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Calls to Take ActionIn the last issue of Therapy Marketing Monthly, we discussed the importance of using calls to action (CTAs) in all of your marketing endeavors.

We talked about how calls to action benefit your prospective clients as well as your business. And we went through a quick checklist for creating effective calls to action.

To reiterate, a call to action, or CTA, is commonly an image, button, or some type of graphic or text that prompts your visitors, readers, audience, leads, and clients to take some type of action. A CTA is, quite literally, a “call” to take an “action.” While calls to action are typically used on websites, they can and should be used everywhere. You should use calls to action in any books you write, in e-mails, at the end of any blog posts, articles, or newsletters you publish, and at the end of any presentations you give.

Today, I want to spend a little more time looking at the various types of calls to action you should be using, as well as a more detailed list of things you can do to make sure your calls to action get as many people as possible to actually take the action you desire.

Types of Calls to Action

A call to action can be defined as anything that asks someone to move from being a passive consumer to an active participant. While this could include something as mundane as the common hypertext link, we’re looking for a little more activity than that. Calls to action typically include:

  • “Contact Us” forms
  • Telephone numbers
  • E-mail links
  • Sign-up forms
  • Subscription forms
  • Social media “share” buttons
  • Appointment schedulers
  • Download links
  • Purchase buttons

And this list could go on and on…

Notice that not all of these actions lead to an immediate sale. There is often a perception that calls to action only apply to ecommerce sites. They do not. Calls to action can be transactional. However, they can just as easily help someone request information or sign up to receive a special report or newsletter.

Where Should You Use Calls to Action?

As I said, you should use calls to action everywhere!

Of course, this is an oversimplification… If your using calls to action in a book you’ve written, you don’t necessarily want to have them on every page, or even in every chapter. Similarly, you don’t necessarily want to start out a presentation with a call to action. While you can and should experiment with different locations for your calls to action in different media, calls to action typically come at the end of whatever information you’re providing (be that the end of your presentation or the end of a blog post, web page, or book).

However, this does not mean that calls to action should only come at the end of whatever information you’re presenting. And, given the variety of calls to action available, it must be noted that not all calls to action are equal.

Webpage-Specific Calls to Action

When creating your website, you should write a list of all of your site’s calls to action (e.g., you need to think about and know all the various actions you want your website’s visitors to take, whether those actions are to read your blog posts and articles, subscribe for more information, or call to schedule an appointment).

This means you need to think about the calls to action you’ll need on the individual pages of your site as well as those that will appear on all the pages of your site.

Page-specific calls to action aim to do two things:

  1. Keep your visitors on your site, and
  2. Move them one step closer to your site-wide calls to action (see below).

As I said in last month’s article on the subject, every page of your site should have a call to action. Your site’s visitors should never be left at a dead end not knowing what to do next.

One method to ensure every page has a call to action is to use a content template for your website. This isn’t a technical term. Rather, a content template is something you have in front of you that asks you a series of questions every time you write a page for your website. These questions might include:

  • Who is the page aimed at?
  • What is the main message the page should communicate?
  • What will the user learn on this page?
  • What next step should the user take?

This last question will ensure you always think about what call to action a page should have and that you’re always moving your site’s visitors one step closer to your main objective.

Although these webpage-specific or page-level calls to action exist to move the user toward a site-wide action, this does not mean you need to have only one site-wide call to action.

Site-Wide Calls to Action

It is not unusual for therapists and other business owners to have several site-wide calls to action, such as to sign up for a newsletter and schedule an appointment. In such cases, you MUST prioritize your calls to action.

Begin by establishing your primary call to action. What must users do above all else? If we’re talking about a website that’s promoting your private practice, this should be to schedule an appointment. Knowing your primary call to action will help your web designer create a site that leaves visitors in no doubt about what they should ultimately do.

Of course, on an extremely large site with a diverse audience it might be necessary to have multiple primary calls to action across different sections of the site. This is fine as long as they are not competing for users’ attention. Always remember, when faced with conflicting choices most people choose not to choose.

If your site’s primary call to action is to get people to schedule an appointment, a secondary, site-wide call to action may be to get them to sign up for your newsletter or download a free report.

Secondary calls to action should be less prominent so as not to distract from the main goal. However they do play an important role. They exist to move the user towards the ultimate objective. For example, asking people to sign up for a newsletter or enter an e-mail address to download a free report is a much smaller step than getting someone to schedule a consultation or purchase something from your site. A user who has signed up to receive more information is more likely to become a client. And once they give you their e-mail address, you can keep in touch with them until they do become a client. Just don’t allow the newsletter signup to overshadow their actually scheduling an appointment.

This problem of overshadowing is more common than one might think. Sometimes we add secondary calls to action onto our sites without even thinking about it and inadvertently distract our visitors from what we really want them to do.

I’ve seen numerous therapist websites where the newsletter sign-up box is much more prominent than any calls to action to schedule an appointment. Similarly, have you added a “share this on Twitter” or Facebook button to your site? These are calls to action. However, what would you prefer your site’s visitors do, Tweet your blog post or become a client? Don’t put actions on your site that will draw prospective clients’ attention away from what you want them to do most.

Once you have decided on your calls to action, the next question is how do you make them enticing enough to encourage users to click?

10 Techniques for Effective Calls to Action

In our last article, we discussed why your calls to action need to use an eye-catching design to grab people’s attention, present a clear value proposition so people know exactly what they’ll be getting when they take the action you desire, and take people to a dedicated page of your site that’s aligned with a specific stage of your marketing funnel.

While these three components will go a long way towards making sure your calls to action are effective, they’re not enough.

With that in mind, here are 10 more things you should do when creating your calls to action:

1. Focus on Feelings and Benefits, Not Features

We’ve talked about features vs. benefits before. Suffice it to say, describing your product or service is never enough. You have to make people want it. To do that you need to describe how whatever it is you’re providing will benefit that person individually. For example, it is not enough to say: “Call me to schedule a free relationship consultation.” Instead, you need to say something like: “Do you feel stuck in an antagonistic or lifeless relationship? If so, call me today to start experiencing the joy of creating the relationship of your dreams.” This goes even further than talking about benefits and engages your prospective client’s emotions by focusing on how your product or service will make your prospective client feel.

2. Use Active, Urgent Language

We touched on using wording that makes people want to take action in the last article, but it bears repeating.

A call to action should clearly tell users what you want them to do. They should include active words such as:

  • “Call”
  • “Buy”
  • “Register”
  • “Subscribe”
  • “Donate”

All of these encourage users to take an action.

Even better, to create a sense of urgency and a need to act now, these words can be used alongside phrases such as:

  • “Offer expires May 31st”
  • “For a limited time only”
  • “Order now and receive a free gift”
  • “Register now to claim your ‘early bird’ discount”

3. Offer a Little Extra

It’s often helpful to “sweeten the deal” when you want to encourage users to complete a call to action.

Incentives can include discounts, free consultations, free reports, entry into a competition, or some other type of free gift. Get creative…

One of the better examples I’ve seen of the creative use of incentives was a business owner who was giving a seminar to other business owners. Everyone who registered early for his seminar got a free copy of his book, a free month of his group coaching calls, and a free t-shirt with his logo on the front and his website address across the back. He sold out the seminar before the early registration period was over. But he didn’t stop there. He then recorded the seminar and offered it as a free gift to people who signed up for another one of his online programs. But it gets even better… The beauty of this offer was that not only did he persuade people to register early and sell out his seminar as well as use the recoding to sell other products, he turned his attendees into walking billboards with the t-shirts and the recording of his seminar had a room full of people with his website address on the back of their shirts!

4. Use Both a Carrot and a Stick

Business owners have been using the carrot and stick approach to successfully encourage users to complete calls to action for some time. The carrot is an incentive and the stick is nothing more than a limitation. For example, by combining items two and three above, you might say something like:

“Register now to claim your 50%-off, early-bird discount. But act fast. This offer expires May 31st.”

Experiment with using both carrots and sticks in all of your calls to action.

5. Remove Any Sense of Risk

One of the major reasons people don’t take action is because they associate a risk with it. Be sure to include promises with your calls to action that address users’ concerns. Whether it is outlining your return policy or giving a clear statement about your approach to privacy, make sure the user has no reason to worry.

6. Use the Power of Peer Pressure

We are social animals. As such, we are highly influenced by the behavior of others. The value of this should not be underestimated when it comes to getting people to take action. Why do you think Amazon has those “Other people who viewed this also looked at…” and “People who looked at this bought…” sections on every page of their site? Everything from testimonials to Tweets can influence our behavior. Look for opportunities to reinforce calls to action with recommendations from others.

7. Get the Position Right

Another important factor is the position of your calls to action on the page.

If we’re talking about your primary, site-wide call to action, it should be placed high on the “Home” page of your site, above the fold (meaning people don’t have to scroll to see it), and close to the center. It should also be placed on most, if not all, of your site’s pages, either on the right, at the top, or at the end of each page.

If we’re talking about page-specific calls to action, such as getting people to share or comment on a blog post, then they’re usually best at the end of the page.

The right position will vary depending on the call to action and the page of your site you’re putting it on. Be prepared to test different locations to see which ones work best.

8. Use White Space and Contrasting Colors

It is not just the position of your call to action that matters, it is also the space around it. The more space around a call to action the more attention is drawn to it. Clutter up your call to action with surrounding content and it will be lost in all the noise.

Similarly, color is an effective way of drawing attention to your calls to action. This is especially true if the rest of the site has a fairly limited palette. For example, if your site is predominately blue, then highlighting your calls to action in orange is sure to get them noticed.

This being said, you should never rely solely on color because many people are color blind and will not see the contrast.

9. Make It Big

What’s the saying? “Size matters.”

While size isn’t everything – we’ve already established that position, color, and white space can be important – the size of your calls to action can play a large part in their effectiveness.

The bigger your calls to action, the better chance they’ll have of being seen.

10. Carry the Call Through

Lastly, consider what happens when someone takes the action you desire. The rest of the process needs to be as carefully thought through as the call to action itself. You should always be as clear, and make things as easy and straightforward, as possible.

One particular word of warning… If you require people provide personal data (name, e-mail address, etc.), resist the temptation to collect unnecessary information. The more information you ask for, the less people will take action.

Calls to action are the linchpin of a successful website and effective calls to action require you thoughtfully consider your website’s design and usability, as well as create powerful marketing copy.

And these techniques for creating effective calls to action are just as relevant for calls to action on postcard mailings, in presentations, in e-mail messages, in any books you write, and in any other marketing media you use as they are for your website.

When done correctly, calls to action can and will generate real measurable returns on your investments and help you grow your business.

Action Steps

Hopefully these two articles on calls to action have not only persuaded you that calls to action help both your users and your business, but also helped you understand how to use them effectively. What’s next?

Action 1: Establish your main actions

Begin by writing a list of your website’s main calls to action. Next, prioritize this list so your designer can ensure users focus on the right actions first. Also consider how one call to action can lead to the next.

Action 2: Carefully craft your actions

Once you have your main calls to action, work with a designer and copywriter to ensure they are immediately obvious and engaging to users.

Action 3: Give every page an action

Make sure that you add a call to action to every page of your site. Your site’s visitors should never be left at a dead-end, so consider implementing the content templates I mentioned above.

Action 4: Test your calls to action

Even when you follow all of the steps outlined here, there is always room for improvement.

The only way you’ll truly know what works and what doesn’t is to test different calls to action and see which get the best response. So, create multiple calls to action for the same actions and see which are more effective over time.

And, now, I’ll end with my own call to action! Let us know your questions and send us your examples of how you’re using calls to action by posting a comment below.

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