I bought the world’s worst thesaurus today. Not only is it terrible, it’s also terrible.
Ba dum tssss
Ever tell a joke and forget the punchline? A web or sales page without a strong call to action is just as painful. You build it up only to fall flat. It’s disappointing for everyone. Your customer expects a strong finale – a strong call to action. A strong final word.
So, give it to them.
The call to action is the egg in your cake mix, the tequila in your cocktail, the diamond on your proposal ring, the firmness in your handshake. If you’re not prepared to offer one, don’t even bother!
The call to action is so important that you should write it first then build the rest up from there. Here’s how you can have a killer call to action, with a few great examples from world leaders who know their stuff.
Tell them exactly what to do
First, know what you want them to do. Then tell them what you want them to do.
The reason some of us shy away from saying it so clearly and commandingly is because we rarely speak to anyone this way in real life, except with children, subordinates (even then, it’s rude), giving directions, or in emergency situations where politeness is out the window. We’re talking about the imperative verb form, used for commands:
“Buy. Click. Add. Listen. Reserve. Download. Go Here. Keep Reading.”
Don’t worry about being rude. The etiquette of websites and sales pages is totally different. It is now rude not to offer clarity and decisive directions. It saves the reader time and confusion, so they appreciate you for it. Be super clear and super strong. Examples:
Dollar Shave Club (Add to cart)
Apple iPad (Learn More or Buy)
Top Shop (Add to Shopping Cart)
Your instruction could be anything you like, just say it with crystal clarity, using a simple action word. No need for a thesaurus here. Simpler is better.
Here are a few ideal examples of calls to action other than buy or add. Note how it’s always a strong, simple action word (there is no ambiguity or wishy-washiness).
Evernote (Sign Up for Free)
Kristi Hines (Subscribe)
Neil Patel (Analyse website)
Tim Ferris (Click to Listen)
See how simple these examples are? Almost crazy simple, aren’t they? The simpler, the better. The cleaner and clearer the better. People who visit your website want to be told what to do. So, tell them!
Look at the Apple iPad page again. Ten words above the fold. Three of them are call to action words, so 30% of the words on Apple’s page are a call to action. I think that says it all.
Are you telling your visitors what to do with this much clarity and authority? If not, why not?
Just give one choice
Don’t offer different calls to action at any one point. Decide the number one action you wish them to take on that page, then give them that command.
This can be a difficult one to work out, because we would be happy for them to do so many different things. You might like your visitor to either call you or download a white paper (to get them on your list). Both would be great for your business. But by offering these two options, you are losing strength and clarity. Your carefully crafted sales page is petering out at the end with a fizzle, not a bang.
Here’s your solution: think about which of the two actions leads to the most sales in the long run, when it comes first. Look at your results in the past, or start testing it now. Then, either tell the visitor to call you, and on the phone, have your sales rep offer to send them the white paper. Or tell them to download the white paper, and inside ask them to call you.
When faced with a choice, people often back away. Keep things smooth and running forward. Just give one option at a time.
Test positioning – above or below the fold?
In the past, we would have shouted out loud and clear: always put your CTA above the fold! If your visitor doesn’t need to scroll down, then they are more likely to take the action you desire.
However, as this Kissmetrics post explains (with terrific examples), it’s not always the case that above the fold increases conversions.
The reason? There are many other components to copywriting – you have to snap their attention to you, grip their emotions, stoke their fears, warm their hearts, and delicately remove their objections like hairs from a soup.
More often than not, your visitor will not be ready to buy or take action the very moment they hit your page. Shop assistants don’t stand at the door of a shop, barking requests to buy at everyone who veers from the high street.
So, maybe you should dedicate your precious above the fold space to drawing them in and making them love you. If you do that well, they’ll be searching for the CTA and calling to complain if they can’t find one.
The key is, like all things, to test, test, and test some more. Put your CTA above, below, and at the bottom. See what works (using AB testing), and just do that.
There is no harm and a lot of power in repeating your call to action, especially if it is a longer sales page. Try mid-way and end-of-page. Try top and bottom. Or multiple times, all over. Like the last point, only AB testing will really reveal the truth.
But repetition can often work because it catches the different type of readers; from those who want to take action right after the headline, to those who sit down on the couch with a cup of tea to read every word, twice over, before they decide.
Plan out the strategy of your pages
This methodology will help you understand where and how to put calls to action, and which actions you might like to offer, in which order. Picture the sales funnel and process you wish them to follow. See their emotional journey as they travel from link to link, click to click.
Always start by imagining someone visiting your website. Where were they just before that? What state of mind are they in? Are they hot or cold, or just a lukewarm meh?
For each page in your funnel, calibrate the positioning and strength of your call to action based on what state of mind they are in there – what they are ready for.
As a nice clear example, when they’ve already followed one of your CTA’s and have taken an action, they will generally be more susceptible to stronger CTA’s, because they’ve already been saying yes to you. On a thank you page for an email optin (or in your first emails) you can tell them what to do to instantly to get ten times the value. If they have just made a small purchase with you, then your upsell could have a far stronger CTA, to catch the 10% of buyers who are already head over heels in love with you.
Don’t reinvent the wheel
There’s a time to be clever, and a time to just do the thing that works. Trust me, with your call to action, just do the thing that works. Look at the examples in this post; world-class market leaders, every single one.
Are any of them using fancy words in their calls to action? No.
Are any of them giving three or four different actions you can take on one page? No.
Do any of them leave you in any doubt as to what you should do? No.
Each and every one tells you in super-simple, super-strong words what action you should take. And you know what that action is within two seconds of arriving on the page, before you even scroll down. Do exactly what they do. Your customers will thank you for it.
Here’s another great post on how to do CTAs, from Wordstream, taking a more technical angle. And another, by instapage, which talks about design and colour elements. All important factors, too.
Like this post? Comment and tell me your thoughts. Do it. (See what I did there?)