Improving Your Call to Action
4/24/2012 9:07 AM
by Kyle E. Glass
Although a relatively simple concept, all too often I see that marketers/companies are so excited about all the information they can cram into their marketing message that the simple "what am I supposed to do with this?" message gets lost. The call to action (CTA) is the basis of your entire campaign. Offering something for your audience to act on is critical to measuring engagement, and can mean the success or failure of your campaign.
Most people's attention span is generally pretty short; I've seen some research state about 10 seconds is average, whereas this research says 0.7 seconds. I'm more willing to believe the shorter amount of time, so if you're not impacting someone to take action immediately, or at least offering content enticing enough for them to continue reading, they'll hit the delete button without a second thought.
The rule to keep the most relevant information "above the fold" has not changed. Although initially a newspaper concept, this continues to be relevant online, as most people's screens are not large enough to show your entire message. Keeping your CTA at or near the top, prominently, means everyone will know how to act.
This really can be a tricky thing to maintain. Marketers spend lots of time coming up with great headlines, or we want to feature social media links at the top, or there's this great image that you or your clients like... All of this means nothing if the recipient doesn't take the action you want them to. If your call to action is to take advantage of a deal, and instead they "like" you on Facebook, it's likely that they won't circle back to take advantage of the deal. Don't confuse people with multiple calls to action.
Most people's brains work generally the same, in that our eyes move from left to right. There are great studies that continually come out of Eye Tracking Research, and the results are generally the same. Keep the most interesting material aligned left. If you have a multi-columned newsletter or website, don't put your call to action in the far right column, since it gets little attention. This article explains a bit more about how eyes move in an "F" pattern on a page, moving along the top, across an area slightly below, and then down the left side of the page browsing for relevant info.
There are lots of great ideas as to what a successful CTA would be, but at a very general level, coupons are a great call to action for electronic pieces. In short, the receiver will ask "what's in this for me" before they react to anything. If it's not relevant in a very short amount of time, they're more than likely going to pass.
If you want the receiver to learn more about you, or just want to go a little more in-depth on a topic, create a landing page specifically for this campaign. Fairly easy to do, and even better, you can get some much stronger analytics to measure engagement. Instead of just getting a click-through rate, which you'll get with e-newsletter campaigns, you'll be able to gauge length of time spent on the page, where they came from, and more. Creating a landing page is something you should consider for most direct email campaigns. (Further reading of CTR vs. Web metrics can be found here.)
In fact, if you have multiple products in a direct email campaign, creating multiple landing pages (not linking directly to the products on your website) will give you more metrics as described above. Again, try to avoid confusing the user with multiple CTAs. ‘Check out our products’ and ‘buy our products now’ are different CTAs.
The entire piece should support your CTA. Keep messaging short, maybe a 50 word description and short blurbs or bullets. The point is to not detract from your CTA. Supporting images are important, but make sure they don't compete with the bottom line: your CTA.
The biggest aspect to take away from this is to keep your messaging enticing, and don't confuse people or detract from your CTA, which is the single most important aspect of your marketing piece.
Kyle E. Glass is the director of marketing at Marketing Matters, a communications and design firm specializing in technology, consumer and custom electronics, audio-video and related industries.