The car was packed. Excitement was in the air. We were taking the children to a local theme park. For the first time ever they would have the chance to ride the roller-coasters, water slides and merry-go-rounds. We were in for a treat.
About halfway there we wound our way into a small village. Climbing a hill we drove past a sign that, having once been a regular commuter on this same stretch of road, I’d passed hundreds of times before. It contained just four words in bold, clear print.
PLEASE FILL UP HERE
It was next to a small four-pump petrol station and, until this journey, I’d never given those four words much thought. I’d filled up there a couple of times when I’d happened to be running low but never before did those words get me as excited as they did that day.
That day I wished I’d been quicker with my camera. It took all of my self control not to ask my mum to turn round so we could go back and take a photo. On the return journey I tried again to get a snap but the angle was pathetic. I was gutted! I knew that, that sign would make a great blog post one day; this blog post.
How many times have you been told that, in business, you need a strong call to action? From telling people to click here or asking them to sign up for email updates to the large, almost neon, ‘click to buy’ icons, you don’t need to hang around the online marketing medium for long to be told that, without a strong call to action, you’re going to fail.
Now fail is a pretty small word but it can strike fear into the mightiest of boots. No one chooses to fail do they? So if a strong call to action is vital, we’d better grab ourselves one pretty darn quickly don’t you think?
Except, I don’t know about you, but sometimes it can be a little tricky to know what action to call people to can’t it? When you’re telling a story on your blog for example. Do you always know what you want your readers to do when they finish reading?
I’d like to suggest that if you don’t, it’s time to put down your metaphorical pen and engage your brain cells for a few moments.
Your audience are undoubtedly delightful. I’m sure they’re also very clever and witty. But here’s the thing: that infamous phrase about keeping things simple is still as valid as ever, even if you have an audience of wannabe Einsteins.
Every time you communicate with your customers and in whatever format that communication takes (be that blog post, sales page, email newsletter or advert) you must keep things simple. Headlines are important, you’ve heard that before. But holding hands with a cracking headline is your call to action.
What one thing do you want your customer to do after they’ve read your communication?
I’ll say it again: what ONE THING do you want them TO DO? That’s your call to action (just one!) and that’s what you need to keep in the front of your mind as you’re crafting your post, email, sales page or whatever.
Do you want them to leave a comment? Maybe you’d like them to sign-up to your email list? Do you have a service or product you’d like them to buy?
But wait! You want it all? I understand. Don’t we all. But in every communication you’ve got to pick just one and ask your reader to do it.
Shoot for more than one target at a time and you’re going miss all three.
Take my friends back at the petrol station. They had a little shop that sold snacks and cigarettes. They also had an on-site mechanic. Did they ask their potential customers to try these things in their call to action? No. They distilled their message down to its most important part. They found the one thing that they wanted people to do and then they said in big, bold, clear and easy to read words: ‘FILL UP HERE’.
It doesn’t mean that they never sold snacks and I hear their mechanic is a very busy lady but they knew their core and they stuck to it.
Same with you. If you’re writing something with the aim of making your readers think, comments might be your goal so ask your readers to leave one. If you tell a story about how your brand new super duper service solved a problem for a customer and you’d like your readers to try your service too, tell them. Maybe you have a great new freebie incentive for people on your email list and you’ve just spent 500 words talking about this awesome new thing? Tell your readers to sign up.
Be bold, be courageous and keep it simple. Your customers will thank you for it and you’ll love the results.