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For many small business owners, email is an important marketing tool. Email helps you keep in touch with customers and prospects, it allows you to demonstrate how you help customers thereby building credibility, and email leads to more sales.

When done well, email is an awesome guerrilla marketing tool.

"Done Well" doesn't mean you have absolute killer copy. In my experience you can have a well-written, relevant marketing message and still blow it when it comes to getting readers to take action. If no one in your audience takes action, what's the point?

The Marketing Message and the Call to Action

A well-crafted marketing message addresses the following:

1. Who the message is meant for (example: real estate brokers) and the problem (hard to sell homes in bad economy)

2. What they've tried to solve the problem (example: more advertising, open houses, etc)

3. Why what they tried doesn't work (example: open houses attract people who aren't really serious about buying)

4. What they need to do (strategies to better screen for serious buyers)

5. Why you are well qualified to solve their problems (experience, track record, education, etc.)

6. Call to action (specific steps folks reading your message should take to work with you)

This article focuses on #6. Reason being I see so many mistakes made with the Call to Action and unfortunately, if you don't have a strong call to action, you'll lose a lot of genuinely interested prospects.

Example: Call to Action -- Done Badly

Let's say you're the real estate broker reading through the message I outlined. You've been struggling because it's taking so long to sell the homes you have listed. Now you're hopeful. This company seems to have a solution for your problem. Great! You want to know more. The call to action is: "Contact Dave [email protected].

I see this type of Call to Action all the time. Seems nice and straightforward.

Yet, statistics show most people don't follow through on these requests. Why? Put yourself in the shoes of your prospects. Are you stressed? Yes, probably. Now I know when I get stressed out the simplest decision can feel overwhelming. That "simple" call to action, "contact Dave" is actually requiring me to do something out of my daily routine: to contact Dave. In addition, I have to make a bunch of decisions including:

1. When should I contact Dave? Now? No, what if he calls me and makes a sales pitch. I don't want to deal with that.

2. What should I say in my email? Should I introduce myself? Talk about the problem. How much information do I need to provide?

3. Do I even want to contact this Dave guy? What if this is a scam. Maybe Dave is really a nefarious hacker collecting emails so he can steal my identity!

4. and so on.

Your simple call to action is not so simple.

Requirements for an Effective Call to Action

So if a simple "call Dave" isn't enough information, what does it take?

To get someone reading your message to take the next step, you need to provide enough information for your reader to see how the action fits within their current situation. Ways to help your readers fit your request in include:

When to contact
How to contact
What to ask for
What to expect when they contact you

Example: Call to Action -- Makeover

Let's go back to the message written to realtors looking for sales help. Our realtor is feeling stressed and discouraged because the slow economy means it takes her twice as long to sell homes. She reads the marketing message from Dave and Co, and it looks like Dave can help. She wants to know more and reads this call to action.

"Get our free 10-page report, 'Secrets to Sales Success in Tough Markets.' Call toll-free 1-800-555-1234 and leave your name and mailing address. You'll receive your report within 7 business days. If you call before January 15, we'll include our special guide, '50 Tips for Presenting a House to Sell.'" Like the earlier version, this message is short and to the point. But it also provides important details that give the reader the structure need to take action:

* Exactly what to do (call a 1-800 number and leave mailing information)
* What they'll get (a free 10-page report)
* When to do it (by January 15 to get the report and bonus guide)
* What to expect (they'll get the report within 7 business days)

Other simple details that make call to actions more effective include maps, driving directions, hours of operation, special discount codes, and coupons.

Bottom Line

If the marketing message on your website, brochure, postcard, or ad is well-done but the number of people responding to your offer is dismal, take a look at your call to action. Adding a few simple details that help your prospects understand how taking action fits into their life may be all it takes to turn your offer from "OW" to "WOW."

Judy Murdoch helps small business owners create low-cost, effective marketing campaigns using word-of-mouth referrals, guerrilla marketing activities, and five-star strategic alliances. To download a free copy of the workbook, "Where Does it Hurt? Marketing Solutions to the problems that Drive Your Customers Crazy!" go to www.judymurdoch.com/workbook.htm You can contact Judy at 303-475-2015 or [email protected]

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