In today’s episode of The Startup Chat, Steli and Hiten talk about how to design and write effective Calls-To-Actions (CTA).

In the marketing world, a call to action is a prompt on a website, email or social media that tells the user to take some specified action. Call to actions generally takes the form of a button or hyperlink and are typically written as a command, such as “Book my call” or “Buy It Now” and so on.

In this week’s episode, Steli and Hiten dive into what  Call-To-Action are, why they are so important in business, common mistake people make when designing CTAs and they share some tips that can help you design more effective Calls-To-Action for your Startup.

Time Stamped Show Notes:

00:00 About today’s topic.

00:40 Why this topic was chosen.

01:02 One common mistake people make when they design CTAs.

02:16 Another common mistake people make when they design CTAs.

03:32 Why Hiten dislikes generic call to actions.

04:19 Why using disconnected CTAs is a bad idea.

05:49 How to determine what type of copy to use for your CTA.

06:25 The importance of telling the prospect what they are going to get with your CTA.

11:44 Why you should make your copy all about them.

09:17 The Startup Chat’s Call-to-action.

3 Key Points:

  • I see companies using way too many calls to action.
  • I don’t want to mind-read what you want me to do.
  • Don’t be overly generic with your CTAs.



Steli Efti: Hey everybody, this is Steli Efti.



Hiten Shah: And this is Hiten Shah.



Steli Efti: And in today’s episode of the Startup Chat we’re going to talk about CTAs, calls to action. How to design and write effective and killer CTAs. I can’t believe we’ve never had a dedicated episode to these, such an important topic, maybe it’s so all encompassing. We’ve touched on a lot of it, so we’re probably going to give today in many other ways, in many other episodes, but I thought it’d be fun to do a quick episode and bang it out on call to actions. So let’s go maybe through some of the mistakes people make, and then maybe we end the episode on some tips on how to do really killer call to actions. I’ll step in and give the first and biggest mistake on CTAs that drives me nuts. It’s actually two mistakes, and this is true both on websites, it’s true in emails, it’s true in many different form factors. It doesn’t really matter what the form factor is that you are communicating to a prospective customer to. It’s either, I see either companies have way too many call to actions, just like seven different things they want me to do, and I always go “Whoa, whoa. We don’t know each other that well and it’s not reasonable of you to ask me to do this much work.” Taking so much action means I can’t do anything else for the next two, three hours. I don’t have that kind of time and we don’t have that kind of relationship for you to ask me to watch this video, download this white paper, sign up for a newsletter, sign up for a free trial, and read these latest three blog post scripts. It’s just too much stuff you’re asking me to do, and they’re all not differentiated and not prioritized. And the exact opposite problem is when you have almost no call to action whatsoever. This is something I see more in emails than I see, in emails and in conversations in meetings I see this more often than I see this on websites, but it drives me crazy. It’s like somebody sends me an email, they write all this stuff about their company, the value they can create for me, all the things they could do, why this would be a great partnership, and then they just end this entire fucking email with “Thanks, Bob.” I read all this and I go, “What am I supposed to do now with all this information? What, specifically, do you want me to do?” Now, I can assume you want me to respond to you, but you could also just want me to go to your website. I don’t want to have to mind read what you want me to do here. What is the task? What’s the action I need to take? These are two mistakes that seem so obvious, but they’re still made. I see this every single day. Either you have too many calls to actions or none at all, and both of these are terrible ideas.



Hiten Shah: Terrible. Making me do too much. You know the one, my pet peeve on this, and I think the biggest mistake that I see is generic calls to action … and I’m talking about the buttons themselves. So the buttons say get started.



Steli Efti: With what?



Hiten Shah: Exactly. What am I getting started with? Why do I care? How does this button have anything to do with the copy you just wrote? To me, there’s such baseless, there’s no basis, there’s no reason for that button to exist there in the way it does with the words it says. I think that’s the biggest mistake I keep seeing over and over again. Even start free trial. I mean, that’s better. At least I’m starting free trial, but you know how many sites say start free trial? So get started and start free trial are my two kind of pet peeves that I see over and over and over again. Even sign up or sign up now. These are generic. We could do a lot better.



Steli Efti: I love that. Yeah, don’t be overly generic. And also, I think you touched on this, but I’m gonna say this again or highlight it a little bit, is using disconnected call to actions. So you’re entire copy was talking about free trial, but then the button says get started, or where the call to action that you might have had in your email communication, on the website, the designs that I see, everything is not related to what the button tells me or the call to action, what verbiage the call to action uses. So you might have something like, “We have a free account. You could start with free account.” Free account here, free account there, and then the button says free trial or start trial. It just is a mismatch between all the language and the words that you used everywhere else. And so matching and making it cohesive that your call to action actually matches everything you’ve said before, and matches, more importantly, what your prospective customer wants to do. What are the words that they have in their minds? “Where is the free trial? I need a free trial. Where can I get the free trial?” If that’s what everybody’s thinking that comes to your site, that should be probably the copy you use. But maybe they have something else on their mind, maybe they would verbalize differently what they wanted. You can learn a lot of that when you, obviously when you do cold prospecting, but also if you do inbound prospecting and you have, “Get in touch with our sales team,” or “Get in touch with our team,” or “Get a demo schedule,” and then somebody connects there. When you ask people “Hey, what made you come to our site and sign up? What did you do before? What is your number one goal today? What are you trying to accomplish?” Pay attention to the words that your prospects and customers are using, and if many of them use the same words maybe you want to use those same words in your call to actions. So don’t have too many call to actions, don’t make the mistake of having no call to action, use words in your call to actions, in your buttons and sentences that are focused and related to what your customer wants and not overly generic. Anything else? What else do we have on the topic of CTAs and call to actions in general?



Hiten Shah: Tell me what I’m going to get.



Steli Efti: Tell me more.



Hiten Shah: Tell me what I’m going to get. Like, tell me what I’m going to get. Focus on telling me what I’m going to get. What I want to get is related to what you’re telling me is … Literally what you’re telling me I’m going to get in the rest of the copy. So at Crazy Egg we for years had this CTA, show me my heat map. Well, click the button because you want to see a heat map, right? That’s it. And we like making the button speak to you like that. Show me my heat map, as if you’re speaking basically. Show my my heat map. That’s what you want, you click it, you’re going to get your heat map. And that’s the idea. So the idea for me is always about how you can make it direct. So at FYI, which is about documents, it says add my documents.



Steli Efti: Yeah. I was just, as we were talking I just was visiting Crazy Egg and I get FYI, and I was like, especially if I really like the … I like the whole thing to be honest.



Hiten Shah: We just updated the homepage a little bit-



Steli Efti: Yeah, I saw that. I love it.



Hiten Shah: Yeah, so I think the CTA, when it does that it’s like … I said tell me what I’m going to get, so that’s interesting. So if you tell me what I’m going to get that’s pretty good. So if you tell me I’m going to find out about my website, or find out about whatever, for me I think it’s almost natural to always include a my in there or a me. Tell me more is pretty powerful too, believe it or not.



Steli Efti: Interesting.



Hiten Shah: And so one aspect is the button should describe what you’re going to get. Start free trial, start my free trial. Even though I don’t like the generic one, it’s like this is yours and you get this. So that’s what I mean by tell them what they’re gong to get, but in their words … Like a command. Like add my documents, show me my heat map, tell me more, start my free trial. These kind of things help a lot and if enough people listen to this I know I’m going to be tired of seeing that crap on peoples websites, but it’s not even my secret, it’s how I think about CTAs. They need to be really pulling people in and strong. And really it’s about “Hey, do you want this? This is it. You want it.” It’s not even want it, it’s like “Give it to me.” It’s almost as if you’re speaking to yourself saying give this to me. I think that there’s a concept there that I would probably suggest as my tip, which is can you make it a my or me thing, and can you use that language in whatever ways make sense on your CTA?



Steli Efti: I love it. That’s such a powerful tip. I’ve never thought about this before, but now I’m going to be shamelessly using it myself.



Hiten Shah: Go for it.



Steli Efti: And I advise everybody who’s listening to us to do the same. Alright, that’s it from us for this episode. Here’s our call to action. If you like this episode and if you got value from it, go to iTunes, give us a five star review. Wherever you’re listening to our podcast, give us a review, write us something … a review, five stars, obviously. We highly appreciate it.



Hiten Shah: Take care.