That’s the good news…
Sorry to spoil the party, but here’s the bad news…
The fact that someone is reading, watching or listening to your content means practically nothing unless you get them to take some kind of action as a result.
Here’s a brief outline of how content marketing benefits your business:
- You create content of different kinds and in different media. You publish it on your own site and/or on other sites and content platforms across the web, preferably through repurposing.
- People – your marketplace – are attracted to your content and consume it. In so doing, they are effectively raising their hand as a potential new prospect for your business.
- You connect with them further to start building a relationship with them. (Otherwise you lose your new prospect as quickly as they found you!) You do this via an explicit and effective call to action – CTA – that tells the prospect exactly what to do.
- You continue building a relationship with them, building your authority and credibility with them, and building up trust. This is how you transform that prospect into a customer, and create profits for your business.
If you miss out #3 and don’t have an effective call to action in your content, #4 never happens!
What’s Your Goal?
You first need to decide what your goal is with the content. In creating and publishing the content, what is it you want to achieve?
It might be to build your list. Or attract more social followers. Or simply to build your visibility and brand online.
Want a recommendation?
Email marketing is still one of the most powerful ways to build relationships with prospects. It’s therefore a key way to drive higher results from content marketing activities.
For example, include a CTA in the content to encourage the prospect to download a relevant lead magnet, such as a suitable content upgrade.
But whatever your own goals might be, this post looks at how to create your own highly effective calls to action. I also include examples from across the web you can use to model your own.
Key Call To Action Principles
Keep it simple.
Use simple language. Get straight to the point. Don’t confuse the prospect with language that distracts from what you want them to do.
So be clear on the benefits – for them.
The best sales copy is rich on the potential benefits for the prospect – what’s in it for them to take action?
For example, consider the call to action on the right. This was part an email marketing promotion from Weiss Research, linking to their latest report of financial Armageddon.
Though their marketing is invariably fear-based, note the benefit-laden call to action that makes it very clear what the potential benefit is for those taking action.
(A side note, but I suspect their use of the number 13 in the CTA – 1,113% richer in 13 days – is designed to further induce fear in the superstitious, and on a largely subconscious level).
So the key point – state exactly what the benefits are when your prospect takes action.
You don’t want them to take action later, or give them an excuse to not take action immediately. You want them to take action now. So be clear about it. Encourage them – tell them – to do it now.
For example, here’s a call to action at the bottom of one of Hubspot’s blog posts (this one). Note how immediacy is provided by simply including ‘now’ on the button. To potentially improve it further, I would have tested adding something similar into the last sentence of the copy, eg. ‘Download this comprehensive guide now …’:
Keep it relevant.
The person found your content because they were interested in it. Content marketing works by attracting your target market to you. It’s attraction marketing at its best.
That means you don’t want to repel them with a call to action that has little benefit or interest for the type of person you’ve now attracted.
Instead, your content and the call to action must be synergistic. The greater the synergy, the greater the likelihood your prospect will take the action you want.
For example, here’s an example of an inline CTA used in a blog post by DigitalMarketer. The post was about critiquing Facebook ads, and the call to action is directly related to that topic and likely to get a good response:
For example, let’s say you’re in the photography niche, focused on amateur enthusiasts. Here are a couple examples of calls to action that have a close synergy with the content itself:
- You create a blog post focused on using certain filters to achieve the best landscape shots. Your call to action encourages the reader to download your checklist of different filters, what each one is for, and when best to use them.
- You have a short video showing how to use image software to digitally enhance photographs and give them a professional feel. Your call to action invites them to visit your website where they can get access to a longer, more in-depth video (or series of shorter videos) with more advanced tips and techniques for using the image software to achieve stunning results.
Notice the latter one in particular. The media of the lead magnet offered in the CTA is the same as the content that drew the prospect in. The CTA is mindful of the fact that someone watching a video is likely to want to watch another video.
Tell them exactly what to do.
A lot of people do everything else right, but then fail at the last hurdle by just adding in a link almost as an after-thought. You need to actually tell them to click on the link or go visit your website.
Here’s an example from a recent Slideshare. The link in the presentation is actually clickable, and the call to action is based on these same principles.
(NOTE: This Slideshare alone achieved not far off 1,000 views in the first couple of months, and has since achieved thousands more. See the Be Everywhere Blueprint for how Slideshare, along with other powerful content platforms, fits into a 7-step integrated content marketing strategy you can start putting into action for your website today.)
Make a single offer.
Choice dampens response. Hick’s Law shows the more choices you have, the longer you’ll take to make a decision. (See me in a restaurant with a long menu, and you’ll see this in action!)
For an effective call to action, the decision by your prospect should be a quick one. Or there’s more opportunity for them to get distracted and go elsewhere without taking any action.
So stick to the one thing you want them to do. Tell them exactly what to do.
However, just to add confusion, this does not exclude having multiple calls to action or multiple ways for people to respond to a particular call (eg. a linked url, and a button).
Quite simply, a single call to action should make a single offer. Avoid a call to action that has the effect of saying to your prospect, “You may like to go here and get this, or go there and get that”.
Test. And measure.
Truth is, there will always be a better CTA than the one you are using right now. Continually test different CTAs and measure the response to find out what works best for your business.
This is easiest when the content is on your own website, but that shouldn’t stop you testing out different approaches elsewhere. Try different uses of language, different headlines for your call to action, different benefits for the prospect, and so on. Optimization of your call to action is a continual unending process.
Here’s a couple of final action points:
- Try simply modelling CTAs you personally find effective. Take notice when a call to action captures your attention and compels you to take the action requested.
- Don’t forget these call to action principles – get the CTA checklist now for future reference.