Brand awareness is all well and good, but once your prospects know you exist, what is it, precisely, that you want them to do? And, more importantly, how are you going to communicate your request in a way that prompts action? James Chalmers shows you how.

Imagine a car. Imagine it’s got everything a driver could ask for – gleaming paint, leather everything, more horsepower than the Melbourne Cup, a full tank of fuel. It’s just missing one thing. Car keys. A small item they may be but, without them, the car is essentially useless, no matter how much effort and expense went into its production.

Unfortunately, the same can be said about many marketing efforts. The reason? Many marketers focuses too narrowly on raising awareness of a brand or product, rather than actually giving the audience the tools they need to engage with it.

Obviously, awareness is vital. If your audience doesn’t know you exist, convincing them to do anything is a pretty big ask. That’s why it’s no surprise that earlier this year, ADMA found that brand awareness is the number one goal of content marketing in this country, listed by four out of five organisations.

But making potential customers aware of your brand is not the same thing as gaining new customers. If you want your marketing to bear fruit, giving the audience a powerful call to action is essential.

Likes? Whatever

It’s a rare campaign these days that doesn’t aim to boost social media engagement, with the multiplication of hashtags and Twitter handles representing a key objective. Yet earlier this year, a UNICEF Sweden campaign went viral with one very simple message: Likes don’t save lives.

UNICEF took the increasingly-pilloried concept of slacktivism (ie the notion that people will all too easily swap actually doing something meaningful for just clicking on a little thumbs-up icon) and replaced it with a simple but compelling call to action.

The organisation informed viewers it is not likes but money that saves lives, and told them exactly how many polio vaccinations a small donation could provide. The video above and three others were viewed more than 750,000 times in the campaign period, so obviously awareness was given a boost. But the real good news? The campaign garnered enough donations to vaccinate almost 640,000 children.

Between content and conversion

So what makes an effective call to action? It’s a prompt that moves your audience from awareness to engagement. What that engagement is will vary hugely depending on what your business is. It could be signing up to a newsletter. Or getting an obligation-free quote. Or downloading a white paper. Or trialling a new product. To put it another way, engagement is anything that moves someone closer to a sale.

For a moment, let’s pretend you run a shop selling Whatchamacallits. Awareness, in this instance, is people knowing your shop exists. Engagement is people walking through the front door and having a look around. Conversion is someone taking a Whatchamacallit off the shelf and to the counter. If you wanted to sell as many Whatchamacallits as possible, there are three principles you would want to keep in mind, and they are all just as effective when designing effective calls to action.

Firstly, you’d make sure Whatchamacallits-R-Us is in an area sure to be visited by plenty of people in need of what you are selling. Similarly, effective calls-to-action should speak to the sort of person your marketing has caught the eye of. For instance, marketing automation company Hubspot is renowned for the effectiveness of its calls to action, and much of that comes down to how well each one is aligned with Hubspot’s content. A reader who stumbles across a blog piece discussing how email tracking can boost sales, for example, may find this call to action at the end:

Hubspot-CTA-1

On the other hand, a reader on that very same blog who instead reads a piece about social media tips from successful brands will find something like this instead:

Hubspot-CTA-2

Why you’ve got to be explicit

These calls to action are also good examples of the next essential principle – offering value. Nobody is going to buy your Whatchamacallits unless they have a reason to, so an effective call to action should explicitly tell the viewer what’s in it for them. LinkedIn, for example, wastes no time in telling a first-time visitor to their website what the social network can help them do:

LinkedIn-CTA

An effective call to action should explicitly tell the audience why taking the next step will benefit them personally. Don’t be shy – spell it out. The audience is already interested and this is your opportunity to turn that interest into a more long-lasting engagement.

Make it easy

In your Whatchamacallit shop, it’s no good having the sales counter hidden away from the customer behind a maze of hallways and doors. Making it as easy as possible to complete a transaction is the name of the game, which means reducing opportunities for the customer to abandon his or her purchase.

It’s the same concept with calls to action. In today’s age of sub-goldfish attention spans, forcing your audience to work for even a few extra seconds to take the next step is going to drastically increase the chances something else will float along to distract them. So show them the next step, loud and clear. Online, give them a button to click and make it obvious what hitting that button will do. Hop onto the petition website change.org, for instance, and it couldn’t be simpler to find out how to start your own.

Moving-past-awareness

Awareness is the opening siren, not the full-time bell. Investing in your calls to action will make sure your marketing efforts have the strength to play out the full game and get results on the scoreboard that matters.

Quick tips for moving beyond awareness

  • Recognise that awareness is the beginning of a process, not the end goal
  • Create calls to action that are closely aligned with what your audience wants
  • Explicitly tell your audience how they will benefit
  • Make it as easy as possible for them to take the next step
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