The Anatomy Of A Call-To-Action

The Anatomy Of A Call-To-Action
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Whenever I discuss marketing and copywriting in particular, I always say it’s a science, but it’s not rocket science.  That includes your call-to-action.  The anatomy of a call-to-action isn’t very complicated and it doesn’t take an MRI to diagnose the problem, but a poorly conceived and executed call-to-action can throw a serious monkey wrench into your marketing.  Your call-to-action should incorporate three critical parts.

The Reminder

First, restate the problem to be solved or need to be filled when someone uses your product or service.  In other words, remind your target audience why they should want or need what you’re offering.  This should be one simple sentence that conveys the core message of your marketing piece.

What To Do

Next, your call-to-action should very clearly state what you want your target audience to do.  Do you want them to schedule a consultation?  Fill out a form?  “Like” your Facebook page?  Visit your store?

It’s important that this part of your call-to-action is not only specific, but singular in nature.  More than marketing strategy, this is behavioral psychology. To get someone to respond to your command, you should limit the command to just one. While it may seem logical to offer options (schedule a consultation OR fill out a form OR “like” my Facebook page), it actually delays a person’s response. Before they act, they must make a choice.  Their response, at least momentarily, is paralyzed.

Radio advertising guru Dan O’Day uses a great analogy.  Imagine that you’re in the desert. You see a sign that says “Water: 1 Mile East.” If you’re thirsty, you’re heading east without hesitation. Suppose you see a sign right next to it that says “Water: 1 Mile West.” Now, you have a decision to make and your response is temporarily paralyzed.  We should remove obstacles that delay action, not add obstacles.

How To Do It

After you tell your target audience what to do, you need to tell them how to do it.  Should they go to your website to schedule a consultation or fill out a form?  How do they “like” your Facebook page?  How do they get to your store?  Again, be specific to eliminate confusion.

Once you’ve constructed your call-to-action, put it at the end of your marketing piece.  Nobody will pay attention to your call-to-action until you’ve given them compelling reasons to act.  If the first thing someone sees or hears is your call-to-action, it’s likely to be perceived as a sales pitch.  If it comes after you’ve conveyed the benefits of using your product or service, the call-to-action will be perceived as the next logical step towards making life easier.

I’ve had clients say, “The call-to-action needs to be really strong!”  Actually, your marketing message is what needs to be strong.  At the end of the day, this will motivate people to act.  The call-to-action just needs to clearly and concisely convey the next step and point people in the right direction.

Does the call-to-action in each of your marketing pieces contain all three critical parts?

Scott McKelvey
Scott helps business owners enhance their brand, build relationships and increase revenue by developing marketing messages that focus on the needs of their clients. Scott writes content for all things marketing, from websites and blogs to web videos and brochures. As Creative Director for New Jersey’s largest radio stations and TargetSpot, the nation’s largest internet radio advertising network, Scott has helped local, regional and national brands maximize ROI by combining powerful messaging with strategic geographic and demographic targeting. Scott's philosophy is simple: Show your target audience how your product can solve a real problem or fill a real need in their lives and you'll build a base of loyal customers. Visit Scott's site for more about his writing philosophy and experience.
Scott McKelvey
Scott McKelvey