Earn money from home by training your cat to be a YouTube sensation! Stop what you’re doing and read on NOW to discover the secret to transforming your freeloading cat into a successful and willing breadwinner!
That is a sucky blog lead, and a promise I can’t deliver, but maybe you read on simply because I told you to with a considerable amount of urgency. If you’re still reading, the lead served its purpose and brings us to today’s topic: the importance of calls to action in marketing and ad copy.
I often balk at appending a call to action to clever, concise copy because it seems so clear (though implied) what I want the reader to do — Buy this product! Support this cause! And by including a phone number and website (which are calls to action in their own right), it goes without saying that I intend for the reader to use those points of contact, either to learn more, to order or buy something, or to start a dialog. Right?
Recently, though, I wrote ad copy for a corporation (CHC) that helps struggling rural hospitals get back on track and retain local control when a merger or buyout is not in their best interests. Building on a campaign concept developed by Dallas-based Vivanti Group, my copy stated in essence that community hospitals are hard-pressed these days to carry out their mission and that CHC can help. My copy ended with a call to action: "Please call CHC today. Because your success is vital to your community."
The sentence fragment felt right. The "Please" felt necessary — imploring instead of imperious or urgent. But would anyone actually pick up the phone simply because I’d asked them to and given them a reason, as opposed to just providing a phone number?
People take instruction well. A hospital trustee in search of solutions called CHC after seeing the ad, saying, "It said to call CHC for help, so I did."
His words (passed along to me by CHC) stuck with me. Effective calls to action drive behavior and generate leads — this is Marketing 101. But I had soured on them because they are too often boring, impersonal, lazy (as in a button-like design element), and not in keeping with an ad’s overall tone and spirit.
Working on campaigns since, I think of that caller appreciatively — and then push him out of my mind. I replace him in my thoughts and strategy with the person I am writing for at that particular moment — what her problems are and how to speak her language. There are plenty of marketing blogs out there that will tell you the five or eight or ten elements a call to action MUST have, but in my opinion an effective one just needs to be direct and personal, with a tone that feels right with the ad as a whole.
Struggling rural hospitals already feel besieged. Though it perhaps wouldn’t work for another audience, my simple "Please" probably went a long way with trustees who need help but are not prepared to take orders.
I would be remiss if I did not end this post with a call to action: Kindly leave comments about ads that made you get off your duff and do something immediately. (I cannot resist those exercise video infomercials that promise great abs with no crunches, plus a freebie for the first 50 people who call RIGHT THIS VERY INSTANT to place their risk-free order.) And you?