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Effective Call-to-actions

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Four Rules for Effective Call-to-actions

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Effective Call-to-actions

In this marketing tip, we are going to explore how to create effective call-to-actions. In the last marketing tip, we talked about how to write an effective message that will produce results and help close more deals. During that conversation, we also mentioned using call-to-actions to turn viewers into leads. But what exactly is a call-to-action? More importantly, how do you create an effective call-to-action?  

What is a Call-to-Action? 

From a marketing perspective, a call-to-action is any attempt to turn a prospect into a lead. While call-to-actions are used in everything from radio and television ads to sales presentations and in-store merchandising, we are going to focus primarily on effective call-to-actions on your website. Website call-to-actions are by far the most common in today’s world, so it makes sense that this is where we put our attention. 

Four Rules for Effective Call-to-Actions

I have found that there are four rules that should always be followed when thinking about how to create effective call-to-actions:

1. The call-to-action must be applicable and valuable to the audience.
2. The call-to-action must be relevant to the content in which it appears.
3. The call-to-action must be noticeable and engaging.
4. The call-to-action must be easy to respond to. 

The call-to-action must be applicable and valuable to the audience

Asking a prospect for a law firm to respond to a call-to-action giving away free pizza may seem like a great way to collect leads. However, while this offer is perhaps valuable, it is not applicable to why the prospect is on your site. They are there looking for information, guidance, and help. Pizza, while helpful if you’re hungry, does not solve the prospect’s legal concerns. An effective call-to-action is not just about getting leads: it is about attracting the right leads and starting the process of nurturing a long-term relationship. Offering a free consultation or free whitepapers that show the law firm’s knowledge and expertise, while answering relevant questions, would be a better option. 

Bonus thoughts: Do simple call-to-actions work? 

Do call-to-actions always have to be “valuable” to work? Yes, but that does not mean you have to write a free eBook or give away an iPad. Call-to-actions can be as simple as “book your appointment” or “buy now.” Depending on the context of what you are offering and what your prospects are looking for, sometimes the most valuable call-to-action is one that quickly gets them to what they want (such as the product or a conversation with you). Giveaways, free information (whitepapers, webinars, etc.), discounts, samples and other freemiums all make great call-to-actions and generally generate more leads. But sometimes more is not best.

In many cases, call-to-actions that speak directly to ready customers can often be better than weeding through a bunch of leads who were only interested in the freebies. This does not mean you should not use freemiums – I want you to think about what will work best for your situation. Often it takes both direct and indirect call-to-actions to achieve the best results. To clarify, the stronger the call-to-action offer, the more leads it will generate. You just need to make sure that the leads you’re attracting also turn into customers. 

The call-to-action must be relevant to the content in which it appears

Another issue with the law firm pizza offer is that pizza is not relevant to the content on the law firm’s website. I guess the exception to this would be a very specific firm that specializes in pizza law. Yet even then, prospects are there to read about how you can help solve their legal issues they have for or against pizza. If you are talking about pizza regulations, your call-to-action should help the prospect learn more about their concerns, help them solve their issues, or fulfill their needs. 

Does this mean you need a unique call-to-action for every webpage or blog post? No, not at all. While very specific call-to-actions can be useful in some cases, simple generic call-to-actions can be just as effective in most situations. In fact, the most effective call-to-actions are ones that can be quickly created. Otherwise, you run the risk of not having any at all while you struggle through trying to create a bunch of content. Start with the easiest path and then add more direct or specific call-to-actions as you have the time to create the content. 

The call-to-action must be noticeable and engaging

Does your website need a call-to-action box set apart from the rest of the content or just a button? Yes. Take my website for example. At the bottom of my articles, I have a large call-to-action box that encourages people to contact me for help with their marketing and design needs. That is because after reading the article, I want to grab people’s attention and get them to perhaps think about how I may be able to help them.

In this case, I need to “interrupt” the viewers’ attention to the article and point them to my services. However, if you look at most of my service pages, all I have is a button asking them to take the next step of contacting me. The difference is on the service page, no interruption is needed. Viewers are already interested in my offerings. I just need to make it easy for them to respond if they’re ready. In both instances, I am trying to engage with the audience based on their mindset and where they are in the “sales” process.

The box grabs attention, while the button flows with the next obvious steps for interested individuals. In both cases, the call-to-actions are designed to fit into the content in an appropriate and engaging manner. Color and placement also matter. Your call-to-action (boxes or buttons) should stand out. You don’t want them to blend into the background. They should pop in some way and draw in the viewer. 

The call-to-action must be easy to respond to

Finally, the call-to-action must be easy to respond to. The more information you ask for, the longer it takes to respond and the less likely people are to complete the action. This can mean making the checkout process easy on your eCommerce site or keeping the information on your form to a minimum. People are busy and don’t want to jump through a bunch of hoops to take the next step. Keep it clean, simple, and quick. 

Oh, and one final note: don’t use automated popups. On my site, I use a popup once you click a button so that you can quickly fill out the form without being redirected to another page. But I never use automated pops that interrupt the user experience. This is a real turn-off and now can also lead to negative Search Engine Optimization outcomes. That’s right: Google may negatively ding you for automated pop-ups that block content. Learn from my experiences and take your marketing to the next level with these few rules.

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Mark Zarr
Mark Zarr is a writer, graphic designer, and a marketing and communications consultant who works with businesses, churches, and non-profits to improve their branding, marketing, and communication strategies. Utilizing his 15 plus years of business management, marketing, and design experience he helps organizations of all sizes grow and achieve amazing results by standing out from the crowd through great design. He has an MBA from Liberty University and is an Adjunct Professor of Marketing and Business for Boise State University and Pueblo Community College. He currently lives in Colorado with his wife, Rachel, and their two children.
Mark Zarr
Mark Zarr is a writer, graphic designer, and a marketing and communications consultant who works with businesses, churches, and non-profits to improve their branding, marketing, and communication strategies. Utilizing his 15 plus years of business management, marketing, and design experience he helps organizations of all sizes grow and achieve amazing results by standing out from the crowd through great design. He has an MBA from Liberty University and is an Adjunct Professor of Marketing and Business for Boise State University and Pueblo Community College. He currently lives in Colorado with his wife, Rachel, and their two children.

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