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Chapter 13: Offers and Calls to Action
“Now let me tell you about generating leads.”
“Come on,” Chuck said. “I’ve been in business for two decades. I know about generating leads.”
“You also know about marketing, advertising and social media — but we’ve already established how what you knew has changed faster than a teenager’s favorite band.”
“Uh, okay. Fair enough.”
“This is one place where digital marketing truly shines. If you do it right, you’ll reach more leads for less money than you ever did using traditional marketing methods. The internet automates the first steps while also allowing a degree of tight targeting never before possible.”
“If I do it right?”
“Yep. If you do it right.”
“How do I do it right?”
The goal and general process of lead generation haven’t changed since leads for businesses became a thing. Since the internet Changed Everything, though, many of the key components of lead generation hardly resemble the tools used during the 20th century.
This is true of offers and calls to action (CTAs), the two most important aspects of your website lead generation engine. Both have existed since the earliest days of marketing, often surrounded by words like “Act Now!” and “Call Today” and “Free Gift!”
Modern consumers are wary of such sales-speak, but still want the free gift and are willing to act now if the gift gives sufficient value…and if you make acting simple enough.
Your website conversion system will include three key elements:
- Lead generation page The web page where visitors land when they follow a link or enter a URL you advertise. This is different from your home page. As we’ll see, the most effective websites have multiple lead generation pages, each with a different purpose.
- Offer Content or something else of value, offered in the copy on a lead generation page. The offer both demonstrates your expertise and elicits by-informing the reader in the form of clicking through.
- Call to action (CTA). A clearly labeled instruction that tells casual readers what to do if they want to get more deeply involved with your content, website, or company. This element is the heart of automated lead generation, and done right, will be the most effective salesperson on your team.
These features of digital lead generation form the core of every aspect of your website and other online content. Memorize them. Love them. Live them. Sleep with them. Here’s how to make each as effective as possible.
Lead Generation Page
This item wasn’t listed in the chapter title because it’s more of a home to the important elements than an element unto itself. But it’s as vital to this process as a plate is to a gourmet meal.
A lead generation page is where visitors first arrive after clicking a link from search, advertising, or other awareness-stage efforts. It’s the first significant contact you have with casually interested readers, and its job is to move those readers from casual interest to legitimate leads.
Do not confuse your lead generation page with your home page. Some websites have a homepage that is also a lead generation page, but most companies will have several lead generation pages, each tuned to a different product or client profile. One of these may or may not also be the site’s home page.
When setting up a lead generation page, consider these best practices:
- More is better Multiple pages tied to different questions, buyer types, and products are more likely to “hook” casual readers than a single, one-size-fits-all page.
- Communicate clearly Express what readers can get from that page, and how they can get further information. This is not the place for jargon or your best grammar school essay skills. Stay simple, to the point, and easy to want to read.
- Grab attention Do things that demand notice early and often. Consumers land on your lead generation page looking for a reason to navigate awayYou have less than five seconds to give them a reason to stay, and only 100 to 200 words to convince them to keep staying.
- Reduce anxiety. This is how you begin to establish your role as an advisor. Readers don’t come to you without a problem they hope you will solve. They’re anxious about both the problem itself and the experience they will have with the company they hire to solve it. Use offers, phrasing, and the beginnings of your mentor-student relationship to put both of those anxieties at ease.
- Create urgency. Use psychological cues like the bandwagon effect, limited quantities, hyperbolic discounting, and loss aversion bias to get readers to click your CTA now.
While you’re at it, avoid several of the most common rookie mistakes I’ve encountered on otherwise well-built web pages.
Resist the temptation to “build up” to a call to action. The top of your lead generation page must grab attention and create an emotional attachment to you and your online content in readers.
Never skimp on design. Just as you keep your lobby clean and your staff looking professional, your lead generation pages must be sharp and easy to navigate. A study from Stanford University found that unprofessional lead generation pages resulted almost universally in high bounce rates, and left readers with a bad impression of the business overall.
Don’t ask for too much information. The more fields you ask readers to fill out, the less likely people are to fill out the form and complete the signup. You can always gather additional information later in the journey, after you’ve developed a relationship you can leverage.
Your offer is the bait on your lead generation hook: content or another item of value a visitor will give you their contact information in exchange for.
Do not confuse an offer with a link to further marketing collateral, or one of those little panes encouraging readers to sign up for your newsletter. Neither of those provide sufficient value to turn viewers into subscribers. An offer must be worth more than that, presenting the casual viewer with “an offer she can’t refuse.”
Consider these pro tips for offer design:
- Begin with the customer in mind Craft your specific offers to specific buyer profiles. This includes demographics, positions within your typical business client, specific points in the buyer’s journey, regional location, and any other detail of your ideal client that might impact what offers value and what does not.
- Offer a wide selection. What’s absolutely compelling to one high-value lead might be of no use to another. Multiple offers targeted to different types of buyer far outperform a single, one-size-fits-all attempt.
- Test and track. Check the metrics of all offers regularly to see which performs best, and what traits grab the most attention. Consistently tweak, test, and find-tune all your offers until each is generating enough leads to justify the resources you put into it.
- Give massive value. Each offer should give away knowledge or service people would be willing to pay you cash for. You want page visitors to see your offer as a golden opportunity, not a favor you’re asking them to do for you.
The biggest and most common rookie mistake I see is hiding all the best content behind a lead capture offer. In this situation, only subscribers can see your content. Since the purpose of the content is to attract subscribers, this does very little for you. Your strongest marketing material, like product descriptions, customer case studies, and white papers should be available for all to see. Leave plenty of that content, plus your first-stage blog posts open and available, and imply that there’s even better stuff on the other side of the call to action.
A second common error is to keep the offers secret by confining them to forms available from your lead generation pages. Mention all offers early and often via your social media feeds, pay-per-click campaigns, even your outbound marketing efforts. The more people who learn about your offer, the more qualified leads will give you their contact information.
Your Call to Action (CTA)
Your CTA is an image that drives readers to click-through to your offer or other online content. It’s there so visitors to your site know what to do next once you’ve successfully piqued their interest.
You’ll notice I said the CTA is an image. Linked text in bold face, embedded at the bottom of your content, does not cut it. CTA buttons result in 200% higher click-throughs than text. Your CTA should be one of the most visible elements on the page. Do not skimp on its quality or placement.
Other top-level pro tips for your CTA include:
- Keep it simple, sunshine. Your CTA should be clean and uncluttered, containing just one idea, with simple instructions on how to execute that idea.
- What’s in it for them? Clearly state the benefits of answering your call, in terms your clients/industry/tribe can understand.
- Begin with conversion in mind. Make your CTA part of a clearly defined, step-by-step journey toward conversion. Depending on the page, this could be visitor-to-lead, lead-to-qualified-lead, or qualified-lead-to-sale.
- Two CTAs enter, one CTA leaves. Run A/B testing on your site, for your mailing list, and via PPC runs to determine what messaging and images create the best results. Make real-time changes and adjustments informed by those tests.
- Map to stages of the buyer’s journey so all visitors have something specific to do after reading the high-value content on any page they visit.
As with your landing page, you shouldn’t limit yourself to a single CTA. You should begin and end each page with a CTA. The call above the fold is there to grab the attention of readers in a hurry, or those who are already at a later stage in the buyer’s journey. The one at the end capitalizes on the value received by somebody who has just read the whole page. While you’re at it, avoid the trap of matching the CTA’s color to the page’s visual design. Do everything to make it “pop.” High contrast gets attention, and attention gets click-throughs.