How to create a strong and simple call to action

By: Jo Middleton

April 19, 2016


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Last week we were in Amsterdam for the latest in our series of digital marketing conferences. The buzz was amazing, and we loved hearing feedback from participants. Twitter was a brilliant source of information too, and watching attendees share the points that have resonated most with them has given us a lot of food for thought.

This tweet on Wednesday caught our eye:


It’s so true isn’t it?

We’re bombarded with messages every day – thousands and thousands of words, images, video, sounds – and it can be overwhelming, to put it mildly. In fact, one study earlier this year showed that the average human attention span is now just five seconds. That’s less than a goldfish. The study blames our increasingly digital lifestyles, and trends such as dual screening.

Scary stuff right? (And also, high fives for still reading – by my count that’s about 21 seconds already.)

For a digital marketing campaign to be truly effective then, it needs to cut through all of this digital noise with a message that’s simple, clear, strong and focussed. Think about it – you’ve got literally five seconds to make your point, inspire an action, and get out. Boom.

So, what goes into a good call to action? These are a few ingredients we think are worth adding to the mix:


Create a sense of urgency

With an eight second attention span, if there is the option to do something later, we’re going to take it. To get people to take action immediately, you need to create a sense of urgency. It might be a limited time offer, a freebie that applies only to the first 100 people, or something less tangible, like a sense that everyone knows about something but you, and you’re going to be the least cool kid in the playground unless you know it too, right now.


Try, not buy

When you remove the risk element, you immediately make the offer more appealing. Not sure you’re ready to part with your hard earned cash? That’s okay, all you have to do is leave an email address and you’ll get this e-course absolutely free, no risk. Sign up now for a free trial of this latest shampoo – why not? What have you got to lose?


Focus on the benefits

While that last point is all about the ‘why not?’, you also need to consider the straightforward ‘why?’ You’ve got five seconds remember, so what’s in it for your potential new customer? Why should they click on your link? Will it stop male pattern baldness? Will they discover the secret of a happy marriage? Be clear and specific.


Make it obvious

We’re lazy creatures, we can’t be bothered scouring a page for a sign-up link, so make it easy for us – have a massive button that says ‘free stuff here’, or a huge box for email addresses with an arrow pointing to it. Seriously. Make it easy.


Tell the reader what to do next

This is the obvious one right? Except that if you take some time to look at a lot of the digital content out there, it’s often missing. Want your reader to click the link in your email to read your latest blog post? Tell them! Looking for retweets? Ask for them! It really is that simple.

Research from Salesforce found that asking for a “RT” results in a 10-time higher rate, while asking for a “retweet” resulted in a 23-time higher rate.

It seems you really do have to spell it out to people.



DMWF Amsterdam was a great success; you can find the full round up of the event here.

The team are now looking towards DMWF London, taking place this June!

Photo credit: (c)