We are sheep. Not literally, of course, because that would be weird. But in a sense that human beings have a ‘flock mentality’ we have a lot in common with our ovine friends. And if you want to see that mentality in action, simply direct the flock to your webpage, your social media ad or your beautifully designed postal campaign and watch what happens when you don’t tell your reader what to do next.
Which seems rather a waste of effort doesn’t it?
Many years ago I worked with a salesperson who couldn’t close a sale. Brilliant up to the part where he needed to ask for the business, and then he never asked, so no one ever bought.
Marketing without a call to action is like working with that salesperson. Because if you want your marketing to have the desired effect, you need to remember that every flock needs a shepherd to lead them where they need to go.
And that means becoming very good friends with the call to action.
A call to action (CTA for short) is a small phrase that packs a big punch. It’s the ‘buy now’ button or the ‘save 20% when you book now’ banner that, in an email for example, has the power to increase clicks.
You know that old phrase ‘if you don’t ask you don’t get’? It could have been made for CTAs.
The list of CTAs is pretty much endless. If we were compiling a ‘greatest hits of CTAs’, we’d probably start with:
Yet you can’t just slap any old CTA against any product or service and expect it to work. There’s a time and a place for the flashing neon ‘Buy now!!’ and there are other occasions when a brand calls for something a little less hysterical.
Give it a try now. Take a look at the John Lewis homepage and browse the subtle CTAs that nudge you in the right direction but never shout at you. Then hop over to Sports Direct where the CTAs are like a mallet to the forehead. The thing is, there’s no wrong here – both sit entirely naturally with the brand and target audience. It’s just that the audience expects very different things.
So which CTAs are right for you?
To make choosing your CTA easier, we’ve broken them down into categories. Remember, the right words are only part of the story. The CTA needs to be immediately visible and highly clickable too so there’s a significant design element to creating a powerful, compelling CTA.
Why do car marques not place a large ‘buy now’ button on their websites? It’s because cars are not chocolate bars. No one ever threw one into the shopping basket on a whim. Cars – and every other big ticket item – need research. They take time and evidence and data. So the call to action needs to be similarly supportive, offering insight and raising interest rather than simply demanding money.
When consideration is required, the CTA should tease greater insight:
Scarcity can be a powerful call to action, feeding our natural sense of FOMO. If you want to retain some brand integrity, though, you’ll need to ensure there’s real truth to the scarcity. If the offer’s ending soon, it better had. If it’s a one-time only deal, your customers will be peeved to find it back next week.
Take any call to action of your choice. Now drop the word ‘free’ in there. Or ‘guaranteed’. Add reviews or awards, or remove all effort and hassle by, for example, mentioning there’s ‘no credit check’. However powerful a CTA is without an additional nudge, it will be all the more compelling for it.
“Membership has its privileges,” American Express used to say. And it’s that feeling of exclusivity – of being part of club that few others can join – that makes this type of CTA so powerful.
The call to action may be the shortest, most basic part of your marketing message. But it’s also the most powerful because it’s the bit that turns readers and browsers into clients and customers. So at the end of any ad, brochure, blog post or any page of content, encourage your flock in the right direction with a CTA like this one:
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