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Crafting a Persuasive "Call to Action" on Your Site By giving online customers the right prompts and information, you can boost sales by as much as 80 percent.

By Corey Rudl

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

One of the most important elements of your website is the "call to action." Your site may have a compelling headline that grabs your visitors' attention. It may have well-written sales copy, great graphics, awesome navigation, fantastic testimonials, and an unbelievable opt-in offer. But all these things aren't going to mean squat if you don't include a clear call to action!

Take a moment to consider the purpose of your website. What is it you want people to do when they visit your site? Find out about the benefits of your product? Sign up to receive your free newsletter? Make a purchase, perhaps? Now ask yourself: Does your site tell your visitors exactly how to do these things?

Your visitors need to know what you want them to do. If you don't tell them to purchase your product or subscribe to your free newsletter, how can you be sure they're going to take that action? Be explicit about the actions you want your visitors to take. Your straightforwardness will have a direct impact on your sales!

The Power of Suggestion

Just in case it's been a while since you brushed up on your marketing lingo, a call to action is a strongly worded suggestion that clearly states what action you want your visitors to take. It encourages people to take that action and tells them what will happen if they do. For example, the following phrases are all calls to action:

  • "Click here to subscribe!"
  • "Join our affiliate program."
  • "Add to your shopping cart."
  • "Order now to take advantage of this limited-time offer!"

It's a good idea to include an emotionally appealing benefit in your call to action. This convinces visitors of the value of your product and encourages them to take the action. For example: "Read on to learn how you could save tens of thousands of dollars on your next home purchase."

You want to pique people's interest and make them believe that taking the specified action will offer them a direct benefit. After all, who wouldn't want to save tens of thousands of dollars?

The most obvious and important call to action, of course, is the one that asks visitors to make a purchase. This is the crucial moment: asking for the order and closing the sale.

You know, it's amazing how many people simply neglect to ask for the order. This simple oversight can be deadly for your business; in fact, studies show that you can increase your sales by at least 80 percent by clearly instructing your visitors how to make a purchase!

The call to action that asks visitors to make a purchase is the make-it-or-break-it moment. However, closing a sale is like lining up a pool shot--you don't want to rush it!

It takes a lot of work to close the sale, which is why you can't just skip to this point right away. Before you get there, you have to:

  • Emphasize the benefits of your product or service by answering the all-important customer question "What's in it for me?"
  • Establish your credibility by citing credentials, including customer testimonials
  • Overcome objections to buy
  • Build value into your offer
  • Back up your offer with a strong guarantee
  • Offer valuable bonuses with the purchase

Once you've done all these things, then you can ask for the order. In fact, you must ask for the order at that point! Otherwise, all the great work you've done will be wasted.

Online entrepreneurs often make the mistake of "implying" what they want their visitors to do rather than explicitly stating it. Don't be coy! You may wish to avoid coming across like you're "ordering" your visitors to do something, but unless you blatantly explain what you want them to do, you're going to see mediocre sales.

So make sure you tell your visitors exactly what you want them to do! You have to spell it out as clearly as possible. Use direct, action-oriented words such as these:

  • Subscribe (to a newsletter)
  • Click (on a link)
  • Fill out (a survey)
  • Read (an article)
  • Enter (a contest)
  • Join (an affiliate program)
  • Buy (your product)

Don't leave it to your navigation to direct people to the things you want them to do. Most visitors will only click on a link if they know it will lead them to something they're looking for.

Make Them an Offer They Can't Refuse

In your call to action, draw your visitors' attention to the benefits of your product or service. Neglecting to emphasize the value of a product is the number one mistake copywriters make! Be sure to highlight benefits such as:

  • Saves money
  • Easy and convenient to use
  • Saves time
  • Good for the environment
  • Children can't get enough of it
  • Your dog will never have fleas again

Mention the problem your product addresses and present your product as the only real solution to that problem. For example, you can urge visitors to "Order now--don't delay!" or you can add a more persuasive argument by stating "Order now and boost your energy levels through the roof in less than a week!"

Promise specific results, and back them up with a guarantee. Instead of saying "By using this product, you'll increase your sales," say "Your sales will increase by up to 20% in 30 days or less--guaranteed!" This establishes a higher perceived value in your product.

Whenever you can, include a persuasive tidbit that piques your visitors' interest or adds to your credibility. For example:

  • A link that says "About Us" is informative, but it doesn't give the reader a good reason why they should care. A call to action like "Discover why more than 20,000 business owners trust us" is far more effective.
  • A link that says "Products" is far less compelling than a link like this: "Click here now to find the best tool for the job."

Encourage visitors to think of your product or service as something that already belongs to them. Transfer ownership by actually including them in your call to action: "Order now, and your mirror will be showing a new you with a full head of hair in less than 60 days--guaranteed!"

Try to instill a sense of urgency so your visitors feel compelled to make a purchase right away rather than leave and return to your website later. You can create urgency in several ways. For example, you can...

  • Limit the time for which your offer is available: "Available for the next 5 DAYS ONLY!"
  • Limit the quantity of products or services you offer: "Available only to the first 100 people who order!"
  • Include a discount for a limited time or on a limited quantity of products.
  • Include bonus items for a limited time or on a limited quantity of products.

However, you have to be sure to follow through on any such claims you make, or your credibility will be ruined.

Final Thoughts

After your headline, your call to action is the most important element on your website. It should stand out from the rest of your copy and be easy for visitors to find. To draw attention to it, use bolding, a larger font size, a different color--whatever best suits the style of your site.

To test the effectiveness of your call to action, ask some friends to look over your homepage. How long does it take them to find your call to action? As a general rule, it shouldn't take people more than three seconds.

Don't forget, your call to action is what reflects the true purpose of your site. It's the key that gets your visitors to do what you want them to do. So take the time to craft enticing copy that really encourages your visitors to take action. If you make people an offer they can't refuse, your sales will really soar.

Corey Rudl, president and founder of the Internet Marketing Center is the author of the best-selling course Insider Secrets to Marketing Your Business on the Internet. An internationally sought-after Internet business consultant and speaker, Corey focuses his energy on the research and development of practical, cost-effective Internet marketing strategies and software for the small and homebased business owner.

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