“Learn to survive in the attention economy.”
Has it happened to you to go online with the intention of reading a news article and, 30 minutes later, to find yourself watching YouTube videos or looking up an obscure Italian town on Wikipedia? Alright, maybe this wasn’t the exact same trajectory of your actions, but you surely know this serendipity I’m referring to.
The world of online content has amplified the human inclination to shift our attention to new and unanticipated directions. One click is all it takes to jump from one topic to another, prompting your mind to roam in a completely different context. And guess what? Everyone — publishers and media outlets, businesses and non-profit organizations, entertainers and bloggers–is competing to get that click.
As a marketer or business owner, you need to learn to survive in this attention economy. Calls-to-action are the tools to make this happen. They have the power to grab people’s attention and direct it to new topics. They are everywhere you go.
What Is a Call-to -Action and Why You Need It
“Why should I be building calls-to-action?”
A call-to-action (CTA) is an image or text that prompts visitors to take action, such as subscribe to a newsletter, view a webinar or request a product demo. CTAs should direct people to landing pages, where you can collect visitors’ contact information in exchange for a valuable marketing offer. In that sense, an effective CTA results in more leads and conversions for your website.
WHAT: Hyperlinked text or button that advertises an offer and takes you to a landing page.
WHY: The goal of a call-to-action is to drive traffic to a landing page.
This path–from a click on a CTA to a landing page–illustrates the much desired process of lead generation. In order to increase visitor-to-lead conversion opportunities, you need to create a lot of calls-to-action, distribute them across your web presence and optimize them.
How to Pick the Right Calls-To-Action
“How do I decide what CTAs to create?”
By now you have probably become a firm believer in the value of calls-to-action. They are definitely going to be important triggers for your success with internet marketing. But where do you start? Most importantly, how do you determine what CTAs to create?
You should maintain a mix of CTAs that spans across different stages of the sales cycle. The more CTAs you build, the more opportunities you create to convert visitors into leads. What is more, the sheer quantity of calls-to-action provides you with valuable data around their performance. Collect these insights and optimize your strategies for maximum lead generation. Let’s start with the fundamentals!
Create CTAs for Well-Performing Offers
First, look at your analytics and find the offers that have traditionally performed well for your company. One good indicator of your offers’ success is the landing page visitor-to-lead conversion rate. It tells you how many of the people who have seen the page decided that it’s worth filling out the form to get access to the resources it provides. This metric illustrates both the appeal of your offer and the demand for it. If the historical conversion rate is high, then the chances are it will keep performing well in the future. So pick your top marketing offers and start creating CTAs based on them.
Create CTAs for High- Quality Offers
If you are a company that generates leads, you probably have some differentiation across your marketing offers. Some of them, like whitepapers and videos, are low-commitment, light-touch and highly compelling. Others, like product demonstrate and sales consultations require higher commitment and are less compelling. The latter, however, are more tightly related to the bottom of your sales funnel and thus considered more valuable in terms of qualifying prospects and driving business results. You want to expose people to these types of offers in order to push them down the sales funnel. So pick a few high quality offers and start creating CTAs based on them.
Create CTAs Based on Behavior
CTAs based on previous behavior are built by taking the information you know about your prospects and making educated guesses about what they want to see next. In this way, you engage them further with your assets and keep them on your website. Most importantly, such education helps to better qualify prospects and turn them into evangelists.
Let’s take as an example our webinar offer “How to Make the Inc. 500 List.”A visitor has just filled out our form to view this on-demand webinar. On the thank-you page, where we would place the video, we are also featuring a call-to-action, which is relevant to the topic of the webinar. Think about ways in which you can tweak the wording of your CTAs to fit in the context of the offer.
Create CTAs for Upcoming Campaigns
Another type of CTAs you want to start creating is those related to your upcoming campaigns, such as events and contests. For instance, if your annual conference is coming up in a few months, you should drive traffic to the respective registration page from your other assets (blog, social media, paid ads, etc).
How to create a Call- To-Action
“Could I create my own CTA?”
For the power that calls-to-action have, they are not that difficult to create. The format of CTAs can vary from simple hyperlinked text and screenshots with some text overlay to elegant banners and pop-up overlay. In this section of the ebook, we will take a look at a few different tools and what options they give you for the creation of calls-to-action.
- Creating CTAs with Microsoft Word
- Creating CTAs with PowerPoint
- Creating CTAs with Premade Images
- Outsourcing CTAs from Designers
- Using HubSpot’s CTA Generator
1. Creating CTAs with Microsoft Word
You can create simple calls-to-action using Microsoft Word or any other word precessing program like Open Office or even Google Docs. You’ll need just the basic functionalities of the program to create a ‘button.’ For our quick tutorial purposes, I will use Microsoft Word 2010 on Windows 7.
Open Microsoft Word and click on “Insert.” A toolbox will open right underneath the top navigation and you can select a shape. Then move your cursor to the white space and draw the shape, dragging it up and down or to the left and right to achieve the desired shape size. Right-click on it and select the very last option called “Format Shape.” Here you can decide what color and style to assign to your ‘button.’ You can pick a specific picture or texture fill or add custom color schemes. The more advanced features
Include adding a shadow, reflection, rotation and 3-D format. Once you are happy with the ‘button’ you have created, you can add some text within it.
Click within the shape and start typing. You can then highlight the text you have entered and change its font, size and color. Once you are ready to use the ‘button’ you’ve created, you can take a screenshot of it and save it as a .jpeg or .png file.
2. Creating CTAs with PowerPoint
You can also use a presentation program like Microsoft PowerPoint to create your call-to-action. While the process is still very similar to the one using word processing programs, presentation programs are more flexible when it comes to adding and formatting images. To guide you step-by-step through this process, I will use PowerPoint 2010 on Windows 7.
Open PowerPoint, click on “Insert” and pick your desired shape. Right-click on the shape, select “Format Shape” and change its properties as you wish. Once you are happy with the shape, go to “Insert” again and pick “Text Box,” placing it somewhere within your shape. Then change the formatting of the text (font, color, size, etc) and consider adding an external image. For instance, the image of a book will be appropriate if you creating a CTA for a whitepaper.
Want to create some really elegant calls-to-action? If you have designer skills (or someone on your team who is a designer), you should try the more advanced image editing programs. Adobe is definitely the expert in this area with its programs Photoshop, Indesign and Illustrator. There are also some other programs such as Aviary that can do image editing (and that you can use at no cost).
3. Creating CTAs with Premade Images
There are also a bunch of websites that specialize in providing premade buttons. One such resource is designmoo, which offers well-designed calls-toaction under the “button” tag. You can also purchase icons from iStockphoto, a great resource for stock photography and graphics. Just enter the desired keyword and browse through the available images.
While these sites are not necessarily offering calls-toactions that are created based on optimization best practices, they look professional and can be a good start or source of ideas for your CTA library.
4. Outsourcing CTAs from designers
You can also outsource the creation of your call-to-action. This is a good choice if you don’t have the time to customize them yourself or don’t have a designer on your team to work on this project. There are a lot of agencies and freelance designers who can do that work for you. For instance, HubSpot partners with a bunch of call-to-action providers and you can find a list of them here.
5. Using HubSpot’s CTA Generator
Marketers should be able to quickly create a call-to-action, insert it on the right pages and track its performance. We at HubSpot deifnitely saw the demand for a simple web tool that makes it easy to design buttons and instantly place them on a page. That is why we built the Call to Action Button Generator, a widget available for free to HubSpot customers
Where to place Calls-To-Action
“How do I decide where my CTAs belong?”
One of the most critical elements of leveraging the power of calls-to-action is to optimize their placement. Where do you get started? There are so many web pages out there. How do you decide which callto- action belongs where? In this section we will cover some essential places that you need to be always thinking about:
1. Your Website
Calls-to-action should be spread across your web pages. Your homepage, which people usually perceive as a very neutral space, should also have a call-to-action. As your most frequently visited page, your homepage presents a huge opportunity to drive traffic to a specific campaign. In fact, some say your homepage should have at least three or more calls-to-action that will target different personas or types of visitors.
The only place you shouldn’t be inserting calls-to-action are your landing pages. On a landing page, people should be able to find out more about your specific offer and convert. In fact, it is a best practice to remove from your landing page distracting elements, such as top and side navigation, information about other resources and, certainly, calls-to-action. They will confuse and distract visitors from completing the form.
Landing pages are the only place where CTAs shouldn’t live.
For all other website pages, try to align your CTA with the content of the page as well as the stage of the sales cycle the visitor is likely in if they’re visiting that page. So if a visitor is on one of your product pages, they’re likely further along in the sales process to be interested in a free product demonstration than if they are visting your About Us page.
Your Product/Service pages, About Us page and Contact Us page all need to include calls-to-action or the visitor will be deciding on their own what to do next. You need to help them decide what to do next. In fact, every page on your site should help visitors understand what they should do next; therefore include at least one call to action on every page.
2. Within Content
Just because someone already converted into a lead by downloading your ebook or registering for your webinar, doesn’t mean you can’t continue to nurture them with other related content and leveraging more middle-of-the-funnel offers like a free trial or a consultation. Add CTAs for these types of offers within the body and at the end of your ebooks and webinars, too.
Do you speak at industry? Conferences and events?
3. In Presentations
Do you speak at industry conferences and events? Depending on the event’s particular guidelines, you may be able to include a CTA for an offer directly within your presentation. Especially with the rapid adoption of QR codes, you can easily refer people to a specific page and give them further information about your company. Don’t forget to archive your presentation slides to your website or a platform like SlideShare.com to get more muscle out of your content.
4. Your Blog
Your blog is a great platform for CTA placement.
Make sure to include CTAs both in the sidebar of your blog as well as on every individual article you publish. In addition to image/button CTAs, you can also include text CTAs within the body of your blog content. At the beginning, middle or end of every blog article, you need to place some sort of call-to-action that will encourage people to either:
- Download some content
- Follow the business on social media
- Subscribe to the blog
- Join your newsletter or blog digest email
When designing your CTAs, make sure it resonates with the content you have introduced in the blog post. For instance, if you write about how Google Instant affects SEO, the call-to-action at the end of the post can be related to search engine optimization.
5. Email Marketing
Every email you send should include a call-to-action. In fact, the subject line itself should serve as a call-to-action. Once recipients open your email, they should see a link in the first one to two sentences of the message, at least one link in the middle and one link at the end. These links can go to the exact same page, thus reinforcing the consistency of your language. In this way, if recipients take action on any link, they have essentially clicked on the call-to-action.
6. In Videos
Include a call-to-action within all videos you produce. It’s important to make your CTA simple and include a shortened, easyto-remember URL. In this way, if someone embedded your video on their website or blog and others viewed it outside the context of YouTube, your CTA would remain intact and still make sense.
In addition, include a CTA in your video’s description when you upload it to your YouTube channel or other video sharing site.
7. In Paid Media
Paid media encompasses a range of formats, including banner ads, GroupOn emails and even press releases. An example of that would be Google AdWords: you pay for ads that show up next to specific search results. Every paid search ad should include a call-to-action that is consistent with the landing page the visitor will go to after they click on the paid ad. In this sense optimizing the language and desgin of your paid ads is the same as crafting CTAs.
8. In Email Signatures
Every little effort helps. Include a CTA in your personal email signature and encourage other employees, especially members of your sales and marketing teams, to do the same. For example, some email signature of HubSpot employees encourage people to subscribe to our award-winning blog, check out our customer case studies or grade their website using Website Grader.
9. On Facebook
Facebook offers several opportunities to get your CTA out there: via a custom business page tab, through Facebook Ads and Sponsored Stories, and simply through wall posts on your page. You can also publish Facebook photos that introduce CTAs. For example, you can create an album that tells a compeling story and also invites connections to take some action.
Consider customizing your Twitter background to include a simple CTA. While Twitter backgrounds aren’t clickable, you can place a short URL in your background design. For instance, HubSpot’s Twitter background includes social media links and encourages people to follow us on our other assets, including Facebook and LinkedIn.
Furthermore, you can use your Twitter bio and link as CTA real estate. Most importantly though, leverage your tweets as individual CTAs for your offers. Each of your tweets should include a link. In fact, in his Science of Social Media research, Dan Zarrella discovered that verbs are the part of speech that generate the most shares. Twitter updates that include verbs have a 2% higher shareability than the average tweet.
When giving industry-specific advice on LinkedIn Answers include text CTAs for downloadable content like webinars and ebooks when applicable. You can also go into the DirectAd function and create an ad for your offer. Lastly, don’t underestimate the power of LinkedIn Groups–these are engaged communities of people looking to have discussions with fellow industry thought leaders. Make announcements in these discussions about your upcoming events or newly published resources.
How to Craft Your Call-to – Action Copy
“How do I write a compelling CTA?”
Clarity is the most critical quality of calls-to-action. Make sure your CTAs convey clear messages that are specific and action-oriented. In this section we will review some best practices for crafting your calls-to-action across different places and stages of your sales cycle.
1. Convey Value
Your CTA should answer the question “What in it for me?” Think about the top two or three benefits of your offer and try to list them in order of priority. Then pick the most critical one and shorten it to just a few words. In that way you will highlight the key point of engagement and ensure there is alignment between your ad and the offer.
2. Create Urgency
Creating urgency is another quality calls-to-action need to adopt. In order to effectively create urgency, you need to answer the questions, “Why should I do this today?” You can create urgency in a few different ways. For instance, you can emphasize seasonality, special discounts or even use adverbs like “now” and “today.” One example of such a call-to-action would be “Join Our Newsletter Today for Access to All Marketing Goodness.”
3. Make It Personal
Personalization of calls-to-action is tricky, but not impossible. If you know where the visitor currently is and what they are reading, you’re more or less familiar with their preferences and needs. For example, if they are on your About Us page, they are looking to find out more information about your company. So the CTA here could point visitors to your Careers page with a nice personal touch like “Like our culture? Become part of it.”
Testimonials are really effective as calls-to-action because they offer a third-party endorsement and motivate visitors to take the next step and click through to your landing page. A customer quote can often capture all the information a prospective customer needs to know. That is why, currently on HubSpot’s home page we feature testimonials of the success our customers have seen using our software. While testimonials are most frequently used for products with longer sales cycles (like those of B2B companies), B2C companies and nonprofits can also experiment with this tactic.
5. Include Numbers
Another best practice around writing calls-to-action is to include numbers. “When people are on the web, they are looking for specificity,” HubSpot’s Social Media Scientist Dan Zarrella said. In this context, data points help you cut through the clutter of vague content online and convey a strong message. If the goal of your call-to-action is to grow your email database, you can invite people to subscribe by informing them of the number of recipients you currently have. If you are promoting an ebook or a whitepaper, you might want to mention its length (number of pages). You can take that concept and start including data around your customer base, industry reports and more. Statistics convey credibility and present you as an industry expert.
Source: Hubspot & Inboud Visibility
“A call-to-action is just the beginning of someone’s journey with your brand”
At its core a call-to-action should convey value and prompt visitors to take action. Interestingly enough, a truly effective call-to-action carries much more meaning than its name implies. When placed in the right context and shared with a targeted audience, it becomes more than hyperlinked text, a button or overlay image. It transforms iteself into a valuable piece of information that people can’t afford not to pay attention to. Visitors are tempted to click on it not because it is flashy and animated, but because it gives them a glimpse into something they can benefit from.
An effective call-to-action should provide you with an opportunity to go beyond the transactional act of “clicking” on an offer, and create a relationship with a prospect. It’s just the beginning of someone’s journey with your brand.
Jamie is a Marketing Manager at Inboud Visibility with SEO Company. He was specializes in SEO service, Content Marketing, Blog Marketing and Social Media Marketing. He enjoys writing about SEO, Inbound Marketing, Social Media and Google Updates. Follow Inbound Visibility on Google+, Pinterest and Twitter to learn more!