You could write the most effective, emotional, efficient copy for your printed marketing media, and it wouldn’t amount to anything if a call to action wasn’t clearly defined.
In written advertising, a call to action (by definition) is an imperative sentence that instructs the reader to perform a task. They’re absolutely crucial because once you’ve hooked your audience on your brand, they need to know what steps to take in order to obtain your product or service. Good call to action phrases act like a trail of breadcrumbs leading potential customers directly to your business.
Know your audience’s needs
Before you can begin writing your call to action, you have to understand what you can offer your audience and more importantly, why they need it in the first place. The best practices for accomplishing this are to identify a problem your audience can relate to and position your brand as a solution to that problem. This makes the call to action more enticing to the audience because it gives them a reason to follow your instructions.
This flyer begins by offering a benefit (a happy reaction from your mother) and follows up with a call to action: “Send us her photo.” Photo Credit: LeighAnn Loftus
A call to action is only as powerful as the surrounding copy. If your copy doesn’t tell the audience exactly how they can benefit from using your brand in a clear and engaging way, they won’t even care about the call to action.
Use actionable verbs and phrases
Almost every call to action includes a verb–but some verbs are stronger than others. Action words and phrases compel the reader to perform a task, which is the entire point of a call to action to begin with. Actionable verbs are ones that can actually be carried out by a person in a literal sense.
Good: “Call us today for a free sample” – this is actionable because “call” is a verb that can be carried out by a person.
Bad: “Give us a call for a free sample” – although “give” would normally be actionable, in this case what you’re giving is not a tangible object. You can’t literally hand someone a phone call.
Clarity is crucial
A call to action is only effective if it’s clearly understood by the audience. For starters, the font should be bold and easy to read, so avoid small or overly fancy fonts.
More importantly, the message itself should be easily understood. A clear message spells out exactly what the audience should do and how it will benefit them. Write your call to action using simple language-avoid jargon or confusing terms.
Here’s an example:
Good: “Visit our website! “
Bad: “Point your web browser towards our home page.”
The call to action here is quick and to the point: “ENTER NOW” and a corresponding URL. Photo Credit: Jennie Myers
Make the action as easy as possible
The reader should be able to go directly from the call to action to performing the task itself, so make sure he has everything he need to follow up. For example, if you want them to call, provide a phone number.
However, you also have to consider what kind of phone number you use and if it presents any other problems to your customer. For example, a customer is more willing to call a local number or a toll-free number than a long-distance number.
If you want your customer to visit your website, provide an address. However, if you also provide a QR code, then customers with smart phones or tablet devices can immediately visit your site without having to type an address.
If your goal is for your audience to visit your website, make sure to include a clear and noticeable URL, such as the one on this flyer. Photo Credit: Veronica Varetsa
Obviously you’d provide an address if you want the customer to visit your location, but providing an actual map of your location helps to ensure you won’t miss a sale because the customer lost his way. Better yet, also provide a QR code with Google Map directions to make it even easier.
Writing a call to action is more effective when the audience is only being asked to complete one task. Multiple phrases asking the audience to perform different tasks can be confusing and audiences can loose interest when they think there is a lot of work involved.
However, if you have to have multiple calls to action, make sure one is clearly dominant while the others are just there to work towards the main goal.
This flyer has multiple examples of calls to action, but one dominates the others: “Buy at Fine Retail Stores.” Photo Credit: Fran Linden
For example, the end goal may be to have customers sign up for a free consultation, but they might have multiple options for doing so. By using both “Call us to sign up for a free consultation” and “Visit our website and sign up for a free consultation” in your copy it makes it clear to the audience that signing up is the most important action.
A better way to achieve this would be to eliminate the other calls to action altogether. “Sign up for a free consultation by phone or on our website” is much clearer.
Often times your end goal (making a sale/converting a customer) takes a few steps to accomplish. Your call to action should guide the customer towards the next natural step he or she needs to accomplish in order to get to the end goal.
Create a sense of urgency
A time limitation makes your calls to action a bit stronger because it adds a sense of urgency. However this doesn’t have to be a strict measurement of time, just a general feeling of importance.
Good: “Call us today” – This call to action gives the audience a firm measurement of time to work with and creates a sense of importance.
Good: “Call now” – This is even more urgent and implies the offer may not last forever (even if that’s not the case.) The audience understands the importance of calling soon.
Bad: “Call anytime” – This implies that the offer is always available and that there’s no need to call immediately, which makes it more likely that the audience will forget to call completely.
If your offer does have limitations, make sure this is clearly outlined in your call to action. For example “Call now, supplies are limited” or “Call now to take advantage of this limited-time offer.”
A sense of urgency helps to make your call to action (such as the one on this flyer) more persuasive. Photo Credit: Darren @ Mass Appeal Designs
Answer the reader’s questions
Customers want to know what will happen if they follow your call to action and how doing so will benefit them. Many people in your audience will be skeptical to follow your instructions unless they’re given more information on what happens after doing so.
For example, “Call us today” is not as strong as “Call us today and we’ll help you save money on your heating bills.” The latter tells the audience exactly what will result by following the call to action.
Quell your reader’s fears
Call to action phrases can be used to help your audience get over any opposition they may have. Identify and demolish any misgivings your audience may feel towards your brand and add statements that provide reassurance.
For example, a reader may not want to call because they’re afraid of being sucked into a long sales pitch. Therefore, you might say something like “Call now and in less than five minutes you can get a great deal on your insurance.”
Provide as many details about the process as possible, including any limitations your offer might carry. Walk the reader through the process of what to expect when they follow your call to action. When they do follow your instructions and the results are what you promised, you will have gained their trust and hopefully their future business.
Make an offer they can’t refuse
Sometimes a special offer can go a long way towards convincing skeptical audience members to follow your call to action. This might be a free gift, guarantee, special discount or other incentives to sweeten the deal.
“Order today and get half-off the cost of shipping.”
“Call now and ask about our buy-one, get one offer.”
“Sign up for our mailing list to receive special member coupons.”
Be upfront in your call to action if there are any limitations to your offer, such as a time limit or per-customer limit.
The fact that buyers can ‘save over $700’ makes the call to action on this flyer especially persuasive. Photo Credit: Mike Greenwald
Just like any message you want to drive home, repetition makes your call to action more effective. Repeat your call to action several different ways and in different areas to make sure the message is clear.
Take a look at these examples:
“Visit us at the corner of Main and Maple to receive a free quote”
“Come to our downtown location for your free quote”
“Ask for your free quote at our Main and Maple location.”
“Drive downtown today for your free quote.”
If your marketing materials have multiple pages, then every page should contain a repetition of the call to action. That way, the customer doesn’t have to go searching around to find out what to do when he or she is ready to take the next step.
Use colors and graphics
A call to action is more effective when it stands out from the rest of your design. Try using a contrasting font color to make the call to action pop. Red is an effective call to action color because it’s bright and creates a sense of urgency, but you can use any distinctive color that matches your design.
The bright red color helps this mailer’s call to action really stand out. Photo Credit: Burton Creative
You can also use graphics like an arrow or bullet point to help draw the eye towards your call to action. However, be careful that you don’t go overboard-graphics should enhance the call to action, not overshadow it.
Leave white space
When designing the layout of your printed materials, make sure not to overcrowd your call to action. Leave plenty of white space to allow it to stand out better on the page. This allows your call to action to be easily read when scanning the page for information.
A call to action should usually be sightly larger than the surrounding paragraph text so that readers recognize it as something separate. This also makes it easier to scan and read. People don’t always take action right away; a large call to action ensures that they will find it easily if they look at the ad later.
You should aim for a 20% increase in font size between your call to action phrases and the rest of your copy. That of course means the font size used for the body paragraphs, not the headlines.
When the customer actually does follow through on your call to action, what happens next? It’s your responsibility to make sure that when they follow your instructions, it’s easy for them to follow the next step towards a sale or conversion.
And the next step.
And so on.
For example, if you ask them to call your office, make sure someone is on the other end waiting to take their call and to explain the next step of the process. If the office is closed, there should be an automated message that explains the process and gives the customer instructions on when to call back.
Whenever a customer does follow your call to action, track your success. Figure out which ones are getting positive responses and which ones are having difficulty attracting new customers. Then adjust your marketing strategy accordingly.
Practice makes perfect, and your best call to action ideas will likely come to you after you’ve become more familiar with the process. Take the time to perform writing exercises, coming up with different ways to instruct your audience and drive them towards your brand’s end goal.
What sort of calls to action do you find to be effective in your printed material? What calls to action have you yourself acted upon in the past? Here’s a call to action for you: share your responses, tips and examples in the comments!
Posted in Copywriting
All of your content marketing success hinges on the bounce and the conversion. The two exist on a seesaw, the dreaded “bounce” on one side and “conversion” on the other.
And what is the fulcrum at the center of the two that will determine which way it will tip? Your call to action—aka your marketing CTA.
Your content marketing lives and dies based on the success of your CTA. It determines if people take your content and bounce out on their merry way, never to return, or if they leap for the bait and go further into your sales funnel. Knowing how to write a call to action that hooks your reader’s interest is key to your content’s survival.
Want to use Click to Tweet on your blog?
What Is A Call To Action?
A call to action might be as simple as asking someone to:
- Sign up for your email newsletter.
- Download free resources in exchange for an email address.
- Buy an ebook, coaching service, or your product.
A call to action might be at the beginning of a blog post, at the end of a blog post, or sprinkled throughout a landing page. As a marketer, you use a call to action in any medium—videos, advertisements, blog posts, landing pages, and even social messages.
Whatever form it takes, and wherever it appears in your content, a call to action is you providing your reader with some form of actionable task and usually appears as a button, link within text, or an image of some kind.
Whatever form it takes, a call to action provides your reader with an actionable task.Click To Tweet
Content marketing is creating content, but with a purpose.
All content has the purpose of establishing your expertise and being helpful to your reader so that they come back to you for more. And of course, content has the purpose of bringing in new readers through search engines.
So you must include purposeful elements in your content that specifically ask your reader to do something tangible instead of merely feeling warm fuzzies about your brand. You must regularly ask your reader to do something.
A call to action not only gets your reader to do something that commits her further to what you are ultimately selling, it’s also something you can measure. And, if you can measure it, you can test, tweak, and change it so you learn more about your audience.
Without a call to action, you’re wasting your best efforts.Click To Tweet
Without a call to action, you’re wasting your best efforts and goodwill on readers who probably would take action and who probably would buy but you’ve never pushed them to.
Without writing a call to action, the most you’ll know about your reader is hits, page views, and bounces. You’ll spread lots of goodwill. But you’ll never make a sale.
How To Write A Call To Action Using Exclusivity And The Undeniable FOMO
When it comes to a powerful motivator for your call to action, FOMO, or the fear of missing out, is hard to beat. This is about exclusivity, which generally works in two ways:
- Only some get in. By only letting a few get in, you suggest that those who do are lucky, should be thankful, are special, are deserving—anything of this nature. This is about status, namely who’s in and who’s out. In order for this to work, you have to make something amazing enough that people want to be in on it.
- Anyone gets in, but with restrictions. Think of data rights management or DRM controls on ebooks and music. The product is available to anyone, but you need specific devices, tools, or access methods to use it. In this way, it’s exclusive because you control how people use it and how they can share or spread it.
That fear of missing out taps into several human emotions (some of which we’d rather not admit to). It’s more than just fear because that fear is based in something else:
- Panic: “If I miss out, I’ll never know if this could have changed my life!”
- Greed: “I have to have everything.”
- Comparison: “I don’t want to be the only person without this!”
- Curiosity: “Could this possibly be as amazing as they describe?”
- Pride: “I got in and you didn’t. Ha ha.”
Most of us are almost compulsively driven by these emotions.
When you write a call to action, you must tap into these kinds of emotion—the ones that are so connected to exclusivity—because they’re what drive people to act when it comes to selling.
And when you’re selling something people don’t need (i.e. food, water, shelter, new washer) and are instead trying to create a want (i.e. you just bought a new shirt, but why not get a few more?), you have to find another motivator for them to part with their money (or their email address).
And, oddly, the fear and subsequent emotions that are tied into exclusivity are good ones to use.
Want to use Click to Tweet on your blog?
How To Put Exclusivity To Work In Your Call To Action
Exclusivity rides on one main idea: If you don’t do something now, you’ll never be able to do it again.
You can hint at exclusivity through the words in your call to action.
Think of any word or phrase that suggests now:
- Last chance
- Limited supply
- Only a few left
- Ends tomorrow
- Limited time only
- One-time offer
- Expires soon
You get the idea.
With FOMO, there isn’t time to think. The language all points to action immediately. So Call now is much better than Call anytime.
How To Write A Call To Action Using Hope As A Motivation
Fear isn’t the only way to get people to act, though it’s one of the most powerful. Hope can do the trick, too.
First you need to create a sense of desperation. Illustrate just how big a problem your readers have, and the hope to change it will suddenly make sense.
While driving around town and checking errands off of my to-do list this past weekend, I took note of the billboards and signs outside of the stores and restaurants. I said to my friend, who was with me, that there was absolutely nothing that I needed, yet here I was, buying stuff.
“I wouldn’t be dissatisfied with my life and possessions if they didn’t tell me it ought to be so,” I said, a bit annoyed.
“You can’t sell to people who aren’t dissatisfied,” my friend replied.
With dissatisfaction comes hope. Or it should, if you’re writing your call to action correctly.
How To Leverage Hope With Your Call To Action
To tap into hope, you first must suggest hopelessness. By that, I mean you must show the reader that there is a problem, it’s a serious one, and they have it.
And then you provide the solution and the hope.
“You’ve tried everything to lose weight, but nothing worked,” is easily countered with, “Try this safe and proven method that returns results every time, risk free!”
In this call to action example, you assure the reader by using the words “safe” and “risk free”, and give them hope by suggesting it’s “proven” and “returns results”.
Big problem. Big hope. Once you’ve established this pattern, end with your simplified call to action. “Start now and lose 10 pounds in your first month.”
So … What Are Those Call To Action Words That Get People To Act?
Is it possible that certain words get more conversions than others? It’s a good question that has some research behind it—to an extent.
So I took a look at five well-researched articles to pull together a big list of call to action words that will help you get more email signups, trials, and sales. This data comes from five researched articles, and even includes some words that have helped CoSchedule get as much as a 27% conversion rate from our own calls to action:
- Backlinko’s research on building email lists
- Sprout Social’s research on call to action phrases
- WishPond’s research on words to use in call to action buttons
- Unbounce’s research on call to action buttons
- Unbounce’s research on conversion rate optimization
- CoSchedule’s research from our own landing pages and blog posts
Now, many of these sources suggest testing your own calls to action on your blog and website to see what words perform best with your audience. That is great advice you can put into practice by using a tool like Visual Website Optimizer. Start simple:
- Write two powerful calls to action you will A/B test against one another.
- Set up the test with Visual Website Optimizer.
- Give it a week and analyze the data.
The results may surprise you, as they’ve done with us at CoSchedule.
Want to use Click to Tweet on your blog?
6 Call To Action Examples To Help You Write Better CTAs Than Ever
Call to action examples are everywhere, so where would you start? I figured we’d take a look at a few of the top companies in the world according to Fortune’s 500 list (there has to be a reason they’re so successful, right?), then dive in to some specific examples that are a bit more content marketing related.
Let’s do this.
1. Learn More With Apple
Like the simplicity of their products, Apple keeps their calls to action short, clean, and to the point.
Learn more and Trade up to a new iPhone are unmistakable in letting Apple’s audience know exactly what they’ll see after they click through the call to action. Apple also doesn’t clutter the design: There are clearly only two options to help their users focus on making a decision to click quickly and easily.
Lesson Learned: Be clear and concise, and position your call to action as the obvious next step.
2. Save With CVS
While the design is super busy compared to Apple’s example (do I click on Save with Our App, App Store, Google Play, or on the phone itself?!), CVS focuses on the value proposition in their call to action.
Save with Our App focuses CVS’ audience on the perceived benefit of using the tool, which connects into hope to resolve the dissatisfaction of spending so much money.
The headline here—Unlock extra savings with app-only deals!—also suggests exclusivity, that you can only experience those benefits if you get the app. They also include the word exclusive in the description, which is a powerful motivator for the fear of missing out.
Lesson Learned: Keep your design clean so your users know where to click. Brainstorm the value proposition to answer your readers’ inherent question, “What’s in it for me?” and tie that into your call to action.
3. Rely On The Visual Like Amazon
Who said you had to write a call to action? The behemoth Amazon focuses on compelling imagery to entice action.
In this example, there is really no traditional call to action that usually begins with a verb. However, Amazon does rock some powerful words with the visual: Now and Limited time offer. Talk about inducing urgency and appealing to the fear of missing out.
The visual tells the rest of the story, helping Amazon shoppers envision themselves in front of an amazing TV with a bowl of popcorn and a couple glasses of champaign.
Would you like to chillax like that, too? Heck yes, you would. And that’s why the visual creates a powerful call to action.
It’s noteworthy to mention this: Amazon doesn’t even show the product they’re selling (other than the remote) and focuses the visual mostly on the experience you’ll feel when you click through the call to action to purchase it. People don’t buy products, they buy experiences. And that’s why Amazon crushed it with this call to action example.
Lesson Learned: Literally show the pleasurable outcome your audience will experience if they just click through your call to action.
Want to use Click to Tweet on your blog?
4. Code School Shows Calls To Action Don’t Have To Be Super Formal
Wondering how to apply calls to action into your blog posts? Write a post that helps your readers do something without you, then when you can help them do it even better, let them know.
Code School helps people learn how to code. So when they wrote a post called Why Python? that covered reasons to learn and use the language, they ended the post with a call to action to learn more through the courses Code School offers.
The call to action appears as the last paragraph in the blog post, and invites readers to Check out a couple new courses. It’s simple, informal, yet informational to teach their audience about the possibilities Code School offers to help their readers improve.
Lesson Learned: Write a blog post that connects into your product or service. Then end the post with an informal call to action to work with you to resolve the problems you just outlined in your post and link to content that introduces your offering.
5. Wistia Embeds Calls To Action In Videos
Do you embed videos in your blog posts? With Wistia, you can add a Turnstile into your video to collect email leads during video play, and you can also include a written call to action and link to related content at the end of your video.
Turns out, you can also write a call to action right into your YouTube videos, too, if you’re not a Wistia user.
Anyway, this call to action example shows up at the end of a video that explains one element about making post-product process simpler—something Wistia’s audience cares a lot about. Wistia then links to more information on the topic to help their viewers learn more about post-production—which is a part of the video process Wistia as a tool can help make more efficient.
The video appears in lieu of a traditional blog post header graphic. That means Wistia’s audience sees a video right away (which also likely boosts on page time and engagement quite a bit), Wistia shows their quirky brand personality, and they display a strong call to action immediately.
This is a great example of leading an audience deeper into the funnel from inbound marketing to demand generation content that positions Wistia as the solution to the problem. Brilliant.
Lesson Learned: Strategically think about the next step to bring new users from inbound marketing into demand generation content that positions your product or service as the answer to a problem your audience is facing. Write calls to action for all of your videos.
6. Create Content-Specific Calls To Action Like Backlinko
Have you seen blog posts that offer something free in exchange for your email address? Somewhere along the lines, marketers started calling those things content upgrades. And they are a super smart way to include a call to action in every blog post to turn the traffic you get into email subscribers.
In this call to action example from Backlinko, Brian Dean includes a written CTA in the introduction of his blog post. That is brilliant because a majority of your audience will read the first 100 words of your post, then maybe skim the rest.
Anyway, this call to action is very smart because it relates specifically to the content at hand and not just a generic give-me-your-email-address kinda CTA. Brian relates directly to the challenge his readers want to resolve by writing Get More Email Subscribers, then he uses a powerful word with download.
He also promises that what his readers will get behind the call to action will help them quickly execute the 17 strategies from this post, which is very important for the Backlinko blog in particular because Brian creates such long-form content. This way, he captures the interest of the too-long-didn’t-read (TLDR) audience while also turning them into email subscribers.
To top it off, Brian targets another call to action for the 20% of his audience that makes it through the entire blog post to the very end. This time, he lets the visual speak for itself with the power word download, and includes the emotional word free to describe his content upgrade.
Lesson Learned: Include a relevant content upgrade at the beginning and end of your blog posts to convert traffic into email subscribers. Use your call to action to appeal to the reasons your audience is already interested in the content, packaging a condensed and actionable guide behind the clickthrough.
Want to use Click to Tweet on your blog?
Put It All Together: How To Write A Call To Action With A Compelling Structure
No matter what motivation you use (fear or hope), there are some common ways that you should use when structuring your call to action.
1. Start with verbs.
Verbs are the action words that make it clear to readers what you want them to do. Instead of saying, “Ready to get started?” simplify it to “Get started now” or “Start saving now”.
Some verbs are stronger than others. This has to do with the cacophony of the word (hard K, G, D sounds) coupled with the strength of the action suggested in context.
The word “buy” feels stronger and more urgent than “purchase”. “Get your copy” is more cacophonous and powerful than “Download your ebook”.
Starting with verbs means starting phrases and sentences, sure, but also the placement of links and call to action buttons. They come first (or nearly first) and should be prominent. Buttons to buy or sign-up should be above the fold, no scrolling required. They should be before the long chunk of explanatory text.
Want to use Click to Tweet on your blog?
2. Take it easy on filler words.
Adverbs and adjectives can get in the way of the action you want your readers to take.
You should have already done the work of convincing people to take the action before presenting your call to action to them through blog post or landing page copy. Try your best to avoid words ending in -ly. “Click here” is better than “Click here quickly.”
There are exceptions, though. For example, you might hint at exclusivity by saying “Get your custom ebook now” instead of just “Get your ebook”.
3. Keep things simple and brief.
Use words that are simple, common, and not too long.
This isn’t because you think your reader isn’t smart enough to handle anything else, but because you’re trying to prod base emotions. You don’t want anything to get in the way of those simple emotions, particularly requiring readers to consider complex thought processes or scenarios which could distract them or lead them down a path of thought away from taking action.
Avoid buzzwords, jargon, and any word that feels “empty” and can be ignored by the reader. If you use enough ignorable words in your call to action, your entire call to action runs the risk of being ignored.
Want to use Click to Tweet on your blog?
If you must use descriptive words, use simple and common words that are emotionally effective.
This is no time to go crazy with a thesaurus and impress the world with your vocabulary. The language must not get in the way of the emotional prodding you’re trying to achieve. Save your thinking words for your blog posts, and focus your call to action on words that are powerful persuaders.
Remember simple, basic, and primal words—and not too many words overall—when you make the big request.
4. Make the request simple, too.
It’s not just the language of the request that you need to make simple, but the request itself must be easy. One or two clicks to completion. As little pain as possible.
If you need more information than a name and email, try to break it up so you capture that email first, get the user into the purchase or into their account, and then collect the rest later. The reason is that you don’t want to give your reader time to change their mind.
I don’t know how many times I’ve been at a big box store and, because of too few checkout lanes available, seen people abandon full carts in line and walk out the door. It’s the same with your call to action.
The more complicated you make it for readers to complete it, the more likely they’ll find a way to change their mind or forget the driving reason you just convinced them they needed to take action.
“Buy now!” doesn’t feel like “now” if you make them fill out lots of information, answer a small survey, and click on a reply email to verify. That feels like buying later, and it brings into question the urgency you insisted was necessary to get a reader to take action.
Want to use Click to Tweet on your blog?