have a conversation with anyone involved in the field, and you’ll hear descriptions of competition for consumer attention fierce enough to evoke visions of Roman gladiators doing battle in the midday sun.

Okay, that analogy might be a little over the top. But here are some strategies used by direct mailing pros that you can adapt to make sure your business’ sure-to-be-memorable holiday card gets opened, read, and will maybe even spend a little time on the recipient’s bookshelf.

Timing is everything.

Koch Group, Inc. has been providing industrial marketing solutions for manufacturers for more than 40 years. The company’s well-organized pages of mailing tips says that Tuesdays and Wednesdays are the lightest mailing days of the week, and explains that, “having your letter delivered to a busy executive, purchasing agent, or plant manager, on the day they receive the least mail increases your likelihood of the piece being opened and read.”

Personalize the outside as well as the inside.

Nonprofit organizations send more direct mail letters than any other entity because of the person-to-person nature of fundraising. According to Gary Henrickson of Mailrite, as much as 35% of annual giving takes place in the November-December timeframe. So when Gary blogs about “The Why, Where and How of Using Personalization,” and says that “no word in the English language is more important than our own name,” you know it comes from a deep fountain of wisdom.

But adding the personal touch is more than running a mail-merge program from your contact database. “Only you will know that Chris J. goes by C.J., not by Chris, or whether Robert goes by Robert, Rob, Bob, or Bobby, or is one of those few remaining formal people who prefer to be addressed as Mrs. Henricksen, not Marge,” writes Henrickson.

First-class all the way, baby!

You’re already invested in this campaign, so don’t skimp on the postage. A post about “Direct Mail Envelope Techniques on the KD Mailing & Fulfillment blog mentions that some direct mailers have even gone as far as to deliberately affix stamps in a crooked manner, and there is evidence it has impacted the open rate.

You’re probably only sending holiday cards to key business contacts or clients and not thousands of cold prospects. So get a roll of holiday stamps, pour yourself a glass of egg nog, and get to it.

Chris Lenois is a marketing consultant and freelance writer on business tips and trends for Vistaprint, a leading provider of photo cards and other custom products this holiday season. Chris has contributed articles to many newspapers and publications, including the New Orleans Times-Picayune, Scat Magazine, and Wired.