Production: The New Call to Action
Customers … why don't they just do what we want? That would make direct marketing so much easier, wouldn't it? Unfortunately, it's not that easy. In today's marketing climate—with so many choices, technological devices and brand messages bombarding the senses—it's more difficult than ever to get customers to do anything, let alone what you want them to do.
In printed direct marketing vehicles, the stalwart "order now" or "go online" prompts simply don't cut it anymore. You need to do more. How? By creating a compelling call to action that cannot be ignored. Prompt customers to act, to see the call to action screaming at them from the printed piece in a way that moves them to react and act. To do something!
Customers are savvy. If the call to action isn't bold and relevant, customers will read right through it without doing anything. If it isn't authentic and relevant, they may dismiss it outright. That can't happen. Here are six steps to developing strong calls to action that will resonate and push customers to take the next step to engagement.
1. Build a Hierarchy
Before you think about your call to action and what it will look like or what it will say, think about what you need it to do.
Strategy can make or break your execution. Without a well-developed plan of attack, it won't matter what you print. Gone are the days when you could essentially put anything in the mail and get a response. Outline your goals and construct an actionable plan. Understand what exactly you're asking readers to do, but always begin with the goal in mind.
The kiss of death is creating too many calls to action that ask customers to do different things. Everything should support your overall strategy and end game. Don't let other actions compete with the ultimate call to action. For example, if pushing customers to your website is the goal, don't confuse them by prominently featuring your phone number.
What do you want them to do first? Second? Third? Is it an invitation? Do you want them to order? Plan your message hierarchy accordingly to move customers through the piece and drive to conversion.
2. Do Your Homework
Again, before you put words in print, spend time in the mind of your customers. Know what truly compels them and what moves them. Find the "higher order benefit," the emotional reason they do business with you. What are they seeking? Peace of mind? Financial security? A trusted partner? It's not just your product or service they're buying, but the emotional hook.
Tony Hsieh of Zappos coined the term ICEE, which stands for "Interesting, Compelling, Educational or Entertaining." This acronym is a perfect filter when planning your call-to-action strategy.
Understanding customer triggers may require research. Once you know what motivates them, your ability to craft a message allows you to reach them more effectively and understand not only what they want, but how to encourage action.
3. Make the Call to Action a Call to Arms
Once you've outlined your plan and understand your audience, it's time to incorporate a strong call to action in your marketing piece. Don't be passive. The key word is "action." Ask for what you want, but more importantly, tell customers what's in it for them.
How many times do you see marketers ask people to follow them on Facebook or Twitter? Unless those people are already brand advocates, a timid "follow us" isn't enough. Be direct. Be specific. Look at the difference it makes when you take a few carefully chosen words and aim them straight at your customer's sense of self-interest:
- "Discover your design style! Find decorating ideas, entertainment tips and help for you next project. Follow Us!"
- "Like Free Prizes? Like us on Facebook!"
Another effective way to connect with your customers in the call to action is to call them by name. Personalization helps cut through the clutter. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) effectively uses first and last name personalization on postcards to encourage attendance at seminars and conferences, reinforcing why it's important to attend.
In addition to the verbiage of your call to action, incorporate a response mechanism to facilitate follow-through. Your phone number and website might not be enough. Take advantage of the technology available. QR Codes and other mobile techniques offer a quick path to engagement. Personalized URLs give customers a unique entry point to your website. The stronger the call to action, the better chance you have to keep customers invested.
4. Keep It Simple
Make what you're asking customers to do easy. If the next step to get them engaged is too complicated or not readily apparent, you risk losing them before they can act.
Have a QR Code? Understand that many people still do not know what they are or how to use them, so a quick reminder to click and scan with their smartphones helps. Simplicity rules.
Don't forget that simplicity applies not only to the messaging itself, but also to the destination. For QR Codes, your landing page or site MUST be mobile-optimized. If you get people to scan your QR Code but they have to wait for a non-mobile page to load, you might as well kiss them goodbye.
5. Follow Through
Once you've asked customers to do something, what's next? How are you going to move the activity along to get a sale or create another engagement opportunity? Create a secondary call to action on the back end. Include "buy now" or "call now" buttons to close the sale. If you have an invitation, allow them to RSVP. Do they need to call for more information? Allow them to call from your mobile-optimized landing page. Once you've gotten them to act, what are you doing to push customers to the next level? Include this as part of your hierarchy as outlined above. Once you get them, don't lose them!
Relax The Back, a retailer specializing in back pain solutions, urges customers to come to the retail store for a free pain assessment. In its catalog, Relax The Back pushes them to relaxtheback.com via a QR Code to find the nearest store and schedule an appointment, which the stores then handle to complete the assessment and close the sale.
6. Test, Measure, Adapt
Test and measure, if possible. If it doesn't work, continue playing with all components. QR Codes, for example, can even be more customized through black-plate changes, making them more relevant to specific customer groups. Some "mechanisms" may not work now, but as technology and acceptance grows, the tactic will as well.
See what works and apply it to the next program. Repeat the steps above and tweak as needed to get your customers engaged with your brand, and formulate an even more effective call to action.
Lois Brayfield is CEO at J.Schmid and Associates, a direct-marketing agency specializing in catalog design. She knows what works and has the experience to prove it— 30 years of studying direct marketing and catalog results. She applies this wealth of data to every project and has helped develop an integrated process that ensures campaign effectiveness. She knows the rules, and she knows when to ignore them.