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Why CTAs are a Big Deal

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May 29th, 2024

Episode 3

Mariah and Stu discuss the call-to-action, which is the gold-standard element of successful digital marketing.

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So it’s like a spider webby pyramid, if you will, you have the initial touch at the beginning, which is that ad campaign and the landing page. And then you have to think about this web of conversation that happens after. 

Welcome to Did I Say That Out Loud?, a podcast where Stu Eddins and Mariah Tang reflect on agency life and answer questions from our higher ed and healthcare clients about the latest in digital marketing, content and SEO. 

Well, here we are. All right now we’re coming up. And we’re talking about calls to action. My favorite topic? Yeah. This may be this may be the first time we’ve encountered a topic where we have to limit our commentary. Yeah. 

It’s a huge topic, there’s so much going on with it. 

Quite frankly, we see a lot of opportunity for improvement in a lot of different places. 

The one thing about call to action that I guess we should get out in the open right now, a call to action is something that you want your visitor to do, you have to get in front of them. We can have calls to action that are a Learn More button, it’s a it’s a click here to apply. It can be anything out there, that is a direction to do the next step. 

It’s a primary objective it is it is. And by the way, a call to action may not be a final step to if you know that you’ve talked to somebody or you reach somebody at the top of the of their decision tree, the very beginning of their path. 

The next call to action is probably learn more or probably to talk to us or something like that. It’s not going to be okay. Hey, glad to meet you by stuff. Yeah, we always call it the next natural step. Yes, exactly. No progression. Exactly. But we do need to make sure for example, we’ll get into this later that you understand the times we may need to have two different calls to action. Because I think we may limit ourselves sometimes. 

But a call to action a CTA? Well, I can’t tell you how many dollars I felt people spending in campaigns that did not have a clear call to action no matter how much we pushed to get one. Yeah. 

The way I tend to summon up in my, in my brain and my mind. 

People feel like it’s rude to tell somebody what to do next. Well, yeah, I mean, here I go. Don’t let me get too crazy here. When you are writing your own content or creating your own page. However, whatever your role is designing your own page. There’s two objectives, there’s what you want someone to do. And there’s what they want to do. What you want them to do should match what they want to do. It’s not Yes, of course, you want them to enroll in your college or make an appointment or buy the thing they want to figure out is this the place that I should be doing that action, once they’ve established that, then they take the next step for them that may be I need to read another blog about this, I need to talk to somebody on the phone about this, I need to read a testimonial, I need to download this white paper, or it could very well be the final action, you have to think about all of those different ideas and paths that person is going through, select the one that you feel is the most important at that moment. And really drive them towards that. And the one thing is not always what you ultimately want. It’s what they need to be doing where they are in that moment. Yeah. And that really kind of kind of makes sense, particularly when we feel that move when we remember, people will have multiple touches with everything before they make a decision, multiple touches with your website with your competitors websites, a touch from the billboard on the highway on the way home from the airport, something they have multiple inputs along the same path to a completion.  

Understanding that also helps us understand that at some point there is going to be a last question asked in the last answer given. So yeah, we do need to meet them in the moment. That’s something that Google loves bringing up I feel like they believe they invented those words meet in the moment. But it is well phrased and very descriptive. 

If you if you create your content in such a way that it does meet somebody in the moment, you probably have a very good idea of what they need to do next. Now when it comes to call to action, that’s the reason they came to the page. I’m going to revert back to a marketing standpoint or a paid advertising standpoint. 

It’s great that you’re here from more the the purely content standpoint. But we may have two different ways of approaching it. I just paid for this person to show up to my website to my landing page. I paid on average, let’s say in higher education right now, which is what I’m focusing on today from from those clients. The average cost per click is is in 

A neighborhood of $4.50 to $6. In that range, I just paid to get you to come here. The other part of the bargain is, you know, you clicked an ad, you’re expecting me, you’re giving it back giving me 10 seconds to validate why I showed why you showed up on the page. You click my ad, you asked a question in search. My ad was served to that question in search. You clicked on it, because I promised to have your answer. That’s what’s at the top of the page, I should not land on a page that says, hey, 

let’s stick with higher education. Again, for a moment. I’m looking for an accounting degree. And beyond. I clicked on Maria’s ad that said, I offer accounting degrees, and I show up to the page. And the very first thing I see is sign up to get an accounting degree. 

To me, that’s always been something like and this is an appropriate comparison. It’s like showing up for the first moment of a blind date and going in for a kiss instead of a handshake. Yeah, absolutely. It’s something that that is, you got in front of yourself just a little bit there. Okay, you’re at least acknowledging you need to have that call to action on the page. The other side of this and more commonly, I see landing pages with with the call to action buried, difficult to find, maybe even just text hyperlink in the middle of the paragraph. You know, you don’t need to have a red flashing button that says do this next. But you got to make it easy. Yeah. Yeah. If you’re going to have a call to action, you also have to make it easy for me to answer that call. 

So don’t make me jump through too many hoops. Don’t make me scroll all the way down to the bottom of the page to find a 53 field form that I got to fill out. Yeah, do something that gets me to my to my objective soon. But do it after you’ve assured me I’m at the right competent page, I think we need to paint a visual picture here for the listener. So you have this very specific ad, speaking to a very specific moment in which you’re going to meet this person, that person puts in a question and Google essentially raised it or Bing or whatever, essentially raises their hand and says, I have this question. This looks like an answer for me. They land on your campaign landing page or your website page, whatever your goal is, their instant validation is what they need, exactly have landed in the right place. This feels like a good fit for me and the tone in the voice and the message, here is an action step towards the top, if I’m ready to do that. And that’s perfect. If I’m not quite there yet, or I’m not quite convinced, that’s when we start layering in the benefit statements, though, what’s in it for me that, here’s how this will help you, if you come here, here’s how we’ll support you.  

Putting that validation right up at the top is the most important thing, making it short and sweet, making it full of benefits and then giving a really easy step. Are we asking them to call a phone triage where they’re just gonna get lost, and then the operator doesn’t have any idea what we’re talking about, because marketing doesn’t communicate with others? Are we giving them a button to email directly to the person who can help them, we’re having them fill out a form, whatever it is, it’s got to be super simple on there. And don’t make them give you their social security number and blood type and mother’s maiden name and all that crap, just to get the simple thing that they want. I do think shoe size may be important substance would be okay. The other part about this that’s interesting is making the call to action appropriate for the level. Yeah. Oh, I do want to go backward here for just a second. You said something very, very interesting at the top, where you were talking about validating their rival. I had mentioned that that something similar just a few moments before that. Here are the metrics. Here’s the measurable thing that happens. I search for something your ad promised an answer, I land on your page, I’m going to give you 10 seconds or less. To assure me I’ve landed on the right page that isn’t talking about you up front that isn’t talking about what you need to do up front. It’s answering the question in the first part of the page, the headline, the imagery that supports that headline, and maybe the first short paragraph that’s less than 10 seconds of content. And it has to hold my attention relative to the question I asked him search. 

So if we have all those things aligned, we all know we’re here because in my case, I clicked an ad. Then tell me why your best next, why you solve my problems better, what benefit I get from you, and now asked me am I ready to commit? And what’s the level of commitment? Because a request for more information is a very good mid funnel type of a question. And a sign up for an application or register for an event or a class is a very bottom of the funnel commitment. 

Making sure that the question asked the answer given and the call to action. All follow a logical flow is very important now from your side of the world, which is more about the organic or the the link built traffic coming in? You probably run into some situations where we have to have institutional voice first, where you have to Yes. And air quotes Yeah. Where we have to talk about why we’re the best choice and why we’re the best provider of x in the region. 

And that doesn’t tend to answer the question I asked. How do you overcome that deep? Do you find that that’s a stumbling block to getting to that call to action? Or do you think you get better results up at the top? If you dive into the topic first, and then describe us toward the bottom? Did you see nobody in the audience can see that painful look that I just gave you. It’s, you know, it’s if you’re a good strategist, and you really have a good handle on what the objective is of the campaign, and you really understand your audience. Sometimes it’s really easy to turn those statements into a benefit statement for the audience. Like, just I’ll pull this out of the air, the best Lung Cancer Center in, you know, Michigan or whatever. If I am a person saying, Where should I take my dad to get lung cancer treatment? That answers my question, you’re the best, I’m going to read the rest of your page. If I am looking for, you know, something about what type of research does this hospital do? That’s not necessarily going to answer that question. But it does a statement like that, at the top of the page, if you really think about who you’re trying to reach, what their questions are, what their pain points are, you can phrase it in such a way that it’s mutually beneficial for both of you. And as you were talking earlier about the, you know, the mid funnel, the bottom of the funnel, the top of the funnel, I’m going to say something that will probably because a lot of people will laugh. But when you go in to starting a campaign, you say we need to get more students for this program. These are some questions they’re asking, let’s launch some ads. And all you’ve come up with is the landing page and the ad and the creative and the budget. 

That’s the tip of the iceberg friends, like you have to anticipate if you’re doing this strategically, if you really want this to be successful over time and not just for the course of your campaign, you have to anticipate what are the next set of questions for each level? What content can we give them for each level? 

Does that answer those questions, specifically? And what are the end points there? So it’s like a spiderweb, a pyramid? If you will, you had the initial touch at the beginning, which is that ad campaign and the landing page. And then you have to think about this web of conversation that happens after So in an ideal world, you have that whole web set up already. And you can tailor it using the data that you find through your ads. I’m gonna say right now, nobody does that. Most organizations freak out in the moment, we need to do the thing. And then you end up with that situation that you talked about before. Like, we’re spending your money on this thing. But it’s not set up, right, even though we told you to set it up, right? Yeah. 

The other thing I found is that a full funnel approach, either through content ads, or a blend of both generates a lot of pages, a lot of maintenance. And that’s kind of scary, too, because it has its own overhead of costs through effort. if not outright cost, if you’re paying somebody else to do it for you. 

That’s often why people who were doing the marketing side of the world will concentrate on the bottom part of the funnel, it’s cleaner, it’s more efficient, you’ve already made your decision that you are going to commit to an accounting class. Now we just got to convince you to do ours. 

But a full funnel approach is going to say, you know, Hey, are you interested in business? How about accounting? Accounting? Here’s some things about accounting that are good, that are going to answer questions you might have about it. And it all keeps raining down toward that pointy end of the funnel. 

I think that that takes a lot of development. And it takes a lot of anticipation. And quite frankly, probably more labor than most of the marketing web departments have. I think it depends, okay, if you have to go. If you have a smart strategy about it, you don’t have to create 20 pieces of content to answer 20 questions, you can create four or five. If you set them up appropriately, you can answer multiple questions in one piece. It doesn’t have to just be focused on that one thing. So you maybe have, let’s say, our end game is to get accounting students. Okay. They have maybe three top questions that we’ve identified. Right, one piece for each of those things. What are the next set of three questions? Right, one piece that answers those three questions. It doesn’t have to be like this magnitude overwhelming pile of content. And I see still giving me the goofy. What the heck are you talking about lady? Oh, yes. I mean, then, like you said it all goes down to the pointy end and you’re all linking back to one major CTA which is applied, but throughout your career. 

Writing different levels of answers different levels of questions. Oh, go look at this resource. Oh, hey, here’s some information about your potential job future here. This whole web, we call it career focused storytelling leads up to what you’re saying. answer those questions along the way. It doesn’t have to be 10, deep dive 3000 Word of content articles to get there, right. And the beauty of digital is you can update them frequently. So if those questions change, and you’re finding that one of them bombed, and it didn’t work out, like you got swapped the questions out, change the text, the strange look I was giving you was because I was very happy that you just backed in to the discussion of why you have to have an understanding and a good understanding of the personas you service and the journey they have to take. Yes, if you don’t know who you’re talking to, how are you supposed to phrase it? Right. Yeah. So yeah, it does go back to a more fundamental discussion of that. Who is our target audience? Let’s just talk about who they are. Let’s define them. What is their likely decision path? We may not address every step along it. 

But we must know what it is. Because folks in higher education, the very top of the funnel question is, Should I go to school? 

It’s not, the top of the funnel is not who’s whose accounting class should I take? If you really want to go to the top? So should I even go to school? And the after I answer that, it’s what’s the best type of school, he could construct this all the way down. And there’s content that can serve as every every step of the way? And only at some point does marketing step in? Excuse me, advertising, it’s all some sort of marketing should I shouldn’t be clear. 

But there comes a point where you can apply advertising to the process, okay, really goes back into calls to action. There’s many different call to action at every single level. If the question is, Should I even go to school, the call to action has to be something unique to that, and it’s not going to be the same as Should I take accounting from you? Right? Right. So get the call to action balanced and appropriate for the step you’re in. And if we follow what you just said Mariah and grouping similar questions together, they’re gonna have similar call to action. 

Absolutely. There’s, there’s was a fairly recent construct that Google put forward. In an article called the messy middle, you can look it up. I think we have a blog article out there, I will put it in the show notes. Yeah. And their concept gets rid of the the concept of a funnel with a broad top and a pointy bottom. Fact of the matter is, it’s not really a funnel. Anyway, it’s a sieve, people leak out left, right and sideways throughout the model. Yeah. But they’re not really leaking out. What’s happening is something triggers them to want something, an education, a doctor’s or put something. And then they go through, they drop into this, if you consider to be a infinity symbol, and eight on its side, this loop of exploration and evaluation, they keep going back and forth through this. An RFI form is part of that it is part of that exploration, I have a question, you’re gonna give me the answer, I’m going to evaluate it which feeds back into my exploration. That’s a that’s assigning a call to action to the appropriate level of what they’re doing. 

Now, the next step we want them to do is either sign up for an application or sign up for an appointment or something. That is because the last question they had was answered, and now they’re proceeding forward to commitment. 

And let’s all agree, if I apply to a college, or if I sign up for doctor visit, it doesn’t mean I’m actually going to show up. Right? Right. But that is the next thing on our list. It’s getting that indication of commitment. And you’re not going to do that with somebody who says, Hey, do I even need to go to school? Yes, come here, sign up now. Right? Love of God can your school? Yeah, it’s just not going to work. Right. So keeping that that that journey, whether you use a funnel, whether whether you use that messy middle configuration that Google proposes, and editorially, that’s the one I prefer. 

Whatever it is, make sure that your content, your call to action, everything else is based on that person’s assumed journey, you will learn how it shifts over time and learn to shift shift your expectations but on your construct of that journey with the construct of not one but several personas who are going to pursue this 

and realize that what you describe as a persona may not exactly match up with what something like analytics tells you or the actual people doing the the following the path with that messy middle. This brings up something that we were talking about our candidly yesterday’s interlinking This is a whole separate thing. So don’t let me go too far with this. But when you’re when you’re doing that, 

This infinity loop when you’re when you’re answering all these questions, and you have this categorized interlinking in each of those articles, even if they land on that base, should I go to college article? You should have some way for them to jump steps yes be able to get to the Okay, now I’m ready to apply because they might not my they’re gonna go back and forth between all of these levels so many times trying to validate their own experience their own questions like make Grandma happy, because she asked me about this one thing, and I remember it from way back here. Make sure that those bunny tracks are always there that you follow. Right in that brings up what I said at the top, sometimes you have to have two calls to action, you have to have the call to action for the next logical step in their journey. Or you have to have the call to action. That is the final moment because they asked their last question, and they’re now ready. Yeah. You present both. And they may not be the same action. Yeah. And we’ll put some links to some beautiful landing pages that we’ve come across out in the wild in the show notes. Yeah, that’s great. CTAs, we could probably go on about this for another, I don’t know, 3040 minutes, and still not completely cover the topic. But I think that kind of discusses how we’re looking at it. And and when we advise clients, the foundation that we’re operating from, we offer that that help. 

Yeah, when it comes to call to action, I guess the one thing to take away, don’t be shy. Everybody showed up to do something in a casual browser who just happened on your page, the odds of them that just deciding to do what you want them to do is slim. 

They came to you with some purpose in mind. And if your content has that purpose, whether that purpose came from an ad or or a embedded link on somebody else’s blog. When they came to your page, they had some intention, some purpose, help them and the call to action is the way you help them do that. It’s the next thing. Well said. 

Thanks for listening to Did I Say That Out Loud? with Stu Eddins and Mariah Tang. Check out the show notes for more information about today’s episode. And if you have any questions, concerns or comments, hit us up anytime at stamats.com

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