You’ve created your campaign, written content, and promoted it on a variety of mediums but aren’t seeing results. Customers may be enjoying your work, but without being told what to do next will simply move on. The problem here lies in the lack of a clear call to action.

A call to action is what behaviour you want your customer/prospect to do as a result of your content/ad/flyer/whatever. Call to action is perhaps too strong of a term, it’s really more like a gentle nudge: a well placed button or link (or in print, a phone number or incentive to go online) that encourages the behaviour you want to achieve. These could be actions such as liking your company’s Facebook page, sharing content with friends or signing up to a newsletter.

To work out how to make your campaign’s call to action the most effective it can be, we need to go back to the start.

Goal definition

Before you can kick goals, you need to define them. Your company’s priorities may already be spelled out in the marketing strategy, in which case this campaign should execute one of them. Other campaigns may be more reactive, for example urgent customer education due to bad publicity or the promotion of a last minute sale.

The outcome is the more important aspect here. You are not running a campaign on social media for three weeks to promote a new gadget, you are running a campaign on social media for three weeks to generate website traffic and new gadget sales. Or Facebook page likes. Or social shares. Whatever the goal is, just be clear. This will help to keep your overall message consistent.

Call to action 101

Now how to make your call to action stand out. For example if your content is witty and original and your button is a plain old “click here”, you may be missing an opportunity to stand out. “Get the goods” may resonate more with your customers and provide more information about where they’re being directed.

A/B testing, or just old fashioned experimentation is your friend here. Emails are a great (and quick!) way to test which content drives the best results, and the learnings can then be used in the other areas of the campaign. Everything from button colour, to link text, to the landing page can effect campaign outcomes*.

Call to action 102

Other features to consider in your content are the offer/sense of urgency and secondary calls to action.

An offer with a limited timeframe will have a conversion rate much higher than one that doesn’t, even if the offer is the same. This needs to be genuine though. If customers are still seeing your ad for a “limited time offer” six months down the track they’ll know you are crying time frame wolf.

When done correctly, multiple calls to action can work well (and if done incorrectly, become confusing and ineffective. So beware). The idea with this is to make your main call to action the most prominent, but have another, less prominent one included to give the audience options. Call to action #1 may not be their cup of tea and this way you don’t lose them completely.

The campaign circle of life

So you’ve done all of the above? Bad news, it’s not time to sit back with a martini and celebrate a job well done. It’s time to test, track and optimise. Examine the conversion rates for the goal you’ve set for the campaign, but don’t ignore the other data. Perhaps your campaign is excelling in other metrics, just not the ones you expected. For example you may find people signing up to the newsletter rather than clicking on products from your landing page because this is the page element that stands out most to a new viewer. There are endless opportunities for optimisation, so don’t be afraid to experiment (within reason; epileptic fit-inducing animation and click bait are never recommended).

*Smashing Magazine goes through a variety of helpful design tips here.