Both in business and in life, all progress is made by getting someone to take action — whether it’s buying your product, signing up for your marketing services, or simply “liking” your page on Facebook. Inevitably, you extend an invitation, asking the end user to click a button or sign on the dotted line — this is your call to action, and it’s really the only way anything gets done in the world of business.
Indeed, the most serious mistake that the business novice can make is to assume that people are going to do anything without being asked; you don’t have to work in marketing or in sales for long to know that, if you want somebody to do anything at all, you’ve got to give them a little push. You’ve got to ask for it.
That’s why the call to action is the lynchpin of business writing — but just because you’ve written a call to action, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve written a good one. What follows are a few tips on crafting compelling calls to action, and while no call to action is guaranteed, these tips are battle-tested and generally very effective.
Look at Your Language
Do you remember learning about the parts of speech, perhaps in elementary or middle school? Well, the two parts of speech you most need to worry about in your call to action are nouns and verbs. Verbs, of course, are action words — so how could you even dream of leaving them out of your call to action? (Indeed, statistically speaking, verbs generate social network shares more often than any other words.)
Remember, when crafting your call to action, that English readers start reading from the left — so if someone is just going to skim your writing to get the gist of it, you want to have the subject and verb on the left side, which means at the beginning of the sentence.
This is all another way of saying, get to the point. Don’t lead into your point with a lot of build-up. Put the subject and verb front and center.
On a related note… they say that brevity is the key to wit, but we might add that brevity is the key to a good call to action. Having a lot of “fluff” makes it clear that you really don’t have much to offer — that you’re “padding” your message to make it seem like something more than it really is. What people want in a call to action is a clear, concise message that emphasizes practical benefits.
…And that brings us to the next point. The call to action is not the place where you outline your services or your techniques in full. The call to action is not where you answer the questions of how you’re going to offer someone value — the call to action is where you tell them what value you are going to offer, and why they need it!
Focus the call to action on practical, real-world, here-and-now benefits. And don’t just make it about the benefits the user will get from buying your product or signing up for your newsletter. Underscore the value they will have from reading your call to action right away. Title your call to action with value-added words like tips, secrets, insights, or analysis, and make it clear that, if someone takes the time to read through your call to action, they’ll be better off for it, right away.
And that’s really the main thing to remember when writing your call to action — you want to get people reading and understanding that you’ve got real value to offer them. The best way to do this is to keep your writing short, to-the-point, action-oriented, and focused on benefits.
Rich Gorman is a veteran of the direct response marketing industry and an expert in