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It may seem obvious, but it bears repeating: every piece of content a company produces should serve a purpose. Actually, it should serve two: the first, to entertain and inform the audience, and the second, to engage the audience such that they want to take action. It’s all about moving the readers through the buy cycle and towards making a purchase. The buy cycle refers to the five stages of a potential reader’s interaction with a company: Awareness, Consideration, Preference or Intent, Purchase, and Repurchase. (You can check out a great blog post on the subject here.) Not every post will be (or should be) aimed at the Purchase stage, but every post should work to move the reader from one stage to the next. Engaging the audience is the top priority for every piece of content, but at the end of the day the audience should be moved to take action based on what they’ve read. So how can you make sure that all your content is a lead-up to taking action? As my folksy family would say, “It’s so obvious if it were a snake it woulda bit ya by now”: calls to action.

A call to action is a clear statement, which usually appears at the end of a piece of content, that invites the reader to take another step. Calls to action can urge readers to make a purchase, sign up for a newsletter, look for additional content or share a video or blog post on social media. A call to action is often treated as a footnote or an afterthought that is used to wrap up a blog post or an article, but it can (and should!) be much more. A strong call to action can make content much more effective and significantly increase your ROI.

Keep the Buy Cycle in Mind

Your piece of content should coincide with one of the stages in the buy cycle. At the Awareness stage, for example, customers are aware of their need for a product or service and the content’s job is to inform them that your business could fulfill that need.

(PUNS 4 LIFE)

Not this kind of buy-cycle.

But that on its own isn’t enough: the call to action that comes with this piece of content will be the extra little nudge it takes to move the audience on to the next stage in the buy cycle and closer to the purchase. Taking the same example from the Awareness stage, the call to action should urge the audience to consider how your business’s offerings could meet their need. It could be as simple as “See how we stack up against the other guys” or even “See how our [product or service] could benefit you”, anything that invites the user to learn more or come back later.

Don’t Wait!

There’s no reason to wait until the end of your post to use a call to action. Some of your audience might be ready to purchase, even if the post is targeted toward an earlier step in the buy cycle. If you wait to give your users the option to find what they’re looking for, it’s possible they’ll lose interest and move on before they get to your call to action. A great way to avoid this is by having a prominently placed button or banner that will allow your readers to skip ahead in the buy cycle and get straight to Purchase. You’ve probably seen these before: “Buy Now!” or “Order While Supplies Last” are just two common examples. Keeping one of these calls to action above the fold will help make sure your users always know how to make a purchase.

It’s worth noting that this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t also have a call to action at the end of your content. Go ahead and invite your readers to sign up for a newsletter or browse through an image gallery—just make sure they know how to buy if they’re inclined to.

Location, Location, Location

The design and layout of your site can help direct your users toward your calls to action, too—but content will always be king.

Above the fold? Check. Contrasting colors? Check. Call to Action? Check.

Above the fold? Check. Contrasting colors? Check. Call to Action? Check.

Use contrasting colors to set your banners and buttons apart from the rest of your text, both above and below the fold. This will help draw the eye of the visitor toward the messages you’d most like them to receive: “learn more”, “find out how”, “buy now”, etc. But make sure that neither your calls to action nor the graphic design on the page distracts from the content itself—after all, this is the reason your users keep coming back for more.

The Bottom Line

When it comes right down to it, the biggest call-to-action sin you can commit is not to include one. Your content should benefit both your readers and your business—interesting and engaging content makes the users happy, and calls to action will keep your business happy and healthy. So when you’re reading over your next post to make sure you crossed all the “t”s and dotted all the “i”s, make sure you included a call to action. Not sure how to include calls to action with your content? Drop us a line—we can help.

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