Picture this “Save the Schoolhouse” meeting.
You file into the 150-year-old “Little Red Schoolhouse” along with dozens of people from your community. The antique iron school desks are impeccably arranged along with other artifacts—period clothing, a cast iron stove, fountain pens and ink wells, black and white photos of graduating students in knickers and long wool dresses.
A program has been meticulously planned with speakers paying moving tribute to the schoolhouse. One woman remembers when the school was shut down and turned into a Red Cross Surgical Dressing Unit. She recounts how her mom walked to the schoolhouse every day to make bandages for WWI soldiers overseas. A bent man with a cane tells how the community gathered every Sunday at the schoolhouse for potlucks. He proposed to his wife under the willow tree out the window at one of those potlucks.
The organizer then takes center stage, talking about the schoolhouse’s failing health. It needs fresh paint, a new roof to stop the water leaks, repair for the buckling floorboards. You’re taken in and nodding. You want to be part of the solution.
Then the organizer breaks your reverie, thanks you for coming, and tells you to call him if you want to be involved. There is no direct opportunity to donate funds. No signup to help with the restoration. Just a vague “call us if you can.”
Opportunity squandered on account of a failed Call to Action!
The Call to Action (CTA) is the culmination of copywriting, the single message that drives the customer to do whatever you want them to do. If you don’t nail the Call to Action, everything that you’ve done up to that point will be a waste.
Your CTA needs to be energizing, urgent, and crystal clear. Whether you’re getting people to subscribe to an email list or driving them toward a purchase, here are some ideas for crafting killer CTAs:
1. Use strong verbs. Know exactly what you want your reader to do and capture the action in a single, propelling verb: buy, join, subscribe, download, order, click here.
2. Create urgency. FOMO is real and powerful. Let your reader know that if they don’t act now, they could miss out on something great. Try:
• “Just 10 spots left. Sign up today”
• “Purchase by midnight and save….”
Depending on the type of copy you’re writing, you could even incorporate a countdown clock. It’s hard to resist that James Bond-esque “something’s going to explode if I don’t pull this lever” push.
3. Make it low risk. If you can reduce barriers to entry, people will be more likely to act. Check out the difference:
“Subscribe now” vs. “Subscribe free for a month”
You’ve made clear that there’s no upfront cost, and there’s even an “out clause” to persuade the hesitant subscriber.
4. Show me the savings. Remember how your parents used to drive to the gas station across town to get $1.75/gallon gas (vs. $1.85 at the station around the corner). Nobody wants to miss out on a deal! If your CTA lends itself to numbers, include them. Whether it be a 15% off discount or a BOGO coupon, wrap these into your CTA.
5. Appeal to emotions. Which is more compelling?
• “Apply now”
• “Apply for your dream job now”
“Dream job” invites a windfall of happy feelings. Incorporate words that tap into people’s emotions.
6. Go negative. While we all know about the power of positivity, going negative can have a motivating effect. Consider these Calls to Action with a negative spin:
• “Is your moisturizer drying out your skin? Buy now and stop the damage.”
• “Are your sales presentations costing you clients? Sign up for a free evaluation today.”
• “Lose your crappy car today.”
You can also create two CTA buttons—one positive, one negative:
• Yes, please send me the coupon.
• No thanks, I don’t need 30% off.
7. Make sure it’s highly visible. As freelance copywriters, we think a lot about the words we use, but design is critical, too. Your CTA should be the most visible thing in the sales letter, on the e-commerce page, in the Facebook ad…whatever you’re writing.
This means incorporating plenty of white space, contrasting colors, and making it the right size (think Goldilocks—not too big, not too small). You should also test out your design across different platforms. You want to make sure that it looks as good on a smartphone as it does on a PC.
8. Show the WIIFM. Your CTA will get a better response if you can show the “what’s in it for me?”
• “Click here to start doubling your website traffic.”
• “Sign up to get stronger in 30 minutes”
9. Test it. If you’re sending an email, set up a dummy address and send the email to that address. You’d be surprised how many great sales letters have been messed up by technicalities. Due to different operating systems and email services, your message may not look the same to other people as it looks on your screen so take the time to run a test.
You should also run split tests. Come up with a couple of compelling Calls to Action and run an A/B test to see which one performs better.
If you need help, check out my RMBC copywriting class online. It helps you consistently write better copy, faster so that you can earn more money from copywriting.
The RMBC course will help you get inside the head of your target audience and write clear, concise, high-converting Calls to Action so you won’t miss another opportunity to close the deal.