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by Stephen Logan on 9th September 2009
A call to action is arguably the most important part of any piece of sales copy. The headline and opening paragraph may grab the reader’s attention, but it is the call to action that can turn a visitor into a customer.
Think about your copy as a joke. Okay, that’s a bad analogy to start with, but bear with me. A joke will often start with a hook, just as a product page ought to. It may then meander for a while and add a little flesh to the bones; this is the informative part of your sales pitch. But all this is leading to the crescendo that is the punch line, your sales pitch, your call to action.
Just as most jokes don’t work without a punch line, so your sales copy may fall flat without a call to action. Yes, you may have conveyed the underlying message, but you need it to culminate in fireworks, not ambiguity.
“I’m sure wherever my dad is he’s looking down on us. He’s not dead, just condescending.” (From Jack Whitehall at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2009)
So what exactly is a call to action, and how can you go about creating one?
Well, the clue is very much in the name. A call to action is essentially a statement that provides the reader with the impetus to make a purchase. For example:
‘Hurry, this is only a short-term offer, once the stock is all gone, that’s it! So make sure you buy yours today before they’re all gone!’
Urgency is often a highly valuable tool in writing a call to action. You want to make sure that anybody who reads it doesn’t wander off and look elsewhere, so it has to be punchy and it has to deliver. If you think that something is imminently going to run out, be it an offer or a product, you’re far more likely to start reaching for the credit card.
The above example pretty much writes itself, but a call to action isn’t always as simple as promoting an offer; sometimes you have to promote the unpromotable. Whilst it may be more challenging, there’s no reason to suggest that it can’t be done.
‘Chocolate teapots really don’t come any better than this. Order yours today and enjoy fine dining tomorrow with our overnight shipping guarantee.’
If the benefits of the product are masked a little – i.e. who actually needs a chocolate teapot – why not emphasise a related offer, for example overnight or free delivery as in the above example.
Another popular type of call to action is the simple causal effect ploy; turning a negative into a positive to really sell the product or service in question.
‘Protect your hair, buy the Super Hat today!’
Whatever you want the end action to be, whether it’s a sale or a request for more information, make sure the call to action references it. You don’t want to leave your visitors in any doubt; just a comedian doesn’t want to face an unresponsive crowd.
To succeed in comedy you need a punch line; to succeed in marketing online, you need a call to action.