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Everybody talks about “calls to action”, but what does that actually MEAN? In today’s episode, I’ll explain what a call to action is, what it includes, and debunk three big myths making things harder for everybody.

Do you always need a call to action? How many are you allowed to have? And what does Braveheart have to do with this? All this, and more, will be revealed. Give me less than 10 minutes, and I’ll explain… calls to action.

Just click play, and I’ll meet you there.

Transcript & Shownotes

Naomi Explains... Calls To Action

Welcome back to Naomi Explains Marketing, the show where I help coaches, consultants, experts, authors, and other associated nerds, geeks and misfits sell the contents of their brains for cash money. I am your host, Naomi, and today we’re talking about calls to action.

Let’s do this.

You might have heard this term floating around in the internet marketing sphere. The term itself is quite simple, and you may have a pretty good grasp on it already.

But! There are also a few huge myths also floating around.

So today we’ll tackle the definition – pretty simple – and also we’ll get some facts where once there were only myths.

A call to action is a marketing term that refers to the words you use to explicitly tell somebody to do something. What does that look like in the wild? Here. Click the link below – call to action. Sign up now – call to action. Register here – call to action. There’s a verb. There’s probably a noun. That’s usually most of it.

A call to action is like a call to arms. Imagine we’re in Braveheart land and I’m Mel Gibson and I’m giving a big, rallying speech to you, my fellow angry Scots, about how bad the English are. I give my speech, I get you all riled up, and then what? Then, if I’m good at giving speeches, at the end, I tell you explicitly what I want you to do.

I say something like, “Follow me” or “Go get ‘em” or “Find someone in a red coat and hit them with something”. The speech is my pitch, and the call to arms is an explicit statement telling you to, well, arm yourself.

It’s like that in marketing, too.

Our copy or our content is our speech. Our call to action is telling people explicitly, using verbs and sometimes nouns, what they’re supposed to do next.

If I say, “Subscribe to Naomi Explains Marketing”, that’s a call to action.

If I say, “Dylan, put down that chainsaw right now”, that’s a call to action.

If I say, “Click reply to schedule a free Hopes and Dreams call”, that’s a call to action.

If I say, “Elijah, eat your broccoli this instant or so help me God I will not be answerable for the consequences”, well, you get the idea.

The basic idea behind the necessity for calls to action is that, as tragic as it is, most people are not hanging on our every word, desperate for the chance to give us their money or their time.

People with a lot of stuff going on, or people who don’t have preexisting loyalty, don’t tend to pick up on the subtleties of communication. They glance at our emails, or our social media posts, or our ads. Their attention is elsewhere, on their own stuff.

But we’re conditioned to pay attention to commands. We don’t necessarily heed them. But we see them. And in marketing, the difference between “seen” and “not seen” is the difference between a vacation in St. Barts and moving back in with your Aunt Joan.

So… call to action. Explicitly telling people what you want them to do next. Got it? Good job.

Now we’ll get to the myth-busting.

As I said, there are a few call to action myths that are pervasive, and assuming those myths to be Truths of The Ages is constricting baby marketers unnecessarily. So, we will bust. Are you ready?


Myth #1: You should always have a call to action.

If you do not include a call to action in every communication, you are wasting a critical marketing opportunity. If you don’t tell them to do something, they won’t do anything, and that’s bad.

Not true. You need a call to action only when you specifically want someone to do a particular thing. If you don’t really care, you can skip it.

If you’re involved in content marketing of any stripe, you’re probably sending out a lot of communication. Emails. Blog posts. Videos. Podcasts. Social media. That’s a lot of communication, and not every communication has a desired action.

Sometimes it doesn’t matter if they leave a comment or smash that like button. Sometimes you’re just sending a cool quote because you’re too tired to write a real newsletter. No, Virginia, you do not need to explicitly tell them to click reply to tell you their favorite quote. It’s fine. (Although come to think of it, that’s a really good idea.)

There are times when no action is needed. There are times when any action you could ask them to take would be a reach – you’d have to manufacture an action you want them to take. In these cases, give your poor audience a freaking break already and let them read or watch or listen in peace, no action required. Ahh.

Myth #2: You should never have more than one call to action in any piece of communication.

(In this context, when we say one call to action, we mean only giving one thing to do, not only telling them to do it once. The premise here is that you could have four links to the same thing, but not links to four different things.) The idea behind this myth is that your communication should only have one option for action, otherwise the person will have too many choices and they won’t pick the one we want, or they won’t do anything at all.

Again, FALSE! Although a teensy bit true.

The real truth is that the more you care that anyone takes a PARTICULAR action, the fewer options you should present. This is usually when money is on the line. If this is a promotional email, in which you are directly selling something? Then yes, you only want one call to action. This is not the time to tell people to follow you on LinkedIn. When the options are money and anything else, take the money.

This is also true when future money is on the line. If you’re sending people to your webinar, during which you plan to pitch them on your Exclusive Elite Diamond coaching program? Yup, again, you only want one call to action.

But in low stakes situations, multiple calls to action are completely normal. If I couldn’t have more than one call to action per communication, I’d be emailing you four times a day. Multiple blog posts, or one post, one video, by the way there’s a small sale on ebooks, and I’m doing a seminar next week? If none of them are particularly important, you can shove them in one communication.

So, the more it matters, the more you keep it to one. It’s “Put down that chainsaw”, not “Put down that chainsaw… and follow me on Instagram”.

Alright, last one, and it’s a nice easy one.

Myth #3: Calls to action need action verbs – click, read, go, register, etc..

The idea is that if there’s no verb, it’s, well, it’s not really a call, is it? You can’t tell someone to do something without a verb. Doesn’t work.

And once again… FALSE. It is perfectly acceptable for some calls to action to be implied.

If email you and say, “Hey, I have a new podcast episode out”, and then there’s a link to the podcast, it is safe for me to assume you will click on that link if you’re interested. I don’t have to say, “click on the link below to listen to the podcast now”. It’s not a big deal.

Now, there is some validity to this myth, in the same way that there was in the last myth. The higher the stakes – read: money – the more you may WANT to use an action verb. It certainly doesn’t hurt, and it can help. But most things just don’t matter that much, and you’re allowed to assume your prospect understands the basics of existing on the internet. Last day of launch? Sure, be explicit. I’ve got a new contact page? They can figure it out.

That’s it for calls to action.

On that note, I’ll leave you. In our next episode, we’re talking about newsjacking. Until then, make sure to subscribe to this podcast, and do what’ll leave you feeling good today. Talk soon!


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