4 Critical Principles of Effective Calls to Action
One of the important parts of your marketing campaign is the call to action. It’s a small part but powerful enough to determine whether you succeed or fail in your campaign.
The call to action is a very short message telling the prospect what to do.
It’s an attempt to convince the prospect that if he takes the action he’s told to take, he will experience some benefits.
The challenge however is, how convincing are you?
But as much as this is a valid question, it doesn’t bring out the whole truth.
Technically speaking, your convincing power isn’t what is truly being tested here. It’s your knowledge of what works and what doesn’t.
There are certain words which when used, they increase your chances of getting your customers’ attention. There are others which when used, will cause even your most loyal customers to change their loyalty.
So which words should you use and which ones shouldn’t you use?
In this article, we will talk about the message and how you should craft it.
However, you should know that the message is not all it takes to have an effective call to action.
This articles looks at principles.
It details the things you should focus on so as to come up with an effective overall message.
After reading it, you’ll be able to make the necessary improvements to your CTA and even help others do the same.
PRINCIPLES OF EFFECTIVE CTAs
For you to have a call to action which gives you the expected results, there are four things you need to do.
For every one of these that you fail to do, you increase your chances of losing out on the opportunities around you.
Calls to action can be used anywhere. As long as it’s a marketing campaign, CTAs can be included.
All the same, you may need to make small adjustments so as to align with the different platforms or modes of communication.
The good thing is that once you know what needs to be done and you do it well, success is guaranteed.
1. The Engagement Path
The first thing you have to do is take time to design the overall engagement path to be followed.
Whether your CTA is for your landing page or it’s for your email subscribers, the engagement path should be the same.
The engagement path is the path which everyone will follow as you lead them towards conversion. The experience your landing page visitors will have should be the same as that which others will have.
This makes it easier for you to design and develop everything. Without the need for different designs, you’re able to focus on providing the best experience for everyone.
For your prospects, the same look and feel shows consistency and trust.
There are three primary routes to take when it comes to CTAs. They can be more than that depending on your business and your specific target customers.
- Landing page – the landing page is the most common place CTAs are found. Landing pages are web pages created specifically to aid in marketing. They work as part of the lead life cycle.
The engagement path is the map to the destination. It shows where to go, what to do and how to do it. For the landing page, this includes the design of the page, the colors used, copy written and even the location of the elements. More on this in the section about CTA messaging.
- Email – the email route is one which can only be taken by your email subscribers. For this reason, even if you have millions of them, the reach can be limited compared to what you have on the Internet.
At the same time, even your subscribers might interact with you landing page before they read your email. This is because emails have lower engagement due to low open rates. Your landing page on the other hand might be shared on social media and attract new leads.
- Phone call – phone conversations can also be used for lead generation and nurturing activities. These are well suited for products which are new. The need to explain the features and benefits of the new products make emails and landing pages less effective.
If taking this route, you need to ensure that once the prospect is engaged, he gets to follow a similar path as that followed by your web visitors. Since you will most likely implement a menu system, it’s important to ensure the options are clear and easy to understand.
The menus should not make it difficult for the customer to decide which option to pick.
Also, make sure there is an “exit strategy” in case the customer wants to opt out. Remember to include live humans in the system and provide a means of customers jumping straight to them.
The reason you have a CTA on your landing page is for conversions.
But are you going to make conversions if the call to action is not visible?
For an effective call to action, visibility does not mean just being able to be seen. Visibility here means attracting attention.
Everything on your landing page exists to serve only one purpose: getting visitors to take your preferred action.
So how do you ensure proper visibility for your call to action?
There are three factors to consider. These are the format, color and position of the CTA.
The format of the call to action is key. There are basically two format types here. The text format and the graphical format.
The text format is quite old school and you may struggle to find it in any modern landing page.
This is where the call to action is a simple text hyperlink. But the graphical is different and it’s what is more common.
Graphical CTAs provide a visual aspect that helps in attracting attention. And when the attention is captured, it becomes easier to get visitors to do what you want them to do.
These CTAs will often take the form of a button. This works well since as humans, we are conditioned to click buttons. A button CTA therefore attracts clicks.
When working with buttons, put the below in mind:
- Button shape – the shape of the button should be a consideration. The shape of the CTA button contributes a lot to its attractiveness. As such, as much as you may be creative and adventurous, there are shapes you shouldn’t use. For example, a triangle button may yield unexpected results.
The most common, tried and tested shapes are round and rectangle.
These two have been used for long and have been proven to be effective. In any case, when you think of many things which can be clicked or pressed, aren’t they either round or rectangle?
- Button size – the size of the button is also important. Have a small button and it might not be noticed. Have a big button and it may imply that you’re trying to pile pressure on your page visitors. If they feel as if they’re being coerced, they won’t take action.
That means that the ideal solution is in getting the size right. For you to know the right size, you might need to test different sizes.
Generally though, an average size button should not be difficult to design. A look at some great landing pages can give you some idea of the right size.
Colors are very important when designing both the landing page and call to action. Apart from the overall design of the page and the messaging, colors are what attract visitors and move them.
There is a whole area of study dedicated to colors. It’s called the psychology of colors. It has been shown that colors affect our emotions and whatever affects emotions affects decision making.
Emotions are very powerful and they often override logic.
To get the best results where colors are concerned, you need to first have your brand color in mind. You cannot design your landing page and call to action without factoring in your brand’s color.
As for the CTA button, it’s important that it stands out from everything else on the page. You will easily achieve this by using contrasting colors.
Having the perfect combination of colors for your landing page and CTA button isn’t enough. There is the issue of positioning.
Where is your call to action positioned?
At the top of the page, at the middle or at the bottom?
This can be a tricky one to decide and although you can get quick suggestions, it’s best to put in some research work.
Most landing page designers will tell you that somewhere at the middle is the ideal location.
That has been proven to be true in many cases. However, just to be sure and also for the sake of understanding your web visitors better, consider using heat maps.
Heat maps are software tools which help you see and understand where people are looking when they visit your page.
They use color codes to show you where page scrolling stops, which part of your page people spend much time on, and even the areas clicked.
This helps you understand the behavior of your page visitors.
Such insight will help you know where to position your call to action so as to get the best results.
With your page and call to action designed for maximum visibility, the next thing to work on is the message. In marketing terms, this message is referred to as copy.
Without a good copy, the page visitor will like what he sees but take no action. You will have lost the opportunity since you’re not out to simply make the visitor like your page. Your intention is to get him to take the action you want.
This is achieved by use of the right words. How you communicate your message is what makes the difference.
Any great copy should answer questions on what, why, when and how much.
Here is a brief discussion on that.
1. What – this is the action you want your page visitors to take. The question is, what do you want them to do? To register? Buy? Download? This should be communicated very clearly and the message should be concise.
2. Why – your page visitors have very many options; far too many to even count. And they know it. It’s the nature of the competition. Something else, they don’t have much time and they easily get bored. To get them hooked, you have to tell them the benefits.
Ask yourself, why should they do what I’m telling them to do? To see how important this question is, put yourself in the visitor’s shoes and ask yourself, “If I were browsing and looking for a solution, what would make me choose this one?”
It’s critical to understand that in writing copy, your choice of words really matters. You don’t have to write very many words but just the right ones. Do not try to show the sense of your solution since not many people buy logically. Most people buy emotionally.
For that reason, tune your message to touch on their emotions. You will achieve this by focusing on the experience. Show your page visitors what your offer will help them experience.
The better the promise, the higher the chances of them doing what you’re asking them to do.
3. When – still, an irresistible offer isn’t all you need. Your message also needs to have the time factor. Keeping in mind that your page visitors are skeptics and want to be sure of value before buying, you have to “catch” them quickly.
The more time they need to think about your offer, the less the chances of choosing it. Focus on helping them make the decision as soon as possible. And that can only be immediately. This is where you use the “Now” messaging tactic.
You will have to show them the benefits of the offer, and of choosing it NOW. You do this by creating a sense of urgency. Use words such as “Now” and “Today” to show the urgency.
You can also use phrases which indicate that time is running out. Examples include “Limited stocks,” “While stocks last” etc.
You can also include other offers into the urgency. For example, “Shop TODAY and get a FREE gift” or “First 100 customers get a FREE gift.” A quick tip here: put some emphasis on the free gift. The more valuable the gift, the higher the chances of customer action.
4. How much – One of the example CTA message given above is “Shop TODAY and get a FREE gift.” Apart from the emphasis on the word “Today,” there is also an emphasis on the word “Free.”
If you want your call to action to be effective, you must show page visitors that the action you want them to take will cost them nothing. Do not assume that because you’ve not indicated the cost, people will assume it’s free. What if they assume there is a surprise cost coming?
No-one likes such surprises.
Moreover, humans have been shown to love free stuff. If not free stuff, then the least expensive, as long as they believe they are getting value. This seems hardwired in the brain.
The forth principle of an effective call to action is testing.
Many marketers spend a lot of time designing their landing pages and crafting the message. They launch their pages and hope to get the expected results.
When the expected results don’t come, they decide to make changes.
They either change aspects of the landing page and CTA or focus on completely different marketing techniques.
They are quite right about the change. But they are missing something.
To avoid too many and too frequent changes, you need to test your calls to action before settling on a particular one.
You do this by running an A/B test.
A/B Testing Calls to Action
An A/B test simply tests two versions of the same thing to help you know which is better. The one whose results are better is the one you choose to work with.
As we talk about A/B testing calls to action, it’s important to note that testing is usually a continuous process.
That does not mean that you start the test and keep it running for eternity. You test for a period of time, use what works best then test again after some time.
The need for continuous testing comes from the ever-changing dynamics of the customer. What appealed to your page visitors today, may not appeal to them after six months.
For the test, you need to create two versions of the same element.
For example, you can create two versions of the CTA headline. Run a live test on these and analyze the information you get.
A/B testing tools have the ability to gather information on customer interaction.
For example, let’s say that you want to test two versions of the headlines. You will develop two landing pages. Everything will be exactly the same apart from the headline. The page which performs best gets retained.
You can test for anything. From the design of the page, the shape of the CTA button to its color.
In one case study, an A/B test was run pitting a green button and a red one. Everything else was the same.
The test confirmed that colors have an impact on human behavior.
From over 2,000 page visits, the results showed that the red button was clicked more by 21%.
Put differently, the red button generated 21% more conversions than the green one.
Do you see the importance of testing your CTAs? Testing can be the difference between more and few conversions.
In your case also, once you design your call to action, make sure you do some testing to ascertain what works best.
Now you are well equipped to craft effective calls to action.
As you design your campaign, keep in mind the principles we’ve shared with you.
These will help you come up with the perfect message communicated in the right way.
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