A Confusing Call-to-Action is No Call-to-Action

Why do most marketing materials fail to elicit the desired call-to-action?  They are too confusing.

According to Sheena Iyengar, author of the book The Art of Choosing, too much choice can actually cause customers not to act. In an experiment at a local grocery store in California, a team of Stanford University students offered jam to shoppers at different times during the day, either at a 6-jam tasting station or a 24-jam tasting station.  The 24-jam tasting station attracted 60% of the store’s shoppers, vs. 40% for the 6-jam station. But when faced with a purchasing decision — aided by a discount coupon —  30% who sampled the small assortment bought, vs. 3% who sampled the large assortment.  The decision making process was simply too complex.

The same thing can happen to call-to-actions on website landing pages, email blasts, flyers, etc.  Complexity hinders success.  For better results, we need the equivalent of the 6-jam tasting station.  We can accomplish this in four ways:

1) Make it simple for the eye to scan to the call-to-action

Think about how the consumer of your content will process the material from interest to action. If the eye has to wander around the page, then it is unlikely you’ll achieve a positive response.  Organize the offer to be as simple to follow as possible.

2) Make sure you have a simple goal to achieve

Too many goals for a single marketing piece often leads to no goals being accomplished.  “Well, I want them to sign up for the demo software, or call my toll-free number, or get educated on my latest feature release, or…” is a recipe for disaster.  Before you design the marketing piece, identify a simple goal and develop your content accordingly.

3) Have appropriate content that is well-organized

The more disorganized the content, the more confused the viewer. “Let’s include video…people engage with video.”  A nice thought, but if the video doesn’t lead to a call-to-action, it is simply distracting. Similarly, liberal use of competing colors and fonts also makes viewers likely to abandon the page.

4) Manage the tone

An inappropriate tone is off-putting and will cause a marketing piece to fail.  For example, being too familiar in an email marketing blast for an enterprise IT product often comes across as unprofessional. The same level of familiarity, however, can work for a consumer-oriented beer offer to a brand-loyal user.  Take care to select the tone that is most appropriate for your call-to-action.

In short, keeping your materials simple and the call-to-action easy to follow will definitely improve your odds for success.