A little Valentine's Day action?

A little Valentine's Day action?

No, not that kind of action. I’m talking about the call to action in your website copy. The call to action is the final step, when you ask a prospective customer to do something, to take a specific step. It answers the all-important question, “What do I do now?”

Possible answers include:

  • Click here.
  • Call today.
  • Sign up now.
  • Order now.
  • Add to shopping cart.
  • Join our mailing list.
  • Schedule a demo.
  • Reserve your place.
  • Contact us.

You get the idea. The call to action is arguably the most important part of your copy. It’s the destination, the point you’ve been marching toward all along.

That’s why I’m dumbstruck at how many websites (and ads) neglect to include one. Oh, I understand. You don’t want to seem pushy or obnoxious. Maybe it feels… tacky. Besides, the customer already knows you’d like her to buy something, right? I mean, it’s obvious, isn’t it? You don’t need to spell it out for her.

Yes, you do. Never assume the customer will figure it out on her own. Why not?

Well, for one thing she’s busy, distracted, only paying partial attention. She’s surfing your website while at work, or watching the kids, IMing, texting. You probably have only a tiny fraction of her attention.

That’s why you need to tell her exactly what you want her to do next. You don’t have to be obnoxious. But you do need to be clear and specific.

The call to action is the climax of your carefully constructed copy. (Climax? You knew I’d bring this back around to “action.”)

Anyway, as you probably know, persuasive copy is most often built upon a certain architecture, like a house is built with a foundation, four walls and upside-down mortgage. The Magic Copywriting Formula has many variations, but they all try to attract the prospect’s attention and interest. Then whet the customer’s appetite by explaining the benefits they’ll enjoy, and the advantages your stuff has that the competition’s doesn’t.

Good copy also paints a picture of the outcome the customer wants, then provides proof to ease the customer’s fears and overcomes her hesitation.

At this point, if your copy is good, she may be ready to take action. Maybe she’s even ready to buy. (Lucky you.)

More likely, though, she’s interested enough to want to know more, but is still a little gun-shy. Like that guy she used to date, she’s wary of commitments. So she needs a little nudge. The call to action’s job is to provide that little nudge, by:

  1. Telling her what you’d like her to do next, then
  2. Motivating her to actually do it.

Of course, what you’d really like her to do is just buy the damn thing — right now. Be patient. You can’t rush her. Today’s consumer hates the hard sell, hates being pushed, and will walk away.

Besides, some purchases have a very long sales cycle – weeks, months, even years. (Ask a Boeing salesman how long it takes to get a purchase order for a dozen 787’s.)

OK, but if it’s too soon to ask her to get out her credit card, what should you ask her to do? It depends, of course. Figure out what’s the next logical step in your sales cycle. Then ask her to do it.

Remember, you’re trying to engage her and build a relationship, not go for the quick sale — the ol’ cash & dash.
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** ACTION PLAN ** How many times have you read to the bottom of somebody’s home page, and wondered where the heck you’re supposed to go next? It’s like parachuting into an unfamiliar place without a map or GPS. Don’t do that to your potential customers. At the bottom of each webpage, include links to 2 or 3 relevant pages. Ones that contain info or answers she’s likely to want at this point in the sales cycle.

And yes, it’s Glade. Uh, I mean, yes, each link is another little call to action.

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