Using Hot Spots in Direct Mail and Email

August 14th, 2020 by

All marketers and business owners need to understand the value of using Hot Spots in their direct mail and email.

A hot spot is where your eye goes first when you look at a postcard, outer envelope, catalog spread, direct mail letter, display ad, landing page or even an email.  All direct response formats have hot spots. You just need to know how to use them effectively.

Some of this article comes from research done by Pat Friesen, who I think is one of the best direct response copywriters in the U.S. She works cross-channel. That means she understands both print and digital. In today’s omni-channel world, that means we are looking at all the different marketing channels. This is how we all need to think in our world as marketers.

Hot spots are useful for controlling eye flow. For example, if someone reads only three things in your letter or email, which three things do you want her to read? And how can you use hot spots to make sure they get read?

For example, we all know that it’s easier for the eye to pick out bulleted points, rather than scan long sentences. This is an example of a hot spot. But there are lots of other things you can do to make sure your material can be easily read. And, understood.

Remember, you have three seconds or less to grab your reader’s attention. Hot spots are critical for quickly getting the reader involved in your mail. That goes for both direct mail and for email.

Hot Spot ideas for both mail and email

  1. The P.S. Did you know that 30 percent of people read the P.S. first? Make sure you use a P.S in your direct mail letters and emails. Sometimes the most important piece of your communication can be at the end of your piece.
  2. Visual teasers. Think about a color teaser on an envelope. Consider adding a colorful corner slash on a catalog or a You-tube video icon in your email.
  3. More outer envelope hot spots include: corner card/return address in the upper left-hand corner, addressing, postage, teaser copy on front or back, and the back flap. During Holiday time, I even use my postage meter to add a warm & fuzzy holiday greeting.
  4. Hot Spots in a direct mail letter include the actual letterhead, salutation, first sentence and first paragraph. Maybe you want to use a box area in the upper-right corner to draw the eye.

People also tend to look at the bottom of a letter or email. What about your signature and title? Does your email signature include social media icons?

Are you using a P.S., P.P.S., or P.P.P.S.? Other techniques include underlining copy, using boldface and bullet points.

The same thing holds true for email in terms of branding. Instead of letterhead, think logo, color, look and feel.

  1. Attention grabbers. What about handwriting in the margin? Or, using post-it notes? Maybe a colorful shape that captures the eye in an email piece.
  2. Direct mail designers use type fonts and sizes, background colors, borders, copy placement, images, callouts and other graphic tools to create hot spots. In addition to these, email designers can also add links as hot spots. These links can take the reader to more information or order pages.

Your Email Subject Line is a Hot Spot

  1. In Email, think of your subject line as a Hot Spot. There are lots of articles about subject line best practices. Here are a few of the main ones. Keep it short and simple. Use concise language. Mail Chimp suggests you use no more than 9 words and 60 characters. Other experts suggest no more than 5 words. That’s why testing is always so important

Make sure you avoid ‘no-reply’ sender names. As a matter of fact, your own name might be a great Hot Spot when you are sending to people who are familiar with you. Avoid using ALL CAPS. Don’t over punctuate, don’t over emoji, and don’t use a lot of exclamation points.

Be descriptive. People are uncomfortable opening mystery emails.

  1. Personalize. This is a hot spot in all forms of direct marketing. People like to see their names. It’s a natural hot spot. All studies show that personalization increases rapport and ups response.
  2. Some words are Hot Spots. Direct mail writers create compelling hot-spot copy using the words “you” or “free”. In email marketing, the word “free” is a whole different story. There are dozens of articles debating the use of the word free. Is it a spam trigger word or a motivator? There may be other words that can work just as well or better. Test.

Customer Reviews as Hot Spots

  1. Customer testimonials and reviews are great Hot Spots. Make sure these stand out. Good reviews are definitely one of the top 3 things you want your reader to see. That goes for all forms of direct marketing. Reviews can be used in direct mail, catalogs, website landing pages, email and even on envelopes.

Photos / Videos as Hot Spots

  1. We all know that a picture can be worth a thousand words. We are either stopped in our tracks by a great photo or we’re not.
  2. Videos can be incorporated into direct mail using QR codes as well as into any digital media. The USPS has entire program called Irresistible Mail. With today’s technology, you can stream video when you scan the QR code on a direct mail piece.

To conclude, with any form of direct marketing, whether it is physical or digital, testing is the only way to see with certainty what works or doesn’t work.

Using hot spots in your direct mail and email gives your marketing a better chance to be read and acted on.

4 thoughts on “Using Hot Spots in Direct Mail and Email

  1. What is the best placement of photos in a direct mail piece? Is it between the paragraphs? What about the beginning of the letter or the end?

    1. Annie – hi
      Images are a critical component of your direct mail campaign. They’re usually the first thing people see, even before they read your text. They help to set the tone and expectation for the rest of the content in your mailer. I like them to set the tone at the beginning. It’s important to choose an image that conveys the right message. Your reader may decide based on image alone if the rest of the content is worth their time. You also need to make sure the image is high quality so that it looks just as good in print as it does on your computer screen. This means you will want a high resolution image.