The mighty Call To Action (I’ll be calling it the CTA from hereon in) is one of the most important elements of your copy.
Truly! In fact, CTAs should be used across all your communication.
Yep, all of it. (Seriously, try it on your kids.)
A CTA is a sentence, phrase, some long-form, and usually a button which together tell your reader to take a particular action. CTAs are used to cinch a sale, and are thus inextricably linked with selling stuff. Which makes some people a bit twitchy.
So it’s about here a lot of you will be shaking your heads and thinking:
I don’t like being ‘salesy’
I get that, but here’s the truth of it: proper use of the CTA shouldn’t be SUS (Sudden Unsolicited Selling).
If I walked up to you on the street shouting: ‘Buy my stuff now!’ how far would I get?
Reality: not far.
You’d tell me where to go (not nicely). You’d cross the road, maybe disappear into a building filled with people who’d make handy witnesses to my strange behaviour. Ultimately, you’d hope our paths never cross again and actively avoid me in the future.
It works the same way online, because people (who aren’t in the mood to buy) don’t like being sold to. An online SUS sets off a very similar panic response – your prospect might hurriedly click off your site, never to return.
Here’s the thing.
If you only use CTAs to sell, you’re selling yourself short.
There are a heap of reasons CTAs are hugely important to you. When we start talking about CTAs we stray into the study of human behaviours and the psychology of selling. So, let’s go there. Because, people! Aren’t we just a fascinating bunch?
CTAs Are About Conditioning
You’d have heard of Pavlovian conditioning – he worked with dogs. Lucky doer.
Long story short, by using food as a reward (fun to eat and biologically necessary), Pavlov found the sound of his lab assistant’s footsteps was enough to start the dogs salivating. He realised the small, inconsequential cues became predictors for the reward: they were able to start an animal’s digestive process before giving them any food.
The same thing happens to me if someone even mentions chicken Caesar salad.
If you’re not geeking out with me I’ll spell it out:
The sound of footsteps became little CTAs. (A-haaaaa!) Also, you want your people (figuratively) salivating over your copy.
CTAs Teach Your Readers to Say Yes
You should be using CTAs to give as well as to get. Make it fun, make it rewarding. ‘Click here for this free download’: it’s familiar, right? Coupled with some quirky microcopy and relevant information, the experience of saying yes (to you) becomes beneficial and pleasurable. You’re getting your readers into the habit of being directed by you, and they’re learning it feels good to do it.
Every enjoyable, risk-free time you direct your reader to say yes – and enjoy saying yes – builds trust and leads them gently closer to the point of sale. In fact, building CTAs across your copy is called a ‘yes ladder’. (In the bygone days of door-to-door sales, this was known as ‘a foot in the door’, not the spammy McSpam face things you see happening in FB groups.)
When you use CTAs like this, by the time you’re ready to direct your prospect to buy something,
it’s simply a matter of the reader following an established behavioural pattern.
You still won’t sell to people who aren’t ready to buy (because it’s copy, not magic), but you’ll warm your audience up so much that more of them will want to.
CTAs Create More Than Sales
Even when selling your thing is the endgame, all the ‘yes laddering’ I’ve just talked about works for you in other ways. When you’re directing your readers to do non-salesy stuff like:
- watch your video
- like and share your post
- follow you on another social channel or
- click to download your value-laden freebie
it means your target has accepted you as an expert or authority, or considers you a person of influence in your field. This has uber flow-on effects for your business and brand.
It also means they basically like you – they’re what’s called a warm audience. (And warm audiences are heaps more receptive to leads, sales, etc than cold ones.)
CTAs Help Build Your Brand Platform
A good warm audience love-in from lots of lover-lovers saying ‘yes’ to your non-salesy CTAs helps build your brand. You can create a platform strong enough to be a basis of any future plans – maybe a business side-step into a new (but related) product/service where a loving following from day 1 is crucial.
CTAs Show Who’s Hot For You
Nail your CTAs and you’ll know exactly who’s following your directions the most, and who turns up wherever you are in the online world.
These people are your ideal client; they’re assets not to be taken for granted. (So love them, HARD!)
Not only are they the ones who will be buying your stuff, sharing your blogs etc, but because getting to know them can help you tailor products, services, and your marketing strategy to really understand who your people are (and find more people like them).
Now you know just how important liberal sprinklings of CTAs are, you just need to know how to write good ones.
The Art of Writing A Flipping Awesome Call To Action
Good CTAs tell your reader where to go (nicely!), but also give them the ‘why’. Good CTAs can be the difference between a sale and an empty shopping cart. Your CTA should contain:
- Short-form copy (short sentences, phrases, words)
- Longform copy (obviously more words, but brevity’s still your friend here)
- Buttons and clickable links
Use colours which make them stand out, and keep button-copy to about 6 words or less. More than that and it just looks a bit weird.
8 Ways to Great CTAs
- Makes the offer clear and spells it out succinctly (quirkily, oddly, gently – whatever’s in alignment with your brand voice)
- State benefits and showcase how risks are mitigated
- Use time limits, free access, and ideal client language to communicate exclusivity, e.g. “Get $10 off first purchase when you subscribe”, “Be the first to know”, “Friends with benefits”
- When using links and buttons, use colour to make them stand out. Colour-matching the button to your headline makes both important items gently tap your reader on the nose so they pay attention to them *boop*
- CTAs use ‘warm language’ directly addressing the target. Stick to words like ‘you’ instead of ‘we’ or ‘us’
- Use ‘action words’ (that’s verbs, y’all). E.g. “grow”, “change”, “inspire”, “take the leap”
- You can use playful (harmless) psychology to give people a giggle and warm them up. E.g. “DON’T push this button”, “Don’t click here”, “Danger, Will Robinson”
- Tell them why. This is an extension of the benefit/risk statement. Tell them clearly what’s expected and what will be achieved when they follow your call: “Donate $X now to give [child’s name] clean drinking water”
Examples of Good CTAs
Short-form. Netflix already knows you know who it is and what it does – you’re a warm audience. Their CTAs use the first four elements from above:
- CTA headline: “See what’s next”
- Benefit/risk statement: “Watch anywhere. Cancel anytime.”
- Button microcopy: “Join Free for a Month”
- Design elements include a bright red button in Netflix red, to match the logo
You know exactly what they’re offering and how to get it.
Long-form. Learning how to work a strong CTA into your blog minus the jarring lack of transition is quite the useful skill. Apart from that, longform CTAs let you show your value so readers know why they’re going to click for more, and what to expect once they’ve clicked.
Check out the one from Simple Pin Media. It reels you in and leads you straight into wanting more insights, plus it’s on-brand due to its clarity and simplicity:
- CTA headline: “Take Action” – the reader knows they’re about to be asked to do something
- Content: Gives valuable content to warm up the audience; uses warm language
- CTA: “download the Simple Pin planner” – the colour matches the headline and you know what product you’re getting
They extend the effectiveness by adding “for all of these tips, trending topics and more” to point out they have a stack more to offer you once you sign up.
Writing A Good CTA Can Be Hard. Really Hard
Because as any copywriter worth their salt will tell you – short copy is way tougher than long.
f the thought of using CTAs gives you the willies, it could be because you’ve gotten into the habit of only using them when you actually want to sell something. Just remember, when you don’t use CTAs across all your communication, that’s when it will sound unnatural and salesy.
If you miss the chances for your readers to feel good saying ‘yes’ to you on the little things, they’re going to feel alarmed when you want them to say ‘yes’ to the big things like handing over their email or cash.
Give yourself a break though – writing copy is hard. This is the paradox of a great CTA; when you have less words to play with, it’s usually harder and more time consuming to nail it.
Do you want unforgettable copy and button-pressable CTAs on your page?
Choose to up-level your DIY copy prowess with my affordable single-subject courses, delicious downloadables, or some one-on-one copy coaching. I even have a self-guided version of the Crisp Copy Class.
If you don’t have time to faff about with CTAs, or just want someone to sort out some sizzling done-for-you copy that makes your audience salivate in anticipation like Pavlov’s dogs, then I’ve got that covered too.
See what I did there?
Copywriting – I’m good at it, and it’s been good to me.It’s not for everyone, though. And it’s certainly not for some people who you’d think it’d be for. Let me explain.In my 1:1 copy coaching sessions, I always ask my budding copywriters why they want to become pros,...
I’ve won awards for writing crisped copy for businesswomen in Australia and around the world. I have clients who won awards after I wrote for them. I’ve rewritten business brands in ways that not only tickle the people who do the communicating but also tick boxes for...
I started out like a lot of women new to business; I thought I’d leave my job, provide a killer service, and get paid accordingly. Which worked, in the beginning. Because I simply doubled my hourly rate as an employee and charged my time out as peanuts. Nodding? Uhoh....
Make your reader lick the screen