What do you want your customers to do?

Written on 23 October, 2009 by Lina Nguyen
Categories: Small Business, Web Design & Content | Tags: customer behaviour

Why you need effective calls to action

When you’re sending a marketing message to your customers, you need to be clear about what you want them to do after they’ve read it. This is what’s called the ‘call to action’. Do you want them to email you? Make a phone call? Click on a link? Tear out a coupon? Whatever it is, the call to action has to create a sense of urgency, be simple to do, and have benefits to doing it.

Can you afford NOT to have a call to action?

If you have a huge advertising budget, then you can afford to just put together clever, conceptual ads just for the sake of being funny or winning ad awards. But if you don’t have those dollars to throw around, you need to get a result, to get people to act, to do what you want them to do, after you’ve got them to actually read your message. This is why you need to carefully craft the call to action in all your copy.

Warning: Avoid call to action overload. Make the call to action simple to understand and easy to do.

If a potential customer came into your shop, you wouldn’t hand them a list of things to do before they could buy your widget. It would be too confusing and frustrating. On the other hand, if you’re a good sales person, you wouldn’t just let them leave without getting them to commit to do something either.

Whatever you ask them to do, it has to be simple to understand and easy to do. Asking the customer to go down the road, run through four lanes of traffic, do ten star jumps and then come back to your shop through the back window – these would be bad calls to action. Asking the customer to hand over a credit card and pressing some numbers in a keypad – these would be good calls to action.

Recently, I was asked to look at an email for a personal coaching business. It was a marketing message to be sent out to the customer database. Pretty standard, right? An email can’t be that hard to put together, can it?

Well, I reviewed this marketing message and to the business owner’s surprise, I told him he was asking prospective customers to do too much. In an email that was only about 200 words, it asked the reader to do five things.

It had five calls to action: 1. Forward the email to my friends and family; 2. Contact the business for a chat; 3. Have a go at a ‘complimentary coaching tool’ (whatever that meant); 4. Email them my results; and 5. Tell them what I’ve learnt.

Now, if I were feeling a bit cranky, I might have felt like I was being bossed around to do all these things I had no interest in doing. Or, if I was having a good day, I might have just thought, “No, why should I?” and clicked ‘delete’.

What’s an example of a good, simple call to action?

In an email of that short length, I think it would have been effective to have just one or two calls to action. For example, to check out the free thing that was being offered by clicking on a link. Assuming this free offer had some value to the reader, and its benefits were sold well in the email, then it had the potential to keep this personal coaching business top of mind. The other call to action could have been to contact the business if the reader wanted feedback on the results.

Simple. Not too confusing or demanding. And it gets the reader to act, for their own benefit, as well as the business’ benefit.

Think about all your marketing messages. What’s the call to action?

Do you have a call to action? Do you have too many? Is the call to action easy to do? Or do you make people jump through hoops to do it? Do you make them want to do it, and do it NOW?

For online, some simple calls to action might be: click here, credit card or BPay icons for payment, use search tool, fill out details, login.