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How to Create Calls-to-Action (CTAs) That Convert

The bread and butter of a great lead generation website are your calls-to-action (CTAs). What is a CTA? It's something that prompts your visitors, leads, or customers to do something.

But what is that action? It could be anything from contacting your sales team directly, to downloading an ebook, signing up for an event, and so on. A CTA can live anywhere on your website and is typically asking the visitor for his information — resulting in a fresh new lead entering your database.

The trick is making sure that your CTAs are well placed, stand out, provide very clear instructions, and align to a specific lead generation initiative. The following figure shows an example of a CTA asking the visitor to download an ebook. Notice that there is no question what the website is asking the visitor to do.

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Consider CTA best practices

Although they seem very easy, CTAs can get tricky if you overthink, overcomplicate, and overdesign them. When developing your optimal website CTAs, here are some best practices to keep in mind:

  • Your CTA must stand out: The number one thing to consider when developing the look of your CTA is that it must stand out. This can be done by using a bold color, clever website placement, or by making your CTA appear large on the page. Just be sure that you aren't cluttering your page or taking away from your overall website design.

  • Clearly define what you want the lead to do: You need to be very clear and concise when it comes to CTA copy. A lead won't click on a button if she isn't exactly sure what action she will be taking. Start your CTA with a word that's a verb so that it already assumes action will happen. Instead of having a vague button that says Download, you can be more exact by having the button text read, Download ebook. You want to make sure your lead knows what he is getting and how he is getting it.

  • Create urgency: A good best practice is to create urgency with your CTA by offering a time-sensitive special or deal. Let your lead know that by acting now, she can receive an extra discount or a limited offer. For instance, maybe it is the end of the month and you need additional leads, so you are offering a $50 Amazon gift card with a product demo. Make sure that this information is on your CTA to encourage visitors to act immediately.

  • Position prominently: Whether it is a CTA on your home page or another page on your site, make sure your chief CTA is positioned in a prominent location. Place your top CTA above the fold (the portion of your website visible without scrolling), have a sidebar that moves as a visitor scrolls, or place it in an obvious spot at the top or side of the page.

Leverage the home page CTA

The most important lead-generating CTAs are going to live on your home page. Don't think you have to limit your home page CTA to one. You can have a few: Just make sure you prioritize them through intelligent placement.

As the following figure indicates, this home page has four CTAs above the fold. The most important ones are showcased as orange buttons — 4 Min Demo, Contact Us, and Free Trial. Additional copy reads Want to learn more? Get started now, with an arrow pointing to the CTAs. This draws the eye and entices people to click. Each of these CTAs goes to a form that captures lead information.

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Also note that the home page has another CTA above the fold: See What We Do. If a person is curious as to what Marketo does, they can click on that CTA and watch an overview video.

Marketo's site also uses secondary CTAs, as illustrated in the next figure, which are slightly below the fold and showcase key content assets. However, the home page CTAs are reserved for pure lead-generation content pieces, so all content that is advertised on the home page links to a form to capture lead information.

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The website has more CTAs as you scroll down, but as you get further below the fold, each CTA is a lower priority.

Include an obvious contact link

For many companies, a website visitor responding to a Contact Us CTA is lead-generation gold. This means that a visitor is a hand-raiser. You often don't need to nurture her. You don't need sales banging down her door. She is ready to talk to you. It's critical to have an obvious Contact Us button or link.

If a person wants to contact your company and he has to jump through hoops to find your contact information, this is a major lead-generation fail.

If you have a marketing automation tool, you can often implement progressive profiling. Progressive profiling allows you to collect information and build qualification over time. Each time a person fills out a form on your site, the progressive form asks for new and different information.

Offer a chat option

A chat option is another touch point that can be a successful lead generation tool on your website. It is no longer used just by the customer support side of the business. Through chat, you can often engage leads who might not be ready to speak to you on the phone — which can be a substantial number of people in today's digital world.

Chat options are common on retail websites, but are also becoming more common for other services. Depending on where the visitor is on a website, the conversations can be handled either by sales development reps or by customer support agents.

This last figure demonstrates an example of a chat option. After a person clicks to chat, they have to enter their first name, last name, and email address. After the lead enters the chat, the representative is armed to answer a multitude of questions.

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