Your strongest weapon to combat reader inertia is your call to action. It is your motivator, your proof that you understand your audience member, and your ultimate money shot. I'm going to talk about the psychology and marketing techniques that go into writing a great call to action, and also give a few tips and examples to help you write better ones.
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The Psychology of the Call To Action
Your call to action has some main functions:
● To lead the reader to take the action you suggest
● To let the reader know you've understood their needs
● To solve a problem you know the reader has
● To motivate the reader or to excite them
● To surprise the reader to grab their attention
● To make the reader realize they have a need, and immediately supply the solution
While it's true that things like placement on a page or a color scheme can influence the effectiveness of a call to action, I'm focusing purely on the copywriting here. You have to communicate several of the above intentions through three or four sentences. It's a skill, and one that's worth building. If you hit the reader's button, they will hit yours.
How Strategic Conversion Works
Generally, a call to action is a couple of sentences that set up your action phrase. Sometimes the action phrase won't even be a full sentence. Here is an example from the website of Business and Wealth Creation Coach, Melissa Pharr. The action phrase is in the button: Sign Me Up. The set up phrases are 'Want My Non-Pushy, Straight Up System for Sales Calls that Seriously Sell? GET INSTANT ACCESS TO MY FREE REPORT AND BONUS AUDIO WHEN YOU SIGN UP"!
This example has some good things going for it, and a few things that could be tightened up a bit. I'll refer back to it as we develop the concepts behind elements of a call to action that provoke the motivation to convert in your readers.
Be Concise and Specific
You have a scant few words to use to get your point across, so every single one counts. Get rid of filler words like "Sign Me Up" in our example, because those words are too generic and general. Instead, consider something like "I'm Ready For Success." This might be weird if it was a simple text link, but the framing of the button visually communicates to people that the next step is to click it.
Demonstrate a Solution to a Pain Point
What do you think motivates your ideal customer? Are they worried about spending more time with their family? Do they need more money? Are they totally out of sweaters? What's their problem, anyway!? Really, though, say something about what you're offering that sounds like a clear solution to something they struggle with and you'll have the reader's attention.
"Triumph over the feast or famine cycle of freelancing. My FREE guide has step-by-step solutions. Tell Me More!"
You can understand how freelancing could result in some up and downs in income, and you've kept it real here by bringing it up. You've placed the reader in a position of imagining themselves beating the pain point, and offered them a solution. The click is just a breath away at that point.
Be Emotional and Provocative
The words 'triumph,' 'feast,' and 'famine' are all loaded words with a lot of punch. They cause a response in readers because they play to the emotions. Triumph is something very specific, a feeling of joy and accomplishment, a measure of success. Feast speaks of opulence, security and satisfaction. Famine is terrifying destruction, which is exactly how it feels when you wake up to $5.00 in your checking account. This language will have your reader feeling a certain way about the roller coaster they're on, and you're ready to ride in on your white horse with your closing action phrase.
Creating a sense of urgency is also a part of being emotional and provocative in your calls to action. Words like 'sale' or 'limited' will invoke the ever present human emotion of FOMO and can provoke click throughs.
Use Strong Command Verbs
Command or imperative verbs sound like an order or directive. Our example above from Melissa Pharr and our feast or famine freelancing example all sound authoritative and commanding.
Problogger shakes up the formula slightly with this example, but the mechanics are the same. "Become a ProBlogger" is the start of the call to action copy, and is strong command language. Some details are given to legitimize the site's authority, and then more imperative language: "Tell Me More" or "Subscribe To ProBloggerPlus."
Use Passive Receptive Verbs In Your Action Phrase
Some people see higher conversions by picking a passive, receptive verb in the action phrase. Words like subscribe, click, get started, can sound off putting to people because it sounds like there is some level of work on their part. This may be minutia, but it is worth testing out for results with your particular audience. Instead of using a strong action verb in your action phrase, you could choose words like "receive" or, as in the Problogger example "tell me more."
Use First Person In Your Action Phrase
It's perfectly fine to start out the setup portion of your call to action in second or third person, but use first person in your final action phrase. Tell me more. Send me more information. Add me to the list. Show me how. These are good choices to psychologically put your reader in line with clicking the button.
Stay Low Commitment
Test the effectiveness of using your call to action to let people know there is no commitment. Free trials, samples, no obligation information, and other similar buzzwords can help get an anxious, commitment phobic reader over the threshold. You can reference how little time it takes to sign up, "Solve All Of Your Problems In Only 15 Seconds!" That may be exaggerated greatly, but you get the point.
Some Controversial Ideas
Some people like to work outside the box, so I'm tossing in some risky but potentially fantastic ideas that could work to increase your call to action conversions.
If you want to turn all of the advice in this article over on its ear, that can really work too! Being different, shocking or unusual can work well with some audiences. One of the best examples of this tactic was employed by clothing retailer, Patagonia, who urged shoppers to not buy their clothes.
Make 'Em Wait - Bury Your CTA Behind Your Pitch
This tip is not for the faint at heart, but it does have some objective potential merits. If you have a video pitch or content that demonstrates your authority on a topic and the value you can offer to your readers, you could force visitors to watch it before delivering your call to action. It is essential to test this, because you want to dump it if it isn't working for you. You may find, however, that your conversion rate increases once people understand what you're really offering and why they need it so badly. This is especially well suited to charismatic individuals or those with a strong sales background.
Metrics and data are going to prove what is working and what isn't. Once you've crafted a call to action that you think will work, test its performance with your audience. Hubspot Enterprise, Optimizely, VWO, Unbounce, and countless other software exists to help you accomplish this. Keep track of your results and you'll realize you learn more about your audience with each comparison you run. That is only going to help you write more effective calls to action in the future.