What is a Call to Action?
A call to action is a statement that stimulates the customer to make a decision about a purchase. It is a way to trigger a response to a certain offer. Call to action (CTA) is a marketing term for any design to prompt an immediate response or encourage an immediate sale. A CTA most often refers to the use of words or phrases that can be incorporated into sales scripts, advertising messages, or web pages, which compel an audience to act in a specific way.
In marketing, a call to action (CTA) is an instruction to the audience designed to provoke an immediate response, usually using an imperative verb such as “call now”, “find out more” or “visit a store today”. Other types of calls to action might provide consumers with strong reasons for purchasing immediately such an offer that is only available for a limited time (e.g. ‘Offer must expire soon’; ‘Limited stocks available’) or a special deal usually accompanied by a time constraint (e.g. ‘Order before midnight to receive a free gift with your order’; ‘Two for the price of one for first 50 callers only’). The key to a powerful call to action is to provide consumers with compelling reasons to purchase promptly rather than defer purchase decisions. A CTA can be a simple non-demanding request like “choose a colour” or “watch this video”, or a much more demanding request. An obvious CTA would be a request for the consumer to purchase a product or provide personal details and contact information.
Many marketing materials such as brochures, flyers, catalogs, email campaigns, also make use of a call to action. Such instructions are designed to show consumers how to take the next step and create a sense of urgency around the offer.
Successful sales representatives have long recognised that specific words and phrases elicit desirable responses from prospects and soon learn to incorporate the best lines into effective sales scripts. Clever sales pitches often incorporate a series of small CTAs that lead to a final CTA. These smaller CTAs create a pattern of behaviour that makes it easier for the audience to follow-through with just one last CTA, completing a more demanding request, than had it been asked without context. An example could be the purchase of a designer timepiece. The sales person might ask the consumer to choose a style, then a colour, a size and even a personalised engraving. When the client views the personalised design, they are more likely to be predisposed to complete the purchase. The sales representative can close the sale by asking, “Will that be cash or credit, today?”
Advertising messages, especially direct-response advertising messages, often make extensive use of calls to action. The key to a powerful call to action is to provide consumers with compelling reasons to purchase promptly rather than defer purchase decisions. An article in the Wall Street Journal suggests that the incidence of calls to action in television advertisements is increasing due to marketers’ desire for instant and measurable results.
In web design, a CTA may be a banner, button, or some graphic or text on a website meant to prompt a user to click it, and continue down a conversion funnel. It is an essential part of inbound marketing as well as permission marketing in that it actively strives to convert a user into a lead and later into a customer. The main goal of a CTA is a click, or a scan in the case of a QR code, and its success can be measured with a click-through rate, a conversion rate formula that calculates the number of clicks over the times the CTA was seen. Another way to test the effectiveness of a CTA is using A/B testing where several graphics are presented to users and the graphic with highest success rate becomes the default.
How Calls to Action Work
The most obvious use for a call to action is in sales, such as “Buy Now!” However, the sales process isn’t the only place a call to action can be helpful. If you have a high-priced item or service, in which it can take time to encourage someone to buy, a call to action that acts as a road map toward sales can be helpful. For example, you might say, “Call now for a free estimate.”
A call to action can be used to build your email list (“Sign up for a free report now.”), increase your social media following (“Get more tips and coupons by following us on Facebook!”), keep readers on your site (“Click here to read more about…”), and much more. Call to action phrases use action verbs, such as:
- Sign up
- Click here for
Make sure each page of your website, each sales conversation, and every piece of printed material contains a clearly defined and easily identifiable call to action. If you’re a blogger, have a call to action at the end of your blog post to read another related article, check out your product or an affiliate product, or sign up for your email list. One useful technique to get people to take action immediately is to add a sense of urgency and a fear of missing out. For example:
- Offer expires on Halloween
- Limited time offer
- Act now before supplies run out
- Respond before July 30 to enroll at this special price
How to Create Compelling Calls to Action
Marketers employ a number of strategies for creating effective CTAs. Below is a list of some common ones:
- Good Design: The best calls to action need to grab the user’s attention, so a bright button color that contrasts with the color of the page or an email is an effective strategy.
- High Visibility: Because the call to action should be the most noticeable thing on the page, the font size should be large enough to command attention.
- Clear Benefit: Stating a clear benefit that the user will get from completing the transaction is an effective way to get them to click.
- Actionable Text: A call to action, as its name implies, is designed to compel the user to take action, so an effective CTA should use action words such as “discover”, “learn more”, and “buy now”.
- Short in Length: A good call to action should be a short phrase, not a sentence. Most are no longer than five to seven words.
- Sense of Urgency: Users are easily distracted on the internet, so a strong sense of urgency such as a limited time offer can help compel users to take action immediately instead of putting off taking action.
Benefits of Calls to Action
Calls to action are essential for any business looking to convert prospects into customers and clients. As a business, you can never assume prospects will follow the sales path you predict or want them to take. Having a call to action helps guide the prospect through the sales funnel and enhances their user experiences by being direct and telling them what you want them to do.