Tell People What You Want Them to Do for You

call-to-actionsIn marketing and advertising, a ‘call to action’ is a message or statement which encourages the prospect to perform a specific action. Most of the time this involves buying a product, making a donation, subscribing to a newsletter or requesting for more information. The specific action to take is defined by the marketer in accordance with his/her goals.
If you think about it, call-to-actions are really a natural result of most human interactions. You call a friend to chit-chat and before you hang up, you ask her to have lunch together tomorrow. She thinks about her schedule for a moment and says “Sure, let’s do that”.
It’s just a way to conclude a moment of interaction. It’s telling the other party ‘what’s next’ and how to continue. If used alongside exceptional content, the call to action no longer becomes a gentle request but an imperative that requires your immediate commitment.
I often feel that way when I’m reading well written brochures from charity organizations. And it works the same way (sadly) for get-rich-quick scams that prey on the human desire for happiness, of which wealth is widely seen as the best means. If the message is overwhelming enough, people will generally do whatever it is you want them to do.
Even in day to day interactions, people react to call to actions that are coherent with what they are currently feeling or thinking. It flows on from an initial encounter: Here is how you can get even more of the same. Here is how you can continue down the path of success. Here is how you can share your love (or hate) for this brand.
We have a predilection for sharing information: We often tell people about our good or bad experiences with products or places, sometimes even if no one asks for our opinion. If you want someone to spread the word about your content or service, ask them directly. They will do it even if you don’t give them an incentive. This is what I believe from experience.
Modesty and pride are usually the main obstacles. You don’t want to come off as too conceited and you’re too proud to beg. So you publish free content and give away free tools without asking for anything in return. Maybe its just a hobby for you and you don’t care. That’s cool. But if you’re interested in reputation or revenue, this won’t help you at all.

There’s Nothing Wrong With Asking for Help

I’ve been using Ozh’s Admin Drop Down Menu, a Wordpress plugin that arranges the current admin area menus in a horizontal, instead of a vertical format. This is a great feature that helps me work faster and better with Wordpress websites.
In the settings menu for this plugin, you’ll find a series of call to actions:
People have a few options of what to do after installing and using the plugin. Two of them involves increasing its social proof (rating and sharing the plugin) and one is a revenue generator (donations). Generally, people are more willing to part with compliments (free) than money (cost involved) so I would imagine that most would pick the first two options.
The plugin has a perfect 5 star score (with 316 ratings) at the Wordpress plugin directory, which as some will know, is a rare feat for any plugin that has over 100 ratings. Impressive stuff, although part of its success is also due to the simplicity of the plugin itself.
This is a free tool. Some would have just installed it and forgot about sharing if they were not prompted to do so. We have things on our mind, goals to fulfill, people to meet and jobs to do. Call to actions break through the clutter and say ‘do this now’. Don’t let your prospect’s interest or satisfaction fade beneath the noise of other things that demand their attention.
If you give away free content, you should not only ask why you are doing so but learn to embed call to actions in some of them. Don’t be too modest or proud to tell someone what you want them to do for you. And never underestimate the power of reciprocity. It’s an influential social norm that you can use to your advantage when marketing online.


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