How to Create Effective Calls to Action in Your Marketing
A call to action is a short piece of text (usually one or two sentences) in an
advertisement or marketing communication that encourages the reader to take a particular
course of action - buy, donate, make contact and so on.
Calls to action guide the audience towards a real-world action, so they don't turn the
page, click through to another site or just carry on browsing your material aimlessly.
They set a boundary on readers' "information gathering" experience, encouraging them to
move into the "doing" phase.
The call to action is one of the most important "take-aways" for the audience. If
there's one thing the copywriter wants the audience to read and internalise (after the
headline), it's the call to action.
Where are calls to action used? Calls to action should be included in almost every
piece of marketing, whether focused at businesses or consumers.
Examples of where they might appear are:
• In brochures: on the back page, or interspersed within the text
• On websites: on every "selling" page, and perhaps also on a "contact
us" page (possibly not on "more information" pages)
• In direct mail sales letters or marketing emails: towards the end,
before the sign-off, and perhaps repeated in a PS
Often, a call to action will be highlighted by being boxed out, emboldened or otherwise
Calls to action are not used pure "brand-building" marketing, where the only aim is to
make the audience remember the brand.
Define your desired customer response
Before you can create a call to action, you must know your desired customer response
(DCR). What do you want the reader to do once they've read your message?
Whatever your DCR is, it should be all of the following:
• Clear. A ten-year-old should be able to understand what you're
asking them to do.
• Simple. A DCR should consist of a single step. You may want people
to go to a website and buy, but the first step is just to get them there - it's the
website's job to convert traffic to sales.
• Specific. A DCR should make it clear exactly what the audience
should do, in concrete terms: fill out a form, visit a shop, make a phone call, go to a
website and so on.
Create a basic call to action
At its simplest, a call to action is a single sentence that tells the reader to do
something, using the imperative tense:
• Call us now to claim your FREE sample copy of Lawnmower World.
Note the key characteristics of the basic call to action:
• It communicates the DCR, preserving its three key attributes (clear,
simple and specific).
• It links the DCR with a benefit for the reader (in this case, a free
magazine). This is essential. A call to action offers a quid pro quo. "If you do this,"
we're saying to the reader, "you'll get that." The benefit need not be concrete, but there
must be something in it for the customer, even if it's only useful information on a product.