Are You Asking People to Do Things?

“Say the magic words.”

Did your mom tell you to do that when you were a kid? Even if she didn’t, we all know what the magic words are, right? Please and thank you.

But why do we say they are “magic” words? Why not “polite” words or “good” words.

Well, the words please and thank you really are a bit magical, aren’t they? Using them can open doors that would otherwise be closed.

Just being polite can lead to better relationships with others. That can lead to new opportunities, maybe even business deals or lifelong friendships.

Please and thank you make the world a better place. And that’s just a little bit magical, isn’t it?

Now, when it comes to marketing content or sales copy, there are other magic words, words we often forget to use as marketers.

There is one thing you can do that will get readers to take action. It will move them to buy that new product, click through to that email signup, or leave that review.

Do you know what it is? Do you know what could possibly hold such power over your audience and move them to do the exact thing you hope they’ll do after reading your copy?

It’s simple: Just ask them.

Yes, your secret weapon is so painfully obvious and yet under-utilized by many marketers. It’s your call to action (CTA.)

Your CTA is that once-in-an-email-or-article opportunity to spur the potential customer to action. And yet, why do we sometimes skip over the CTA in our content or marketing materials? And how can we optimize our calls to action to, well, call more people to action?

Let’s answer those questions now.

Why We Leave CTAs Out Sometimes

Many people are reluctant to ask for things. they don’t want to feel scammy or salesy. They want to just provide value, and they imagine the sales will take care of themselves.

If only it were so.

Unfortunately, this is not the reality. If we leave out our calls to action, readers may not even know that they are supposed to do something, such a sign up for a newsletter or make a purchase. How can we expect them to know something by osmosis? We have to tell them!

We may also leave out our CTAs because we don’t want to talk down to our readers. If we ask them to do something specific, aren’t we baby-talking them or dumbing things down for them, questioning their intelligence? No one likes a condescending marketer!

But that reason doesn’t really hold up, either, does it? Our readers aren’t stupid, but they are busy and distracted. When we craft a clear, compelling CTA, we aren’t insulting their intelligence. We’re making something clear that they might otherwise miss.

There are several components to a compelling CTA. Let’s look at a few of them now.

Why CTAs Must Stand Out

You might slave for hours over a piece of pillar content on your company’s website. You’ve worked hard to craft every paragraph. You wrote and rewrote every sentence, and you polished it all until it actually started to shine, much like a clean silver coin.

Unfortunately, because your readers are busy, many of them won’t take the time to marvel at every turn of phrase. Most likely, they’re just going to skim your article.

Sure, they might stop at a paragraph or two, if something jumps out at them, or if a certain subheading catches their eye. But otherwise, the majority of readers won’t do much more than glance.

So what does this mean about your call to action at the end? It has to stand out. It has to catch your reader’s eye. That may mean using some bold font, or maybe an image or some other design feature that will make the CTA stand out. 

Calls to action can also stand out with strong copy. Long, wandering sentences have no business in a CTA. It needs to be bold enough so that people won’t skip it if they skim your piece.

Why CTAs Must Be Clear and Direct

Remember, readers are busy and distracted.

They don’t have time to puzzle over what you expect them to do at the end of an article. They only have time to skim the CTA, so it needs to be clear enough for them to understand at a glance.

Again, we may feel that we’re talking down to our readers by “dumbing down” our CTA’s. But we shouldn’t feel that way. Why?

Imagine this: You buy a lottery ticket, and you discover you won! Yay! A million dollars!

Then you find out someone else won the same jackpot. Now you’ll have to split it.

And then two more winners pop up on the news.

Meanwhile, you’re trying to figure out how you’re going to spend your winnings. You plan to buy a house and a Ferrari and a private jet…

Two more winners come out of the woodwork.

…Okay, so not jet, and maybe a Honda instead of a Ferrari.

The more winners there are, the more ways the money is split, the less you get, and so you have to figure out how to make the most of what’s left for you.

In the same way, even the most intelligent reader has a divided attention. They might be thinking about twenty different things while they read your content.

That means you’ll have to keep your CTA simple and direct enough to catch one-twentieth of a person’s attention span. Otherwise your call to action will go over your distracted reader’s head.

When you simplify your CTA, you aren’t dumbing it down. You’re working with what you have, even if that’s a tiny sliver of the “jackpot” of the reader’s attention.

Why CTAs Must Be Specific

People are trying to steal our identity or scam us at every turn. Is it any wonder that we have to be more cautious than ever before?

For this reason, when someone online asks us to open our wallets, or even give out our email addresses, we understandably hesitate.

Even when we know and trust the person or company we are making the purchase with, something inside us may get a bit nervous.

So how can we reassure our readers that following the CTA won’t lead to doom and gloom?

Be more specific.

Think of this example: When you go to the doctor, and you have to get an operation of some kind, even a simple day surgery, how does the doctor describe what’s going to happen? In order to put you at ease, a doctor might be very specific in how he explains the procedure. he tells you exactly what he’ll do and what you should expect.

Doesn’t it work? Doesn’t it help you rest easy?

In the same way, we can be more specific with our CTAs, helping our readers know exactly what to expect.

So, instead of…

“Click this button and give us your email, and we’ll send you the weekly newsletter.”

…how about something like…

“Click the big button below and you’ll be taken to a new page. There will be a box for you to enter your email address. then, press the green button. After that, you’ll get a confirmation email in your inbox. Once you’ve confirmed, you’ll get a smart, brief email newsletter from us every Friday.”

Sound too specific? Sound crazy?

The truth is, the more specific we are, the more at ease we put people, and the more likely they’ll be to follow the instructions.

Are Your CTAs Compelling?

We live in a busy, distracting world. In order to move people to action, you have to make very clear what you want them to do.

In this article, we discussed how you can make your CTAs stand out, make them clear and direct, and specific.

All these things help your calls to action become more compelling.

Try this test. If you look at your article, skip everything and just jump down to the CTA, is the copy there compelling enough to make you want to take action, even if you have no idea what the article is about?

As we said, many readers will skim an article. They may only pay attention to the main title, subheadings, and the call to action. Shouldn’t we do everything we can to make each of those components as powerful as possible?

In doing so, you’ll discover why the right CTA really is like a marketer’s magic words!