A call to action is a device that gives your audience some type of action to complete. It is an often used technique in marketing material and media campaigns such as infomercials and if done correctly, can be a subtle but effective way to initiate a sale or interest in your company’s products and/or service. There are different ways a call to action can be incorporated into your content in order to produce a desired result. The trick is knowing when to use and when not to use the call to action and building the audience to the point where they will respond positively to the call.

Here we will examine the important role of the call to action and how it can benefit your company. The focus it can bring to a particular product or service can be easily measured and used to launch similar type of campaigns. It is important to understand what the call to action is, how it can be effectively incorporated, when to and not to use it and what metrics to create in order to measure its effectiveness.

Defining the Call to Action  Marketing
A call to action should be viewed as the “ask” part of a sale. Basic salesmanship dictates that when engaging a customer, the goal is to obtain a commitment toward some action (i.e. buying a product or service, taking a survey, providing you with some information, etc.). This is typically done through a series of noncommittal affirmative questions (“Is this something that would benefit your family?”; “Could you see yourself in one of these newer models?”) leading to the final ask. It is important to ask for some action to be taken in the sale otherwise you risk the possibility of closing the deal and may lose customer interest.

The call to action is a simple direction given to your audience in your written content. It is the thing of value that you desire from the reader, as defined by your needs. A completed customer survey, a profile card with the person’s name, address, phone number and email address may be some of the things that result from the call to action.

How to Incorporate a Call to Action in your Content
Using our model for making the sale, a call to action must start with some form of a benefit statement. This is a statement of fact that tells the reader what they will get if they take some action with you.  You should be able to answer the question “What will I accomplish by doing this?” with your benefit statement. The use of the benefit statement sets up the call to action.

As an example, a simple call to action can be setup with the following benefit statement:

“You will no longer have to wait in long lines to buy your movie tickets. Use XYZ movie ticketing service and see your favorite movies today!”

You can see the call – Use XYZ movie ticketing service… – is set up by the opening line that tells the reader what they will receive as a benefit.

When Should the Call to Action be Used?
The call to action should be incorporated in all of your content where the end result is some type of follow up by the targeted audience. The type of action that you are looking for is not what’s important here; the fact that you want the reader to do something is justification enough for the call to action to be employed. Again, remember that the critical element of the sale is the ask and if you don’t make the ask, you don’t make the sale.

When Should the Call to Action not be Used?
As appropriate as it is to incorporate the call to action in all of your content that requires your audience to do something, it is not necessarily effective a tool to use when the nature of your content is purely informational or educational. A blog post that gives your readers information about the state of affairs of your company or some outlook of the future, as an example, is not enhanced by the use of the call to action. Knowing when to use and not to use the call to action is important and is determined by the message you are looking to communicate to your readers.

Measuring Progression Going Up
As important as the use of the call to action is the measurement of the effectiveness of the call to action. Social networking sites like Facebook and Google+ are doing a good job in helping companies measure the effectiveness of ad blurbs that are strategically placed and targeted to a particular audience. You have to use a system of metrics that help you determine how effective your call to action is and what its use means to you. This begins by determining what you want to measure (i.e. sales, new customers, new ad impressions, repeat customers, etc.).

Once you determine what it is that you are measuring, find the data points that are the most meaningful to measuring the effectiveness of the call. This can be as simple as looking at the change in web traffic for a particular web page over a stated period of time versus the number unique or repeat visits. Always keep in mind that as effective as the call to action can be, it is a wasted device if you fail to measure how it worked for you.