Having discussed the choice of response mechanism in a previous post, let’s now have a closer look at how to word your ‘call to action’ most effectively, in order to maximise the odds that your target audience will respond.

In a nutshell, your call to action must be concise, motivating and simple to understand. Moreover, to gain a response it should cover three main aspects:

  1. What you want your prospective customer to do
  2. When you want them to respond by
  3. Why they should respond (ie what’s in it for them?)

Let’s look at each of these three areas in turn, beginning with clearly conveying what you want your prospective customer to do. Some specific techniques to bear in mind include the following:

  • Make the initial action required from your prospective customer as quick and easy as possible. You can always ask for more information or upsell later, once your prospect has made an initial commitment (for example, the product bundles offered before checking-out at Amazon).
  • Provide an additional ‘low risk’ reason for your audience to respond quickly – for those who are not yet ready to make a purchase. For example, ask them to get in touch with you in order to gain a time-limited incentive related to your proposition – eg. a free webinar or information pack.
  • Encourage those that have unanswered concerns to get in touch to discuss further (for example, “Just reply to this e-mail if you would like to discuss further” or “Click here to chat now with an advisor”). You need to make it as direct and easy as possible for them to initiate a conversation with you at the point where any concerns become apparent to them, so that you then have an opportunity to overcome these concerns as soon as possible.

Turning next to when you want your prospective customers to respond by:

  • Re-emphasise the temporary nature of your incentive in order to persuade your prospective customer to take action:
    1. Limited supply: emphasise how much supply is available, how much of it has already been snapped up and when you anticipate selling out. This reassures your prospective customer that a lot of other similar-minded people have already bought your product, whilst also appealing to their fear of missing out.
    2. Time-bound offers – provide something extra if your prospect responds by a certain date.
    3. Or alternatively a penalty – where your prospective customer will lose out on something if they don’t respond quickly. For example: “Call today before the October price rise”.
  • If your communication is aimed at making an immediate sale, then you need to convey a sense of urgency. Make the wording of your call to action very clear and direct. Don’t overdo it though by using exclamation marks – the sense of urgency must be proportionate to your proposition and to the incentive being offered.
  • For less urgent communications, you could try a more relaxed, conversational style of call to action, for example: “Just call John on XXX and ask him to send you the XXX brochure.” You would be advised to test this conversational approach versus a more direct approach to find out which works best for you.
  • On a purely practical level, it is helpful to prominently display when telephone-ordering lines will be open, or how quickly your prospect can expect a response from an e-mail.

Finally let’s consider how to convey why your prospective customer should respond:

  • Summarise the essence of the core benefit to your prospective customer, together with how much it will cost them – so they can immediately see that it is a worthwhile trade-off.
  • To make your call to action even more powerful, you can subtly use emotion to convey what they will be missing out on if they don’t act – but it must be appropriate to your proposition and to your audience in order to be credible. Don’t patronise them!
  • It’s often a good idea to reiterate your satisfaction guarantee in the call to action, in order to help overcome any remaining perceived risk.
  • When using buttons or text links within digital media, use the text to concisely describe the benefit to the prospect, for example “Register now to receive your free top 10 tips”. Avoid just using generic terms such as “Click Here” – this should already be self-evident.

What about you – do you have any additional tips you can share regarding how to word a powerful call to action?

If you’re interested in exploring this area in more detail (together with relevant examples), you might like my recent book ‘Successful Marketing Communications’.  If you have any thoughts or comments, do drop me a line below.

Written by Rob H

I’m a Chartered Marketer with over 20 years’ experience working in digital and offline marketing communications across the financial services, leisure, education and technology sectors – most recently working for a large financial services organisation, managing the acquisition marketing communications team. I gained an MSc in Strategic Marketing from Cranfield Business School in 2005 and the CIM Diploma in Digital Marketing in 2012. In 2012 I became the part-time course tutor at the Cambridge Marketing College for the CIM diploma in ‘Principles of Mobile Marketing’ – also authoring the accompanying Mobile Marketing study materials for the college. In March 2017 I published ‘Successful Marketing Communications‘ (available on Amazon Kindle and Apple iBooks), which has become recommended reading for delegates at the IDM (Institute of Direct Marketing). When I’m not knee-deeping in reading/ writing the latest marketing communications articles I enjoy outdoor swimming and anything involving snow – with my goal for next year being to combine the two…

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