The digital environment is an overwhelming place for the average consumer and there is constant competition for the attention of anyone browsing the web. Digital marketing is geared towards grabbing that attention.
However, too often brands are so focused on getting someone’s attention, that when they do have it they don’t know what to do with it. It’s like the dog chasing the squirrel in the park – if it did ever catch that squirrel, it would be so surprised it’s likely the squirrel would wriggle free.
That’s why startups need a way of getting consumers to act. There’s no point investing all that energy in catching the squirrel if you don’t know what you’re going to do with it. Calls to action (CTAs) are a proven strategy for turning consumer attention into leads and sales. Let’s look at CTAs more closely, then we’ll explore exactly how to use them.
So What Is A CTA?
A CTA is a way of taking advantage of that brief moment in which you possess a user’s attention. More specifically, it’s designed to turn that attention into a decisive action – it’s an attempt at generating some behaviour in your prospects or followers.
CTAs are a digital marketing tool which encourage your potential customers to behave in a certain way, whether that’s buying a product or subscribing to your business’ emails. It’s the next step that you need people to take before you can generate a sale out of them, and CTAs are an essential component of getting people to part with their hard-earned cash.
Because CTAs are all about promoting specific behaviour in people, it comes down to psychology. Once you understand the basics of human psychology, you’re ready to issue perfectly composed CTAs and watch as the sales pour in.
OK, so you don’t need a Master’s degree in behaviorology to issue compelling CTAs, but it is crucial that you understand a little basic psychology. After all, if you’re going to motivate people to behave in a certain way, you need to know what makes them tick.
Humans live in a hierarchical society – our ancestors did, and indeed the apes we evolved from did too. That means our brains are preprogrammed for following orders. What’s more, social scientists have demonstrated time and again that humans are paralysed by choice and, counterintuitively, that we find greater happiness when we’re presented with fewer options.
Take a look at the following suggestions:
- Would You Like To Subscribe?
- Sign up TODAY!
Which of them do you find the most compelling? If you’re following your evolutionary programming and social conditioning, I’d guess it’s the latter.
There are two main differences between these two compositions. Firstly, one offers people a choice. Immediately, their minds will start debating the choice, both the pros and the cons. That introduces doubt, and makes your prospective customers far less likely to subscribe. Secondly, one is constructed as a command – and people intuitively love following orders, even if they don’t know it.
All this goes to show is that the way you present something matters enormously, based on some founding facts about human psychology. When it comes to constructing the perfect CTA for your startup, language matters.
As we demonstrated above, the way you present something can have a big impact on customers’ behaviour. The language and grammar of a sentence can make or break a CTA. Let’s have a look at some of the essential components of phrasing your successful CTA.
1) Herd Thinking
One winning strategy for a CTA is to appeal to the eternal human desire to be part of a pack, so reminding people that they’re joining a multitude of others in a certain action is a great way to influence them towards that behaviour. You might say:
–Join 3,000 Other Subscribers For This Great Offer
One of the things that this does is that it emphasizes the social proof of what you’re offering. Nobody likes to be the first to take the plunge, but by making it clear that a whole host of individuals are taking part people will see greater authority in an opportunity. You’ll also notice that this CTA is phrased as a command, appealing to that human instinct to follow orders.
2) The Affirmative
Using positive language that emphasizes the affirmative makes it easy to bring your customers on board and encourages them to undertake some desired action. Calls to action transition from the web page into the customer’s mind seamlessly, appearing as if they were their very own thoughts.
-Yes! I want to sign up!
Upon reading CTAs phrased in affirmative language, your customer can’t help but be drawn to the phrase. The decision is made on behalf of the customer, and whatever it is you’re offering becomes something that they implicitly desire.
3) Reference An End Point
Everyone believes in their own journey, that the path they’re taking is a unique experience. And everyone wants to believe that they’re on a positive trajectory to some desire or goal. This is a universal narrative that you can leverage to persuade your startup’s potential customers that you’re the one who can make their dreams come true:
-Start Your Journey Towards X Today
With commanding, imperative language, the reader immediately feels the impulse to follow the order in the CTA. And whatever X is, a weight-loss goal or the promise of a new career, this customer sees it as attainable through your program.
4) Imply Urgency
“There’s almost no greater motivator for action than a ticking clock,” says Clifford Jones, marketer at State Of Writing and EssayRoo. “It’s like a college essay deadline invading real life – urgency compels us to act.” Leveraging urgency in your CTAs can be incredibly effective, for example:
-Get it while you can!
These commands instill the sense that time is running out for the customer, and reduces the decision-making apparatus they might typically employ if given time. Notice how these are also affirmatively phrased – “don’t wait,” may also imply urgency, but without implanting that affirmative sense in the customer’s mind.
5) Be Dynamic
Using dynamic, attention grabbing language is productive when it comes to CTAs, and that means leaving dull and everyday phrasing at the door. You want to excite people, get their hearts racing, and you don’t do that with “get”. Replace functional but unexciting words with dynamic language.
-Active your discount!
-Grab your free X!
The word “get” is perfectly grammatical in either of these CTAs, but it’s unlikely to inspire much action. Capture the imagination of your customers with this kind of decisive language.
Hacks For More Clicks
As we’ve seen, the language you use in your CTAs is essential for subtly influencing your customer’s behaviour. With affirmative and dynamic language, you’ll demonstrate to your audience that you have something valuable to offer. But there’s more to a CTA than just the perfect phrase. Let’s take a look at some of our top CTA hacks that will get you more clicks.
1) Make It Look Clickable
This is one of the biggest mistakes going, and it costs businesses revenue every day. You’ve crafted the perfect CTA, but nobody knows how to follow it. Your call to action requires potential customers to undertake some kind of behaviour, from filling in their email address to following a link, so make it easy for them to do so.
Spend time assessing your user experience (UX) to ensure that your website or newsletter design isn’t holding you back. Your CTA button should stand out on the page, clearly demarcated from the surrounding design by colour and shape. Have the text of your CTA stand out on the screen. The mouse should be drawn to that button, you want those clicks!
Even though you’re fostering a sense of urgency with your CTA, there’s no reason for you to rush into it. Think carefully about the phrasing, and then double check your spelling and grammar. It doesn’t matter how urgent your language is – if customers are tripping up over your sentence construction, that sense of the clock ticking will be lost.
3) Prominent Placing
When customers open your newsletter or land on your site, they’re most likely scanning the page for the most relevant information. No matter how much we’d like to believe we have web users’ undivided attention, in 2020 we don’t and potential customers are looking for shortcuts. Where you place your CTA on the page can have a huge impact on how many people come to click it.
Eye scanning studies have shown that people tend to follow predictable patterns when they browse a website. Users trace an F shape across the page, taking information in via horizontal segments, with a looming gap in the middle. It’s likely you’ll place your CTA at the top of your page, but sometimes you need to prep your customers with a little prelude. If your CTA is going lower, avoid the dead space between the two horizontal lines on the F shape.
4) Imagery Counts
As we’ve stated above, a call to action should offer something exciting to your customer, and the content and phrasing should be thrilling, inducing a quickened heart rate and a certain click. Surrounding your CTA with stunning visual imagery that calls out to readers will increase your click rate.
“Your headline, clickable button and image can work together to draw a user’s focus to your CTA. Sensational visuals play a key role in drawing the reader’s eye and grabbing their attention.,” says Thomas S. Rodriguez, tech writer at OX Essays and Academized. “Make sure the image is sharp and attractive, and ensure it’s relevant to your user’s interests.”
5) Delayed Gratification
If your CTA is going to appear alongside some video content, or perhaps you’re using graphics in HTML5 to have your site structured in variantly appearing sections, you can leverage delayed gratification to up your click rate.
Whilst it may seem intuitive that your CTA should be the first thing to load, with today’s computer savvy generation, your customers are often expecting that, and by delaying your call to action, the impulse to click will have been allowed to reach boiling point. Once your CTA does appear, along with the tips, tricks and phrasing outlined above, they’ll be clicking it before they think twice.
Tried And Tested
You don’t have to trust us, big name brands from Amazon to Netflix are leveraging CTAs everywhere you look. If it works for them, it’s going to work for your startup too.
Netflix’s CTA is a free month and they shout it from the rafters with an unmissable red button, eminently clickable, on their front page. By utilizing design to ensure that even casual browsers will have their eyes drawn to their CTA, they’re maximizing clicks.
Amazon are the masters of urgency from free delivery to Prime deals – you’re always running out of time for a great deal. You’ll notice how Amazon makes it perfectly clear – to the second – how long you have to make an order if you want delivery by a certain date. They know customers don’t like waiting and leverage this to create urgency across their site.
Barnes And Noble
In the run up to Mothers’ Day, online book retailer Barnes And Noble used commanding language combined with a sense of urgency to build a CTA that customers couldn’t fail to notice. Surrounded by sharp, emotive imagery around the mother-child relationship, the clickable “Shop Now” command stood out, drew your attention – and your mouse clicks.
Crafting your perfect call to action begins with psychology. By appealing to the universal instincts of humans, everywhere, you can nudge your customers into behaviour that leads to big sales. A good CTA is all about the right language combined with the perfect placement. Now you’ve mastered the basics, and seen how the pros do it, go try your own!
Katherine Rundell is a CTA writer at Essay Writing Services. She got into digital marketing through promoting her own blog and now writes about marketing and lead generation, and consults on digital strategies for businesses of all sizes.