As a business owner or marketing professional, there are times when you need people to do things for you. Maybe you need people to click on a particular link, to purchase a product or a service. Maybe you need them to “like” a Facebook page, or sign up for your e-mail list. Whatever the case, you need people to do a certain thing — your very success depends on it!
So how do you make sure that people do what you ask? You can’t coerce them. You can’t make someone do anything. You’ve got to persuade them.
In this regard, business imitates life. Let’s say you want your husband to wash the car, or your kids to clear the table after dinner. Wishing and hoping for it to happen probably won’t work. You’ve got to ask them to do it — and you’ve got to ask in a way that entices them to do it!
In business, we call that a call to action. Every piece of online content you write — whether a blog post, a page on your corporate website, or simply a Facebook update — needs to have one. Your call to action is where you tell people what you want them to do, and seek to persuade them to do it!
Writing a good call to action is part art and part science. Working from a template is unwise, but there are a few tips and techniques that should put you on the right path.
Some Words are Better Than Others
Let’s start with the building blocks of your call to action — the words themselves. Marketers have conducted extensive research into the kinds of words that get the most Facebook likes, the most Twitter shares, and the most click-throughs — and what they have found, in study after study, is that strong, action-oriented verbs (click, like, connect, join, etc.) are the best bets, with subjects/nouns also standing out as important.
The words that are less than useful? Adverbs. Words that end with an –ly (generally), such as “highly” or “extremely,” are typically regarded as something less than professional. Avoid them, in most cases.
Remember the Skimmers
Now that we’ve talked about the words themselves, let’s move on to readers. There are basically three kinds of readers on the Web — those who really read every word on the page, those who don’t read at all, and those who skim.
The best way to write effective online content is to make it skimmer-friendly. In addition to being (obviously) good for skimmers, it makes things easier on actual readers, and helps non-readers isolate any important information.
The way to make a skimmer-friendly call to action is to think about the way English readers actually read — beginning on the left side of the page and moving to the right. Skimmers will start on the left, but not always move to the right — so the important content (i.e., subject and verb) must be on the left side of the page, packed close to the front of your sentence. That way, you ensure that everyone sees the most important words in your call to action!
About the Content
The next question is this: What sort of content makes for a truly strong, striking call to action? Here is an area where many business owners get a little tripped up. They think the focus should be technical — on how they do what they do. In reality, going technical isn’t prudent at all. Your call to action needs to be practical.
In other words, don’t focus on how your company operates, or on the specifics of how your products or services work. Instead, concentrate on the benefits you can offer. Show your readers the value that you can provide for them, right here and now. Make it about them, and why they should click your link, sign up for your e-mail list, or whatever else.
Get to the Point
On a related note, your readers don’t want to wade through paragraph after paragraph of text to find out what you want them to do, and why they need to do it. Keep it brief and to the point. Say what you want them to do, and why they should do it. If you can, do it in 200 characters or less!
Another strategy here is to provide some statistics or numbers of some kind. This will get the attention of your readers and drive home your point. If you can pledge to increase their conversion rate by 37%, that’s a figure you definitely want to put into your call to action!
The Bottom Line
In the end, there’s no special formula for a good call to action — just these winning tips. By following them, you’ll ensure that your call to action has all of the essential components, and nothing to distract or take away from your success!
About the Author: Rich Gorman is a veteran of the direct response marketing industry and an expert in reputation management and direct response marketing for companies large and small.