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The 7 secrets to writing a killer call-to-action

Most people know that it’s crucial to include a call-to-action on every piece of copy you write. But it’s all too easy to jump the gun or frame it wrongly, ruining your conversion rate. So how and when do you ask your customers to buy? Here are Oxygen’s 7 rules for writing an effective call-to-action. And 1 bonus sneaky tip!

  1. Decide what you want the reader to do

Do you want to add subscribers to your mailing list? Generate leads? Get people to your showroom? Stimulate sales? It’s essential that you’re clear about what you want your copy to achieve so that you can make sure you include the right call-to-action.

  1. Establish the value of the product or service before you make a call-to-action

Customers will not click through to buy your product, make an effort to get to your showroom or sign up to your service, if they haven’t already decided it’s worth it. Ask before you’ve established the fact that what you offer is indispensable to them, and they’ll turn away. That’s why, although it’s great to position your call-to-action in the ‘first screen’ on the web if you can (i.e. the part of the page the viewer can see before scrolling down) it won’t result in a high number of conversions if your copy hasn’t yet convinced them. Better to save it for lower down the page.

  1. Reinforce or restate benefits as part of your call-to-action

A call-to-action needs to get your reader out of a passive state in order to click the ‘buy’ or ‘subscribe’ button, or to call you. So make sure you summarise exactly what they’ll get and how it will benefit them right before the call-to-action i.e. ‘if you do this, you’ll get that’. Bullet points can be a very effective way of doing this. Either way, a restatement works as that final nudge they need to act now rather than putting if off or letting it slide.

  1. Keep it simple and scannable

Sadly most readers don’t devote themselves to reading your copy. They’re busy, being distracted by other things, and have short attention spans. So make your call-to-action stand out. On printed materials, this could mean using bold and/or a larger font size. Online, it could mean using graphics to make your ‘buy now’ button the easiest thing to find on the page. Make sure it’s not buried in a number of calls-to-action, and that you haven’t confused the reader with too many options. One ‘buy’ button with a number of subscription/size tick box options can work well. One ‘subscribe’ button to receive a sales call outlining buying options or a number of ‘subscribe’ buttons alongside each other probably won’t.

  1. Make your call-to-action is appropriate

In some situations, readers are already jaded. An e-shot may be discarded within seconds. Sometimes taking the long form storytelling approach with an intriguing headline to draw a reader in, with only a ‘read more’ call-to-action will disarm more effectively than e-shot copy with a clear pitch. Similarly, if you’re a life coach, a ‘buy now’ button selling a package of six sessions on your homepage will probably not get many clicks. However, a ‘subscribe now to receive a free introductory session’ probably will. Many people baulk at the fact that calls-to-action have to be stated as direct commands. But if they’re appropriate, they can be perceived as offers, invitations and reminders as well.

  1. Make it clear what you want the reader to do

Sometimes you don’t want to ask for a sale straight away. Perhaps you can offer further information, send a sample, or sign your reader up for a newsletter or information on special offers. You could offer all these alongside each other, but ironically, more options don’t result in higher conversion rates because they confuse the reader. Instead, pick one and lead the them through a sequence of calls-to-action, as they move along the path you’ve set out. So if you’ve got them to subscribe, offer a free sample on your ‘thank you for subscribing’ page. And maybe a printed special offer voucher if they purchase after receiving your free sample. Similarly, make the subscribing or purchasing process as simple, easy to follow and fast as possible. Buying or subscribing should only take one simple step.

  1. Add urgency

Using the word ‘now’ is a useful motivator, however it’s even more effective if there’s a genuine reason why your customers need to act quickly. Letting customers know that space or stocks are limited, or that an offer is only available for a certain time can encourage them to take you seriously and act right then.

And our final sneaky tip is…

Embed commands in the copy leading up to the obvious call-to-action

This a subtle tactic. You can encourage the reader to purchase before you ever make the actual call-to-action, by using call-to-action type commands as part of sentences leading up to it. e.g. ‘You can visit our showroom 6 days a week.’ ‘Choose our product and you’re tapping into decades of research.’ ‘When you work with our PR professionals, you’ll find your media relations take on a more polished edge.’

If you could use professional help crafting calls-to-action that get you high conversion rates, give Oxygen a call on 0845 2606 255. Or drop in to our Devon or Somerset offices to discuss your needs. Our door is always open.

Steve Lodge :Steve trained as a NCTJ journalist and is an experienced copywriter. He has over 15 years in agency, and started Oxygen in 2002.

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