Ultimate Guide: Importance of Call to Action (CTA)
A key element of any marketing campaign will be those parts of messages which signal the next step a customer needs to take in order to get the satisfaction of getting the solution to some unresolved problem. Your products are your audience’s solutions, so how do you ensure your potential customer or lead appreciates the importance of connecting your offering with satisfying their need? This gets to the heart of how you can best lead your customer into acting on the information you share, with a ‘call to action’.
What Exactly is a Call to Action (CTA)
The simple answer here, as ever, in marketing dilemmas, is that it really depends on your desired outcomes. E-commerce sales faster and at volume are only one possible purpose in a call to action, but sometimes, it isn’t just about the shopping-oriented CTA , there are a number of considerations and variables at play with an effective CTA. Preceding steps are as essential to that all-important click-through, such as understanding why your customer might want to click or not in the first place. They have to be confident in your ability to help them with their problem before they: ‘submit’, ‘add to basket’, ‘download’, and so on.
Your marketing messages are all about the benefits your products and services offer, or where brand building is concerned, they talk about how your company is an authority in the field and why you are the preferred choice against your competition. Calls to action (CTA’s) do not just include the features described in your inventory database, brochures, sales pages, or other content. Conflating these two elements of your information is a common and potentially costly mistake, many businesses make when getting to grips with putting their campaigns out, with the assurance that a call to action will be effective.
The CTA is all about satisfying your customer’s need to such a degree, they are ready to make that pivotal decision. This means that any accompanying message to sell a product is not necessarily about you and how great you say your stuff on sale is. Your customer is always consciously, or unconsciously asking “What’s in it for me?” with any intentional browsing of products and services. In marketing parlance, they are “tuned into WIIFM.”
Of course, if they want reassurance that your brand is the go-to expert in your industry, then of course, your CTA’s will include accolades your company may have, be they industry awards, or endorsements via customer reviews.
Differentiating descriptions of your products or services from what you or your products can do to improve the quality of life of your customer is about really delving into the psychology of marketing. Don’t make the mistake of assuming that because you have spent time describing features of your products for your eCommerce shop means that audiences will draw their own conclusions about the benefits to them and then act on that information. This is a fundamental misunderstanding of the myriad circumstances your viewers and readers are in when viewing your ads, or other content.
So just to burst your bubble for a moment… Think about your personal experiences of not acting on information you have read or viewed. Perhaps you didn’t act because you were tired, not feeling very well that day, had too heavy a schedule, just plain forgot after your phone rang, or were too distracted by your kids, demanding your attention. Life is busy and often messy, so we do not always prioritise that next purchase we were thinking about a minute or two earlier, because the simple fact of life is that you are not the centre of your customer’s universe and life is full of distractions from your marketing campaigns.
Those examples of obstacles to acting on CTA’s are Just the obvious circumstantial reasons customers fail to work through your information, to fill their shopping cart, but there are other hindrances, of course. Those are entirely to do with the effectiveness of your sales funnel, of which your CTA’s are only one element. For instance, just how effective is your checkout process? Is it reassuringly secure? Are there gaps or clunky links between channels in your sales funnel? Is your messaging clear enough? Do all your links work?
Being brutally honest about the quality of every possible touch point and journey through your sales funnel to your customer finally reaching your call to action is key to not missing out on sales. If you have not got your basic customer service experiences smooth, clear, enjoyable and compelling, a competitor will have lined up those ducks and they are just a click away.
Our point here is that the smooth lead up to your final encouragement to buy, pick up the phone, or leave their details is essential for your CTA to work. Leaving aside all those potential obstacles to reaching your ad’s call to action, or social media link to your sales page, let’s look more closely at improving the power of your prompts.
Compelling CTA’s Are Cornerstones of Campaign Success
Obviously, marketing messages, customer journeys and calls to action are the prerequisites of checkout success. So, what of the psychology embedded in your calls to act? What of their relationship to your customers?
Considering all the potential barriers to a customer reaching the bottom of your sales funnel, it is the marketer’s job to have done the thinking for the customer. In content creation and cohesion, they have anticipated customer frustrations and how your widget makes their complex life easier. Essentially, once your inter-connected content links are all cohesive and well-ordered in the chains of thought of your buyer, the advertiser’s final step is to ensure that their distractible customer knows exactly what they must do next to get what they want as quickly as possible.
Remember, the click through to the sale or booking is a win-win scenario, so ensuring clarity and ease of transition to that final customer commitment is in your interests as an advertiser as much as your lead who needs to resolve their problem.
The buying decision is a delicate process. At any stage in thinking, doubt can set in; trust can be questioned. This is especially the case where interactions are not face-to-face, but digital and where a brand is not well-known, or their leadership has been undermined through some controversy at large. Any under-mining of this delicate transition to the buy-in must be counter-acted with a compelling case to act in choosing you as their preferred provider.
At this pivotal point in the sales cycle, it is essential that any potential cognitive dissonance is taken care of. What does that mean? Well, simply put, our brains are wired to problem solve. Where there is a gap in information and some level of discomfort or there remains some unanswered question, our brains will fill in the gaps to ease that tension we may barely be aware of, providing answers which may not tally with your own.
If you are not convinced of the risk of this need to know driver of thinking and behaviour, there is plenty of research to demonstrate the significance of helping people get past those conflicts going on. Often those doubts manifest in emotions that can get in the way of a decision to act, even feelings or thoughts beyond conscious awareness. Your CTA will be reassuring your customer that this is the right step for them to take, or may even loop back to an earlier stage in the decision-making process, retracing steps through the wider levels of your sales funnel to either the same CTA, or one more targeted to their concerns.
Obviously, different customers have different priorities in terms of the problems your offering can help with. It is essential then to work through which of those issues is the most widespread in terms of intensity in order to customise a compelling call to action. Preparation in helps you differentiate messaging and calls to action. For instance, for the person needing your solution right now, your ad will direct a customer to your sales page, from where they can quickly check out. Others may be weighing up costs and benefits still, intending to purchase further down the line. These customers need to be engaged in other ways, either by being directed to sales pages, social media platforms where you can communicate with them, or by getting their email to begin communicating via e-newsletters, and so on.
So, then, you may be asking, what messages work best for my products and services? Well, begin with the preparation we outlined at the start of this article. Break down your customers into groupings; list the features of your offering, alongside the benefits; one feature may have multiple benefits that speak to different customer needs.
This analysis is essential before planning where and how you want to direct customers. The final step is your messaging format, style and content. If you are already at that stage and are looking for more guidance on the marketing message side, maybe you could get in touch and let us know what your dilemmas are in terms of prioritising CTA end-points, or even the formatting of the CTA itself.
Go-To CTA Examples
Customer’s Benefit of Action. Customer benefits need to be explicitly listed, then prioritised according to your current understanding of what your customers value most (not what you value!) When the benefits of possessing, hiring or leasing your product are all detailed, from the perspective of all of your customer segments and you have completed your current stage of keyword analysis, then identifying which messages will hit your customer’s hot buttons faster becomes much easier to pinpoint and your marketing content will have a much more powerful impact.
This is where the magical melding of the art and science of marketing happens and where you really get to understand your customer motivations.
Finally, your metrics illustrate absolute clarity of intent, allowing you to tweak individual elements of your ad content according to proven audience behaviours.
Words have power and simple adjustments can make the difference in engagement levels. For instance, using singular nouns instead of plural, like “your neighbour / work colleague / friend / lover will see you in a whole new way” – because we all have someone in mind who we want to make an impression with.
Time Limited Offers. The benefit of not missing out on a time-limited opportunity, (for example, to make cost savings) can be one of the most powerful calls to action, because “deals”, “coupons” and “sales” represent a massive chunk of online searches by customers. Customers wanting to get the most out of one’s hard-earned cash is simply an economic reality. These messages speak loudest to those who have already been considering purchasing your products; for buyers, grabbing a bargain while it lasts is a powerful sales driver.
Limited offers can work well when you are looking to clear inventory, trigger sales of a new product line and to get your customers talking about their fabulous bargain with others who may be considering a similar purchase.
Fear of Missing Out. Not being left out from what so many others are apparently enjoying is a great motivator, whether this be the trendy young audiences looking to be part of the in-crowd, professionals keen to be seen in a particular light by colleagues’, or the householder looking to keep up appearances, or feel that they are doing as well as their friends, neighbours, or family.
Using words such as: “… like the thousands of satisfied customers”, “other (mums / car owners / retirees / etc.) like you are now seeing the difference (brand name’s) widget feature is making to (benefit)”.
Up Close and Personal. This is about talking directly to your customer, as if there were no distance or devices between you. Turn generic statements talking about “the thing” into “your thing”. We highly recommend that you run through marketing text to personalise statements, e.g. “your widget will save you time and money…”, as opposed to “these / our widgets save time”. The subliminal messaging here is that they already have the thing in their possession; this sparks mental images that approximate to the ‘touch and feel’ of a bricks-and-mortar shopping experience.
Emotions Drive Decisions. Marketers talk a lot about resolving pain, or rather more cynically, pushing pain buttons in order to galvanise the customer’s need to ease their discomfort by purchasing. One proven marketing rule is that emotions govern buying more than logic. These are what your messages should be targeting, therefore.
In short, it’s all about diminishing nervousness associated with taking next steps, such as paying for something still perceived as a risk. Messages you share should smooth the transition through diminishing objections, engendering confidence and ensuring a smooth transition through to the sale. Words and images matter, because in the absence of body-language we all rely on in face-to-face communications, you need to be speaking your customer’s language.
For instance, some marketers will swear by using buttons coloured red or orange, because these have demonstrated a higher click-through rate. Similarly, button shape or associated images matter too. These may be website elements for you to split test alongside button invitations, such as: “Get It Now”, “Buy Now”, “Add To Basket”, “Yes, please”. Keep such elements simple, but split-testing can show marginal improvements in tweaks that can make all the difference in terms of turnover.
One thing is for sure, creating compelling messages is such a huge professional discipline in itself, so, rest assured, we will be returning to this subject. Perhaps we could use some of the challenges you are faced with, or your favourite messages as examples for other e-commerce retailers, so please do get in touch with your bug-bears and best one-liners.
We love a challenge and after so many years in the business, there isn’t much we have seen that cannot have some basic compelling message tweaks applied to get the ball rolling faster.