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7 Ways to Sneak in a Call to Action (Without Being Sneaky)

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Calls-to-action are what make your online marketing strategy profitable. They serve as a soft sales pitch to your online visitor, encouraging them to either make a direct purchase or take some other action that increases their chances of eventually purchasing. Optimizing these CTAs can lead you to higher sales, but there’s a distinct problem most online marketers face: because the CTA is a sales pitch, it’s easy to lose consumers’ interest and trust. If you have a large pop-up with text like “BUY NOW!!!!!!”, most of your users are simply going to bail.

A subtle approach is almost universally better—you have to be sneaky with your CTAs, but not sneaky in a way that deceives your users. Instead, you have to provide CTAs that are obvious, unintimidating, and undemanding of your users—but don’t appear to be sales pitches. Does that sound impossible to you? Try one of these seven sneaky-but-not-too-sneaky calls-to-action:

1. Ask for content subscribers.

articleimage1743 Ask for content subscribers

Asking for personal information is a bit of an intrusion. When you ask for a user’s email, name, and other bits of information, it’s obvious you’re going to use it to market to them. On the other hand, if you’re offering a subscription to a newsletter or content round-up email, that personal information is simply necessary. By asking for email newsletter signups, you don’t seem like you’re explicitly trying to sell to them; you’re just implementing a necessary part of the process. This works almost as well when asking for personal information in exchange for a free ebook or whitepaper; just don’t get greedy by asking for too many pieces of personal information.

2. Offer a virtual tour.

articleimage1743 Offer a virtual tour

This is especially useful if you’re offering software-as-a-service (SaaS) or another digital product. When you invite someone in for a tour of your product, you aren’t making a hard sales pitch, nor are you asking for any kind of commitment (like with the submission of personal information). Instead, you’re merely earning a chance to show off the highlights of your product/service. Depending on what you’re selling, you could offer a webinar-style demonstration, a short video clip, or an interactive online element to guide users on your product. By the end of the tour, if they like what they see, you’ll be that much closer to a done deal.

3. Include your product as a solution for a problem.

articleimage1743 Include your product as a solution for a problem

This is a CTA for a blog article or similar piece of content. As you’re probably aware, some of the best title/topic ideas for an ongoing content strategy come from common questions or problems that users have—not only do you appear more knowledgeable and authoritative by writing about these topics, you also have a higher chance of showing up in searches for those problems. After addressing the problem or issue, casually introduce your product as one solution—just don’t make it the focus of the article. Include a link to the purchase page, and you should be good to go.

4. Add a chat window.

articleimage1743 Add a chat window

Chat windows can be obnoxious or almost innocuous—be sure yours is the latter. Instead of going the obvious route with a “how can I help you with your purchase” style approach or using chat exclusively for customer service and troubleshooting, offer a chat window for general questions. People prefer interaction to indirect communication when they’re uncertain (e.g. they prefer chat over sending a support email), and you’ll get a chance to soft convert more users that way.

5. Offer a free trial.

articleimage1743 Offer a free trial

In order to use a “free trial” style CTA effectively, your trial needs to be truly risk-free. That means you have to collect as little information as possible—the minute a credit card number enters into the equation, people get skeptical. You can offer a free trial of your product or service anywhere on your website—and if you frame it the right way, it will look more like a free gift than an attempt to convert.

6. Showcase complementary content.

I’m assuming most of your online visitors are either coming in or staying because they like the content you’ve produced. Instead of trying to sell them on something else, sell them on more content. For example, you can offer a whitepaper or ebook at the bottom of your blog for more avid readers, or simply interlink to more blog posts with CTAs of their own.

7. Include a countdown timer.

This isn’t a CTA by itself so much as it’s a modifier on an existing CTA. Including a countdown timer induces a sense of urgency, and encourages users to make a final decision. Most potential conversions are lost due to hesitation, and “temporary” offers eliminate or reduce that hesitation. As long as you aren’t obnoxious with your countdown timer, it will serve as a subtle, sneaky layer of persuasion to help your users make the final call.

Depending on the nature of your business and what you need in a conversion, not all of these CTA options are going to work for you. You’ll probably find at least one or two that simply aren’t applicable for your model or appropriate for your user base. But even if you can’t find what you’re looking for here, you should have a good idea about what makes a good, subtle call-to-action. Put those concepts to good use on your own internal pages, and watch as your conversion rates start to climb.

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Samuel Edwards

In his 4+ years as a digital marketing specialist, Sam has learned the ins and outs of online marketing. Additionally, he has worked with countless local businesses as well as enterprise Fortune 500 companies and organizations including: NASDAQ OMX, eBay, Duncan Hines, Drew Barrymore, Washington, DC based law firm Price Benowitz LLP, and human rights organization Amnesty International. Today he continues to work with and establish SEO, PPC and SEM campaigns.

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