Say you’ve just written a promotional or content piece that’s so fantastic that there’s no doubt in your mind that your audience is going to love it. And that means they’re going to make that purchase, click through to that landing page, fill out that form or whatever action you want them to take. I mean, it’s obvious what their next step should be, right?
The truth is, unless you tell your audience what you want them to do, many people who would have gladly complied will just move on. You’ve probably heard about studies that show that blog posts, tweets, etc. that contain instructions like “comment” or “please retweet” actually obtain more of the desired actions from the audience.
That’s why you need to an effective call to action (CTA) in your ads, brochures, sales letters or emails, blog posts, white papers, pretty much any material that promotes your product/service/idea/business.
So, the next question is how to make a call to action effective. Here are a few guidelines:
1. Tailor Your Call to Action to the Content/Copy
I know I said “an” effective call to action, but I don’t mean that you should use the same CTA in every marketing or public relations piece. If you do this, your CTA won’t match the promise of the material, a common complaint especially when it comes to landing pages according to the Content Marketing Institute. Instead, think about what you want that particular piece to achieve and then craft a call to action that nudges your audience in that direction. Generally, a piece should only have one call to action; an exception being communication vehicles like newsletters with multiple articles and other items that can have their own individual calls to action.
2. Keep It Short
The rest of your copy or content has the job of generating enthusiasm for your product, service, idea, etc. The call to action’s job is to provide the final nudge. So don’t bog it down with new information, though you can repeat the benefit or “no obligation/ no risk to you” copy. As for actual length, Hubspot recommends between 90 and 150 characters.
Actually, the examples I found fall well below 90 characters:
- Order now and get free delivery …
- Give us a call, and we will give you a free estimate
- You get the lowest price when you buy it by [date].
- Yes, please start my one-year subscription to [title] for just [dollar amount]
- Call 1-800-959-1059 now or go online for details.
- Click here to grab your discounted ticket now.
If you’re writing for a CTA online or email button, the copy is typically even shorter. These are a few examples from organizations such as MarketingProfs, Greenpeace, etc.
- Register Now!
- Donate Today
- Start Free 7-Day Trial
3. Be specific
Notice that all of the examples above don’t leave room for doubt regarding the next step readers should take. Even though it may reflect the overall promise of your message, a CTA like Start Working Smarter Now isn’t giving them specific instructions and may lead to reduced response.
Even a phrase like Want to learn more? is less than powerful when it comes to giving your prospects that final nudge. They’ll start thinking, “Do I want to learn more?” and a portion of them will arrive at the conclusion that they don’t actually have the time or that they have all they need at the moment. On the other hand, making it into an order, e.g., Learn More will leave more prospects thinking, “Good idea!”
Marketers have found that the more specific the CTA, the better the response. An example of this would be Join Over 80,000 of Your Peers! Sign Up Now.
So, our Learn More example could be expanded to something like To learn more about how to create a social media tactical plan, download our free 11-page report. If you have less space, you can try Click here to learn more.
4. Create a Sense of Urgency
Often, when I know I need to do something, I tell myself that I’ll get to it later. However, later often means several days (or months) later and, sometimes, never at all. You don’t want your readers to do the same to you, so your CTA should encourage them to take action at once. Many of the CTA examples I’ve shown above use words like now and today. One tells the reader to act by a certain date in order to get the lowest price.
5. Test to Find What Works
These are general principles for creating a CTA, but whenever possible, you should compare the outcomes for different CTAs. Don’t assume what works for someone else will work for you; different people have experience different outcomes. For example, this Copyblogger post shares why the author found the phrase Click here to … to be one of the most effective ways to make readers click on a link while this Smashing Magazine article warns against using that same phrase to get clicks on a link.
Likewise, the CTAs that I shared above were created by pretty savvy organizations, and all but one directly address the readers in order to tell them what to do. However, this Copyblogger post recounts two tests that showed a 25 percent increase and a 90 percent increase in clicks on CTA buttons written in the first person.
So, remember these 4 principles when crafting your CTA. Most importantly, remember to include a CTA.