If you’ve put lots of effort into marketing strategy and advertising campaigns – on and offline – you’ll want to make sure that you do everything possible to turn those interested prospects into either hot leads or paying customers.

One of the key ways to convert users or readers into leads is through strong and effective calls to action.

What is a call to action?

A call to action, or CTA, is just that:

A call by you, to encourage someone visiting your website, reading your flyer or passing by your shop to take an action.

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That action could be anything, but usually it’s something that involves the prospective customer or lead becoming an actual customer. Buying something or signing up.

Calls to action are extremely important

Without a strong call to action, it’s really easy for people to get lost. They get to the end of a blog, the bottom of a magazine article or the last page in a brochure and don’t know to what to do next.

Without calls to action, you hit a dead end.

Good CTAs guide the potential customer through your marketing and towards that end goal. They give them somewhere to go next.

How will a potential customer know you want them to buy what you’re offering, if you don’t ask them?

Don’t hide your calls to action

The best calls to action will be as obvious as possible, so make sure you think about the design of them.

On a website, they’re usually in the form of buttons, big, bold and definitely clickable. You don’t want your users to be unsure of where to click, you want to funnel their eyes straight to this button, the next step to take.

You might also want to consider having a permanent call to action in the navigation of your website. This would be the main thing you want a visitor to your site to do. It might be to leave their email address, it might be to sign up, or it might just be to contact you. Use a different style to highlight this and ensure it stands out from them main navigation bar, and it will draw more eyes.

Offline, calls to action are generally text instructions, but make sure they stand out. Think about a using a different font or different colour – anything that clearly draws attention and helps readers see what to do next.

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This will usually be to visit your shop or go to your website for more information (but you could also include a phone number too).

Be positive, engaging and relevant

You’ll also want to think carefully about the words and terminology you use for your call to action. Just a slight change in these can dramatically affect the click-through rate, and the number of hot leads you get.

For example, “submit” is a very common CTA – or it used to be. It’s typically tech speak. But for many users, the last thing they’re going to do when looking online is submit to a business they know little about. It stirs up negative connotations.

“Click here” is another common CTA. It’s very clear what you want the user to do, but that’s about all it’s got going for it. It’s boring, it’s uninspiring, and it doesn’t relate to what you’re offering.

Instead, you want your call to action to be as exciting as possible. It should be active, full of energy, and as personal as possible to the reader. Always remember you want to encourage them to click.

So for a holiday site, your CTA might be something like “Pack your bags now”. It speaks directly to someone booking a holiday, someone who is eager to get away and have a great time.

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But “Pay your taxes now” wouldn’t work for an accountancy firm. Instead, they might have something that speaks more to the concerns of the user: “Are you paying too much tax?”

There’s no right or wrong answer when it comes to CTAs; the key is to try, test and measure. You might find one phrase or combination works much better than others.

Think about the journey a prospective customer takes

When you’re planning out your calls to action – whether they are on or offline – you’ll want to think about the ideal journey a prospective customer will take.

If you have a farm shop for example, and you send out leaflets in the post to everyone in your local area, they are unlikely to want to spend a lot of money with you until they know more about you.

So the CTA on the leaflet wouldn’t be “Buy now” it would be something more like, “Come along to our shop and try it yourself”.

On your website, you can’t expect a first time visitor to jump straight to signing up to what you’re offering, until they know more about you. So your CTAs might take them on a journey first: “Find out more about us”, “Discover the benefits”, “See how it actually works”, “Get a free taster”.

This is one of the reasons why e-commerce sites like Amazon still have an “Add to Basket” as their main CTA. Although they want you to buy now, they found users preferred having the journey to go through. They could add and remove things. Buying now was too much of a commitment straight away.

Always include a CTA at the end of everything

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, you should always include a CTA at the end of everything. Anything and everything. Do not leave your potential customers at a dead end.

Whatever marketing you’re doing, you should always give prospects the opportunity to do something else. To take the next steps.

Whether it’s an advert on social media or in a newspaper, a brochure or a blog, a webpage or a video; ALWAYS include a CTA. Even if it’s as simple as a “For more information, visit…”