What’s in Your Call to Action?

So you’re back from a nice three-day weekend, the client has requested a new online effort to begin in the fall, and through your diligent planning efforts the campaign is ready to go. Everything’s locked and loaded.

You’ve carefully mapped out the overall strategic direction. You’ve dissected the competition. The creative idea is dead-on. The media approach is rock-solid, and you’ve built a comprehensive return on investment (ROI) measurement system. The program is totally blessed by the client. You’re ready to pull the trigger.

Before you hit the start button, check one other item: the CTA, or call to action.

Why banter about a creative element in a column about media strategy? Because it’s the one area of a marketing effort that will reap big returns, or wreak major havoc, on ROI. I’ve seen fantastic online efforts for clients and competitors alike that were so close to greatness but missed the mark with poor CTAs. I’ve tested multiple CTAs in similar executions and have been totally surprised by 20 to 30 percent increase in results. Do you have this last, not-so-little detail buttoned up?

In online marketing, the CTA is on different level than one in print or broadcast. We can motivate potential customers to act instantly on the message. Not only are we asking a user to respond now, we’re also asking them to interrupt the task that delivered our ad to their browsers in the first place.

How do you craft the right CTA?

Ask the following:

  • Is your CTA on track with the customer’s mindset? You wouldn’t expect a car buyer to click a “buy” button if she hasn’t seriously considered your make or model as an option, would you? With a complex purchase cycle, ensure you either know what consideration stage the audience is in or offer multiple paths: awareness, consideration, trial, and so on. Sometimes, you can effectively intercede in consumers’ minds if you allow them to self-select their response to your message.

  • Clearly identify exactly what you expect customers to do. Are they learning more about a problem? Watching a demo? Viewing a comparison chart? Shown a time-sensitive offer? Let them know upfront what you want so they can determine if it’s something they want.
  • Is the CTA action-oriented? You’d be amazed at the difference in response between “Learn How” and “Learn Now.” Given the interactive nature of the medium, an active voice will boost a CTA.
  • Can your customer easily find the CTA? Sounds silly, but cruise through the creative review section of AdRelevance. You’ll see countless online creative executions and have no clue where to click. Either the CTA is too small, is hard to read, is hard to distinguish with other items in the ad, or resides in a part of the design that’s not easy to hit.

    To check for this, give your creative the “three-second hit” test. Build a page with actual content from one of the publishers on your plan, then insert the creative. Expose the message, unaided, to a colleague. Give him three seconds to find and click on the CTA. If he can’t, you’re sunk.

You have to love online for it’s capacity to test, test, and test some more. Refine, analyze, and optimize until you get the best possible results. And by using one of several excellent tools, you can do this on the fly based on predescribed parameters.

Perform the due diligence. Make your CTA the best possible tool as the final response mechanism in your online ad.

Did I mention I want you to Read My Other Columns Now?

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