The first step to finding a solution for life’s problems usually consists of a Google search. If the problem concerns your business being stuck in a rut, it could be a targeted search (eg. fundraising tool for nonprofits) or a general query about the problem (eg. fundraising ideas for my nonprofit). You’ll either be served up with the ideal solution on the first Google result or you may hit your mark after scouring a few more links. This is also the most common first point of contact between a business and a potential customer. The first general query led me to the landing page of the fundraising tool called ‘Classy’ while the second general query led me to the same website but to the Classy blog titled ‘25 Quick Fundraising Ideas for Nonprofits and Charity’. The second example is a good SEO strategy in action.
Ideally your business will write a detailed, actionable blog post that explains the problem and how the customer can go about solving it. Then a potential customer comes along who is in need of a solution to the problem, reads your blog post, signs up to receive updates and therein begins the customer’s journey. But on the other hand, your potential customer can read your blog post, become informed about the issue and its solution and then go on to purchase the solution from your competitor. That means you’ll have wasted effort, lost dollars and an unsold product on your hands.
This is where a CTA can work its magic. Once your SEO strategy brings in customers to your content, a CTA guides them through the buying journey, gently nudging them along till the end of the purchase funnel where they become a paying customer for your business.
How does a CTA nurture action
Most visitors reach your website without a clear sight of their end goal. Maybe your SEO strategy, social media promotion or referral links brought them to your website. But now that they’re here, your broad goals are to keep them there for as long as you can, keep them coming back for more content and hopefully see them turn into paying customer. But that’s your goal. It’s not the goal of your visitors, not yet. A call to action gives your visitors focus about their activities and paves a clear route to accomplishing a goal. A CTA need not and should not be a subtle plug inside your article that tells visitors your business is the right solution for them.
No, a call to action should stand out and make it clear that you are asking something of your visitors. You can start with something that requires the minimum level of investment from your visitors like a social share or watching a video, and then move on to CTAs that require bigger investments from visitors like signing up to your newsletter or starting a free trial. The point is that every piece of content should be calling your visitors to action.
Without a call to action to guide potential customers along their purchase journey, your content will exist only as a means to add value to droves of website visitors while giving nothing in return to your business. When a business leaves the action up to the will of website visitors they assume that these visitors know what they want, when in reality the only thing a majority of visitors arrive with is a problem, willing you (the business) to guide them to a solution. While an ideal scenario would have the visitor click the “Buy Now” button on the first visit, a realistic take on the situation requires you to define various goals and craft separate CTAs to drive action from your visitors.
Define goals for your Call To Actions
CTAs are not standalone features that can automatically get your website visitors to do your bidding. Whether you’re asking visitors to fill out a form, download an e-book, purchase your product or even click through to the next blog post, a CTA is only as good as rest of the content you have on your blog. If your content is not exciting, if it doesn’t add value to your visitors, your CTA is not going to be effective.
When good content and CTA come together, you have the perfect trade-off between value added to customer and value received by the business. The value you receive as a business can take many forms.
(1) A CTA to leave a comment or read your next blog post can keep visitors engaged on your website for a longer duration
(2) A CTA to sign-up for your blog nurtures potential customers so that they will keep you in mind when they want to make a purchase
(3) A CTA to download an e-book or a case study builds your brand by placing you as an authority in the niche
A blog like 1912 Pike aimed at building authority and customer relationships for the Starbucks brand does not ask much from customers except to leave their comments or share the article. The 1912 Pike blog is not a source of lead harvesting, it’s goal is to build brand awareness.
The Hubspot blog on the other hand asks readers to subscribe to their blog, sign-up for a free trial or sign-up to receive an e-book. The goal here, obviously is to gather leads.
Each CTA has it’s own purpose. Unless you define your goals and implement CTAs on the basis of those goals, you will not receive returns on time and effort invested into your content. In Hubspot’s case, if their articles gets shared like wildfire but not a single reader signs up to the service the content would have failed.
Many businesses choose to avoid CTAs or radically tone down their use. The rationale is to ensure that their content stands out for the quality piece of work that it is and not be seen as a marketing ploy. But in the end, these businesses can end up leaving potential customers stumbling in the dark and turn them towards a competitor. Yes, pop-up messages have given call to actions a bad rap. But the fact remains that they still work and they continue bring in a large number of leads for businesses. If your business always had an aversion to CTAs, it may be time to rethink your content strategy. That CTA may be the only thing standing between a thriving content platform and a slow demise in obscurity.
Author Bio: Augustus is founder and CEO of CallHub, a California-based Voice and SMS service company bridging the communication gap for political campaigns, advocacy groups and nonprofits. When he is not working, he is either making toys with his kids or training for a marathon. Find him on Twitter or LinkedIn.