Five Ways To Make Every CTA Work Harder

by , Dec 17, 2013, 8:00 AM
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Just three little words -- call to action -- yet so much is riding on them. CTAs are crucial components of your inbound marketing strategy. As an ad for your offer or an avenue to your landing page, a CTA represents that rubber-hits-the-road moment when a potential lead takes the next step toward conversion. If the CTA doesn't do the job, all the nurturing you have done up to that point is pretty much pointless.

So what makes for a good, effective CTA? I brainstormed with Jeanne Hopkins, senior vice president and CMO at Continuum Managed Services, who has an impressive history at tech companies like HubSpot SmartBear Software and MarketingSherpa. Here are some CTA best practices we came up with based on our pooled experience.

Five tips for a better CTA

Demand action: Of course your CTA needs to be action-oriented. You need to start with a verb that tells the user what to do -- and more importantly, why. It must be positive and define the equitable exchange you are entering into with this user. Try it free, download a file, learn more about it, explore your options, buy it before it's gone -- messages like these imply something in it for the user.

Many marketing tools utilize the verb “Submit” in their default CTAs -- which is neither positive or equitable, to say the least.

Convey urgency. Calendar countdowns, limited seating, only X tickets left -- these kinds of messages in your CTA not only prod procrastinators, they imply that your offer or action is popular or sought after. Nobody wants to lose out on a good thing.

Make it pop. Use images and icons when possible to grab attention, and then:

  • Use contrasting colors to draw the user's eye to your CTA pronto
  • Make the entire image, icon or button clickable -- not just the text.
  • Keep it above the fold.

In a nutshell, finding, comprehending and engaging with your CTA should be effortless -- no squinting, hunting or scrolling required.

Be direct: Again, make it crystal clear what your user will get if they engage your CTA. And be clear about what you're asking of them. List the file size and how long the download or form will take, and include a very reassuring privacy policy. All the terms of your exchange should be clear and fair -- always a good way to start a new customer relationship.

CTA everywhere. What is marketing if not one big call to action? Beyond banner ads and landing pages, everything you do should work to draw potential leads eagerly down the conversion funnel. I have found that it's especially worthwhile in the titles of your marketing collateral. Treat the title as a CTA (using our other recommendations to guide you) and your materials will grab attention, invite consumption and demand action. 

Now, here's your call to action. Take a browse through your Web site (and those of your competitors) and see how many CTAs follow these best practices. Beefing up the duds could be the easiest thing you do today -- and a big step toward better marketing effectiveness.

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