There is one fundamental ingredient common to all approaches to marketing: the ‘Call to Action’ (CTA). A CTA is where we ask our audience to ‘do’ something, whether explicitly or implicitly. Without some kind of CTA, marketing simply isn’t marketing. Our CTAs might encourage our audience to engage, to connect, to subscribe, to sample, to join or to buy. Unless we can inspire some kind of energy exchange to take place between our business and our audience, there’s little point to marketing at all.
But while all schools of marketing endorse the idea of a Call to Action, there are radically different approaches to what one should look like. In this article, we’ll first look at ‘old school’ approaches to the CTA, and how they utilise the ‘7 Deadly Sins’ of marketing. Then, we’ll explore how new-paradigm business owners can create and use CTAs that are ‘grace-full’ and inviting to their audiences.
Old School CTA – The ‘In Your Face’ Approach
Above we have a screenshot of some (royalty-free) images intended to be used in Internet CTAs. We’ve all seen these kinds of images; they’re so common they’ve become cliché. Stereotypically, a Call to Action button will use bold colours (especially red), the word ‘NOW’, exclamation marks and arrows. It might have a unique shape (like a starburst) and be in a contrasting colour that makes it stand out from the rest of the page.
Many marketers think that saying ‘Buy Now!’ is the ‘Call to Action’. But I disagree. Such demanding directives don’t ‘call’ ME to act. In fact, they have the opposite effect. They make me suspicious and cautious. It’s not just the buttons that put me on alert—it’s the context in which they typically appear. Big, loud CTAs are often part of big, loud sales pages that make me feel like I’m being ‘hunted’ like prey, where the marketer is only interested in ‘capturing’ me via their web form.
This ‘hunter’ attitude can only come about if the marketer is operating from one or more of the ‘7 Deadly Sins’ of marketing. The key ones here are:
- The Deadly Sin of Disconnection – where they see their audience as separate from themselves—as objects, statistics, targets or ‘prey’ rather than people. When marketers see their audience as a prize to be won, they will try to manipulate them through other ‘Deadly Sins’.
- The Deadly Sin of Persuasion – where the page goes on and on and on and on, with big red headlines, dozens and dozens of testimonials and money-back guarantees, only to repeat the sales pitch over and over (and over) again, and revealing the price of the product (which is usually overblown) at the very bottom of the page (with a big “Buy NOW!” button).
- The Deadly Sin of Scarcity – where the marketer tries to create anxiety by shouting loudly about ‘limited time’ or ‘limited supplies’.
- The Deadly Sin of Invasion –where the marketer uses pop ups, aggressive follow up emails or takes their audience to yet another sales page, after they’ve already opted in or clicked away from the site.
These kinds of ‘dis-grace-full’ Calls to Action have given CTAs a bad rap, and have put many new online business owners off marketing altogether. But this presents us with a problem: if you don’t have a CTA, people simply will NOT act. And if they don’t act, you’re not generating business.
So what’s the solution? How do you create a CTA that respects your audience while still encouraging them to ‘take action’ in some way?
I believe the answer lies in adopting the ‘farmer’ approach to marketing, as we explored in an earlier article ‘The Marketing Funnel – Are We Falling Down the Rabbit Hole?’ To be marketing ‘farmers’ instead of ‘hunters’:
- Our CTA needs to be inviting and open, rather than demanding or persuading.
- Our CTA needs to speak to people where they ARE instead of where we want them to be.
- Our CTA needs to invite them into our world rather than hit them over the head and drag them by the hair.
Meeting People Where They Are
Let’s take another look at the 7 Graces style of ‘marketing funnel’ we explored in a previous article:
Each level of this funnel shows us a different audience perspective. Someone in your social media cloud at the very top is in a different place to someone who frequents your blog, and both of these are in very different places to the person who has already become your client. What works as a CTA for one does not work as a CTA for another. For example, if you use big red ‘buy now’ buttons on someone who is visiting your site for the very first time, the chances of them actually responding positively to your CTA are very slim.
Knowing how to create a CTA that’s appropriate to your audience means that you, the marketer, must be a master of the Grace of Invitation by being able to speak at these 7 different levels of Invitation, according to the situation. You need to know where people are coming from before you can ask them to go somewhere.
Mastering the Grace of Invitation
The Grace of Invitation is the 3rd of the 7 Graces. This is because being a master of the Grace of Invitation requires the first two Graces to support it:
- The Grace of Connection enables you to understand your audience and see them as whole people with needs, desires, intelligence AND the God-given right to make their own choices (including the choice to say ‘no’ to you).
- The Grace of Inspiration activates your intention to ‘breathe life into’ your audience by freely sharing your wisdom and information, rather than by snookering people through fear tactics, bribery and trickery.
Upon these two sits the Grace of Invitation, which fosters an ethos of openness, hospitality, engagement and respect between you and your audience. Only from THIS place can a Call to Action become an invitation, and not a demand.
Examples of Grace-full CTAs
When I work with clients, I always advise them to put a CTA (or more than one) in EVERY blog post or article they write. But the key to making them ‘grace-full’ is that they be subtle, natural and congruent with the rest of your copy. In other words, they shouldn’t feel like ‘Calls to Action’ at all, but invitations:
- Invitation to engage – At the end of your blog, ask a rich, open question and invite your readers to answer it in the comments box on your blog.
- Invitation to subscribe –Invite your readers to subscribe to your blog, being sure to describe the kind of content they can expect from you in future posts.
- Invitation to a free offer – If you have a free downloadable offer that relates in some way to what you have just written, tell your readers that they can dive more deeply into the subject by signing up to receive it. Of course, don’t succumb to the Deadly Sin of Invasion by using this as opportunity to immediately send them to a sales page about a paid product, followed by daily emails badgering them to buy.
- Invitation to connect – Invite people to connect with you on social media AND be sure to make it easy for them to do so by using widgets, buttons, etc.
- Invitation to communicate – If you offer personal services, invite people to send a message to you via the contact form on your site. Make it casual and courteous. While it is important to give your audience a ‘reason’ to contact you (for example: a free consultation on the topic you just discussed in the article), don’t use this as an opportunity to try to ‘sell’ yourself or your products.
Some people worry that if they have a CTA in their web copy it will taint it in some way. Be assured that a ‘grace-full’ CTA can be just what your readers are looking for. If they have come to your website and read all the way to the end of your article, it means they are looking for answers, solutions, inspiration, information or help. Let them know that you have what they want, not what you are trying to sell them.
Grace-full Calls to Action are subtle, natural and easy to create. They should have the feeling of ‘selling without selling’. Being able to create them is a skill well worth having. This week, I challenge you to create at least two grace-full CTAs on your blog, newsletter, YouTube video or other online page.
Then, after a few days, come back to this site and drop me a comment and let me know how your CTA worked out. And, of course, if you have other ideas, suggestions and comments to make, I’d love to hear those too.
If YOU are committed to making the world of marketing a more grace-full place, I invite you to subscribe to this blog (we publish 2-3 days a week) and join us in our Facebook community at http://facebook.com/groups/7GracesGlobalGarden.
And, of course, if you’d like to explore how the 7 Graces marketing model can help your ethical business create a more grace-full presence online, drop me a line and we can have a Skype chat.
7th June 2013
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The 7 Graces of Marketing: how to heal humanity and the planet by changing the way we sell, by Lynn Serafinn, where you can learn how the 7 Deadly Sins and the 7 Graces impact the world through media and marketing.
Brit Writers Awards Finalist
eLit Book Awards Silver Medal in Humanitarian & Ecological Social Issues
Tweep-e-licious: 158 Twitter Tips & Strategies for Writers, Social Entrepreneurs & Changemakers Who Want to Market Their Business Ethically, by Lynn Serafinn, which can help you learn how to create meaningful collaborations through Twitter and other social media.
eLit Book Awards Bronze Medal in Business and Sales
Get instant access to a free 90-minute Twitter marketing class at http://tweepelicious.com
LYNN SERAFINN, MAED, CPCC is a certified, award-winning coach, teacher, marketer, social media expert, radio host, speaker and author of the number one bestseller The 7 Graces of Marketing — How to Heal Humanity and the Planet by Changing the Way We Sell and Tweep-e-licious! 158 Twitter Tips & Strategies for Writers, Social Entrepreneurs & Changemakers Who Want to Market their Business Ethically. She is listed in the Top 20 of the Top Marketing Authors on Twitter by Social Media Magazine and was a finalist for the prestigious Brit Writers Awards. She also received the eLit Book Awards Silver Medal in Humanitarian and Ecological Social Affairs, as well as the Bronze Medal in Business and Sales.
Lynn’s eclectic approach to marketing incorporates her vast professional experience in the music industry and the educational sector along with more than two decades of study and practice of the spirituality of India. Her innovative marketing campaigns have produced a long list of bestselling non-fiction authors through her company Spirit Authors. Lynn is also the Founder of the 7 Graces Project CIC, a not-for-profit social enterprise created to train, support, mentor and inspire independent business owners to market their business ethically, serve society and planet, and restore all that is best about humanity.
(not just for Londoners, as we meet also on Skype)