Desk with chair.If you want to see a terribly sad sight the next time you go to your local post office have a quick look at the recycling boxes (if your post office still offers these). You will see piles of direct mail that never reached its intended destination. It’s safe to say that some of these direct mail packages would cost the misguided marketers over $2 each. In any given day there are thousands of dollars of direct marketing materials competing with all of the other junk mail in the recycling box. It’s a sad waste of money.

What’s even sadder is that when misguided mailers send out direct mail of this nature they doom their direct marketing campaigns to failure. Even worse, they join the chorus of naysayers who shout that direct mail doesn’t work,

Stuff and nonsense I say. Direct mail ought to be viewed as a mainstay in industrial marketing, here’s why.

Every form of promotion you can think of will work, but only if it is done properly. Direct mail is a multi-billion dollar industry in North America. I’m pretty sure that most of these companies using direct mail for their promotional activities are not getting poor results. In fact I would be willing to bet that the smarter companies are profitably mailing on a very consistent basis.

Now many direct mail experts will tell you about the importance of your mailing list, and your offer, and your call to action, and your PS, and the best time and day to mail, and the wisdom of using real stamps instead of indicia. All of this is true bit they miss a crucial point.

If your direct mail piece gets pitched into the recycling box at the post office nothing else matters.

It does not make any difference how wonderful every facet of your direct mail campaign is if no one is reading your mail. Your response rates will plummet if your mail is not read, full stop. You must do what you can to maximize the chances of getting your direct mail delivered if you are interested in getting your direct mail opened.

Here are four techniques you can use to maximize the odds of your direct mail landing on a desk instead of in a recycling box.

1. Make sure you have your return address on your envelope without your company name or anything else that can identify you. One of the more amusing things I have watched is how Bell Canada has tried this technique with their direct mail in a (vain) effort to win back my home phone account. They avoided using a return address with their company name (good), and had their blue stripe on the envelope (bad).

2. The next way you improve the odds of getting your direct mail on the desk of your recipient is to never, and I do mean never, use address labels. Nothing screams bulk mail like address labels. One of the fastest ways to consign your direct mail to oblivion is to use address labels. Just say no.

3. If you are sending out a small mailing and the envelopes are handwritten you will get a very high percentage of your mail onto the desks of your prospects. Most of us receive very little mail that is handwritten. The assumption made by the person picking up the mail at the post office will be that a handwritten piece of mail is personal and not to be pitched into the recycling box. There are services out there that will hand address envelopes for you. Although this will substantially increase the cost of your mailing the higher response may well make it worthwhile.

4. If I absolutely, positively, had to get a piece of mail on someone’s desk I would send it by courier. Mail sent by courier gets where it is supposed to go. This is an extreme and expensive way to get mail delivered but it is very effective. If you were running a promotion to 25 to 100 key accounts sending mail by courier might just be what you need to break through the communications clutter.

As with any aspect of industrial marketing, always test and then decide.

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