For any inbound marketer or blogger the CTA (Call To Action) is the critical point at which all the hard work and effort either becomes redundant and wasted, or helps to move your visitors through your inbound marketing funnel all the way to the sales point.
But all too often the CTA can be a mere afterthought, something added on to the end of the blog. The problem though is that by adding an afterthought to a blog, you can end up missing the point, and failing to move people through your sales funnel appropriately.
So it is good practice to occasionally assess your CTAs, and ask yourself a few hard questions. Such as:
– Do I add CTAs at all to the end of my blog posts and articles?
– Do I add CTAs as a mere afterthought, or have I planned them before even writing the blog?
– Do I add CTAs which are designed to target people at the right stage of the inbound marketing funnel?
– Do I simply use the same formula for almost every CTA?
And of course, the six million dollar question:
– Do my CTAs actually work?
Analysing The Effectiveness Of Your CTAs
To begin with I’ll assume that you do always include a call to action at the end of a blog post or article. Providing a blog post or article without any CTA means that whilst your quality, original content will be likely to draw people in, once they’ve finished their initial window shopping they’ll just move on, rather than moving in.
But what’s important is not just including a CTA, but including one which is highly targeted. But what does this mean?
The inbound marketing funnel is something which all online marketers need to be extremely focussed on, and this includes each individual CTA at the bottom of each blog post. (Assuming of course that a CTA always has to be at the bottom, or end of a blog post. It doesn’t.) But the process of developing a CTA should be looked at as closely, or closer, than the blog post itself.
When you write a blog post you will usually start with your target market, identifying a need, or an interest, and creating content which address that need or grabs the interest of relevant people. But creating high quality content which is designed to target specific sectors of the market is not just about increasing traffic, or satisfying the demands of the search engines.
Each blog post, web page and article needs to be created not just to address a need or interest a section of the market has, but also has to appeal to those people at a specific stage in the inbound marketing funnel. More than this, it has to then help them move on to the next stage.
But there’s a risk that this approach implies that each CTA has to endeavour to move readers on to the next stage. That’s not it at all. A CTA should continue with the same approach as the blog post itself, continuing to address the needs of the audience. If this is done correctly, then there is no need to push people into the next stage, because they’ll go there willingly. Leading a horse, and all that.
Integrating CTAs Into An Inbound Marketing Funnel Model
Let’s take a very simple three stage marketing funnel model and identify how the CTA could be more effectively designed to help address the identified needs of a target audience.
We’ll imagine that the business sells computer software. It doesn’t matter too much whether this is for businesses or home users, the model is pretty basic enough to apply to either. Inbound marketing funnels can be quite complex, with several stages, but we’ll just simply this down to a basic four stage funnel:
Stage 1 – Identifying a need
Stage 2 – Identifying a solution
Stage 3 – Comparing features
Stage 4 – Comparing prices
When creating a blog post or article it’s obviously important to know exactly which of these stages it’s being designed for. Clearly each stage presents very different needs, and with different sectors of the intended market. It is unlikely that a blog post which focuses on the affordability of software will appeal in any way to people who are at stage one or two, who have barely identified a need.
So if we take stage one, a blog post here will need to target that part of the market who may be just discovering a need, or just starting to research software solutions which might address that need. Focussing here on the questions people are asking is important. You’ll probably want to move them quickly from this stage to stage two, where the solutions are identified, but to begin with, let’s focus on needs.
The CTA needs to focus on the fact that people are just starting to be aware of a need, and so should not be in any way trying to sell a solution. In fact it shouldn’t even mention the product at this stage. If people are made too aware of the fact that the post or article is trying to sell them something, they may well be put off. A CTA which encourages them to visit your sales page, or features page, could well be counter-productive.
Instead you might consider inviting them to discuss the issue with other like minded people, perhaps by leaving a comment below, subscribing to the blog for more on the issue, or visiting another social media platform such as Twitter, Facebook and Google+ where more on the same issue can be found.
A blog post which is focussed on those people in stage two will more likely include a CTA which provides visitors with access to a Webinar, or free downloadable resource which provides comprehensive information on possible solutions to the need. It’s not necessary to go into much detail at this stage, at least not about the software. Instead looking at a range of solutions or approaches is more important, with a frank and open discussion relating to them and how they might each help, and how they compare.
Remember, you’re never going to capture 100% of your market, and worrying too much about losing a few people at this stage is only going to end up making you create a CTA which is far too desperate or pushy, inevitably turning away a far greater number.
Honesty, and a frank and relatively unbiased approach to begin with will increase the confidence of your market much more than pushing too hard too soon.
Remember about leading a horse to water? It’s easier to guide a horse with reins than to get round the back and try pushing.
When it comes to comparing features, your blog post may well offer more detailed information on the specific abilities of the product, but what of your call to action? This is still not yet the time to try pushing for a sale. Your market isn’t ready for that until they’ve been through the material designed for the fourth and last stage.
Instead here you can start to consider offering them a downloadable crib sheet which compares features in more detail, or a downloadable video which covers the features and demonstrates how the software works. You might consider here offering a downloadable demo of the software too, although this might be a call to action which you include at the end of the crib sheet or video. Effectively, a CTA at the end of a CTA.
Finally of course when they’re ready to buy, your CTA needs to be explicit and appealing, offering them a discounted price, or an added bonus of some kind.
Think About The Format Of CTAs Too
So one of the first things to do is to identify the stage your blog post or article is designed to address, then make sure that your CTA matches that same stage appropriately.
But that’s not all, because it’s also important to think about the format of your call to action.
In many cases you’ll stick to text, including perhaps a final paragraph at the end of your blog post which encourages people to connect with you and others through a social media platform, or download a resource of some kind. But that CTA alone isn’t necessarily going to work. In fact, if that’s what you have already been doing, and you’re reading this post because you want to increase the success rate of your CTAs, then it’s clear it may not be suitable for you audience.
So don’t be afraid to experiment a little. Perhaps you might include a banner or graphic which you embed within the body of your blog post, which serves as a CTA. Include the CTA at the top, the middle or the bottom, and try a range of styles of CTA.
But of course always make sure you analyse the data, comparing the effectiveness of different formats, positions and approaches, so that you can compare which ones seem to resonate most with your target market.
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