One mistake many marketers make when publishing content online is aiming only to get their target market to visit the company’s website. On the other hand, entrepreneurs tend to fixate on converting those readers into customers.
There’s a missing link there that often gets ignored: the step that visitors to a website, blog or social media page take to become leads, before they’re ready to become your customers. It’s your call to action (CTA) that makes them take that step.
A CTA is a low-risk offer that your online visitors don’t have to pay for -- at least not with money. A company can ask its visitors to give it information about themselves, such as their names, email addresses, job positions and the nature of their work, in exchange for that enticing offer.
For instance, a company promoting CRM software can offer a white paper on predicting sales trends or a free 15-day trial version. A company selling dietary supplements can offer a free consultation on calorie intake. A freelance designer can even give away simple templates for creating a brand’s visual style guide; a freelance editor can conduct a webinar on writing tips for marketers.
Not only do these items help you obtain information about your buyers that can help you convert them into leads, they also help you gain their trust by educating and helping them. This effect is among the many content marketing benefits for small businesses and large corporations alike.
For a CTA to be effective, it must:
Let’s discuss each of these briefly.
Don’t overwhelm your buyers by asking them to take a leap; if this is their first visit to your website or blog, the CTA should educate them more about your product instead of offering them a trail. So in the CRM software example above, it is more likely that a first-time visitor would click on a CTA offering a white paper than one offering a 15-day trial.
(But how do you know he’s a first-time visitor? We’ve asked our media manager to create a blog post on that and other matters pertaining to media management. We’ll update you on that soon; subscribe to this blog if you’d like to know.)
The steps must also be distinct and concrete, not vague. Avoid clickable buttons that say only ‘Submit’, ‘Click’ or even ‘Try it out’. What will happen once the reader clicks the button? Tell him.
Here are a few examples of verbs that make effective CTAs:
2. A CTA must be related to, or a natural sequel of, the topic on the page.
If a CTA offering a free dietary consultation appears next to a blog post on calorie counting, the two topics reinforce each other. Another possible CTA would be a template for tracking your daily calorie intake. However, it’s also all right to place a CTA offering a sample exercise routine to supplement a specific calorie-count, or research findings on certain fad diets.
3. A CTA must be placed where you think the reader’s eye will go.
On a company website’s home-page, a CTA would be best placed just below the navigation bar, but at the side rather than at the centre. On a blog, it could be placed at the end of the post as well as to the side.
4. A CTA must ask for information in proportion to the value of its offer.
Compare a template for an infographic, a webinar on colour psychology, a free consultation on branding, and a free critique of your company website’s home-page. Which would be a freelance graphic designer’s most valuable content offer? While the first two items might be similar in value and highly depend on the reader’s needs, the most valuable offer among the four is clearly the consultation, followed by the home-page critique.
It thus follows that a freelance graphic designer would ask for less valuable information in exchange for a less valuable content offer. He could ask for the reader’s email address only in exchange for access to the webinar. If after viewing the webinar, the reader lands on a thank-you page that offers more graphic-design advice leading to another CTA, this time offering a template for an infographic, the graphic designer could ask for his job position and the size of the company he works for.
Going further down the sales funnel, the reader might, on another day, return to the blog and find a CTA offering a free critique of his company website’s home-page. In exchange, he needs to disclose his full name, the industry he works in, the size of his company, and perhaps choose, from a drop-down menu, the answer to a question on the type of clients the company serves. If a reader wishes to avail himself of the free consultation, he’d have to disclose his company name and website, as well as his own mobile phone number.
(How do you know what CTAs the reader has accessed before? Watch out for media manager’s post on data management; subscribe to receive an update.)
5. A CTA must be tracked.
Know how many people click the CTA and how many actually complete the process to get the content being offered. Know who accesses the offer. If you think your CTA banner isn’t attractive enough, change only one element, such as the background colour, and track results for a week to see if that worked. If not, try changing a different element, such as the font or a word.
One more thing...
A CTA is part of your entire inbound or online marketing strategy. In fact, what it offers may even be the anchor of your campaign. That means that before you get started with your content marketing campaign, you must create a content offer for a specific buyer persona. You then write blog posts and social media entries that help attract your readers to the CTA promoting that content offer. Remember what inbound marketing looks like, using the methodology that converts a stranger into a promoter? The CTA is that phase between being a visitor and being a customer. It converts visitors into leads that you can pursue.