Call To Actions and Your Marketing Material

Is your business suffering from a weak call to action? You can fix your problem today by following our tips and tricks.

Brodey Sheppard

Brodey Sheppard — 25 minute read.

Here’s your first lesson in a compelling call to action right off the bat.

Your call-to-action, or CTA, should grab the attention of potential customers and other visitors by mentioning a relevant pain point. For example, a CTA copy could read, “Need to create the perfect call-to-action right now?”

Call Actions Marketing

Clear instructions immediately follow, such as “Click here to find out how”. By being concise and bringing a sense of urgency with your copy, you set the tempo for the target audience — urging them to take immediate action.

Finally, by indicating the next step in a call-to-action button, you conveniently provide an instant option that may turn visits into leads successfully. Perhaps, what is “stop beating around the bush” in layman’s terms translates to a clear “call-to-action” in marketing jargon.

In the same spirit, you should take action today and get started with our guide on employing a compelling CTA in your marketing campaign.

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The Importance Of Clear Call-To-Actions On Your Marketing Material

What Is A Call-to-Action (CTA)?

A call to action is a marketing term used to describe any design intended to prompt an immediate response. CTAs are phrases or words that can be incorporated into sales scripts, advertisements, or web pages to compel audiences to take action.

A call-to-action marketing tactic invites or appeals to users to take immediate action. It works along the same lines as persuasive writing and is not limited to digital or email marketing campaigns.

Although most common on digital marketing platforms in this tech-driven age, calls to action are integral to political campaigns and print marketing. Some strategies used in online marketing have been adapted from these traditional formats.

Call Action Meaning Cta

Traditional Calls To Action

Before the marketing world became primarily digital, direct mail promotions were popular for engaging with an audience and receiving responses. As demonstrated by many print businesses, these CTAs would often take the form of ads and separate inserts attached to the middle pages or would slip out of the magazine.

Statista Dramatic Decline Print Advertising

The CTA copy may encourage readers to mail in their request to start a new subscription or enter a contest. Usually, they will include one-liners in big, bold letters that indicate clear instructions and perhaps, an enticing offer.

As an exercise, take a look at these sample CTA copies from print magazines and ponder over the tactics they employ:

  • You can mail in the subscription form TODAY and pay LATER!
  • If you send us your response in the enclosed card today, we will take care of the postage.

The first example is most probably related to a new subscription or the renewal of an existing one. Within this single line, the brand indicates a sense of urgency while also emphasising that interested readers need only send in the form and not worry about the payment.

After all, what good is an enticing CTA tactic if users don’t have a clear idea of what to mail or how to go about it? At the same time, the overall tone of the copy indicates that the user has a choice, which inadvertently builds consumer trust.

In the second sample, the brand dangles an offer to pay mailing charges while providing potential customers with a choice. The magazine also includes an envelope through which readers could send their replies to make the process increasingly convenient. Similarly, some companies may implement marketing tactics, such as offering a free trial or discounted prices for a limited time.

Interestingly, some brands continue to mail in marketing materials and products directly to homes even today, perhaps with some success. On the other hand, imagine the leads and conversion rates if a brand still expected users to mail in forms and other material via post.

The digital space has changed how users and brands interact — thus calling for traditional CTAs to adapt to the new digital age.

Digitalising Traditional Calls To Action

In an instant gratification world where competitors continually invest in digital marketing strategies, expecting mail responses won’t lead to leads. That said, conversions are more likely if you supplement a direct mail CTA tactic with digital aspects. Here are a few ways to go about it:

1. Website Links

Ensure that you have a landing page ready — visitors should be able to learn more about the company and its products from this site. With the initial mailer and concise CTA, you may only be able to fit in so many words. It is best to set up an official company website or, perhaps, a product page and mention the URL before sending it to customers.

Alternatively, you may print a QR code for added ease of access and a much more structured mailer since URLs are often a confusing jumble of characters. Or tap into technology by printing NFC tags onto the mailer so that users can go to the landing page with a slight tap of their phones.

2. Email Or Phone Number

You could either redirect potential visitors to the website’s “Contact Us” page that is complete with a contact form or mention an email ID or phone number with the CTA. However, keep in mind that a strong CTA contains action verbs and a clear message.

You may use phrases such as “Call us now to get free shipping” and “Visit our website for a free consultancy”. On the other hand, passive or ambiguous statements, such as “Take a look at our prices” or “Get started today by adding us to your contact list”, defeat the true purpose of a CTA.

Additionally, you can add an office address and supplement it with VDP-enabled maps.

Call Action Button Designs

3. Reinventing Traditional CTAs

Anyhow, you can choose to take your business digital entirely. With centuries-old industries, including printing, dying out and opting for digital platforms, perhaps following their footsteps may spare you some financial and sales losses.

You can take a page out of the book of early digital campaigns — only replacing the return envelopes with clickable buttons that lead to landing pages. However, if the layout is too reminiscent of print magazine mailers, your CTA tactic may be outdated.

Think about it — currently, even clickable buttons are being replaced by swipe-up features in the fast-developing digital space.

This is not to say you should abandon original calls to action completely. Some successful businesses, such as W magazine, continue using the same language and marketing tactics they did during the peak of print magazines — but in a digital format.

Even after the shift, the company offered a free first copy to subscribers, who could cancel their membership. Virtually, this offer is risk-free for the customers, and they have nothing to lose but everything to gain — which is also possibly what the CTA copy described.

This idea and approach translate well across the platforms, but it is made even better due to the immediacy of the fast-paced digital world. After all, consider how responding to the mailer would require potential customers to mail in their response and wait a few weeks before receiving their free copy.

Bigcommerce Cta Screenshot

In comparison, instant access to the magazine with a button is considerably more tempting. And that is just the tip of the iceberg.

Digital CTAs provide immediacy in a myriad of forms. These include free trial buttons, subscription deals, limited offer pop-ups, social media share buttons, etc.

9 Ways To Create An Effective Call-To-Action Button

Sometimes, a simple tweak in your copy may be what you need to engage your audience and lead their views to your sales funnel. Or perhaps, all you need to do is inject verbs into your CTA buttons or use a bright colour to make it stand out. Indeed, the key to an engaging call-to-action lies in its simplicity.

Traditional Sales Funnel Infographic

This is not to say that creating effective CTA buttons is easy. Incorrect placement, too many calls to action, and a confusing copy can lend to a weak call-to-action. So, to avoid such common errors, follow our handy tips:

1. Create A Sense Of Urgency

A common mistake in many weak CTA buttons is a lack of timing words. Don’t underestimate the power of simple words, such as “now” and “today”. Of course, you should supplement these with strong action words. Here are a few ways to go about it:

  • Get started now
  • Try it for free today
  • Download now

A company may use several tools to create a sense of scarcity or urgency, which rushes your viewers to take action. They may do this by adding a widget that shows the number of products bought in the last few hours, combined with a countdown indicating that the offer will end soon.

You can inject timing words all around the landing page to add to the effect. For instance, if your brand specialises in creating landing pages or blogs, let the customers know they can sign up in seconds or build a page with your designing tools within five minutes.

In a world where time is money, customers will appreciate companies that value their time. Simultaneously, announcing that products are running out leverages the human psychological need to quickly grasp what they can’t have, thus urging people to click without a second thought.

At the same time, keep in mind that exploiting or faking scarcity could become counteractive as it ruins buyers’ trust, consequently hurting future sales.

2. Free Trial And Other Offers

Win sales and boost your conversions with the help of extra perks. Aptly known as “click triggers”, a few examples of these are:

  • Subscribe now and get 20 per cent off
  • Money-back guarantee on all sales today
  • No credit card required
  • Free worldwide shipping

If your company can afford a CTA copy that runs slightly longer, consider injecting a no-obligation statement. An example of this is W magazine’s tactic of offering a free trial copy before the customer can make a long-term commitment.

Similarly, an online business could allow the viewer to access a website or its service for a limited time before subscribing as a premium member. You could write the CTA button for this in a few different ways, such as:

  • Try it free for 30 days
  • Start my free trial now

On the other hand, high-pressure CTAs are more likely to lose sales as their marketing strategy may be too aggressive. For instance, a site may open with a pop-up that puts the entire contents out of view. To access the website or the brand’s service, visitors may be required to sign up for the company newsletter or pay a premium.

Dolce Gabanna Newsletter Popup Cta

Either way, it’s more likely that the viewer will take their business elsewhere due to the lack of freedom or choices. Safe to say then that to bring customers to your sales funnel, an effective tactic is to allow them to “try it before they buy it.”

3. Correct Placement

Asking users to subscribe just to enter the company website may be a high-pressure tactic. And yet, a company still needs those clicks and subscribes to boost conversions. In such a case, the clever placement of the CTA button may minimise the aggressiveness of the approach.

For instance, instead of welcoming the visitors with a pop-up, you can add the subscription CTA button just before the user purchases an item. After all, if the customer has placed items in their shopping cart and is about to finish the payment, it is improbable that they will abandon the website because of a pop-up.

To receive the payment confirmation and tracking information, users will have to provide their email and other details in some form.

A) In A Landing Page

Apart from placing CTA buttons on the correct page, keep in mind that the positioning of a clickable button within the page also matters. After all, what good is an illustrative or clever call-to-action button if it escapes the attention of visitors?

For this, consider the reading behaviour of your audience — where they begin to read, where they pause and where they end. According to studies, most people are likely to read in an F-shaped pattern. In other words, your visitors will peruse the first few lines above the fold horizontally — this will form the top bar of the “F” shape.

People Read Ways Ayushjangra

Often, the next step they take is to read another shorter horizontal line before scanning the rest of the article vertically. With this pattern in mind, you can decide to create a positioning plan for your CTA buttons. The only way to identify the best strategy is to experiment and conduct split tests.

But more often than not, marketing strategists suggest that you place the button right on top, above the fold. However, this move dictated by social proof does not guarantee leads, especially if your landing page is an informative blog post. It is not a particularly good tactic if sales depend on providing customers with necessary details and instructions that are too complex to fit into a short copy.

In such instances, you may be better off placing the call-to-action button at the end and below the fold so that users feel that they are making an informed decision when they click it. For instance, if your company deals in mobile phones, users will want to inspect every feature and detail of a model before taking the next step.

On the other hand, if you own a photo editing website, a simple free trial or sign up CTA button anywhere above the fold and even under the main header may lead to conversions.

To sum it up, understanding your audience’s needs and tweaking elements accordingly on the landing page could help convert views. Or get your CTA buttons noticed, at the very least.

B) In A Video

A website home page can get away with a straightforward CTA button placed above or below the fold — but what about a video?

Although some streamers and YouTubers may ask you to like and subscribe before presenting their content, the directive does not have a powerful effect as it does not provide any incentive. While magazines or websites can offer free trials, the same cannot apply to a video. Unless, of course, you are talking about movies — in which case the audience can probably watch the trailer before streaming the movie.

Moreover, appealing to the audience to hit the social media share buttons or visit your website too early on means they may forget to follow the request after viewing the video. On the other hand, waiting too long to add a call-to-action button may cost you sales if the target audience moves on to the next video halfway through.

A fantastic video and meaningful content that grasps the viewer’s attention till the end is vital in this situation.

Here, and perhaps while creating a blog post, you may use the concept of “delayed gratification” for optimal advantage. In other words, keep the audience guessing about your next move and delay the CTA button so that once it appears, the viewer grasps the opportunity.

4. Captivating Font

Red, green, white, black — does it matter what font colour you use?

Yes, indeed — colour psychology can make or break a marketing campaign as it immediately affects first impressions and sets the tone of your brand. And this is not just limited to online marketing tools or the font colour of your call-to-action button.

Percent Cta Buttons Green

That said, it’s an excellent exercise to learn more about adding value to your blog post header, blog content, product designs, videos, logos, campaigns and other business tools. For instance, if your business is related to environment-friendly solutions, you can opt for a green theme to match its green approach. Similarly, blue is considered an excellent trust-building colour, whereas orange indicates positivity.

A) Colour

For the most part, the font colour in your call-to-action button should be a neutral shade, and the background should be a solid gradient. Also, make sure to pick a solid colour that isn’t too flashy but also not too dull that it would escape someone’s attention as they skim through the content.

One of the safest options for a call-to-action button background colour is orange. Dubbed by many marketing experts as B.O.B. or the Big Orange Button, these are peppy and positive without being excessively loud.

Choosing Cta Button Colour

We recommend that you A/B test a solution before making the ultimate decision as the “right” colour for a business depends on various factors. For instance, if you own a female-centred business, the target audience may be more attracted to lavender tones. Similarly, women are more drawn to soft tints, whereas men prefer brighter shades.

Interestingly, blue remains the best-liked colour common among most people, whereas brown is the least popular.

B) Text

Although an elaborate and beautiful font may seem like a great design idea, it is always best to leave the clever bits to other parts. After all, if a CTA is a straightforward and urgent appeal, even the font should be practical and reflect the same.

You must make sure that the CTA is legible. Stick with a clean and minimalistic serif or sans serif font. If you must employ a script font, perhaps you can place it in big, bold letters at the top so it is increasingly easy to read.

5. White Spaces

Incorporate margins or a thick white border around your CTA to give it a clean look. This handy feature is also known as negative space, and white space separates the CTA from the rest and creates a seamless design without crowding up your website layout.

Interestingly, some people believe that white spaces are accidents or defaults that need to be fixed. However, this is far from the truth. Most experts and experienced web designers invest plenty of time building components within a white space. All the attention falls on the primary focus, thus providing a clear purpose.

You can couple this with spaced-out elements within the CTA, such as the copy, CTA button, graphics, and other visual tools, which we will delve into in the next segment.

Apple Store Landing Page Tactics

6. Visual Tweaks

You don’t need the best designer in town to create an attractive CTA. Small changes, such as switching from a boxy CTA to one with rounded edges, may give the button a new look. Other simple features, such as large fonts and white space, can amp up the clean look of the CTA.

Alternatively, you can create a more elaborate design by adding graphics and other special effects. For instance, you can place a single or a set of simple clip art images relevant to your business. Or perhaps, a unique logo that indicates the type of service you provide.

Some successful CTAs also incorporate mock-ups of their past work so that the customer knows what to expect. Consequently, this provides potential customers with some incentive to click the CTA button. While this strategy is well-suited for some more than others — web designers, in particular, have an edge in this department –there are plenty of other ways to jazz things up.

One of the easiest ways to go about it is to look for stock photos to accompany the copy — these provide instant elegance with minimal effort. Similarly, a simple shape, such as an arrow pointing towards the CTA button, lends a whimsical touch while also being a practical tool.

If you want to take things up a notch, why not add special effects and animations to the CTA button? A CTA button that comes to life when the mouse hovers over it is likely to attract attention and clicks while also adding a fun design element to the website.

7. Problem Of Plenty

Some call it the “problem of plenty”, while others refer to it as the “analysis paralysis”. The point to remember is that you should not bombard users with too many calls to action.

Often, a brand might resort to placing multiple CTAs. After all, the more choices users have, the more likely they click. Right? Unfortunately, studies have proven that it may not always be so. Customers have a more challenging time deciding when faced with a slew of options.

Take some time to prioritise what you want users to do, and use that in your primary call for action button. However, you can supplement it with a second button, albeit in a smaller font, so it does not compete for attention.

At the same time, this tactic works with the “no-obligation” rule in mind; by offering two options, the CTA won’t feel like a request. For instance, the landing page may consist of two CTA buttons. Here, the primary button may read “download now”, whereas the muted option may say, “See other similar products.”

As a rule of thumb, narrow down your CTAs to two per page.

In line with keeping things short and concise, ensure that the copy on your CTA button is concise yet compelling. As a rule of thumb, don’t exceed 60 characters with it.

As an additional tip, we recommend that you read the copy to yourself out loud a few times before finalising it. If you notice that a word has more than five syllables, it is probably best to replace it with another word or a phrase with no more than two or three syllables.

However, there are no hard-and-fast rules while creating a call-to-action copy — apart from the fact that it must be relevant to the audience and get the message across.

8. The Power Of Power Words

There is a lot of talk about providing a compelling call-to-action copy, but what does it entail?

Considering how a concise and straightforward call-to-action button has a limited set of words — or should have a limited set of words, you must use the right ones. To turn a ho-hum sentence into an enticing traffic magnet, you should inject what is known as “power words” in marketing jargon.

Fortunately, these words are tried and tested and have successfully turned many average CTAs into so-called compelling calls to action. Here are a few examples of power words.

A) Free

Who doesn’t like free stuff with no strings attached? We have already discussed how customers appreciate a CTA that indicates the brand values their time. By offering perks at no cost, you demonstrate a willingness to save them time and money.

  • Get free goodies with every purchase
  • Download your free recipe book here

B) Discover

Along with related power words, such as “reveal” and “secret”, the term “discover” lends an aura of mystery and anticipation. Consider other alternatives that may probably indicate the same meaning — these may include “learn how to”, “find out”, etc.

Power words are more effective in intriguing users and piquing interest when compared with these practical yet relatively mundane phrases. Here are a few ways you can use these to your advantage:

  • Discover the world by subscribing to our newsletter
  • Click to discover my top five secrets for weight loss

C) You/My

There is an ongoing debate about which one is more effective — first-person or second-person pronouns. Of course, the most foolproof way of knowing is to test it out with the help of A/B tests.

Testing Examples Infographic

You can either choose to create a call-to-action on the lines of “Get my free e-book now” or “Get your free e-book now” and see which one works best. Anyhow, the power of these words lies in the fact that they help connect customers with the brand by using personalised language.

A few other power words you can inject into your CTA and work around with are:

  • Introducing
  • Amazing
  • Instantly
  • Create
  • Promote
  • Increase
  • Inspire

9. Check Your Progress

Taking each point in this guide into consideration and applying it according to your website stats, draw up a road map and execute the plan. However, don’t forget to track how users respond to the new changes. To help you with this process, you could take the help of online data visualisation techniques, such as these:

A) Recording

You can use the service of an online third-party website that provides a recording of how users interact with your landing page in real-time. You often need to paste the website URL, and the screen will immediately move about — getting stuck in places where users may have come across issues.

This is an excellent way of diagnosing problem areas and tracking how long users stay on a website. Generally, you may find that adding CTA buttons where the user’s pause frequently boosts click rates and conversions.

On the other hand, if users seem to get stuck in a particular place too often, it may be a sign of navigation issues, which need to be fixed promptly. Sometimes, these problems arise because the website is not optimised for mobile devices.

B) Heat Map

More often than not, a heat map will glow red to point out the areas in your website that attract the most attention. Ideally, you would want your call-to-action to receive the most clicks. If not, perhaps it is time to retrace your steps — figure out whether the problem lies in the campaign strategy or that users cannot recognise clickable options.

Heat Mapping Works Pages

C) Scroll Map

As the name suggests, this tool will help you figure out exactly how far the user scrolls before closing the website. So, if you find that users are leaving before reaching the point where you have placed the call-to-action button, consider moving it higher.

Examples Of Calls to Action

Need some more inspiration in the form of some call to action examples? Here are a few successful social media outlets and apps that have employed a few of the CTA tactics mentioned before. Test how many of them you can recognise.

1. Spotify

Notorious for interrupting playlists with ads, Spotify uses several strategies to beckon users to sign up for a premium account. Indeed, a customised CTA is also one of them.

As soon as you open the Spotify home page, you will see two options — “Go Premium” and “Play Free”. Notice how both of these CTA buttons stand out and utilise action verbs. Secondly, you may have observed how the “To go Premium” option is highlighted with bright lime green, whereas the “Play Free” button blends in with the rest of the website.

Can you guess why the brand has selected these two different colour schemes?

Spotify Cta Button

2. OkCupid

Considering how OkCupid is a dating app designed to attract those who value long-term relationships, the minimalistic approach demonstrated in its CTA is nothing short of brilliant. By opting for a plain blue background, the user focuses on the brief and straightforward signup details. These questions are seemingly relevant to what users are looking for: a partner with shared interests.

Let’s not forget the adorable graphics on the page and the accompanying clever one-liners. Although these talk about algorithms and request users to sign up or download the app, the language and visual tools create a laid back aura that does not stray from the idea of romance.

3. Pinterest

Once you open up the Pinterest home page, you are met with a few sign-in options. However, highlighted in its signature blue hue, the “Continue with Facebook” option stands out — perhaps indicating that the brand prefers users to log in through this path.

In comparison, the login option for members who have signed up with an email address is tucked away in a corner and can easily escape your view. There can be a few reasons for employing this tactic. Firstly, logging in with a Facebook account allows the brand to obtain some personal data and post it on the Facebook profile.

In other words, the brand can promote itself on a much more popular platform. Knowing Facebook has the most active users across all social media platforms, this calculated move most probably seeks to provide potential new users with a quick alternative.

4. Netflix

Working along the lines of the “no-obligation” and “free trial” concepts discussed before, Netflix provides a one-month free trial after which members can cancel their subscription at any time. Also, notice how the home page only consists of about 15 words. Yet, you know exactly what to expect — whether in terms of the payment structure or their services.

Netflix Landing Page Call Actions

Incorporating CTA’s On Your Website

An excellent and compelling call-to-action is a sum of its parts.

At the same time, it is impossible to say which options convert the best — whether placement, action verbs, font colour, etc. And while you may take inspiration from others, beware of the downsides of social proof.

Don’t just mimic what works for others, as it may not suit your brand. Provided you have the traffic to run A/B tests, make sure that you use all the tools available to diagnose underlying issues that may be weakening your call-to-action.

The path to creating the perfect call-to-action relies on research and long weeks, or perhaps months, of tracking and tweaking. If it were easy, we’d all be rich.

So, don’t let the process push your buttons. Instead, be patient and leave the pushing and clicking buttons to your target audience!

Brodey Sheppard

Brodey Sheppard

Brodey is the CEO of sitecentre® and a data analyst in the SEO, Paid advertising space that uses machine learning and AI to advance sitecentre® as an industry-leading digital marketing agency across Australia.

Find them on their website: sitecentre®, Facebook and LinkedIn.

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