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call to action wiki

Create a Website that Closes with Effective Calls to Action

What’s a call to action? Wikipedia manages to answer the question nicely.

call to action wiki

In marketing circles, call-to-action is often abbreviated as “CTA.” The purpose of the CTA is to tell the reader what to do next—what action to take.

A line of copy does the job. For instance: Click here to register for our free webinar now.

Often, to make them more noticeable, CTAs are presented as prominent, colorful buttons within a web page, blog post or email.

mailchimp screenshot 

MailChimp offers two of the same CTAs in close proximity to each other on this page and uses contrasting colors to help them stand out.

Create a call-to-action that gets the click.

Design smart. You need your CTA to get noticed. Choose colors that contrast with the other prominent colors on the page. Also, make the button large enough to be noticed.

Make it compelling. “Submit” or “Click here” aren’t ideal CTAs because they lack the emotion it takes to drive action. Use a direct, concise and simple phrase featuring a verb.

Be clear. Let readers know exactly what happens when they take action. Will they gain access to an ebook? Get a free template? Reserve a spot for an event? Receive newsletters? Save money?

Show the goods. If you’re offering something tangible, you’ll likely enjoy higher response rates by showing the item.  

newsletter signup example

Throughout my website are various “action boxes” aimed at capturing the email address of the visitor. Note that I’ve chosen to show an example of the free resources I offer my subscribers.

Specificity will help. Numbers tend to improve conversion rates. Some examples:

  • Save $25 today.
  • Join more than 10,000 satisfied customers.
  • Download the free and information-packed 40-page guide.

Create landing pages. A proven and powerful way to increase the effectiveness of your call to action is create a landing page, an entire page dedicated to showcasing your offer.

landing page example

This landing page makes it clear what the value proposition is and what the reader needs to do to take advantage of the risk free product trial.

Call-to-action templates make it easy.

 

Check out this image. It’s one of 50 easily customizable CTA “buttons” or graphics prebuilt for you and offered free from HubSpot. Each call-to-action can be changed with PowerPoint and plugged into your page design.

In addition to the free templates, the eBook, “50 Designed CTA Templates Ready for Customization,” also includes:

  • Shortcuts and tips for making smart color choices
  • How to best use the CTA buttons

Want to try creating one from scratch?

You won’t need PowerPoint or any software.

Try Canva at Canva.com—This website, which has remained in a free beta stage for some time, makes designing just about any online asset amazing intuitive.

Try the free call-to-action button generator. Yes indeed, there’s an app for that. At this website, the free tool allows you to experiment with colors, text, size, borders and effects until you create exactly the look you like.

Vertical Response has an even easier one. They call it “button builder.” It gives you a blank field to write your CTA copy, pull-down menu options to customize the look, and then emails you the image file.

Call-to-action templates make it easy.

CTA example

 

In this post, I aimed to give you a fundamental lesson on the role of the CTA, best practices and easy tools for creating yours. If you’re interested in reading even more about CTAs, read my post, “You Have to Tell Your Customers Where to Go.”

That’s optional. Developing offers and calling attention to them on your website is not, so fittingly, I’ll close with a CTA: act now!.

It sucks to be in advertising and before you even ask I’ll tell you why.  The marketing pundits of today (who I mostly like and respect) have tagged us crusty old advertising fossils as bad guys. We’re mad men. Con men. The more sensitive types may just call us liars.  And then, who’s the dirtiest rottenest of the liars? Copywriters, of course. Having been one of those for more years than I want to admit, it’s a wonder I sleep at night.

But don’t go turning your back on my profession quite so fast. We’re not so bad. Sometimes we are sincere. Sometimes we believe in the products we peddle. And sometimes we have good ideas.

My point is we’re not 100% full of it. Sometimes we call ‘em as we see ‘em. And sometimes the wisdom we came to be known for back in the days of newspapers and network television actually apply to online marketing.

Case in point is the thing us old word slingers call the “call to action.” It’s a good label. It’s a good thing. And if you decide to hear me out, it’s very possible you’ll go where I ask you to and do what I want you to do.

Go here and do this.

The call to action is so simple. To do it right is to tell your prospect exactly what you want them to do. For example, “Buy now” is a good one. “Enter your email address here” is good. “For more information call 1-800-4ACTION” seems perfectly instructional. That’s the definition of a call to action. It’s an instruction. People appreciate instructions. Simon says buy my product.

Why then is the call to action so frequently a mangled mess? These missteps come to mind. The host:

  • Doesn’t want to be pushy.
  • Hasn’t determined what they want the prospect to do.
  • Doesn’t understand the prospect’s needs.
  • Offers too many options.
  • Assumes too much and knows too little.
  • Assumes the prospect will take action without being prompted.
  • Makes it overly difficult to oblige

What a heap of manure we have here. I don’t want you to make these mistakes. They cost you dearly.

I want you to make one thing perfectly clear.

Tell the person on your website what to do.  Be explicit. Tell them which device to use. Tell them why. Tell them when. Tell them how. If they need to go somewhere to do it, tell them where to go.

You know that sign above the cash register at your favorite take-out restaurant? It says “Pay here.” That’s effective stuff. It’s helpful information. It gets you what you came to get: food.  It gets the seller what they want from you: a sale.

Maybe copywriters aren’t so bad after all. Think of us as helpers. In the spirit of helping you achieve your goals, allow me to feed you some further instructions that will help sharpen your website and make the register go “ring-a-ling-ding.”


Have an objective
—What do you want your visitor to do? Buy? Call? Register? Sign up for something? Share content? Complete a survey? These are all valid calls to action. So your first action item: give your site a job description. Learn more about this vital step here by reading “A Successful Website Achieves Objectives.”

Provide a reason—Answer the WIIFM (what’s in it for me) question. For instance: Learn how to increase conversions. Download 21 Pointers to Sharpen Your Website” NOW! You can see how the reason and the reward work together here as a one-two punch.

Think singular—If you’re not running a restaurant, resist suggesting a menu full of options. If you are running a restaurant, ask your visitors to “Order Now.” The more explicit you are with your call to action, the more likely you’ll invoke the action, so think singular and call for your customer to do one thing.

Put up a sign—Ever hunted for the button your website host wanted you to press? That’s crazy. Don’t play “Where’s Waldo” games with potential customers. Make your call to action uber obvious. Put your call to action where it’s easily found and consider design tactics such as:

  • Creating a sizable button
  • Using contrasting colors
  • Surrounding it with white (or negative) space
  • Employing familiar cues such as arrows, cursors, etc.

Settle for less—If you plan to put a form in front of your offer, don’t be overly needy or unnecessarily greedy with your “price of admission.” More fields = less responses. So if you’re going to ask multiple choice questions or require prospects to qualify themselves at all, it should be because the qualification process is an intentional part of the process. If your objective is collect and nurture leads via email, you really need an email address and nothing more.

Suggest action everywhere—Don’t confuse your website for an ad or brochure. That is, don’t assume linear behavior on the part of the reader. The flexible structure of your website suggests your visitors could wander around any way they please and never make it to your contact us form or POP. So in addition to making it easy to find your CTA, every page of your website should tell the reader what to do and where to go.

Activate with urgency—Your call to action should feature active words such as call, buy, register, donate, and enroll. And, it only helps to up the urgency with limited time offers, expiration dates, or at least a little nudge like “now.”

Deliver pain relief—It’s one thing (and a must) to make it easy to take action. You get bonus points for “selling” the ease too. In other words, as long as you speak the truth, you should tell your prospect just how easy this little act of compliance shall be. If what you’re asking for doesn’t take long, doesn’t cost much, doesn’t involve any risk and does make the respondent’s life instantly awesome, go ahead and put a little extra pep in the step of your soon-to-be-customer.

Did you learn something? Can you add something? Make this article a dialogue. Contribute your thoughts here. It’s easy. Act now. For a limited time, you could be famous.

Want to gather 20 more insightful actions you can take to make your online marketing efforts more effective? Help yourself to “21 Pointers to Sharpen Your Website.”

 .

Barry Feldman

About Barry Feldman

Barry Feldman operates Feldman Creative and provides clients content marketing strategies that rock and creative that rolls. Barry authors "Content Marketing Minds" at Social Media Today and has recently been named a Top 40 Digital Strategist by Online Marketing Institute and one of 25 Social Media Marketing Experts You Need to Know by LinkedIn. Connect with Barry on G+ and Twittter @feldmancreative

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