In marketing, a good ‘call to action’ – which elicits the desired response from our reader or viewer – can elevate content from merely insightful to truly valuable.
There’s psychology at play here. Testing tells us that ‘learn more’ is not an especially persuasive call to action (CTA), while ‘get your free guide to corporation tax planning’ is. Specificity and relevance matter, as much as the action itself: ‘learning’ is passive, while ‘getting’ is active.
But, while it’s easy to get hung up on the semantics, the golden rule is this: when producing any content for marketing, we’re not selling the product, we’re selling the next action.
To better understand this, you have to imagine your customer’s journey as a series of stages, with your goal being to move them from stage to stage as fast as possible. Strategically created content is your tool for moving a future customer along that buyer journey which starts by raising awareness of pain points, through to alleviating fears, to helping them prepare to change and guiding them through the deployment process, and well beyond the honeymoon period.
Unfortunately, there are no cheats. A typical B2B sale is long and drawn out, spanning nine to 12 months, typically with six figure sums of money involved and higher ups to convince and placate. That means investing in a new product or service is far from a swift or simple decision.
So, don’t try any queue-jumping tactics, they don’t work. While the instinct is to skip stages in a bid to try to close the prospect as quickly as possible, you risk confusing people, or turning them off with irrelevant content that doesn’t resonate.
For example, if your customer is at stage one – which is the ‘I don’t think I have a problem’ stage – and you show them a stage three piece of content, which is typically when a buyer is resistant to change because they fear it will be costly and time consuming, you’ll baffle them, because you’ve not addressed stage two, which is raising awareness of the need for change.
It’s only at this point they realize they’re starting to fall behind their competitors and that change is necessary. This is why it’s so important to be sequential and targeted. This knowledge will also help you to write on-point calls to action.
Another thing to consider is that a call to action – however beautifully written – can easily fail if there are unnecessary hurdles to consuming content.
A common friction point is when brands send prospects from an email to a report using a call to action such as: “Download our new report on digital transformation in the insurance sector now!” These can be gorgeously designed and expertly put together, packed full of useful data and interesting insights, but then they’re published as a downloadable PDF.
There are two problems with that. The first is that this content may be ‘hard gated’ behind a form. Your reader has to offer up their personal data in return for downloading the report. Industry figures tell us that this yields somewhere between 50% to 75% less engagement, not to mention many people will use fake names and junk email inboxes and systems to access the report.
The second problem is that PDFs are static and unyielding documents. They tell us nothing about our audience — we’ll never know if they ever read our report, even if they downloaded it.
There are ways around this. If you move on from PDFs to more responsive alternatives, you can place a gate anywhere within your content. This would allow readers to see, for example, an executive summary, before parting with their data. If people can clearly see value in your content, they should be more willing to give up accurate information.
But this is still a barrier to entry, so you will get some drop offs.
Better still, let your reader get right the way through to the end, then add a really good call to action: “If you enjoyed this report and found it valuable, we’d love to add you to our mailing list so you can be among the very first to read our latest manufacturing industry insights.” That way the data you do collect is going to be far more valuable.
Ultimately, what you place in your emails or on your buttons is just part of the picture. Today, you need to combine a seductive invitation to the next desired action with removing everything that makes taking that action more trouble than it’s worth.