How to Improve Your Call to Action

The beautiful website wasn’t getting any results.  Oh, there were people coming to the site, but no one was calling and no one was buying.  The problem wasn’t traffic to the site.  The problem wasn’t pricing.  The site’s poor performance was largely due to having botched the call to action part of the website.  What made the call to action section of the site so awful was not the way it looked or the way it read, but the negligible results that it generated.  Improving the call to action, which is easy when you know what to do, can dramatically boost the results you’re getting from your website.  Let’s look at the key areas to increase the leads or sales coming through your website by fixing what’s wrong with your call to action.

Window Shopping

An effective call to action is one that yields results.

Importance of Call to Action

Subtlety has its place, but when it comes to persuasion and selling it’s an over-rated practice that, if relied upon, produces, at best, mediocre results.  If you want someone to take action, you must ask for it directly.  Your audience expects it.  Don’t disappoint them.  In other words, if you want somebody to call you, tell them to call – and give them a compelling reason for doing so.

An effective call to action is one that yields results.  There is a lot more to this than just asking someone to take action – you’ve got to ask for the right thing, in the right way, at the right time.  Let’s look at the nitty-gritty of how this is done effectively.

Appropriateness

The appropriateness of your call to action is really about making sure that the desired action is reasonable.  Think about the buying decision as a process.  First comes recognition of the need, next comes the search for information, followed by an evaluation of the alternatives, which leads to the purchase, and then, finally, is the post-purchase evaluation.  Your call to action should be relevant both to the type of customer and to their stage in the buying process.  For example, an auto dealership invites people to come and take a look at the vehicles on their lot.  Then AFTER an interest is shown in a particular vehicle AND the salesperson has determined that they are a legitimate prospect, they are invited to take the vehicle for a test drive.  The invitation to test drive the vehicle isn’t extended to everyone; it is extended to those for whom it is the next logical and appropriate step in the buying decision process.  In other words, different calls to action at different times, in different places, and all based upon the needs and interests of the prospect.

A common mistake here is that the call to action is inappropriate for the amount of interest expressed and the level of trust that has been established thus far.  Usually, I see this in the form of the call to action that is essentially a “buy now” when it would be much more appropriate to offer a call to action that offers more information – thus building trust and being more appropriate to the prospect’s needs at that exact moment.

Highly Available

Sometimes I see a decent call to action, but it is hard to find on the website.  In order to be effective, it needs to be highly available.  In other words – you should make your calls to action available all over your website, not just on one or two pages.  Most websites today are template driven.  This means that you can add your call to action to the different page templates on your website.  When you do this, it makes sure that it appears consistently all across the site, based on the page templates that you’ve designated.  Almost all of the pages on your website should contain a call to action.

Relevant Placement

Relevant placement of the call to action is very closely connected with being appropriate.  The key issue here is that for best results, you may need more than one type of call to action, so that you can offer something that is highly relevant to where the prospect is at in the buying decision process.  For example, there is the contact us equivalent for a call to action.  This can take the form of a phone number, an email address, a contact form, instant chat, etc.  Something like this should be widely available across your website, on the pages where it is reasonable that a prospect would like to communicate with you directly.

On pages where it is reasonable to expect that someone would want more information, but is not ready for direct communication, the most relevant would be the equivalent of a more information call to action.  This may take the form of a download, or a request for something that will be delivered by snail mail.

Relevant placement also means that you may need different versions of a call to action, based on the area of the prospect’s interest.  For example, an attorney may have a download or a special report on the subject of wills and estate planning, as well as something on the subject of starting a business.  Obviously, the relevant placement of the wills and estate planning download is for it to be placed on the pages of the website that pertain to that subject, and likewise for the business startup download.  Relevancy has a lot to do with what your prospect might reasonably expect from you.

Expectations

People come to your site with certain expectations.  Increasing the effectiveness of your website by increasing the number of leads and sales you’re getting from it has a lot to do with working on and within expectations.  Bringing your call to action into alignment with the expectations of your audience will dramatically increase the number of people who, after coming to your site, act on your call to action.

Social Proof

Social proof is the evidence of others’ results.  No one likes to make decisions in a vacuum.  In fact, the herd instinct and mentality is common in people.  We like to see what others are doing before making a decision.  This isn’t something that just pertains to politicians, most people feel more comfortable making a decision when they can see what others like them have done.  Telling people isn’t enough.  You’ve got to demonstrate.  That’s why it is called social “proof”.  That proof takes the form of testimonials, case studies, white papers, etc.

The more personally identifiable information that you’re able to include in a testimonial, the more powerful and effective it will be.  Including a picture, first name, last name, and location is ideal.  However, that is simply not possible for some industries.  For example, a defense attorneys’ clients are likely not open to providing testimonials with that kind of information.  In some fields, clients won’t be comfortable providing testimonials, or personally identifiable information, and in other cases, the content of a testimonials may be restricted by professional boards or licensing boards.

For example, the testimonial may focus on your customer service rather than the outcome or results that you achieved (think financial advisor).  Perhaps the testimonial just includes the initials of the person and their city and state.  Just remember, there is always a way to demonstrate social proof – sometimes it takes creativity.

Credibility

The net effect of the proper use of social proof is that your credibility is enhanced and people will feel much more comfortable with you.  To the extent that you’re able to participate in the conversation that is going on inside your prospects mind, your credibility is further raised.  This isn’t as psychic as it may sound – it comes naturally when you know you really know your audience well.  When you know what your customers really want, you’re able to tailor the call to action so that it deeply resonates with them.  This further enhances your credibility and makes your prospect much more comfortable with your business.

Credible Offer

The offer that you’re extending must be credible to your audience.  It must contain value.  It should be something that when you make it available, your ideal prospect is drawn to it.  Any claims or promises that you make, either stated or implied, should be recognized and accepted as credible by your audience.  Sometimes this means toning down the claim in order to make it more believable.  Sometimes it makes sense to under promise and then over deliver.

Getting it Right

Done well, the offer associated with your call to action is both compelling and highly available.  One without the other provides at best, lukewarm results.  The beautiful thing about improving your call to action is that it will make your website instantly more profitable, from the same amount of people visiting your site.  Imagine improving your profits, without spending more money. This is what can happen when you improve your website’s call to action.

  • Charles Ogwyn April 29, 2013, 1:26 pm

    In order to really understand what your prospective customer is thinking, it is super important to have a clear picture of their other options. A good grasp of those alternatives allows you to be a lot more relevant to your audience.

  • Edwardo C. Francis June 24, 2013, 1:54 am

    Understanding Consumer Buying Behavior offers consumers greater satisfaction (Utility). We must assume that the company has adopted the Marketing Concept and are consumer oriented.

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