Want to write calls to action that motivate, well, action?
One of the most important parts of marketing copy is the call to action, or “CTA.” You can write the best copy in the world and generate interest among your target audience—but if you don’t tell them what you want them to do, chances are, they won’t.
A call to action is a word, phrase, or sentence that prompts the reader to take a specific action.
Before you start writing, identify what action you want people to take. This might sound like a no-brainer, but it’s critical to get consensus from your team/client/stakeholders and nail down the CTA. If it’s not crystal clear to you, it won’t be clear to your audience. Then, tell your readers what to do! Here’s how:
1. Use a Verb
Your CTA might be for people to visit your website, sign up, make a purchase, or contact you. Whatever it is, make sure it starts strong with a verb that tells them exactly what to do. This ensures that the message is clear right away and can reduce decision fatigue.
HubSpot points out, “By not including a verb in the CTA copy, you aren’t prompting readers to take action, which can hurt the click-through rate of your call-to-action and negatively impact conversions.”
Try phrases like:
- Join today and start saving.
- Learn how you can save 25%.
- Sign up for a free trial.
- Download a free guide.
- Get a free, instant quote.
Simple and direct is usually best, but avoid phrases like “click here,” which can sound spammy or off-putting and can even trigger email spam filters. Readers understand that they should click a button—it’s generally not necessary to spell it out.
Here’s an exception. As Copyblogger points out, when you include a link as a call to action, you do want to use—or imply—the words “click here.” For instance, a blog post might include a link like this: “Read this article to find out why.”
For the most part, however, instead of “click,” try inviting readers to take the next step—for instance, through a hard CTA or soft CTA, described in Tip #4 below.
2. Offer Value
So you’ve nailed down the action you want your audience to take—now how do you motivate them to actually do it? Woo them with benefits! What will the reader get by clicking, calling, or emailing? You can include numbers that convey cost savings, make a promise of results, or appeal to their emotions—anything that gives them a taste of what’s in it for them.
Masterclass writes: “Use words that persuade people to follow your direction. Keep your CTA copy concise to build intrigue and make your audience want to learn more. Create a value proposition—create an incentive that benefits people, like saving money or lower rates.”
Here are examples of benefits-oriented CTAs:
- Buy today and get 50% off!
- Sign up and save.
- Lose weight in just 8 weeks.
- Book your dream vacation today.
3. Create a Sense of Urgency
One of the best ways to convert a potential customer is creating a sense of urgency in your CTA. Otherwise, they might not make a decision, figuring they can always come back later—which risks them never coming back. So make them an offer they can’t refuse, conveying limited time or inventory, or a short time window to take advantage of cost savings.
While it’s critical that your CTA has a sense of urgency, be careful not to be pushy. Consider “today” instead of “now,” e.g., “Sign up to start saving today” or “All products are 25% off, today only.” The next tip can help you find the right balance between urgent and pushy.
4. Consider Your Audience
When writing a CTA, think about where your reader is within your sales funnel—this can determine whether you use a hard CTA, soft CTA, or both.
- Hard CTA: A hard call to action asks the reader to take a specific action that’s related to the end goal, or closely related—for example, making a purchase.
Example: “Shop today and get 25% off your order.”
- Soft CTA: A soft call to action is indirect. While it still asks the reader to take action, the action is more about engagement than purchasing, requiring less commitment from them.
Example: “Check out our blog to learn more.”
A hard CTA clearly states what the reader should do, but it could scare them off if they aren’t ready to take action. In this case, a soft CTA could be the gentle direction that motivates them to act.
So how do you know which type of CTA to use? Ask yourself:
- Are you sending an email to a list of existing customers who are already familiar with your brand? You might just need a hard CTA.
- Or are you writing a landing page that will be shared with cold leads, who haven’t interacted with your brand before? A soft CTA could be the best choice.
Better yet, try using both! If the hard CTA is “too much too soon” for a reader, the soft CTA might entice them to keep engaging instead of abandoning ship. One way to incorporate both CTAs is to have a link to a contact form (“Contact us for a free demo”) as well as a link to a blog post or white paper (“Find out how we’ve helped businesses like yours save time and money by reading our latest white paper.”)
5. Make It Stand Out
No matter what medium or platform, your CTA needs to stand out. If people don’t notice it, they can’t click it. Where and how your CTA is displayed will vary depending on your campaign. For instance, if you want readers to sign up for email, you might use a form submission, but if you want them to make a purchase, you might use a button.
It’s a good idea to A/B test different CTA types to see which works best for your specific audience and campaign goals. As you learn what generates response, you can adjust your campaign accordingly.
Here’s a roundup of common types of CTAs from HubSpot.
- Buttons: The most common type of CTA, buttons are icons with an actionable phrase written in them that entices users to click and take further action. Button designs can vary, but generally, your button should have a high-contrast color so it can stand out on the page.
- Forms: Form submission CTAs convert site visitors into leads by offering them something in exchange for their contact information. Offers can include downloadable content, product quotes, service sign ups, subscriptions, and more.
- Banners: A CTA banner can be located along the top, bottom, or side of a webpage. Banners typically include some type of captivating copy and design that encourages visitors to click on them to take action.
- Contextual Links: Usually located within the body copy of a blog post or article, contextual links contain clickable text that directs users to a related landing page.
- Pop-Ups: A pop-up is a CTA in a small window that suddenly appears on the page. Since users often tune out static CTA buttons and forms, pop-ups can be a great way to communicate an offer or entice users to sign up for your service.
- Slide-Ins: Similar to pop-ups, slide-in CTAs capture the user’s attention by “sliding in” from the bottom or sidebar. Slide-ins are a good alternative to pop-ups since they’re less disruptive to the user experience.
And that’s a wrap! Try these five simple tips out the next time you’re writing marketing copy and you’re sure to start seeing results.