Monday, June 01, 2020

Copywriting: Call to Action


Call to Action Definition

an exhortation or stimulus to do something in order to achieve an aim or deal with a problem.
Oxford Languages.
Dictionary definition.

Calls to action centres on telling the reader what to do, they're the link between a reader being engaged or being dormant.  Usually coming from the audience listening, reading or learning to do something in the moment. As a copywriter you laid out your claim, it's now time for the reader to take action.  Which could be anything from purchasing a product, donating to charity, or contacting the company in question.

A call to action is usually found at the end of your copy, it might be at the bottom of an ad, sales letter, article, or at the end of an advertisement on TV.  You can find them on printed media clearly marked showing the customer it's something separate from the rest of the copy, and it's something the reader needs to focus on and take action.

Online readers respond differently to calls to action.  This is because a call to action can be something as simple as a link that needs to be clicked.  The words used should help the reader understand what they're clicking on.  
Here are some common online calls to action:
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Web pages are full of things to catch the reader's eye, so they're usually not in any kind of order.  Which is why most calls to action can be found in the sidebar, in a pop up, or in a header at the top of the page so people don't miss them. 

You can have a strong call to action, and weak content. Which is why it's important your call to action should feel like a gentle nudge to your reader asking them to do something they're ready to do.
Simple Calls to Action

The most basic calls to action ask the reader to do something, so they usually come in the form of a command.  
Here are some simple examples:

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or they could be easygoing...

Call in any time for a quick chat

...or more persuasive...

Send me the coupons

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Simple calls to action are usually short and to the point, and a good fit for circumstances where a reader may be easily distracted or where space is at a premium.

Introduce Advantages and Enticement

If you want to be more appealing, add an advantage, this will turn your call to action from an offer to a deal - 'try this today and you'll get this'. 

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Don't create a new benefit, use a one you've already told your audience about.  At this point your target is too close to a sale to not make your claim. 

By using a more persuasive angle you can strengthen your call to action, for example telling the reader something is in short supply and that they need to act now or they'll lose out. 

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Social proof is another good way to show your audience that other people are already enjoying the advantages of the product:

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Make It Easy to Understand

Don't complicate it, keep it simple, with as few steps as possible.  One is ideal, but if that is difficult, bring all of your points together to help the reader understand what they need to do, and the order they need to do it in.

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Rather than using the same words over and over again, try varying them if you're writing copy for a website or a mailshot. 

If your customer requires more than one choice make sure you include all of the options every time.  Or use a general phrase to cover all of them (like 'Call us today').

Demonstrate How Easy It Is

Your audience needs to understand that whatever you ask them to do is easy.  There should be little effort or thought about it, or a decision to be made.  If you're showing them something new, they need to know what it is there getting into before they sign up or commit.

Your reader may be completely compliant with whatever you've written, but you're still asking them to take a step that will make a change, no matter how small or large.  Most people don't like change, even if it's for something small.

Create Stepping Stones

You may not want to ask for a sale straight away, but instead gently guide your reader through their journey, or motivate them to read on.  
Here's a good example of  copy from an envelope sent by mail:

Open now and receive 20% off your next order at First for Fashion...

It's pretty clear that this statement isn't the complete story.  The customer knows they need to do more than just open the envelope.  This call to action is a simple way of making a connection with the action in order for the reader to get the advantage they'll gain in the end.

Just like any other kind of call to action, it's essential to make it clear what you require the reader to do, and what they'll receive in return, at each stepping stone.  You should include a promise of some sort of value, and include the stage it leads to should fulfill that promise.  It's worth pointing out that each call to action should only make reference to the next stepping stone, instead of jumping ahead to what the reader may do at a later time.

You could use stepping stones in another way to direct your readers through pages and sections in a particular order.  
You could do this at the end of a webpage like this:

Read on or get in touch to talk through your project.

Not every visitor will follow through on this call to action, but the idea is still planted in their mind, and it leaves a more confident ending than just petering out at the end.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on calls to action in the comments below.

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