As long as there has been marketing and advertising, there have been calls to actions:
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A call to action (CAT) is “any device designed to prompt an…encourage an immediate sale” or any “action that’s relevant to their stage of the conversion funnel.” For those at the beginning of the conversion funnel, maybe that’s as simple as getting them to sign up for a newsletter, while a CTA for someone at the end of the funnel could be getting them to redeem a coupon to get them to complete their purchase.
While there a variety of different ways of writing CTAs, the most successful share a few key characteristics:
Use strong verbs
As the action words of any sentence, you really strong verbs to be at the center of your CTA.
Manpack uses a strong verb that appeals directly to their target audience with their CTA of “Build a manpack.” There are so many verbs they could have chosen instead of “build” –make, create, assemble– but “build” connotes a stereotypical masculinity that makes customizing boxes of underwear, socks, and razors sound much more exciting.
On one CTA page, Netflix uses four clear and strong verbs: “See,” “Watch,” “Cancel,” and “Join.” Netflix focuses on the action that it wants customers to do before (“join”) and after (“see,” “watch,” and “cancel”) signing up for its services. Even the choice of using “Join” is a smart one; rather than simply asking potential customers to “sign up,” asking them to “join” evokes the feeling of belonging to an exciting group.
Which leads nicely to the next important characteristic…
Highlight the Benefits
Obviously, if you’re asking people to do something for you, you need to make sure you give them a reason to do it.
This CTA from Blogging.com uses a clock down clock to create a reason for people to sign up. No one wants to miss out on an opportunity, and the countdown creates an immediacy for potential users: If you don’t sign up within this limited time, you will miss out on nearly $300 in savings! That’s a strong reason to respond to the CTA.
Brooks Running does a couple of clever things in this CTA. It mentions that the shoe is already sold out, which creates an almost irresistible pull for people to click on the “Find out when we have more” button. If it’s sold out once, it’s likely to sell out again, so people wanting the shoe will want to make sure they don’t miss out on the next opportunity to lace up.
Brooks Running is also a good example of another feature of successful calls to actions…
Emphasize the Low Risk for Responding
CTAs are meant to help businesses draw in new customers to increase sales, but when deciding whether or not to try out a new product or service, customers want to make sure they’re making the right choice. Often, effective CTAs will emphasize the minimal risk of responding, which will increase the chances of someone replying.
I love Humboldt County’s clever and low-pressure CTA presented here. The call to pick the best vacation is clear, but it’s the second line that subtly emphasizes the low risk in the consumer’s choice. No matter which one they pick initially, visitors can “come back and try them all!” It’s a subliminal invitation for people to really come back and pick a different one after their first choice, which highlights the no risk in making a choice in the first place.
Free trials are about as low-risk as you can get, so it’s no surprise that Basecamp utilizes the technique. What they do particularly well with the CTA is the language surrounding it. The offer eschews the typical, forward language of “Get your free trial” for a more conversational “Give Basecamp a try.” It’s the type of language friends would use when trying to get another friend to do something for them, and it works because it feels less like a command and more like encouragement. It shows confidence on the part of Basecamp–the company knows how good its product is, so it doesn’t have to do a hard pitch.
There’s no right way to craft a CTA; you really have to know what your company wants from customers on the different paths of the conversion funnel and craft copy that integrates the right tone and voice. But by building a base that uses strong verbs, highlights the benefits, and emphasizes the low risk, you’ll have a give yourself the best opportunity to successfully engage consumers.
Have other suggestions to add to this list? Are there other examples of particularly strong CTAs that you’ve seen? Comment below!