Best Practices for Effective Calls to Action

Posted by Drew Himel

May 7, 2013 at 4:22 PM

CTAs are One of the Most Critical Inbound Marketing Tools

calls to actionWe’ve discussed calls-to-action in relation to their corresponding landing pages, and as part of a larger inbound marketing  strategy.

But, what exactly is a call-to-action?

A CTA is a button on a website that encourages a visitor to do something, like click to download an eBook. As part of the larger inbound marketing strategy, a visitor clicks on the CTA to trade contact information in exchange for whatever the CTA has offered. So, these buttons serve as starting points in the process of converting visitors into leads.

A more technical definition of a call-to-action is that it serves as a critical inbound marketing tool that allows a business enhanced segmentation and personalization in its marketing efforts. By personalizing these marketing efforts, a business will yield better results in converting leads to customers. In fact, statistics show that personalization in email marketing improves click-through rates by 14% and overall conversion rates by 10%.  

How do calls-to-action work?

One way for a business to implement calls-to-action is to use dynamic, Smart CTAs. “Dynamic content” refers to the features of a website or email that change based on the visitor’s corresponding profile data or history of website use. These customizations make for an experience that is tailored to individual visitors.

To implement Smart CTAs, a business needs:

  • a centralized marketing contacts database
  • a smart content generator
  •  adaptable web pages
  • an integrated email system

Then what makes for an effective call-to-action?

First, an effective CTA must be aligned with the appropriate segments. This means that in creating a CTA, a business must consider the content, the individual visitor and the CTA’s corresponding channel.

How to create an effective CTA:

1. Set up the segmenting criteria. These criteria will guide the smart content generator to display different CTAs for different visitors. A business can take a couple of different approaches to choosing its criteria. One way is to use the visitor’s “lifecycle stage,” a distinction that refers to the visitor’s stage in the decision-making process. Another way is to build criteria based on more specific information about a visitor, such as activity on its site or information from a contacts database.

2. Align the offer the CTA is advertising to individual segments. The simplest way to begin is to match the CTAs to a visitor’s lifecycle stage. For example, an educational offer, such as an ebook or webinar video, would be most effective with a visitor just learning about a company. On the other hand, a visitor who is now considered a lead should see a more product-focused CTA.

3. Match the CTA to the appropriate channels.

  • On a blog: Use a CTA that aligns with the specific content of that particular blog post.
  • On various web pages: Align the pages of a business’s website with CTAs that match various topics of the site’s pages. For example, a visitor reading the “About Us” likely has different motives than someone perusing the “Products” page.
  • On thank-you pages: These are the pages that leads will be directed to after they have redeemed an offer through a previous CTA. Here, consider using additional CTAs that relate to the original.
  • On other websites: Depending on the capabilities of the smart content generator, a business may be able to use information from its contacts database and embed CTA targets on another site that has been created for specific types of traffic.

The second aspect of an effective call-to-action is its “look.” Specifically, CTAs must be well designed and effectively written. If they are too small or sound too intimidating, for example, visitors will ignore them or even miss them altogether.

Here are a few tips for CTA design:

A. Graphic Design. Use bold colors that stand out and contrast with the website’s background. Make the buttons appear three-dimensional and “clickable,” and vary the designs for different marketing offers.

B. Wording. Use phrases other than “submit,” but keep the wording relatively short. Something like “Get Your Free Trial” is more effective because it is specific and compelling.

C. Location. CTAs should be easy to spot but not overbearing. Place CTAs in the right place for the right occasion—their presence and topics should be appropriate to their location on a website or in an e-mail, for example.

D. Optimizing. Include CTAs in SEM efforts and direct each CTA to its own landing page, rather than the business’s homepage.

By Drew Himel

Topics: Digital Marketing, PCR Agency, Lead Generation, Content, Inbound Marketing, Call to Action, Lead Nurturing