A Call to Action, or a CTA is probably the oldest, most effective and indispensable marketing tactic around. You can find it being used by a black market ticket vendor outside a box office, TV advertisements, billboards and the internet – virtually every place where someone is trying to sell you something. The anatomy of an advertisement has seen many changes over the years, fuelled by creative ad men and the needs of the format.

But a CTA is a tried and tested method of hooking a customer. The reason is simple – a CTA is supposed to be strong and assertive enough to rouse the customer into buying a product or a service. In fact, it is the most direct and assertive tool in a marketing arsenal to entice a customer. A Call to Action is an unabashedly honest attempt to ask the customer to buy a product, sign up on a website, subscribe to a newsletter, et cetera et cetera.

But of course, there are good CTAs and then there are bad CTAs. But how does one differentiate between them? How does one tailor the perfect CTA? Well, a perfect CTA would ideally mean that it rouses every customer into action. Although that is wishful thinking, one can create a CTA that is persuasive enough to increase your sales voluminously.

Here, we break the CTA down to pinpoint the decisive characteristics that make it either effective or ineffective. Let’s take a look.

Characteristics of an Effective CTA

Before employing a Call to Action, you would generally explain what your product or service is about, and how it would benefit the customer. This is the bait. But it is also a bit impersonal. Everyone reading it is going to know that you offer a 30-day free trial on your service, to everyone that subscribes. It is a general notification. But then comes the CTA. ‘What are you waiting for?’ it says. ‘Reclaim your life NOW.’ it says. And the reader goes, who? me? This is the power of a good CTA. It immediately shifts focus from the product to the customer, putting them under a spotlight. A good CTA talks to the customer personally. It is a strong presence, a voice of success that is meant to lead individuals to accomplish their dreams by buying the product.

It has to be. Marketing is a mysterious domain, and you never know what strategy might work. But the chances of an advertisement with a CTA that sounds something like ‘Please please buy our product. Maybe you’ll find it useful’, will generally not work. The beauty of a good marketing campaign is that it makes the customer feel like you are doing them a favor by taking their money, and not the other way round. A CTA must thus be assertive, creating a sense of urgency around the product. It’s a call to action, after all. Of course, being too assertive can also be a problem. You don’t want to scare away your customers.

The carrot here can be anything from an assurance to ‘unbelievable benefits’, a promise to ‘experience the thrill of adventure’, a ‘secret to success’ or ‘an offer that comes only once in a lifetime’. It is something that the customer will not be able to say not to. Seriously, who can ever say no to the secret to success? But you are not selling the secret to success. You might even be selling a hair transplant medication. But what you are really selling is the confidence that comes with a fuller head of hair. And if that confidence is not a secret to success, then I don’t know what is. On the other hand, the stick – ‘Hurry, before the offer expires.’, ‘Early birds get 10% off’. These statements tell you that if you don’t buy/sign up with this product NOW, you will be at a loss. Notice that each of these statements is short, smart and succinct. No beating around the bush.

Call to Action statements work best when the customer is satisfied that there is no risk involved in doing so. This is mainly because Call to Action statements are designed for an immediate, even impulsive response. This means that you have only a few words to convince your customers that they won’t lose anything if they respond to the call to action. This is where you tell them that the 30-day trial is absolutely free.

Finally, a CTA should be to the point. You cannot have a very long or a very boring CTA because it defeats its purpose. Going back to fishing analogies, a good CTA is like a hook – short, sharp and with bait stuck to it.

For more info on how to write a good CTA, get in touch with Browntape. We are always happy to help!

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