5 Call to Action Mistakes

I’m tired of dating analogies in Internet marketing. But, when we’re talking about call to action mistakes (CTA mistakes) it is hard to find a better one, so let me get it out of the way. Outside of Vegas, meeting and getting married all at once is a pretty rare thing. Business relationships need to progress too.

With that in mind, I’ve put together a list of 5 call to action mistakes even professional Internet marketers make. In truth, marketers make a lot more than 5 CTA mistakes. The important thing is knowing how your customers progress through the buyer’s journey.

In general, expensive or complex purchases involve a lot of reinforcement. Impulse items, not so much. This list will help you create the perfect call to action.

The 5 Call to Action Mistakes

CTA Mistake Number 1: Too much too fast: Ditch the required fields.

I often tell clients, “nobody cares about you, or you company.” It’s a harsh statement, so I soften it a bit, but it’s true. Unless you’re Fabio, nobody is going to swoon over your “Click Here” button.

Imagine you’re a guy, and you’re in a bar with 250,000 other guys, and 3 girls, and your goal is to marry one of them. Get the picture? Those are tough odds even for Fabio. For you to reach your goal, the following has to happen.

  1. You have to get noticed over all the other guys
  2. If, by some miracle you do get noticed, the girl has to want to get married
  3. She has to choose you over all 250,000 other guys
  4. She has to be willing to risk a lot on a snap decision
  5. You’ve got to deliver the pick up line of a lifetime

The whole strategy is wrong. In reality, one of those 250,000 other dudes is probably going to kick your ass before you get anywhere near the girls. That’s the Internet.

Given the amount of work and planning it takes to get noticed online… Let me put it this way. Say you do get one of the girls to talk to you. It’s your big chance. All you need is a way to contact her later. So…

You hand her a page long form to fill out. It asks for her address, phone number, likes and dislikes, email address, where she works, and requires that she write in long form her favorite things about you.

When your position is weak, you can’t make demands. Keep your forms short and only require the information you absolutely need. Often, just an email address is enough to open the door to a second contact.

CTA Mistake Number 2: No conversion goal or plan for reaching it.

In business, we set goals all the time. Popular favorites include sales goals, revenue goals, cost reductions, walk-ins—it could be anything that’s important to a particular business. Most business owners are pretty good at keeping track of the big stuff, i.e. money in, money out.

Probably the most measurable part of any business is what happens online. Google Analytics, at the very least, will tell you all about where your visitors come from, what pages they visit, how much time they spend on them, what device they’re using to view your website and thousands of other details.

Virtually everything about your website is knowable, so it’s a pretty short leap to say, “Our conversion rate is 1%, so let’s get that up to 3%.” There are many ways to increase website conversions, but it starts with two things:

  1. Reach visitors that are interested in what you sell
  2. Convince them you are worth contacting

Yet, the vast majority of business owners pay almost no attention to what happens online. My next article is going to be about what online metrics are most important to business owners. Drop me an email (joe@ocgcreative.com) and I’ll send you a link when I publish it.

CTA Mistake Number 3: Wrong frequency and placement.

There’s a common misconception that you need to place calls to action all over your website. It isn’t true. While you absolutely should make it clear how to contact you from anywhere on the site, CTAs are intrusive and expect too much from the visitor.

Look, if the big red “click here” button didn’t work at the top of the page, it won’t work placed 30 more times down the page.

If your landing page strategy requires more than one CTA on a webpage, that’s fine as long as your page was well planned. In general, if your call to action is supported with factual, believable, relevant content that is bathed in sincerity, you’ll convert at least some visitors.

Ultimately, CTA placement should be tested. Until it is proven that one CTA location outperforms another, place a simple form near your most compelling content—usually near the top of the page. Leave it there and count conversions for the first thousand or so visits before testing another location.

It’s a very unscientific test, but it will help you get your brain into a testing and measuring mode. It also starts to lay a foundation for developing good habits as you begin to develop more reliable experiments.

CTA Mistake Number 4: No way to track conversions, and no long term follow through.

If you read #2, and thought to yourself, “how would I know?” there are two essential tracking tools; Google Analytics and your CRM. Let’s look at Google Analytics.

Google Analytics is by far the most popular web analytics tool available. It’s free for all but the largest (by that I mean HUGE) companies, and is simple to set up and use. Chances are you’re using Google Analytics already if you have a website.

You may not know there are conversion tracking tools built in. Essentially, these work by identifying a checkout page or “thank you” page as your “conversion goal.” Every time that page is served, it counts as a conversion. You can track many different conversion points in Google Analytics.

Most of the time, your should use a different page for each conversion path. That way, you’ll better distinguish which results in what. There are many, many sources on the web that provide step-by-step instructions on how to set up conversion tracking in Google Analytics. In the interest of brevity, I won’t go into it here.

The second essential conversion tracking tool is your CRM. What, you don’t have or use a CRM? Client relationship management (or is it customer retention management?) should be the center of your universe. By linking all of your online conversions to your CRM, you’ll be able to recall critical details through every stage in the buyer’s journey.

Your business depends on attracting and keeping business. Yet, business owners everywhere store critical client history in their email inboxes. Don’t be one of them!

CRM is so important that it is included in all of our Internet marketing plans. Unfortunately, very few companies use CRM as effectively as they could, but that’s a topic for another day.

CTA Mistake Number 5: All or nothing CTA. Build trust first.

Business owners are often mislead into thinking website visitors behave differently than people. As it turns out, most website visitors ARE people. People use the Internet for lots of reasons, but topping the list is to learn things and solve problems.

At the beginning of this article, I said coldly that nobody cares about you or your website. Actually, they don’t trust you either. It should be your burning imperative to build trust. You do that by providing information people believe and can use.

Too often, the call to action is the focal point. Marketing jackasses tell clients, “you need CTAs. It’s all CTAs these days.” WRONG! Your goal should be to make yourself essential by being the trusted source of information.

Prove what you know. Prove that you deliver. If it takes a thousand words, write them. If you suck at writing, have someone write for you.

The key point is if you want people to take an interest in your business, they have to take an interest in you. For that, you have to be interesting and make the extra effort your competitors won’t.

Final Thoughts on Call to Action Mistakes

This is hardly an exhaustive list. In truth, the most common CTA mistake is not taking a serious interest in your own conversions. Too often, web related duties are assigned to a nephew or the girl who answers the phone.

As a business owner, the opportunity cost of not having experts manage your online marketing is immense. It’s intangible, though, so you don’t feel it the same as if you are writing checks.

You wouldn’t dream of having a teenage daughter handle your accounting, yet it happens all the time in marketing. Just because Sally Sue likes Facebook doesn’t make her an Internet marketing expert.

Internet marketing (which includes calls to action) is a complex, statistical exercise. Most “marketing” agencies have no clue about how to run a statistically valid test on a CTA. Guessing doesn’t really cut it.

On the other hand, it can be fun, especially when you start getting results. The bottom line is you should embrace the call to action component of your website like you would any important business function. You’ll be surprised how much business your website can generate when you apply effort in the right areas.

CTAs are overall beneficial for a business and are typically associated with landing pages that are intended for your website visitors to perform a specific action. Learn more about the importance of landing pages here.