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In a world full of "READ THIS!" "BUY NOW!" and "CLICK HERE!" it's understandable that sometimes the only action customers want to take is a nap. And we, as marketers, can't really blame them, because most of us have experienced the frustration of tone-deaf brand messaging trying to boss us around.
No company sets out to annoy its target audience, but somewhere between brainstorming and execution, calls to action (CTAs) become covered with flashing popups, caps lock, red banners, and exclamation points... And before you know it, you've scared them all away.
So, what do we do? How are we to inspire action without sounding like a door-to-door salesman? Is there a way to write engaging content we're proud of that also helps us reach our business goals? Will our customers pay attention if we don't yell at them? What else is there to say other than "Buy now" or "Click here"?
To answer those questions, we have to get to the root of the disconnect between marketer and reader.
Your Biggest Need: To Drive Sales
There's no getting away from the goal of driving sales. No matter your marketing specialty or tactics, the bottom line is always to increase conversions and drive sales.
Though you're going to use many unique ways to get there—copy, images, and social media—and you'd like your goal to be something that speaks more to that creative brain of yours, you're in charge of business growth.
Your Underlying Need: To Gain Your Buyers' Trust
Keeping your customers' attention may seem like an obvious goal when you begin a campaign or project, and so you come up with catchy taglines or memorable stories, but the biggest mistake marketers make is checking this tactic at the door when writing CTAs.
It's likely you've already created a compelling argument or pitch for your product or brand, and the CTA is the one thing you need to drive it home and convert. But it's not actually that easy.
For some reason, as marketers, even if we create really incredible designs that point to the CTA, we're tempted to forgo everything we know about our brand identity and target audience as soon as it's time to craft the CTA.
We may write an extremely convincing commercial or print ad that engages viewers, only to follow it up with sales copy that's completely stale and unrelated.
Where the Mistake Happens
Imagine what would happen if you're out to dinner with a friend, you're having a really great time and connecting on a personal level, but at the end of the night she hands you a business card and tells you to call a 1-800 number if you'd like to hang out again. Weird, right?
That's what happens when we reuse CTAs instead of customizing them for each message.
Our mindset behind CTAs tends to be separate from our creativity, which is why we get it wrong. Instead, in the case of our example, think about what you'd expect a friend to say after a fun night out: "Hey, you know that movie we talked about? We should go see it next week!" or "I know you love Pad Thai; there's a great place in my neighborhood you need to try."
The magic is in the follow-up and follow-through: Simply continue the message you began with by allowing them to take action. What's the natural next step and how can you help them reach it?
See how We Transfer writes a personal note then ends with a simple "Tell me more." Not intimidating, but effective.
Image: Really Good Emails
Potential Customers' Biggest Need: To Make Smart Decisions
Studies suggest that a person makes more than 35,000 choices per day, on average. So when we talk about the decisions that are placed in front of a customer to make, they may not even realize they're doing it to begin with. These choices can be anything from what clothes to wear to how to solve an issue at work.
And more than likely, these decisions are influenced by something like moral instinct, others' opinions, or brand marketing. Sometimes, we may use Google to find where to buy an item we need or ask a friend about their favorite places to go, but a lot of the time, we make decisions on our own based on past experience, personal opinions, or general convenience.
The goal of marketing is to meet people at the crossroads of their decision-making to provide the information they need to complete a transaction.
See how Tovala's holiday email understands that its customers need to buy gifts in December, and the email makes that process easier with a few options:
Image: Really Good Emails
Their Underlying Need: To Feel Understood
When we meet customers in decision-making mode, they don't just want the answers and solutions your brand and product can provide them; they also want to feel heard and understood about the problems they face.
Knowing this goes back to knowing your audience and their pain points, which is something you're probably very familiar with in the product development or campaign planning stages, but you have to keep that customer mindset in mind all the way to the call to action.
Allow these CTA options from Would You Rather remind you that calls to action can be fun and interesting:
Image: Really Good Emails
How The Misinterpretation Happens
When you're writing your marketing messaging, don't put down your pen or keyboard before you write the CTA: Finish the thought you started. If we're thinking in terms of a real-life encounter, think about how you'd end an invitation to a friend.
It can be easy to view CTAs as the "obligatory copy" at the end of your marketing masterpiece, but it's really the one thing that stands between your brand and the customer. It's your one opportunity to prove that you're on their team, that you feel their pain, and that you will make their decision-making simple.
The best CTA isn't one that stands out. It's one that can be trusted.
The Root of the Misunderstanding
What's happening with ineffective CTAs is that marketers are simply trying to force their customers to make a decision that will end in a sale.
When ,really, you should be making your buyers feel understood and working to gain their trust.
Whether you're writing your first or your one-hundredth CTA, keep your messaging and audience in mind and you'll be able to write customized, interesting copy every time.
Kaitlin Wernet is a copy and content specialist on Emma's marketing team. Email marketer by day and published author by night, she can be found exploring Nashville, planning her next travel adventure, or trying not to use too many exclamation points.
LinkedIn: Kaitlin Wernet
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