how to get paid
The Importance of Calls to Action
An effective call to action, or CTA, can have a resounding impact on revenue while also expanding customer reach.
CTAs are common throughout the web, from social media to blog posts, but the most successful speak for themselves with profitable results.
CTAs also possess an enjoyable versatility, both in regard to platform usage and actual content, that makes their usage recommended for business in all niches. When digging deeper into why and how successful calls to action work, while also looking at examples of poor calls to action, several things become clear:
1. CTAs Can Exist Anywhere
The early age of the internet saw a fairly limited number of areas ripe for calls to action. Since CTAs can exist anywhere content can, today presents a wider range of opportunities than ever for businesses to take full advantage of CTAs. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and other platforms all present ample opportunity for calls to action, whether in the form of conventional text or even a video or photo making the call to action. As the example above shows, platforms like Instagram even provide accessible call to action options.
This versatility aids in increased revenue because it allows for more creative opportunities. Audiences vary between the platforms. Viewers of a blog, for instance, are fully expecting to digest content, making lengthier calls to action appropriate. Meanwhile, viewers of Instagram are more in the mode of quick digestion. In this case, a quick video or photo with a concise call to action seems more appropriate.
Using the versatility of CTAs, while analyzing which CTAs are a fit for the particular medium, can result in a business seeing extreme increases in revenue. Reaching out to the entire user base via blogs and social media can ensure a wider net is cast than ever before.
2. They Serve as the Finishing Touch
One could convey a brilliant marketing pitch and be faultless in their delivery and content delivery, yet still fail to capture business if they don’t finish well. Summarizing all the benefits of joining a service or purchasing an item at the end of the pitch is integral to closing things up. Calls to action have the power to do this.
Aligning CTAs correctly is part of the art. Ideally, for a blog post, successful CTAs are placed at the end, with the preceding content leading into it and the CTA summarizing the beneficial points. A question like, “So what are you waiting for?” or “Ready to join?” is commonly included.
Prematurely placing a CTA can cause readers to forget to undertake the action entirely. They may get so swept up in your beautiful content that the CTA can be forgotten. That’s why placing it at the end is a better strategy — it can leave a more resounding impact and result in more conversions.
3. CTAs Can Reinforce Established Expertise
Users are unlikely to respond to a call to action if they’re skeptical about you or what you’re offering. As a result, great calls to action are preceded by content that establishes a legitimate reputation and knowledge on the topic. For example, this guide to better landing pages from Hubspot includes eleven great tips. By the article’s conclusion, there is no question as to whether Hubspot is an expert on the subject.
At the article’s conclusion, they ask users: “What other landing page tips would you share with marketers taking an interest in landing page optimization?” This causes users to stop and think, reflecting on what they’ve read so far. With many at a loss for what to respond with, Hubspot cleverly includes right below that a very effective CTA: “Want more lead generation tips and tricks? Download your copy of The 30 Greatest Lead Generation Tips, Tricks & Ideas today.”
Asking readers a concluding question and then following that question up with a relevant call to action can work wonders in terms of increasing revenue and grabbing a reader’s attention. It’s generally a three-step process that entails capturing the reader’s interest, immersing their newly learned knowledge with an applicable question and using that question within the CTA.
4. Non-Specific CTAs Can Work, When Incorporated Intelligently
Content-tailored calls to action can work wonderfully, though the power of CTAs is also evident in their ability to be placed anywhere regardless of topic. An entirely irrelevant CTA won’t work well, such as pitching an eBook about aviation in an article about pest control, but more general CTA tasks — like subscribing to the entire site’s newsletter or following them on social media — can be pushed regardless of the topic being presented in the blog or social media post.
Hubspot does this well, too, placing a call to action box at the bottom of many blog articles that give viewers an option to subscribe to their newsletter. After some time on their page, a pop-up also appears with the option to “Get expert marketing tips straight to your inbox, and become a better marketer” above a box where you can enter your email address.
The box only pops up after a minute or two on a page, with the site assuming you’re reading and interested enough in the content to consider subscribing. Using time-based pop-ups like these, as opposed to just popping up immediately, can be the difference between being perceived as a nuisance and a helpful suggestion.
5. Harness the Power of Testimonials
In addition to strong content, testimonials can be a difference-maker when people are wondering whether to go through with a presented CTA. LinkedIn knows this well, dedicating an entire page to endorsements and testimonials from respectable figures. On their various product pages, where CTAs are used to get people to sign up, these testimonials are visible on the page.
This is a particularly wise method for businesses not as dependent on substantive blog content. If users aren’t going to gain good judgment of your reputability or success from content alone, have others reinforce that notion. CopyBlogger uses endorsements nicely in their call to action, with various endorsement quotes evident right below their “Take the Tour” CTA.
6. Establish Urgency! CTAs Love It!
Effective calls to actions can vary in their content and tone, though they generally all do possess a relatively urgent quality. Creating the impression that something is limited or very timely can prompt users to make the action, as opposed to simply telling themselves “I’ll do it later” before forgetting about it entirely. The call to action on Leadpages’ weekly webinar is a great example of this, telling users to “Click Here to Claim Your Spot,” with a countdown timer below that. While the timer may be a bit much for some sites, it’s certainly an effective tool to tell potential leads “this won’t be here forever!”
CJ Pony Parts’ homepage CTA also successfully uses urgency. They offer a 10% off sale, while noting “this is your only chance all year to purchase select Cobb items on sale!”. Again, this informs users how much time they have can create a productive anxiety of sorts, with them opting to take care of it now before forgetting later.
Calls to action clearly possess a great ability to generate revenue and expand a business’ reach, as long as they show urgency, are implemented appropriately on a platform-specific basis and are uplifted by shrewd placement and copy. All businesses should be taking advantage of CTAs in our very social media and blog-active climate.
Lexie Lu is a freelance UX designer and blogger. She enjoys researching the latest design trends and always has a cup of coffee nearby. She manages Design Roast and can be followed on Twitter @lexieludesigner.
From time to time, Go Media faithful write and ask us for advice. They want to which printer we recommend, how to bill appropriately, or how to work that pesky Wacom. When we recently got questioned about a bad client, William Beachy – Go Media President, couldn’t help but respond immediately.
Here was the question we received:
Go Media Fan: Hello Go Media! I need some advice for billing a particular client. He would like for me to go from hourly to a flat rate for my work. He also does not want the responsibility of final approvals for her printed products. I would like to create a “Job Order” form or convince him to stay at hourly. I need to cover myself here. He wants no approval and also if a mistake is made he expects me to pay for it. (I am a very small business and can’t afford that.) Any advice?
Bill: My first instinct is just to let you know – this sounds like a bad client. Sometimes you gotta work with bad clients to pay the bills, but drop this client if they’re making you unhappy just as soon as you can.
Project-based billing is quite normal. Go Media does project based billing on 95% of our projects. We gather all the info, write up a ‘scope of work’ (detailed list of what we’re going to do) and put out a price that we will stick to so long as the project doesn’t change scope. If you’ve ever only done hourly billing – it would probably be good for you to learn how to do project based billing. It’s a skill you’ll need. Clients want payment options! If you only do hourly billing you will lose potential clients. You need to be flexible and offer billing options. Go Media works up all kinds of billing options: flat-fee, hourly, subscriptions, leases, extended payment terms, etc. Here are some tips about project based billing:
1. It takes a while to learn how long things really take you to get done… so, you may occasionally screw yourself by under quoting a job. BUT! You also get to KEEP the extra money if you come in under hours! So, over time it works out… NOTE: DO NOT REFUND a client if you come in under hours. This is the deal with project based billing! The client gets a choice – pay hourly, or agree in advance what my work on this project is worth, no matter how long it takes me. Some clients want it both ways – they want a price cap that we won’t exceed and they want to be refunded if we come in under hours. No. Not fair. They get one or the other – not both.
2. Adjust your pricing based on the client. Some clients are VERY easy to work with, projects go fast… you can lower your estimates for them. Some clients are nightmares to work with… you need to bump up your pricing for them. And consider this… without hourly billing you’ve freed up those nightmare clients to become even more demanding – because they now aren’t worried about hours! For this reason, it can be helpful to put in terms like “6 rounds of revisions” – so you have something to fall back on if they just keep asking for more.
3. Payment terms should include a deposit in advance of getting started (usually something between 25% – 50% of the project total), then split up the remaining payments over the course of the project… this way, you’re still getting paid as you work! Don’t wait till the end to get paid – that puts you in a TERRIBLE position. You will have no leverage. If they miss a payment you need to be brave enough to stop working. If they’re being jerks – you need to be one too.
As for this client that wants you to be responsible for all proofing pre-printing, not proof anything, then make you pay if there is a mistake that they find on a final printed piece. This makes NO SENSE. The client is going to look at it sooner or later… why would they wait until AFTER it’s been printed?!?! This is insane. Are you working for Donald Trump? I would NEVER NEVER NEVER accept these terms. I’ve never heard of any designer taking on this kind of responsibility. This sounds like a lazy demanding client. Bad clients suck your will to live. The sooner you can get away from them, the happier you will be, and you will free up your time and energy to go market yourself and find good clients!
Again – this sounds like a bad client to me. Dump them.
Go Media Fan: Also, does your company have a scope of work or job order estimate type of template? I am having a hard time figuring out where to start with this particular client because I really need to cover my butt!
Bill: Regarding our scopes of work – they really vary from project to project. Some are just a 2-3 sentence description in a Quickbooks estimate, some are spreadsheets with incredible details, others are lengthy proposals. There is no format that’s ever going to be perfect. I’ve been doing this for 20 years and miscommunication between seller and buyer are always going to be a challenge. Just think of it like this… you’re putting down in writing your best understanding of the work you’re accepting and detailing the terms of the agreement. Even if this is just in an e-mail… that’s all you need. Official documents with signature lines really don’t help if something goes wrong. Waving a contract in the face of a client and saying: “I’ve got your signature” will not resolve the situation.
Think of the exchange with your client as “I just want to be clear about what we’re agreeing to…” and not “I need an official document that will hold up in court.”
Once you shift that perspective, you may relax about what format your scope of work needs to be. It doesn’t really matter – send a simple text email.
Consider this… hiring a lawyer and trying to take a client to court will cost you thousands, if not tens of thousands of dollars and untold time and emotional energy. It’s rarely a winning proposition. And even when you ‘win’ in court – payment is not guaranteed. So, once you take that off the table – it clarifies that you’re on your own. The scope of work is just for you and your client. This also reinforces why the payment terms are so critical. Get paid in advance!
So here is what a typical scope of work looks like on a branding project:
Go Branding Package:
Full Branding Process
Step 1: Kickoff – Meeting between you and design team to discuss ideas and creative direction
Step 2: Concepts – Three designers will work on 3 typed concepts accompanied with style boards; 6 revisions
Step 3: Graphic Designs – 3 proofs; 6 revisions
Step 4: Refined Proofs – 2 refined proofs; 6 revisions
Step 5: Final Files Delivered – Final design files delivered (visual brand elements: logotype, mark, colors, fonts – delivered as .ai, .jpeg, .pdf and .eps in both rgb and cmyk color format)
Brand Standards Guide
A brand standards guide is a valuable asset for your company! It ensures that your brand mark is being applied accurately and consistently, which is critical in maintaining a strong brand presence. The final deliverable is a PDF document that contains the following guidelines:
Clear spacing guidelines
Minimum sizing and use standards guidelines for both print and web application
Typefaces: primary & secondary headings, body copy
Colors: primary & complimentary
3 Collateral examples & use cases (note: these are ‘mockups’ to demonstrate recommended sizing and placement of logo. Final print ready files are not include)
Go Media Fan: Thank you again for all of your help! She owes me money so I feel like I can’t dump her until I get that check in the bank, you know?
Bill: When you let a client fall behind on payments, or give them payment terms like “due in 30 days” or “due in 60 days” you are in a BAD NEGOTIATING POSITION. You get desperate… you jump through hoops trying to please them because you’re desperate to get that payment.
Bad clients use this leverage to extract more work from you than what’s agreed upon. This is the exact position you need to avoid! (Stuck with a client because they owe you money.) Good luck!
For more business advice from Bill, check out Drawn to Business, his nuts and bolts strategy guide to building a thriving design firm.