This week we feature a guest post from Rich Gorman:
In business, as in life, all progress is made by getting someone to take action. Inevitably, you make an invitation — what’s known in marketing circles as a call to action. Someone responds — or not. One thing is more or less indisputable, though. Whether it’s getting people to enlist in a marketing program, sign a purchase order, take ownership of a task, or get your beloved spouse to take out the garbage, it usually doesn’t happen until you ask for it to happen!
When it comes to getting the trash taken out, you’re pretty much on your own; for all the others, however, a strong and strategic call to action can make all the difference between failure and success.
Calls to action are a dime a dozen, perhaps, but there are certainly some time-tested techniques you can use to use them compellingly, creatively, and, above all, effectively.
- Remember the parts of speech! You learned these in grade school — you know, like subjects and verbs. Think carefully about your use of these parts of speech as you write your call to action. Remember that verbs are the most important; these are action words, after all, so naturally they’re crucial for any content that’s meant to call people to action!
Something else worth noting: Statistically, verbs get the most shares on Twitter and other social networks.
But it’s not just a matter of making sure you have the right words on the page. You also need to have them in the right places. Remember how people read, at least those of us who speak English — we read from the left side of the page to the right. If someone is trying to very quickly glean information from your writing, then, where do you think they’re going to look first? It’s imperative to have your subject and your verb at the beginning of each sentence (i.e., on the left side of the page).
- Numbers are not the enemy of creativity. This is a way of thinking that many creative people fall into, however — this assumption that using precise facts and figures robs a piece of writing of its creative merits.
This isn’t true, and when it comes to writing a good call to action, it can prove deadly. The Internet is rife with “creative” writing that uses vague phrasing or fudged numbers to lend the appearance of real data. And by and large, people can see right through it.
Quoting some real data, some hard facts and figures, can go a long way toward helping your call to action get to the point. It’s like you’re saying, I know what I’m talking about. I know what I’m doing. I know what you need. Here’s the proof — now sign on the dotted line.
- Keep things practical. Practical, in this instance, is the opposite of technical. Your call to action is not the place to outline all of your techniques and practices and insider tips. The call to action isn’t where you tell people how you’re going to do it, but why they need to sign up for it. It’s the place where you outline the practical, real-world benefits of whatever it is you’re offering.
- On a related note… use words that add value to your content. What you want, in the end, is for someone to respond to your call to action. And there’s just no way they’re going to respond to it if they don’t read it first.
So what you need to do is make it clear that they need to read it — and that if they do, they’ll receive some kind of benefit, right here and right now.
For a good, creative, compelling call to action, then, you need to make it clear that there is advantage to be had not just when the reader purchases your product or service. You need to convince them that they’ll be better off just for having read your call to action!
Think about using some words like tips, advice, insights, secrets or analysis in your call to action. Also think about using words like best or most — because as spammy as they may sound, they are always effective in getting hits on blogs and e-mails.
And finally, try using a word like why. Asking a question — and providing an answer — is a great way to generate some intrigue and get people reading.
- Finally… keep it brief. Nobody wants to read paragraph after paragraph of text in order to find out why they should invest in your product or service. Keep things concise.
How concise? See if you can do it in the span of a tweet. That’s just 140 characters. If you don’t think you can get your writing that brief, joining Twitter for some practice is actually not a bad idea.
A good call to action is one that is enticing and creative — but also one that presents immediate benefits. Remembering these tips will help you master the art of the truly engaging, effective call to action.
Rich Gorman is involved with multiple companies and is an expert in personal reputation management. He helps individuals, small businesses and large corporations with not only reputation management, but also brand protection and problems related to the damage that can be caused by Internet spam like bad suggestions in google auto complete.