A call to action—or CTA—is a marketer’s best friend.
Every bit of copy, every ad, and every piece of persuasive media culminates and hinges on an effective call to action. Everyone reading this blog post has seen a call to action, probably even on this site.
Calls to action are the pivot from action on the part of the brand, organization, or corporation (the body of the ad, offer, or copy) to action on the part of the audience.
You know a call to action when you see one:
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Calls to action are the lifeblood of any marketing/sales effort. Content marketing, copywriting, advertising, and other forms of persuasive media are composed of a range of moving pieces. The call to action, however, is arguably the most important aspect of any sales and marketing effort.
There is a lot of pressure on marketers to get all the parts right, but the call to action even more so. What follows is a primer on writing the best call to action possible. It is important to remember that there is no secret formula that results in unprecedented sales, perfect conversion scores, and unending customer loyalty.
Nevertheless, a well-written CTA can be the difference between great conversions and conversions that are just…meh.
1. CTAs are about action. Use a strong command to start your call to action.
The word “compelling” gets thrown around a lot in the worlds of advertising and marketing, but what does compelling mean?
A CTA that is compelling is about more than just the action, but a great call to action does start with the action. That means verbs. That also means clarity. How can you expect your audience to take action if that action isn’t clear?
A strong command including a firm, specific verb with clear intent is the cornerstone of an effective CTA.
No shopper is going to browse through your assortment of new products if your encouragement is mild. Which of the following commands sounds more encouraging? Which is more specific of the action that the brand seeks to invoke in the reader?
View our spring assortment.
Shop our brand-new range of fresh spring styles!
The second is much clearer, of course, and reflects where the value lies for both parties: viewing doesn’t provide much value for either party. So what if your clothing line has a new assortment for spring that I can look at?
Shopping, on the other hand, is a verb that reflects value for both the brand and the audience. Not only can shoppers see the new assortment, but they can also own their favorite pieces. Sales are valuable for the brand, and owning fresh new spring styles is valuable for their audience and shoppers.
2. Emotions are powerful. A great CTA evokes an emotional response.
A plea to a person’s emotion is much more powerful than a plea to his or her reason.
Sure, the call to action “Shop our brand-new range of fresh spring styles” starts with a strong command in the form of a verb (shop), but it also makes an emotional appeal.
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Great calls to action use emotional phrasing to become greater than the sum of their parts.
All of those calls to action represent an emotional component that elicits an emotional response. In the last example, we’re not just getting started—we’re also giving up the tyranny of calorie counting. No one likes counting calories, and with that simple sentence we are conveying that the hassle, embarrassment, and restriction of calorie counting is a thing of the past.
3. Compelling isn’t enough. Give your audience a reason to follow through.
When calls to action and compelling copy are the keys to growing your business, don’t roll the dice. Don’t assume that your audience gets the whole picture.
Giving your audience a reason to follow through with your CTA, in your CTA, will improve conversions.
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It’s no secret that today’s media consumer is impatient, distracted, and obsessively value-seeking. If a reader is scanning your site, article, or blog post, the CTA should be clear and stand out.
Additionally, no marketer should rely on the copy that leads to a call to action. Your audience should be able to clearly see why they should click, tap, download, or call without reading any of the surrounding copy.
This leads us to our next tip…
4. User intent is only part of the equation. Match your CTA to the devices your audience uses.
A few lines of code can add a call icon that actually makes calls, meaning that the friction between your audience’s intent and the offer on the other side of your call to action is significantly reduced. But that only works on, well, phones.
Big, clear buttons are easy to see and use on mobile and tablet screens. Inline text links? Not so much.
User intent changes when your audience picks up their phone to search, shop, or connect with others.
When people are on their phones, they are seeking instant gratification. Your CTA should reflect the quickest path to satisfying these needs for mobile audiences.
Do you pick up your phone to do extensive research about a company? When you’re searching for information on your phone, are you looking for piles upon piles of research papers, complex articles, and deep-think pieces—or are you looking for a quick answer?
Keep mobile intent, design, and offers in mind when building your site, your offers, and your CTAs.
Ideally, your site should have a mix of content that speaks to a desktop audience, a mobile audience, and everyone in between. Oh, and it had better look amazing on every screen, too (no pressure).
5. Urgency produces results. Harness FOMO to give your audience an extra push.
FOMO is the Fear Of Missing Out.
While it is generally bad business practice to lie to your audience and customers, there is nothing wrong with manufacturing a little scarcity.
If a product is permanently discounted, what’s the rush? Why buy it now? I can always buy it later.
From a sales perspective, “I’ll buy it later” is the same thing as a lost sale.
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Harnessing FOMO and creating a sense of urgency will increase CTA conversions.
People love to feel like they have exclusive access, or that they are part of a select group.
6. There are a million ways to optimize your calls to action. Check out these tips that didn’t make it to the top five.
Keep it fresh.
Freshness counts. You should rotate your ad creatives to prevent ad fatigue and find new ways to connect with your audience. The same goes for your calls to action.
Split testing is your best friend.
It can be tough to measure marketing effectiveness, but the bottom line is that every click, tap, or call is a testament to the converting power of a CTA. Not sure you’re getting the most conversions possible?
Split test (also known as A/B testing), then split test, and split test some more.
No one wants to read your CTA that just came out of the can. Canned lines fall flat, but creativity soars. Remember, your CTA is the pivot between action and inaction on the part of your audience.
Use creativity and put your best foot forward.
Be specific, especially with numbers.
Use numbers whenever possible. This is also a great tip for writing higher-converting headlines.
6 Tips for Writing a Better Call to Action
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Excitement is contagious.
Using exclamation points is often considered lazy when it comes to creative writing, but it can entirely change the mood and tone of a CTA or piece of copy.
Change your presentation.
Sometimes using the negative is a good way to change your presentation. Instead of focusing on what a product or an offer will provide, lead with a negative to focus on a problem that will be solved:
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The Bottom Line
The bottom line is that your CTA is too important not to take seriously.
Be creative, try new things, and split test everything. Double down on the results that work best with your offers, your brand, and your audience. Don’t be afraid to cut loose ideas that don’t work, and keep it fresh.
The easiest place to find inspiration?
Shop your favorite brands and look at the advertising campaigns and content of your competitors. Calls to action are everywhere, and once you start spotting them it’s hard to stop.
One More Thing
Are you getting started copywriting but don't know where to . . . start?
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Benjamin Sweeney is the Senior Business Writer for ClydeBank Media who specializes in the wide and wonderful world of business and process optimization. He has an appetite for waste reduction and an eye for efficiency. He has authored two titles on the subject of Lean manufacturing, both available from ClydeBank Media.