From that irresistible urge to click a flashing ‘buy now’ button to the bright red ‘SALE’ sign compelling you in store, the decisions we make are formed in just milliseconds. In fact, perceptual decision making, something we humans do every single day, happens in less than 30 milliseconds. That’s three hundredths of a second that it would take for us to decide to swerve our car out of danger’s way, jump off the grass at the sight of dog muck, or start running towards the train as we hear the beeping sound of closing doors. But the process of decision making goes far beyond just basic motor responses. It includes voluntary actions, such as deciding to walk into a new shop that we’ve never heard of, calling the number on the sign that we’ve just driven past, downloading the app we’ve just seen advertised on TV, or bookmarking a website on our phone after being handed a flyer. In marketing and design, these conscious choices can be controlled by something called a ‘call to action’ (or CTA). 

Whether you’re designing for print or online, it’s important to include CTAs in the right places to achieve your lead generation objectives or to engage your customers. Because the smallest hints or commands, or even the subtlest suggestions, can have a huge impact on what your customer does next. Which brings us to the fifth piece in our  Let’s Talk Marketing Design series. This time, we’re looking at that all-important call to action and why it’s such a crucial element in both digital and print.

Why Are Call to Actions So Important?

In marketing and design, you’re simply not doing your campaign any justice if you forget the call to actions. Imagine telling the world how great your product/service is but not telling anyone where or how to buy it. It would be like delivering a winning pitch…..without ever closing. That’s what call to actions are, essentially. They are there to help you close. Whether it’s a sale, data capture or an action, cleverly positioned CTAs help to manipulate decision making and influence your customers into doing what you want them to do. And depending on the urgency of your campaign or your desired level of brand sophistication, call to actions can be used once or multiple times throughout your design.

Common call to actions in print advertising:

  • Website URL
  • ‘Call now’ and telephone number
  • ‘Visit us’ and address/location
  • ‘Enquire now’
  • Discount codes
  • Forms with prepaid return envelope
  • Social media handles

Common call to actions in website design:

  • Buy buttons
  • Sign up forms
  • ‘Read more’ buttons
  • ‘Try it now’ buttons
  • Social media share buttons
  • Data capture forms
  • Pop ups/slide ins

How to Use Call to Actions in Design  

When it comes to applying call to actions in the most effective way, there are two key areas that you need to look at. The wording (copy) and the artwork (design).

With wording, tone is everything. It’s crucial to find the right tone of voice, style and language that will help you connect with your customers. And this should set the scene on how to compose the perfect closing sentence or call to action. Other key things to note when penning your call to action include writing with urgency, using short/snappy sentences, using verbs or action words, and reiterating key benefits WIIFM (ie "What's In It For Me" - see our first article in the series covering this subject).

Then there’s the design, where things such as colour psychology and typeface psychology come into play. We’ve already discussed the power of suggestive colour and fonts/formatting in previous articles, and for call to actions, these techniques have more meaning than ever. Using colours and graphics can make the call to action pop, whilst size and shape matter just as much if you want your CTA to stand out. For instance, it is believed that rectangular buttons with rounded corners work best on websites. This is because rounded corners draw the eye’s attention inwards (to the inside of the button and to the content) and studies on human primordial reaction have also shown that rounded edges can settle the subconscious, creating a sense of trust between your brand and the customer.  

Additionally, there’s placement to think about. Where should your call to actions go on a poster, banner or webpage? Traditionally, the ‘Lazy Z’ and ‘Lazy F’ have guided graphic designers, particularly in the print world. These patterns reveal how the human eye tends to scan a magazine, book or advert with block text (in a Z pattern or F pattern across the page). For digital advertising, heat map technology can now show us in much more detail how a website user will view a page. Through heat maps, businesses can gain greater insights into how the low-patience Millennial generation interact online. And it’s now possible to explore how subtle changes can result in significant conversion uplift.

So the fundamental takeaways here are writing effectively and with purpose – and taking into account colours and fonts, size and shape, and page placement when creating your design. And of course, tailoring your graphics for online and offline, whilst always staying on brand. Follow these rules for your next design project, never forget to include a good call to action, and you can expect a much better conversion rate!  

Look out for our next post in the Let's Talk Marketing Design Series, where we will discuss the differences between indoor and outdoor design.

To find out how we can help you with design, please get in touch.

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