3 Keys to a Winning Call to Action for B2B Content

3 Keys to a Winning Call to Action for B2B Content
Michele Linn - Thu May 13, 2010 @ 12:19AM
Comments: 8

3 keys to a winning call to action for B2B contentLast week when Stephanie and I were presenting about content marketing at MarketingProfs B2B Forum, one of our co-presenters, Amy Black, asked the audience what they had learned thus far. One gentleman raised his hand and volunteered (and I'm paraphrasing), "I know this seems pretty obvious, but it was good to be reminded that all of our content needs a call to action."

During the presentation I shared the story about my very informal and unscientific look at 40 white papers last summer where only 12 of them had a call to action. Yes, having a call to action is Marketing 101, but hearing stories like that was a good reminder.

So, what makes a good call to action?

Specific:
One of the worst calls to action is the home page of your website. How in the world will a reader know where to go? Instead, have a very specific call to action, such as a white paper, eBook, a relevant blog post, etc.

Logical:
Ideally, you want your content to tell a story. As Stephanie so aptly laid out this week, you want to map your content to the buying cycle, and, as she concluded: your call to action should guide the prospect further along. In short, don't string random pieces of content together, but really think about what would be most useful for your prospects and point them there.

Easy:
Remember that you are asking this person to take the next step with you, so make it as easy as possible to access the content in your call to action. In other words, don't send them to a long registration form. If it's not possible to keep the content ungated, consider something like progressive profiling.

As Pam O'Neal, our other presenter from the MarketingProfs presentation, reminded the audience: you can easily go back and add a call to action to your existing content. In fact, it's something that she does for their evergreen blog posts at BreakingPoint. Simple and effective idea!

I leave you with an anecdote from Malcolm Gladwell from The Tipping Point that I think is a good illustration of the need for a specific call to action. In his characteristic fashion, he relays this story about how social psychologist Harold Leventhal conducted an experiment with a group of college seniors at Yale in the 1960s. He was trying to find out if participants would respond better to a low-fear or a high-fear message about the need to get a tetnus shot. Long story short, neither message significantly moved either group to action.

What did move them? The inclusion of a map of the campus with the university health building circled and a listing of times when shots were available. As Gladwell sums up:

"What the tetanus intervention needed in order to tip was not an avalanche of new information. What it needed was a subtle but significant change in presentation. The students needed to know how to fit the tetanus shot into their lives; the additional of the map the time times when they shots were available shifted the booklet from an abstract lesson in medical risk . . . to a practical and personal piece of medical advice. And once the advice became practical and personal, it became memorable."

I love this idea of making your call to action practical and personal. What other ideas do you have for a strong call to action? Do you have any anecdotes to share about how a call to action improved your response?

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About the author: Michele Linn is a B2B content consultant who helps companies create content and think through how their B2B prospects will consume it. You can follow her on Twitter or read more of her posts on Savvy B2B.

Comments: 8

Comments

1. Milap Shah  |  my website   |   Mon May 17, 2010 @ 04:03PM

A very insightful post, Michelle - human being need content to be framed by perspective, and your reference to Gladwell's book really drives home the point. A valuable and timely reminder for B2b content marketers!

2. Janice King  |  my website   |   Thu Jun 10, 2010 @ 05:28AM

One idea is to use a different graphical treatment (e.g., a shaded box) to make the call to action more visible. More discussion about the importance of the call to action is in my book Copywriting That Sells High-Tech.

3. SQM  |  my website   |   Wed Mar 16, 2011 @ 11:42AM

This is a great post Michele and I agree that many websites do not have a clear call to action. When I visit some websites during my research it takes me over a minute to even figure out what the company does. One thing that I think is missing form this article, although the article does hint at it, is split testing or multivariate testing of different calls to action. Without testing one call to action against another we cannot be sure any results we see are statistically significant.

4. Michele Linn   |   Thu Mar 17, 2011 @ 07:25AM

That's a great point about testing your call to action when it is on a website. You never know what will work until you try it!

You can even try different calls to action in static pieces of content as well. Vary the offer or the verbiage and see what works.

Thanks for adding to the conversation!
Michele

5. Georgia P  |  my website   |   Wed Sep 21, 2011 @ 10:45AM

Through my testing I have found that split testing calls to action is one of the best ways to increase profitability. I find it astonishing how many websites exist that don't even have a single call to action.

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