by John Eberhard                                                                                                            

One of the most vital aspects of any ad, promo piece, promotional email or web site is called the “call to action.” And for many business people, it is probably one of the least understood. 

The call to action is the thing that comes at the end of your ad, promo piece, web page, or promotional email, and should be included in all website marketing. It is where you tell the person what you want him to do. This is where you tell him to buy the product now, to fill out the form, or to pick up the phone and call. 

You might think that it is obvious at the end of the ad or web page or promo piece that the person should do what you have in mind. Not so. You have to tell them convincingly what you want them to do. Or let’s put it this way: if you tell them convincingly what you want them to do, your percentage of people that do so will increase dramatically. 

I remember working with a guy once who was relatively new to marketing. I looked at the first ad he designed and I realized it had no call to action on it. I tactfully explained what a call to action was, and the ad got modified to include one. 

So your call to action tells people what to do. But there is another important element to a call to action, and I notice that some business owners instinctively get this and with others I have to explain it. And that is the offer. 

The call to action is where you incorporate your offer. By that I mean that you have to offer them something to sweeten the pot a little bit, to heighten the reader’s interest and get him to take action now, rather than moving on. 

With promotions where you are trying to get the person to buy right now, usually with lower ticket items, your offer could be some sort of discount or buy-now, or an add-on that the person gets for free when they buy. Often you can come up with an add-on that adds significant perceived value, but is not that expensive in relation to the price of the item. I think that in the current economy it is more important than ever to come up with an offer that will increase the percentage that buy now. 

With higher ticket items, you usually are in the business of lead generation, meaning that you are trying to get the person to respond and give you his contact information so that one of your salespersons can contact and sell him. 

So with lead generation, it is helpful to give him an added reason to respond. So you offer him something, usually for free. Like a newsletter subscription, or a free report or white paper, a product demo, or whatever. You want to make sure that your offer is related as directly as possible to the topic of the product or service you are offering. For instance, if you offer a free white paper, it should be on a topic that is directly related to your product or service. That way the people who respond will be much more likely to be qualified prospects, because otherwise they wouldn’t be interested in the white paper.