The 5 W’s for calls to action

June 27, 2014

Call to action

It is believed and proven through research that a call to action helps people in making the decision to do something. Howard Leventhal researched how people responded to being informed about tetanus. A pamphlet without instructions on how to get a vaccine received a far better response than the pamphlet without instructions.

A call to action is not only used to ask people to get vaccines and prevent illness, it is a highly effective marketing tool that persuades people to connect with small businesses.

The what, the why, the how, the when, the who and the where of calls to action are briefly explained in this post.

What is a call to action?

In essence, a call to action is to influence your readers/visitors/members/clients to take a certain step (action) that you know will make their life easier, better or happier. It’s that simple. This step is the glue to between people reading about your services and picking up the phone to call for a free consultation hour.

The why of using call to actions

People do not magically know what to do after visiting your website or picking up your awesome promotional flyers that explains what you do.

Who are you writing your call to action for?

Customers and potential customers. Please remember who your ideal customer is, at all times! Create a customer profile and keep this customer in mind when writing a call to action. If you have a wider audience, create two or more personas.

The how of writing dazzling calls to action

Crazyegg gives three basic rules: give instead of ask, tell people what to do and create a sense of urgency. That is a great start; I am adding these simple communication guidelines:

  • Use actionable verbs and phrases
  • Use repetition
  • Simplify everything to improve clarity

The when of creating a call to action

Good times to create a compelling and unique call to action are:

  • When you launch a new service
  • When you offer a time-limited promotion
  • When you want to create a dialogue
  • When you want to share learnings

Where do you place a call to action?

There are numerous places for you to share your amazing service, deal, promotion, or free gift in exchange for an email address. Start with your website and then refer to that webpage on social media. You can also guide people in your blog to the comment section at the bottom of each article by asking them a question (effectively, a call to action). When you have a promotion you can hand out flyers or other promotional materials (e.g. at a forum, conference or networking event) that have the call to action in a central spot.

As Leventhal put it “Clear instructions plus urgency equals action.”

My clear instruction for today goes like this: Do you attribute your success in signing new members up for newsletters and/or promotions to a remarkable call to action? Please share your success or challenge in the comment section below.

(No, I have no urgency – this blog post stays up for a long time!)

Image credit: By Adamantios (Own work), via Wikimedia Commons


Lisette Andreyko

Lisette is the founder of Kaleidoscope and is passionate about start-up leadership, personal growth and women in business (and psst.. about tea!). She enjoys connecting with small businesses through her network. You can find her on LinkedIn.