I read an interesting post over at the Marketing Sherpa blog which I wanted to expand upon. The article, B2B Marketing: Calls-to-action and the business buying cycle, discusses four stages of the buying cycle and how to customize a call to action around each.
I wanted to give some practical and specific examples of how a small business owner can improve their calls to action on their web site, and how to integrate these calls into your web site design.
Why do I need a call to action?
First of all, in case you don’t know, a call to action is a place on the web site that is asking for the viewer to do something that shows their interest in your product or service. For example, you might have blog readers subscribe to an RSS feed, or join an email list. You may have viewers download a whitepaper or set-up a free trial of your product. It may be actually purchasing a product. Any of these are opportunities to convert web site viewers to real customers, or engaged prospects.
You probably have plenty of content on your web site that just requires passive interaction—your company history page or listing of calendar events. A call-to-action (CTA) requires the web visitor to do more than just read. The reason you want to have a call to action on your web pages is that it gives a chance for interested prospects to expand their connection with your organization. Without any formal CTAs in your web site design, you may still have people contacting you, but you increase the likelihood if you make it easy for them, and worthwhile to connect with you.
You need different types of calls-to-action depending on your business’ sales cycle
While a professionally designed web site will help any kind of business, having the right call to action helps you connect meaningfully with your prospective clients and customers.
- Short Sales Cycle. An example of a business with a short sales cycle is office supplies. While you may do some price comparison shopping, it’s unlikely you’re going to do a ton of research before restocking your pens and notepads. Calls to action in this case need to be direct such as a discount coupon or featured product.
- Medium Sales Cycle. Many professional services companies would be considered to have medium sales cycles. This might be anywhere from 30 days to three years. They need to stay in touch with prospects and prove themselves as respected experts when their prospect is ready to buy.
- Long (and Offline) Sales Cycle. A highly technical medical device or the architectural services necessary to design a large office building is never going to be purchased based on the whim of a discount code. Sales cycles in these businesses are long and more importantly,the final sales process takes place offline. However, these businesses would still benefit from a call to “stay in touch”.
Integrating your call-to-action into your web design
The urgency of your call-to-action (based on the shortness of your sales cycle) affects how you prompt people to act. If you look at the home page of any office supply web site, you’ll be bombarded with offers that have a limited time availability. However, having that same look on a professional services company’s web site can portray a very inappropriate feel. This is why some web sites feel scammy and untrustworthy—both of which can be detrimental to your organization’s reputation and brand.
The reason call-to-actions work is that people want to be directed to do something. Especially if they like what they see. If you are too reserved in your request for your web viewer’s contact information there’s no reason for them to share. However, if you give them a great reason to act (a pricing offer, a research paper, etc.) prospects will be eager to exchange their contact information for your offer.