Call to Action: Calls that WORK!

While updating one of the websites we’re working on for a client, we got into a discussion about having a “Call to Action” on every page. What is a “call to action”? I think it’s a request for a prospect to take the next step. A phrase that signals where to go next in the process. Anything that moves the prospect closer to a sale:

  • Request an RFQ
  • Learn more.
  • Sign up for our newsletter
  • Download a free report
  • Call for a free quote
  • Register for a trial sample

When working on closing a sale, the call to action is to provide a series of steps to help move the prospect along. Faster is nice, but skipping a step along the way or going for a close too soon can damage the whole process. On the other hand, you don’t know if the prospect is READY to order right now and you don’t want to continue to make them walk thru the entire process if they’re ready to move right now. When you’re reading company websites, tally how many have a call to action on every page… or even ANY page!!

Stomp Your Comp, 2Monster’s blog, makes some good points about call to actions that work:

  • Newsletters usually contain article abstracts or introductory paragraphs. The action, then, becomes “Read the full story.
  • Informational messages newsletters, bulletins, updates direct the reader to get the full story at the website. Again, you need to tell the reader not only what to do but what he can expect by doing it. “Learn more techniques to increase click-through rates” is both information and action-oriented.
  • Adding more call to actions, and using ones that are more clear and obvious, will make your email messages more effective in driving conversions - no matter what that conversion might be.
  • Make it easy for the recipient to understand not just where, but why they want to click through, and what they can expect on the other side.

The 2Monster’s company website takes it’s own advice with lots of ways to take the next step as seen in the mini screen shot photo from their website. Looks like 2Monsters is right here in my own backyard: Akron (Cuyahoga Falls) with another office in Chicago. Since my company appears to be a direct competitor with them, I hope they don’t use steel toed boots!! Nice website, Monsters!!

Direct Mail Response — What’s the Expectation?

I’ve had many clients ask me, “What kind of response should I expect?” following a direct mail campaign. Like most answers in marketing, I usually say, “It depends.” In the case of direct mail, response depends primarily on 3 things:

  • LIST

In that order.

Most people want to spend most of their time on the creative. The writing is written, edited, revised, rewritten, tweaked and revised again. The photos are bigger, smaller, moved, replaced, and so on.

In the middle of the process, the offer is changed:

  • Get 10% off with a mention of this mailing.
  • Call within the next 7 days and we’ll include an additional free product, free!
  • Sign up today and pay no interest until 2010!

Last of all, the list is considered. Big mistake. The list is the most important element of any direct mail program.

  • A “house list” of satisfied customers will pull so much better than a “compiled list” created from something as familiar as a phone book.
  • A list that is segmented demographics by zip codes that match the offer and the creative will work much better than one just blanket mailed.
  • A Business-to-Business list defined by SIC codes, # of employees and title of the buyer/decision maker will work much better than a list of the local chamber of commerce (unless local chamber of commerce businesses ARE your target market!)

So you can see why it depends. Does your direct mail have a call to action? A PS at the end of the letter? A “lift note” to fall on the floor with that last little teaser copy to get the interest of the reader? A business reply envelope? A website and phone number for more information? Did the envelope have a stamp or was it metered? Or an indicia? All of these have an effect on your results.

Was this the first contact the prospect has had with your company? Or did you talk to them on the phone last month? Or do they order from you once a quarter?

So what can you expect when you do a direct mail program? Rule of thumb used to be 2 to 5% response… but there are so many factors, it could be much less or much more than that.

Marketing’s Role: Preparing the Prospect

I think so many sales are not closed because marketing didn’t properly prepare the prospect.

It’s a cycle. An upward spiral. (hopefully upward!) The process has a beginning, a middle and an end.
(Photo courtesy Vovchychko on Flickr.)

Get a lead -> warm up the lead -> call to action -> move to the next phase -> ask some questions -> suggest some solutions -> ask if it’s okay to move to the next phase (call to action again) ->ask more questions.

Step up. Next step. Sometimes it’s fast, sometimes it is excruciatingly slow.

When marketing and sales work well together, the sales pace matches the pace of the customer.

If you try to go too far, too fast, you’ll get slapped down. Rejected.

If you switch to sales before the marketing is done, you’ve made a mistake. “How many do you want?” is more of a closing question than an opening question.

If they weren’t interested in your product/service from the beginning, they’ll be annoyed you’re even talking with them. (Reminds me of telemarketers - ugh!)

Marketing’s purpose is to get them interested. Asking questions. Engaging in a dialogue. Talk. Smile. Its that back and forth conversation.

When they are ready to do the deal, then sales comes into it. Moving into the sale before the marketing is finished knocks the process down a few steps (or fall down the entire staircase!)

There are indications from a prospect when they are ready to buy. A shift in their seat. “When can you get started?”

And there are indications when they just want more information. The call to action determines if they are ready to move to the next level. That’s why when you’re putting together your marketing, its so important to have a call to action. To get them to consider the next step.

Two questions for you:

  • Do you always ask the prospect’s permission to move to the next stage?
  • In your sales and marketing program, when do you turn the process over from marketing to sales?