How to Make Effective Calls to Action in Every Channel

by 7 06/19/2013

You’ve heard it before. No communication should ever leave your office without a call to action.

Every page… every email… even your Facebook posts… need one.

What does that mean? It means you’ve got to be crystal-clear about what action you want people to take after reading (or viewing) your message. And you need to tell them plainly what it is.

The call to action is, quite simply, your invitation for people to respond.

With one caveat. In most cases, you won’t actually ask for a sale.

Don’t get me wrong. You do want to drive sales. But sometimes, you simply want to push people to the next step in the sales process, not rush them to checkout. And largely, this decision depends on the channel where your message appears.

Your call will range from indirect to direct, from asking for time to asking for money.

The key is to make your call to action appropriate for the channel you’re publishing in, so people are led through the sales funnel without ever feeling that they’re “being sold.”

To help make it clear, let’s look at sample calls to action in social media, content, emails, ads and landing pages, so you have a good framework for crafting appropriate and effective calls to action that improve your bottom-line results.

Social media: an implied CTA

You’ve probably heard the mandate that social media posts should have a call to action (CTA). But it’s important to realize that a CTA in social channels is far different from what you’re used to seeing on a sales page.

People follow you on Facebook, Twitter or Google+ to keep up with your brand. (Well, maybe to get special offers.) They want relationship, not a stream of hard-sell offers.

So how do you make a call to action without turning people off? Indirectly, of course.

Look at how Prevention Magazine does it in this post:

facebook post by Prevention

Or this tweet:

They aren’t demanding, and they don’t even mention a sale. Instead, they’re friendly. They tease… offer valuable information… and invite readership.

How you can do it

In social media, focus on relationship first, sales last.

Promote content or special offers by posting a short description or teaser, followed by a link. One trick for increasing engagement is to create a graphic for your content. Upload the image, then put a teaser and link in the description.

crazy egg facebook post

But remember, not all posts need to include a link. You can also share tips and useful information, or post funny pictures or cartoons.

The point is to make relationship your goal, and save hard selling for other channels.

Content: low-pressure requests

Content can be a little more direct than social media, but you still want to avoid a hard sell. Think about how people find your content, and you’ll understand why.

The majority of your blog traffic probably comes from search engines or social media. People do a keyword search because they’re looking for information. They respond to a social media post because it looks interesting.

If, once they click through, they find a low-value article that doesn’t meet their expectations, it looks too much like a bait and switch. They won’t trust you… or want to buy from you.

You must give people what you promise, and in most cases, that means no sales pitch. Which is why content usually provides no more than an indirect push towards the sale.

Where appropriate, you may link to a sales page or invite people to learn more. You may also have ads on the page. But the content itself should provide value to your readers: entertainment or useful, actionable information.

How do you create a CTA with this no-sales mandate? Let’s look at how Henneke Duistermaat does it in one of her articles.

article calls to action are low-pressure

This post doesn’t drive sales or even ask for a click-through. Its sole purpose is to help readers become better writers by giving them solutions to writer’s block.

Her call to action reflects that: “Come on. Have fun. Let’s try something wacky.”

There’s no link and no product promotion. And that’s good. Because readers of this blog don’t want to be sold. They want to become better bloggers.

Here’s another way to put a call to action in your content. This one is from Copyblogger’s Sonya Simon:

copyblogger - sonya simone

Like Henneke’s article, this one doesn’t ask for the sale. Instead, it asks for engagement, which often leads to brand loyalty, which ultimately ends in a sale.

How you can do it

What action do you want people to take after reading your content? It could be a comment or a social share. It could also be one task that would help readers apply the information in your article.

Make that your CTA. Then pose one or two questions at the end of your post to get people thinking — and encourage them to post their answer in the comments.

Email: ask for a click

Calls to action in email are much more direct than in social media and content.

With email, you usually want to drive traffic to your website. So you need a compelling headline and a strong CTA.

This email from GlassDoor does it well.

email call to action--more direct

It starts with an intriguing headline, which is followed by one sentence, the command: “See the photos…”

The button is the formal CTA, reiterating: “View the photos.”

But that’s not all. It ends with a second call to action: “Share it…”

Notice that each element could be considered a call to action. It’s phrased as a command, is compelling and specific. That ensures that no matter what readers focus on, they’ll be compelled to click through.

How you can do it

Don’t leave any doubt in your readers’ minds. Tell them exactly what you want them to do.

In your emails, as in this example, don’t worry about a big warm-up or lengthy product description.

  • Just get people’s attention.
  • Tell them how they’ll benefit if they do what you say.
  • Then tell them to do it.

Ads and sales pages: drive action

Here’s where CTAs take on the direct response, hard-sell style we’ve come to expect.

In advertising and sales pages, your task is to drive sales. So your call to action should be direct and compelling.

For instance, look at this ad by Prevention, which appeared in the sidebar of one of its emails:

ads have direct calls to action

This screen shot is filled with commands:

  • Try it free
  • Discover how to lose
  • Click here

But no matter where you click on the ad, you end up on the sales page. Each command is, in essence, a call to action. And if any of them appeal to you, your click will get you to the sales copy.

It’s the same with sales pages, except here, you have the space to lay out your offer and make a separate call to action.

Here’s how Prevention does it in its Zumba® Fitness promotion.

offer from a prevention sales page

The offer is presented with a benefits-oriented subhead that makes exercise sound fun. Then it describes everything you get with purchase, using words such as “bonus,” “exclusive,” “full body-shaping system” to add value.

The final paragraph offers specific benefits: “lose a dress or pants size in just 10 days,” “blast the fat and sculpt your hot body,” and “get even more exclusive bonus features.”

It’s enough to get you drooling.

But that’s just the offer. Here’s the call to action:

sales page call to action--very direct

How you can do it

In an ad, place your benefits-oriented call to action in several places, all linking to the same landing page. (It may be rephrased, but it should be just one promise.)

On your landing page, treat your offer and call to action as two separate elements. Your offer needs to spell out everything people get when they respond. It should overcome objections and make the product absolutely irresistible.

As in the email, when you finally give your call to action, make it concise and clear. And don’t get too fancy. All you have to do is ask for the sale.

It all boils down to this…

The phrase, call to action, generally brings to mind a loud-mouth infomercial pitchman screaming Buy Now! But if you’re active in social media and content marketing, that’s not the most accurate description.

Sure, you need a call to action. But the action you request won’t necessarily be to buy. More often than not, you’ll ask people to click a button, read more, or watch a video before you ever get to the sales pitch.

It’s okay, though. Indirect CTAs still drive action that can lead to a sale, especially if the action deepens relationship or builds brand loyalty.

Focus on making an appropriate call to action for each channel, and you’ll drive action that appeals to your followers… and will ultimately lead to the sale.

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About 

Kathryn Aragon is editor of The Daily Egg and publisher of the C4 Report. She is committed to helping businesses communicate, connect, convert... and capture their market. Follow her on Twitter and Google+.

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7 COMMENTS

Sarah Bauer

Great examples for social media CTA’s, Kathryn! It’s all about striking that balance between inviting readership and offering something compelling … and doing it all while maintaining your brand voice!

June 19, 2013 Reply

Ashley @MadLemmings

Hey Kathryn, yet another nice piece!! This is a great intro and very useful for me right now as I am working on a guide as the first piece I can use in a call to action. I have realised this is something I need to ramp up my blog. I start to see now how all the different avenues require a different CTA and how we should use every opportunity to lead our readers somewhere.
thanks again!
ashley

June 20, 2013 Reply

    Kathryn Aragon

    That’s exactly right, Ashley. You have to take a high-level view of your message and try to make all the pieces fit together. The challenge is to create a smooth transition from one channel to another, so visitors aren’t confused. Good luck with your guide!

    June 20, 2013 Reply

sdJO @rankpay

I agree, with simple offers that are benefit oriented and appropriate you definitely want a non-sales frame for offering a genuine service.

A tailored message on a landing page or social promotion requires an understanding of your users.
We have used phrasing techniques taken from music, morphology and psycholinguistics. Basic meneom that can be captured with one word, are paragons. Meneom that are only reducable to 1+ words are added and deconstructed. Resulting in CTAs with >5 words able t answer to a multiude common questions. Iterative tests make sure your target answers the right set of inferences.

June 27, 2013 Reply

    Kathryn Aragon

    Interesting. You’ve definitely put a lot of work into crafting effective calls to action. Thanks for sharing!

    June 27, 2013 Reply


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