Stronger Calls to Action: How Just a Few Words Can Make or Break Your Lead Generation

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If your goal is to convert your readers to leads, your call to action is the bridge that will get them there. A strong call to action can drive traffic to your business and boost your sales and profits—it’s an area where small changes in your marketing strategy can translate to big returns. We’ll show you how to master this surprisingly important skill.

If perfecting calls to action sounds like a small deal, consider this:

Say you normally get 1,000 people to your lead offer each month. If you increase your conversion rate only 5% on your landing page, you could potentially snag another 50 leads a month. Depending on what your leads are worth, this could equate to hundreds, if not thousands of dollars in potential revenue.

And a 5% increase in a lead conversion rate is not difficult to get. You can easily get that kind of a bump by understanding the difference between a weak call to action and a strong one, and implementing some new strategies to make your calls to action stand out more.

What’s a call to action?

A call to action is a phrase, link, or button that tells your readers, followers, and visitors what to do. It’s a direction, demand, or prompt used to guide them towards a lead-generating activity.

Buy now. Sign up. Learn more.

These are all examples of common calls to action. At its base level, a call to action is a behavior requested of your reader.

In years past, traditional advertising used simple demands like “Buy now!” or “Call today!” to gain consumers’ attention. Today, though, consumers are savvier and bombarded with more advertising than ever before.

In response, marketers have turned to primarily inbound marketing methods, of which the call to action is an essential piece. In inbound marketing, calls to action aim to prompt a reader to [insert action here] and therefore continue down the conversion funnel.

The main goal of a call to action is a click, and its effect is typically measured by a conversion rate, calculated by the number of clicks over the number of times the CTA was viewed. All in all, calls to action strive to convert a reader or visitor into a lead, and later, into a customer.

Why You Should Pay More Attention to Your CTAs

Like we said, calls to action are vital pieces of the inbound marketing puzzle. Conversions don’t just happen. Lead generation is an intentional, consistent mission, and calls to action are where the rubber meets the road—where it works, or it doesn’t.

Without a call to action, your visitors are much less likely to engage with your content, website, or social media. For example, early on in Foundr’s efforts to build an Instagram following, we found that even the most rudimentary request of our audience made engagement skyrocket.

“Double-tap if you agree.” “Tag a friend who would like this.” People respond.

If you don’t ask people to do something, visitors just won’t do it.

After viewing your website or landing page, they’ll reach an “Uh, what now?” moment, or just jump to the next piece of content, especially if you aren’t directly selling a product. A call to action signals the endgame of the interaction, and bridges the gap between visitor and lead.

While the simple presence of a CTA makes all the difference in closing the deal, the quality of the CTA can ratchet up those all-too-important conversion rates that determine if your business is profitable or not.

This step is early in your sales funnel, meaning even modest gains will cascade throughout the rest of the sales process. If you take calls to action too lightly, like the afterthought they often become, people will wander away before the journey has even begun.

The Difference Between Weak and Strong CTAs

So, we’ve established that calls to action like “Buy now!” and “Learn more!” have become less effective over time. Why is that, when they (albeit boringly) still tell the reader what to do?

Sure, these phrases still give the reader direction, but they hardly provide an exciting or urgent demand.

Here’s what makes up a strong CTA:

It’s action and benefit-oriented

It’s a given that your call to action needs to be, well, actionable. But, strong calls to action don’t stop at a simple verb; they also highlight the benefit of following through. Throwing out a simple call to action such as “Enter here” or “Download now” may get the job done for you, but for the reader, it just looks like more work. And who wants to do more work?

Strong calls to action not only include an action, but also reflect a benefit. Consider, “Get my free ebook,” “Join the Fun,” and “Stay Connected.” These could all replace the boring calls to action mentioned above, while also signaling way more benefit for the reader. For example, this particular split test shows that more people respond to a clear, concise action over a vague request.

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A call to action like “Read our overview” lets the reader know exactly what’s on the other side of that button, in terms of both effort and benefit.

It’s consistent with your branding and content

The call to action that you use on your website, landing page, or social media may be a small part of your copy, but it still speaks to your overall branding. It’s just as much a part of your online creative presence as your logo or tagline. Strong calls to action reflect your brand’s overall tone and voice.

In the same vein, strong calls to action stay consistent with the preceding content. This keeps your visitor on a clear path of what they should do next and why.

Let’s use another Foundr post for example. If we’ve got an article titled “How To Avoid Crawling Back To Your Boss After You Leave The 9-to-5 Grind” and we want readers to download our Ultimate Step-by-Step Guide to Leaving Your 9-to-5 Job, we wouldn’t simply say “Download our Free Guide.”

Nope. Too boring. Sounds like a generic default you’d get right out of the box.

Instead, to create a call to action that’s reminiscent of the surrounding content, we go with this:

Calls-To-Action-Foundr-Content-Upgrade

See how the call to action segues nicely into our content offer? In fact, it hardly breaks from the tone used in the surrounding article. That’s your ultimate goal—to have your CTA sound, not like ad copy, but like more of the valuable information you deliver to your community all the time.

We can also be confident that this is likely to gain the reader’s attention, because it falls in line with the article’s title, which we can assume attracted the reader in the first place.

It’s urgent, but not dramatic

“Act fast! This offer won’t last long! If you don’t buy now, Grandpa may never get that can of tomato sauce open! Gasp!”

Well, that sounds more like a late-night infomercial, not a call to action. *yawn*

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Urgency is a delicate piece of the copywriting puzzle. Without it, readers will most likely snooze on your offer and eventually forget it. But, if you turn up the urgency meter too high, readers will hardly react, given how saturated today’s advertising environment is.

It’s sort of like writing an email in all caps. You may be trying to convey something important, but to the reader, it sounds like you’re just yelling for no reason. Any rational person’s response? Delete, close tab, change the channel, adios.

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To use urgency in your call to action, first use it sparingly, and second, aim for a healthy mix of enthusiasm and fear. Play subtly off your readers’ FOMO—their fear of missing out. FOMO is an extremely effective motivator. Combine this with language that implies exclusivity, immediacy, or an impending expiration date, such as “now,” or “today.”

For example, “Download for free” lacks urgency, while “Download for free for a limited time,” adds just a hint of urgency, and a sense that this won’t be available forever.

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How to Write Strong CTAs for Each Medium

We’ve covered what sets apart a strong call to action from a weak, droopy demand. Strong calls to action highlight both action and benefit, stay consistent with your branding and content, and create a sense of real urgency (none of that infomercial crap).

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But, there’s also another factor that dictates a strong call to action: Writing for your medium. A call to action, as simple as it may seem, is hardly a formulaic copywriting process. You can’t (read: shouldn’t) simply slap on the same call to action on each medium, even if you’re sharing the same piece of content across the board.

Check out our tips below on writing calls to action perfect for each medium.

On Your Website

Writing a call to action for your website is all about presenting an offer your visitors can’t refuse. When your visitors land on your website, ask yourself: What’s the number one thing you want them to do? Sign up for a free trial? Register for an account? Watch an introductory video? Whatever it is, that’s what your call to action should revolve around, and it shouldn’t be hard to discern.

On your homepage, make sure your call to action is clear and bold, ideally located in the center of the page, if not also at the top right-hand corner. Better yet, repeat this call to action throughout your website, ensuring that as visitors travel through your site, they won’t forget what you’re asking of them.

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Don’t forget to employ strong calls to action throughout other important parts of your website, conveying benefits, not just making a request. If you want visitors to watch testimonial videos from other customers, don’t make it sound like you’re asking a favor. Without understanding the benefits, visitors aren’t likely to give away two minutes of their day to a random video. Say something like, “See how we’ve helped hundreds of people [save money / make money /whatever].

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Finally, use your call to action as a chance to put evidence on display. Social proof is another highly effective motivator, and mentioning that many others have used your product or joined your website will help visitors do the same.

What’s the typical conversion rate for websites? Well, in this case, it depends on the industry, but the average website converts about 10% of their visitors. How do your numbers stack up?

On Your Landing Page

Landing pages are critical when it comes to content offers and lead magnets. Basically, they determine the effectiveness of your free download (or whatever you’re offering your reader) in collecting consumer information—aka, gold in the inbound marketing world.

When a reader clicks on a call to action within your content or homepage, they’re usually taken to a landing page. It’s super important that this landing page be clear about the next step in the reader’s journey. The call to action that leads to the landing page needs to give the audience an idea of where they’re headed to next, and the call to action on the landing pages should segue smoothly into what you’re asking of your reader.

Take another Foundr blog post for example. This article titled “A Secret Weapon to Make Your Struggling Small Business Stand Out From The Masses” discusses authenticity in marketing. Here’s the call to action within the content:

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And here’s the landing page copy:

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See how the language and tone is consistent between both the call to action leading to the landing page and on the landing page itself? If the call to action on your landing pages doesn’t outline a clear step for your reader to make, it can heighten the chances of losing your reader along the way. Mismatched or irrelevant landing page copy can also make a reader question the trustworthiness and quality of your brand.

What’s the typical conversion rate for landing pages? The best landing pages convert around 20-25% of their visitors. How do your numbers compare?

On Your Social Media

Calls to action have been around since before the social media era, yet both remain crucial parts of every marketing strategy and are in fact very much connected. Think about it. A call to action requests something of your reader, directly addressing and engaging them, and ideally eliciting a response, similar to a one-on-one conversation. A call to action is the most social, personal part of your overall digital and promotional presence.

On social media, any request can be considered a call to action. These include shares, comments, likes, retweets, follows, and clicks. These calls to action are simple, but asking your social media audience to engage with your accounts is a surefire way to learn how many people are listening and interested. Given the sheer volume of content circling social media, getting your audience to take the time to even briefly engage offers a strong statistic and builds your relationship.

Social media calls to action should vary based on the network. Facebook and Instagram provide spots for calls to action below their sponsored posts. Twitter’s a little more flexible and has actually conducted a study on what’s most effective on their medium.

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Keep in mind the character count and location of your content on each network. Humans reportedly now have the attention span of a goldfish. Given that most people hop onto social media with the intent to scan and peruse, be confident that your call to action is clear and jumps out. Ask yourself, “What sounds the easiest?” Does it seem simpler to “Fill out this form” or “Sign up today”? Your CTA should make your readers think, “Hey, I can do this right now.”

All in all, your social media calls to action should be the most casual and fun. As we’ve mentioned before, regardless of your medium, don’t deviate from your brand’s typical tone and voice. Doing so will break trust with your readership. If you’ve established a professional but personal tone on social media, ensure your calls to action reflect this same voice.

Check out Wendy’s Twitter account. Well-known for its antics and humor on social media, Wendy’s doesn’t deviate from its playful tone, even when marketing its product.

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Wendy’s could’ve just as easily said, “Try our new salad today.” Instead, they opted for a call to action that not only reflects their overall brand voice but also stands out among other idle requests. Doesn’t hurt that they’ve included a nice image, either.

Lead conversion rates on social media are a bit harder to measure, so we’ll take a look at sales conversions to assess the overall impact of social media. A recent Shopify study involving 37 million social media visits that led to 529,000 orders has determined social media conversion rates as they relate to their platform. (Shopify is ranked #2 out of 301 e-commerce platforms, so they’re a pretty good source.) This study found that Facebook and YouTube lead with 1.85% and 1.16%, respectively. How do your numbers compare?

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Conclusion

Now matter how great your content, lead generation takes effort and consistency, and the culmination of that is in the call to action. As tempting as it may be to pull something off a shelf and slap it on the page, this step should include as much thought and consideration as the rest of your marketing strategy.

A strong call to action highlights action and benefit, stays consistent with your branding and content, and creates a sense of real urgency. A strong call to action can make the difference between reader, lead, and eventually, paying customer.

Have any questions or challenges regarding your CTAs that we can help with? What’s the best call to action you’ve seen or used yourself? Let us know in the comments below!

  • Jennifer Lo

    This was awesome to read and perfect timing. I’ve been managing social media accounts for other brands for a couple years but just dived FT into my own project – it’s a lot more nerve wrecking when it’s *mine* because I want it to surpass what I’ve created for others…and CTAs are everything. If any clever copywriters want to take a stab at improving my “first few posts” please, feedback is welcome (I didn’t do CTAs) @regenerativeresorts

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