Think of the last time you responded to a marketing communication. What made you do it? Was there an incentive, or a chance to win something? A good call to action (CTA) is a lot more than just a link. Very rarely will you get someone to follow your call to action by simply asking them.

In nearly 10 years of working with direct mail, I've found a few tips you can use to enhance your calls to action and get people to respond.

1. Use a Widget

In the marketing world, a unique element makes your message stand out among the other messages in the same medium. If we're talking direct mail, a widget means something that isn't paper. In the past, I have used car keys, credit cards, and casino chips. They add physical weight to the mailer and help it stand out from other items in a mailbox. It draws attention to the message, and it gets the recipient to engage.

Widgets work online, too. Rather than a standard lead-capture form, add an interactive game, well-designed imagery, or even unique colors to make your communication stand out. The ultimate goal is to make it look different from your competitors' marketing and keep the consumer's attention long enough to take the desired action.

2. Offer Prizes

I believe in the idea of reciprocity. When you are looking to drive engagement, offering prizes is a great solution. If you give consumers something for engaging with you, they are more likely to return the favor. For example, if you won a TV at a furniture store, where are you most likely to go when it is time to buy your next couch or bedroom set? Part of human nature is that we tend to take care of each other. When someone does something for us, we reciprocate.

Offering prizes of some kind—like popular gift cards—can help you build a relationship with a consumer beyond just the CTA. Of course, you don't simply want to pay your consumers to interact with you. Put some thought into the prize and make sure you're still going to earn ROI on your marketing. If nothing else, give them an opportunity to win a prize: "For responding, your name will be entered to win a $100 gift card!"

3. Personalization

We all love to feel special. Personalizing your CTA tells consumers you understand that they are unique. Add a handwritten sticky note, use their name in your greeting, or personalize offers to match their lifestyle.

For online use, create a landing page that recognizes the visitor and pre-populates the information you already know about them. Doing so also increases the ease of use by allowing them to quickly complete forms.

Another good method of personalization is speaking about something you know they already own—whether a car, television, or a tanning package. Doing so can tell them this isn't just mass marketing, you're thinking about them as individuals.

4. Clarity of Intent

This one can't be overstated, and it works the same for both print and online: Your CTA has to be clear. There's no room for vagueness in a CTA. Make the next step obvious, and give a specific time frame for completion. Does the offer expire in an hour? Tell them that. Have every incentive driver point to one location—the CTA—and be clear about what steps should be taken.

5. Repetition

Within your messaging, whether direct mail, email, or a newspaper ad, zero in on exactly what you're trying to accomplish and state that message. Be clear, and repeat the message. People are more likely to remember something—as well as take action—if they're presented with the option multiple times.

This works in two ways. First, within a specific marketing communication, make sure that your CTA is called out multiple times throughout the piece. Second, try multiple marketing mediums. For example, don't stop at just a TV commercial. Try the same promotion in a print ad or email campaign.

Whether you use the same medium multiple times or you track across multiple media, repeating yourself can help increase the impact of your message.

* * *

Whatever your company is doing, make absolutely sure that you're tracking the results. Marketing isn't one size fits all. If you're going to try something new, A/B-test it. At the very least, test the idea against similar campaigns you've done in the past. Pick one variable to change and track how it impacts the results. If it works, great! If it doesn't work, adjust and try something else.

Targeting the right consumer can affects your results as well. Know your target, find a group, and go after them. If you're tracking correctly, you'll see remarkable results.

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Five Tips to Enhance Your Call to Action

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image of Stephanie Thompson

Stephanie Thompson is the vice-president of client services for PERQ, a marketing technology and promotions company that helps businesses attract consumers with incentives online and in-store.

Twitter: @DirectMailDiva