Weak calls to action are often the culprit behind poorly performing marketing. Here are 7 reasons your calls to action (CTA) are probably failing (and how to fix them).

1. You don’t know what you want from your audience.

Okay… so ultimately, you know what you want. And you know what your organization needs.

But what steps does your audience have to make in order to realize your goals?

With each marketing effort, decide where the audience is in their “buyer’s journey” and what step they should take to go to the next stage of that journey. This should be your CTA.

Here are two examples:

  1. If they need to become more aware of your institute and programs, then invite them to read more.
  2. If they need to begin seriously considering you as a higher education option, ask them to download your viewbook.

2. You’re not asking them to do anything.

More than likely, your marketing is hit or miss on this one.

This is a common scenario: Some web pages have a strong CTA, but others don’t have a next step for the visitor.

“You have not because you ask not.”

Make sure that every web page, printed piece, email, etc. Has a clear CTA that leads the audience to their next step.

3. You’re being too vague.

Powerful calls to action tell the audience exactly what to do. They’re not rude or bossy, but they are very clear.

These are great examples of crystal-clear CTA’s:

  • “Click Here to get your free legacy gift brochure,”
  • “Make your donation today to support our international scholarship students,” or simply
  • “Read more…”

4. You’re asking for something the audience doesn’t want to do. (Or, you’re asking for too much at once.)

Even if you knew someone you just met could write your organization a check for a million dollars, would you ask them for it?

No. You’d wait until you’d had a chance to build a relationship between them and your institute.

Likewise, CTA’s don’t work well unless they are an appropriate and reasonable next step for your audience.

Instead of asking your visitor to apply to your college now, why not ask them to send you their email address so you can give them further information? No obligations at this point, the CTA costs them nothing, and it’s easy to do.

5. You’re not offering something the audience wants.

Your CTA should always be attached with an offer. What do they get out of performing the action?

Good offers depend on where your audience is within their “buyer’s journey.”

Examples include: 

  • Ebooks that answer their admissions questions.
  • A call from a friendly development officer
  • The chance to influence the world through next generation leaders
  • An opportunity to help students in need
  • Their name on a building, statue, step, etc.
  • MP3 recordings of an exclusive lecture series

6. Your approach is selfish (it’s all about you)

You’d never do this on purpose, but…

If your web copy or direct mail copy talks all about your organization’s needs, desire, and accomplishments—you’ll come across as selfish.

Write your marketing copy in an audience-centric or donor-centric way.

Tell them how they’re the hero of the story. Show them how their action is making all the difference.

It’s not flattery; it’s humility. It’s humbling to profusely make the copy all about the reader and not even a hint about you.

“Humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less. Humility is thinking more of others.” – Pastor Rick Warren

But this humble approach will result in more engagement with your readers.

7. Your calls to action are too difficult to perform.

This one one normally happens when an organization is asking a reader to create a user account to access a specific functionality of the website.

Whether it’s an alumnus, donor, or potential student, it’s best to personally walk people through potentially complex actions like creating user accounts—especially when you’re the one who benefits the most.

Think about it. What do they get out of taking their time to create yet another user account that they’ll probably only use once and then forget about?

Your initial ask should require as little information as possible—and it should be really, really easy to give. Ask for a date, not a marriage.

And so, in the spirit of good calls to action…

Learn more about how to get your audience to take that next step by clicking HERE, HERE, and HERE!

Image by beachboyx10 via Adobe Stock