By Jon Powell, Principal Consultant The Conversion Wizards
If you’ve ever found yourself having to create any kind of marketing or advertising material, then you’ve heard of the term “call to action.”
I would argue that 9/10 digital marketers consider it to be the button, or the link, that you click. In different types of marketing, the call to action can mean different things, though.
Like in a direct mail piece, it’s most definitely not going to be referred to as a button, right?
Instead, I imagine direct mail specialists would call it that moment in the piece of marketing, namely in the COPY along with some type of graphic (starburst?) or something, where a transition occurs--from argument, or persuasion, or information to a suggested action / next step.
And in many cases, especially on web pages, it usually it takes more than a single line, a single button, or single link to make that suggestion, and make it completely.
In fact, I can recall many different situations where a call to action is made multiple times on a web page before ANYTHING clickable is present.
So why is it that when digital marketers talk about it, they believe that it’s just a button or link?
This is why they fail to move the needle sometimes, or to move it substantially.
Most Digital marketers think that when you are trying to optimize the “call-to-action,” you’re just trying to make a better button.
They tend to test every possible little variable within that constraint. Should the button be green or blue? Should it have hard edges or round edges? How much text? Should it have an arrow inside of it?
Wait, what about including emojis???
Michael Aagaard, a genuine talent in Conversion Rate Optimization, has written a nice piece
from this perspective. You can clearly see the limits, however, to what one can do (and write about). His main point is that value and relevance are the two key factors that determine how successful a call to action is.
Below are two examples from Michael’s piece:Example 1: Changing a Single Word Led to a 38% Lift
Image source: Michael Aagard
Excerpt from Michael’s article:“Why would such a small tweak have such an influence?”
The answer lies in the messaging. “Order” emphasizes what you have to do – not what you’re going to receive. Whereas “Get”emphasizes what you’re going to receive – rather than what you have to do to get it. In other words, the treatment copy conveys value.
But conveying value isn’t always enough. To get the full effect, your button copy should also to be relevant to the specific conversion scenario the prospect finds herself in, when she has to click the button.
Example 2: Adding Relevance Produces a 68% Lift
Image source: Michael Aagard
Excerpted Summary from Michael’s article:The goal is to get potential customers to click through to the checkout flow where they can select a gym and sign up for a membership.
The control version is already good because it conveys value and focuses on what you’re going to get – not what you have to do to get it. Nevertheless, it is generic, “Get membership” could apply to any kind of membership situation.
But the research revealed that in this scenario, gym location is very important. Add language about this—relevance-- therefore produced the 68% lift.
The customer doesn’t distinctly see the parts apart from each other. What they do see is “this is what I can do here”, “this is what they want me to do here”, and “this is what I can get here.”
And they don’t just look at the button, they use every piece of related presentation in that proximity to come to a conclusion to any one of those inherent questions.
If you’re not sure about this concept of holistic decision making, think about the email envelope in email marketing as an example. It consists of a:
- From Line
- Response address
- To Line
- Subject Line
- Preview text
I have never heard of a marketer trying to communicate an entire message in a subject line. Instead, they use that subject line to get people to click into the email, so that they will read the rest.
I guess you could call the email envelope an indirect call to action… but let’s not get stuck on that right now.
What I’ve discovered is that people do not just look at the subject line to make the decision. They, in fact, look at the subject line in context of the From line (i.e. who is this from) and the preview text (“is this email for real? What are the details?”)
An excerpt from a reputable study by leaders in the email space helps us to see this reality.
And I have proven this first-hand in experiments as well. You can change only the preview text, and it changes a person’s desire to click.
Look at this real example given to me by my colleague from his inbox:
It starts off well (reading left to right) until you get to the preview text.
How personal do you really think this email is if it is immediately followed by “View our preferences…”?
This is what the email actually looked like:
Not that personal after all! But we knew that. Because we, as humans, formed our conclusion with all the information I gave you in that first screenshot. And we formed it incredibly fast.
The same is true with the call to action experience on web pages (and even in emails).
It’s a holistic experience of multiple elements, including the button, that is designed to get someone to do something specific, and measurable, usually consisting of:
- Call to action Header
- Call to action Description text
- Form fields (sometimes)
- Something clickable (a link, a button)
- Additional Information or graphics next to that clickable thing (above, below, to the side) to influence someone’s desire to click it
The moment you start examining your calls to action in the same way that your customer does, then guess what? You’re going to find more gains!
I conducted a meta-analysis of this topic, spanning 150+ conclusive experiments (measuring for statistical significance) and 40+ brand-side marketer case studies.
What I discovered is that, when looking at the call-to-action from this point of view, the more of these contributing elements you change to create a more holistic, complete understanding of what you are asking (and what they perceive they are getting), the better the results!
Let’s look at an example:
Is this enough to make a decision? No! You need the information above it. But some people would start optimizing just the button, not taking the surrounding detail into account.
How about you? Would you ever optimize this “button” without that information?
Now let’s add some information just above it:
Can we make this “Call to action” even more powerful? If you know the client, and the specific lead gen offer, then you might change the text above it to something like this:
The result of that adjustment was 125% increase in conversions! ONE HUNDDRED and TWENTY-FIVE effing PERCENT! You read that right: CONVERSIONS, NOT just clicks!
The funny thing about this case study is that the budget analysis was the thing that helped customers get to that estimated monthly paymen--it’s just our emphasis in the copy changed from the thing the company was excited about (the thing they built, and the conversation they wanted to have) to the thing the customer was excited about (the end result).
“But wait,” some clever marketer says, “you didn’t actually change the call to action!”
Yes, I did--in the MIND OF THE CUSTOMER. That’s what I am trying to communicate.
If we want to reach customers, we need to stop using the terminology and thinking of marketers and start using the terminology and thinking of customers.
We have to see pages, and pieces of marketing, as they do – that’s the true secret of Conversion Rate Optimization.
Meaning, what is it that THEY SEE as distinct? How do CUSTOMERS group things together in their mind?
Do they see elements like we do (because we work with developers who build the pages)? Or do they FEEL conclusions to questions in their mind?
The word “feel” is very important, here.
The same is true if you are creating a treatment and communication program for those diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, for example.
You must try and first understand the world they see and know (which is truly, and respectfully different), and then design your program around that understanding.
So the next logical question in all this call-to-action thinking is:
“Ok, Jon, so you’ve done a meta-analysis on this, how exactly do customers come to a conclusion concerning this redefined call to action?”
“And what in this area of proximity influences their conclusion in terms that we as marketers can already understand?”
Stay tuned. I will cover this in detail in part 2.
In the meantime, I’d love to hear your thoughts. And if you want to be notified when part 2 comes out, just subscribe.You may reach Jon by emailing jon@TheConversionWizards.com