When I started researching how to write compelling CTAs for my upcoming free workshop (see final section below for more on that), I quickly realised something. Different experts have very different opinions on pretty much every aspect of the call to action issue.
Given that people have different opinions on almost everything full-stop, this shouldn’t come as a shock to me. But it really made me look at various “basic truths” I’d been taught about writing effective CTAs in a different light.
And the more I investigated, the more I realised that blindly following those “truths” could actually STOP people signing up for or buying my clients’ offerings.
Here are three of the biggest “truths” I was taught… and why they could cause problems.
“Research”: now there’s a loaded term.
Some people see research as the holy grail of making sense of the world. For others, it’s a term that creates deep suspicion. Me? I fall midway between the camps: I think it’s trustworthy when it’s done right, but way too easy to misinterpret.
Here’s why – and what you need to know about the research that creates the stats you so often hear.
On top of that, when it comes to marketing research, different audiences can – and do – react differently. If someone says they got a 21% increase in conversions from using a red button instead of a green one, that doesn’t mean red buttons will automatically get the same result for you. (I’ll go into why in Myth 3).
Rather than assuming “there’s no arguing with stats”, check out the study behind any numbers. If it looks valid, think of its results as something to possibly test with your audience, rather than something that’s automatically – and universally – true.
True confession time: NOTHING makes me twitchier than people insisting that certain power words will automatically make your CTAs (or your copy generally) more effective.
A viral post from Copyblogger – usually a pretty damn trustworthy source of marketing info – states that “free” is one of the “five most persuasive words in the English language”.
But… remember what I said about different audiences reacting differently?
Well, one study found that removing the word “free” increased clicks by 171%. (Note: they actually also changed the wording slightly beyond simply removing the “free”. This is where checking out the study design before interpreting the results is important!)
Similarly, you might have been taught to always include a privacy statement (e.g. “We won’t spam you”) on your opt-in forms. But that isn’t always as helpful as you’d think. Another study found that adding that statement actively reduced signups by 18.7%.
The thing is that good CTAs just don’t happen in isolation. They flow naturally and smoothly on from everything else on the page or email. They’re easily visible. They feel like a no-brainer to follow.
And if your CTA isn’t ALL of those things? All the power words in the world won’t save it!
Remember that study I mentioned above that got a 21% increase in clicks from changing their green buttons to red? I can remember a few years back, it was being shared far and wide throughout the interwebs as proof positive that “RED IS THE ONLY RIGHT COLOUR FOR BUTTONS!!!”
Here’s the thing though: even the people who ran the study said that the only conclusion they could draw was that “colour can make a real difference to conversion”.
At the bottom of the article, the author speculates that maybe they got this result because the test audience happened to like red. (Or maybe they disliked green!)
Or, as this marketing expert comments, maybe it’s because green was the dominant colour on the page… so red simply stood out better.
There could be all kinds of reasons that this result happened with this particular audience and this particular page. Another audience – or another page – could get the exact opposite results.
So sure, try playing with colour for your buttons and text links. See what works best for YOUR audience and YOUR page.
But don’t get sucked into believing that there’s only ever one right colour for buttons (or anything else!)
On November 17th, I’ll be running a free workshop on How to Write Beautifully Compelling CTAs.
In the class, I’ll be going into more depth on the three myths we’ve covered in this blog series (and two others), plus:
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