What is a call to action (CTA)?
The “call to action” is one of the most important concepts in marketing and promotion.
Simply put, after you’ve established that you have something of value to offer and that you’re the perfect company to deliver it, you want to ask your prospect or customer to take the next step. You deliver a call to action (CTA). A CTA is the message which tries to convince a person to perform a desired action immediately —often the next step that a consumer/business should take toward the purchase of your product or service.
On digital communications CTAs are often in the form of attractive buttons. CTAs also offer methods for consumers or businesses to communicate with a company/ brand or to respond to an advert, they’re interactive.
Why use a CTA?
Omitting a CTA from marketing communications typically leaves the target audience unclear on the appropriate next step, which results in dismal response rates and less than optimum return on marketing investment (ROMI). If you do not use CTAs you cannot take the contacts, interacting with your brand or advert, onto the sales cycle journey. You will lose the opportunity to collect data, build your marketing database and follow up with contacts or convert prospects into sales.
CTAs are a basic concept, however, I still see companies using them ineffectively.
It is far more easier to get people to click on CTAs on digital marketing content, and there are ways to improve click through rates i.e. by keeping them simple, placing them above the fold, making buttons attractive and using strong incentives or offers like free whitepapers gadgets or the opportunity to attend an event online or offline.
I still find it all too common that billboards,TV advertisements and radio ads omit or use ineffective call to actions. Above the line is certainly not low cost and so I often wonder why and how a company either is not using a call to action, or isn’t making the call to action painfully clear on the creative, or hasn’t used a unique call to action to track traffic for that one particular piece of creative. For example, sometimes a company’s main website is the CTA, sending traffic to the main company website domain with offline ads makes it impossible to tell where the traffic has come from, it also opens up a host of other issues too, visitors may get lost on the main website and advertisers may lose conversions, data and leads.
I’ve lately seen billboards promoting company Facebook pages, as CTAs, and Twitter hashtags, again I have issues here. You may be able to track how many new users have come to your company Facebook page since running an advert, they may find your offer/ advert on your Facebook page, however, they may get lost, the likelihood of that is high.
Twitter hash tags are great for conversations, and I guess advertisers can find out how many people are engaging in conversations about their brands, but my query is how do you capture data for these contacts, move them along the sales buying cycle? I do love hashtags, but I’m not sure if they’re place is right in the context of advertising and as CTAs, especially if the purpose of the campaign is to drive sales. They may be great as secondary CTAs but I don’t think they work effectively for lead generation.
Effective call to actions:
Using inbound phone numbers, email addresses, unique vanity/friendly URLS (driving respondents to landing pages) for the purpose of tracking, are very effective for the purpose of capturing responses, leads and converting contacts into sales. It’s often effective to drive traffic to customised landing pages, contacts cannot get lost on simplified landing pages which clarify the further action users should take upon arrival, they should be optimised to ensure high conversions. Further call to actions should be above the line and offers advertised on media or ads directing users to the landing pages should be easy to find.
If an offline adverts is within a prospect or customer’s reach you could test a QR code as a CTA, they’re encoded with information which can be used to automatically trigger a range of actions on the user’s device when scanned, including:
- Enabling a contact to view a mobile website or landing page
- Dial a phone number
- Send a Text Message
- Send an Email
- View a message or special offer
- Download contact details (VCARD)
In order to get people to follow your CTAs you need to use incentives, e.g. offer discounts, competitions, an event or a free whitepaper.
Responses to CTAs from various pieces of creative should be traced individually and measured for effectiveness. This can be done by:
- Using and tracking click to individual vanity/ friendly urls per offline piece, which should redirect to a main landing page
- Adding tracking code to your landing pages/ emails to determine which online advert/ email has driven the most traffic
- Using promotional codes on creative so that when a contact follows up they can use the code either by entering it into an online tool or when speaking to a call centre agent – enabling advertisers to track where the response has come from
Effetcive call to actions and follow up should enable you to capture marketing contact data and enable you to identify the creative that a contact has responded to, you should be able to update your markeitng database with this data, which should be used for nurturing, follow up programs or lead generation.
Alternatively, you may not need to nurture a contact, they may buy directly from your landing page or call centre agent, however, data should be captured and stored in any case for follow up, cross sale, upsale opportunities and future marketing.
Effective call to actions measure what’s working (or not working) and which marketing creative is generating the highest return on marketing investment (ROMI). Call to actions should not be an after thought, they should be key to the creative and the user journey. They should always encourage users to provide their data. Repeating the point made earlier, omitting a call to action from marketing communications, or making the call the action unclear, unconvincing, or using ineffective CTAs, typically leaves the target audience unclear on the appropriate next step, which results in dismal results and less than optimum return on marketing investment (ROMI).
To find out more about call to actions, ROMI and B2b Digital marketing in a global context, you can read Emerging Business Online, Global Markets and the Power of B2b Internet Marketing an New York FT Press Publication.