By Jackie Barrie, Copywriter, Trainer & Author at Comms Plus

If you’re reading this, it’s because the headline told you to. This tells us two things. (1) Headlines have enormous power. (2) You are an obedient reader.

Despite the fact that classic marketing theory tells us to include a ‘call to action’ at the end of every communication, I’ve seen too many wasted messages that don’t tell you what to do! Those might work for advertising, brand awareness or profile-raising, but NOT as effective direct-response marketing.

The research shows that people are more likely to do what you want, when you tell them what you want them to do. Yes, words really DO have that much power, and most people ARE obedient!

Let’s go right back to the planning stage, where you set your objectives. Before you start writing, decide what you want readers to do as a result of your marketing piece. It might be:

- Visit my website

- Subscribe to my weekly tipsheet

- Download a document

- Make an appointment

- Order a product

- Phone us with a query

- Add your comment

- Tweet this

- Fill in this coupon

- Something else

When you know what it is, you should write and design your entire communication around that sole objective. In particular, make sure you tell your readers clearly what you want them to do.

Calls-to-action generally have a sense of urgency. Start them with action-packed words such as ‘Donate’, ‘Register’, ‘Book’ and end them with ‘Now’, ‘Today’, ‘Before it’s too late’.

So don’t just write your phone number. Add the words ‘Call us NOW on xxx xxxx’ and responses should increase (try it and let me know how you get on).

To make your call-to-action even more powerful, you can add an incentive e.g. ‘Sign up for my tipsheet and get a free ebook’, or ‘Buy my book before the end of the month and receive a free plastic daffodil’, or ‘Stocks are limited, so order before 12 noon to be sure of receiving your bottle of chocolate vodka’.

Note that you might want to use the call-to-action more than once. For example, In US-style ‘long copy’, the call to action will be on one long ‘squeeze’ page, comprising text interspersed with testimonials and ‘buy now’ links. Now and again, it will say something like: ‘Have we convinced you yet? If yes, buy now, if not, read on’.

On a website, every page should have at least one call-to-action, to tell site visitors what you want them to do next. Three is a maximum. Make your calls-to-action big and bold, high on the page — above the fold — ideally on the right hand side as well as at the end of the text (because we read English left-to-right and top-to-bottom). For maximum visibility, use a contrasting colour and surround your calls-to-action with plenty of white space.

If you’d like to know more about this subject, read this article about top Facebook engagement techniques on Ragan. They give plentiful ideas for calls to action you can use on your Facebook timeline, to increase interaction (and ultimately, sales).

And if you’d like monthly marketing tips and wordy humour, then please visit www.comms-plus.co.uk and sign up for my Writing Without Waffle newsletter.

Jackie Barrie writes without waffle for websites, blogs, newsletters, brochures, leaflets and speeches, in fact, anything to help your company make more money. She is the author of ‘The Little Fish Guide to DIY Marketing’ and ‘The Little Fish Guide to Networking’.

Find out more at www.comms-plus.co.uk or 0845 899 0258.