How to create killer calls to action for your content

Follow these tips to turn website visitors, blog readers and social media followers into paying customers.

I spend a considerable amount of time working with business owners through an organization called Vistage International.

Vistage is a professional development organization for business leaders. Every month, a group meets and brings in a speaker on a specific topic.

My topic is how to drive sales through communications.

By speaking to these groups, I’ve learned it doesn’t matter what they sell, how savvy their marketing team is or whether they sell to consumers. Ninety-nine percent of them distribute content without a specific call to action.

Because of that, we spend a good portion of our three hours together working through the tweaks they must make to drive sales.

It’s not easy, but it is effective.

Let’s look at three examples of how to create a call to action through community building, bringing in leads and driving sales:

1. Community building

My team and I have a Facebook question of the week.

A few years ago, one of our smart young professionals said to me, “You travel the world talking to business owners about how they should use video to engage potential buyers, but we’re not using it.”

Like attorneys and accountants, my team and I rent out our brains for a living. Our time equals money. When someone asks if he can pick our brains, he’s essentially asking for our product for free.

We were talking about this during a staff meeting one day, and the idea of creating a video was on everyone’s mind. Someone said, “Why don’t we let people pick our brains through our Facebook page?”

The Facebook question of the week was born.

The goal was to do nothing more than build community and engage friends, clients, prospects and competitors.

We measure how many questions we get, as well as the number of views, visitors to those pages on the website and blog, comments, social media shares and new “likes” on our Facebook page.

This also makes the person who asked the question feel special; she gets one minute of her 15 minutes of fame when my organization and all of our social media connections talk about the question, which creates a brand ambassador for life.

2. Bringing in leads

The best way to bring in leads is through content. Content can be free and/or paid.

Paid content doesn’t necessarily mean money will change hands. It means you’ll get something in exchange for your content, such as an email address or phone number.

Say you have a free monthly webinar, but people must register to attend. This is both a free and paid model. People are paying you with their email addresses (which means they’ve given you permission to market to them), and they’re getting a free, informative webinar.

How do you create leads with one webinar? That’s the fun part.

You get to use both traditional and new tactics to gain registrations. You’ll use media relations, email marketing, social media, direct mail, content and advertising.

In some cases you’ll market the webinar to people you already know, but they could be prospects who haven’t decided to work with you, former clients or someone entirely new.

For the most part, the people who register for your webinar are qualified leads. Some will be competitors, because they want to see what you’re up to and mimic you, but most will be people who want to do business with you.

At this point, hand those leads over to your sales team or, if you have a lead-nurturing program, put them in your system so you can follow up and push them through the marketing funnel to a decision.

3. Driving sales

As with the first two calls to action, there are many ways content can help drive sales.

Marcus Sheridan, founder of River Pools and Spas and author of The Sales Lion blog, uses an e-book, “Inbound and Content Marketing Made Easy,” as his entree to prospects who want to hire him for consulting.

The book is free. When someone calls to inquire about his consulting services, Sheridan sends the person the link.

He then tracks whether the person downloads the book. If the person does, Sheridan gives him a few days to start reading it before he follows up.

If the person doesn’t download it, Sheridan knows the person isn’t a qualified lead, so he won’t waste his time following up.

This story invariably makes someone ask, “What if the person is a really good prospect and I don’t follow up?”

Think about how you buy—particularly how you buy things you don’t regularly purchase, such as cars, computers, cameras, appliances or gifts, or the services of lawyers, accountants or PR firms.

What do you do first?

You search online, read and do research. You educate yourself.

If the prospect isn’t willing to educate himself, Sheridan won’t do it for him.

Track how someone found you.

  • Did he subscribe to your blog or follow you on Twitter?
  • Did he download a white paper?
  • Did he attend a webinar?
  • Did he attend a live Q-and-A you hosted through Google Hangouts?
  • Did you meet at an event?

Knowing this will help you determine the types of content the person needs in order to make a decision. Once you’ve tracked where he came from and what he did during the sales cycle, you can pinpoint which types of content drive sales best.

How to create a call to action

Your content isn’t just about these three things. You also want to think about at least one call to action:

  • How can you place a call to action on every piece of media you create? Consider social media share buttons, a subscription or requiring an email address in exchange for a download.
  • Can you create landing pages where people download your content? These help you track the effectiveness of a particular piece of content.
  • What kinds of content can you offer in exchange for registration data (email address and phone number)?
  • How can you build your database? Bring in leads, nurture them with new and interesting content, and convert them into customers.
  • How can you integrate your efforts with those of the sales team?

If you create a PESO model approach (paid, earned, shared and owned media) with all your media efforts, you’ll soon become a hub in a wheel of information. Your communications programs will be an investment with a significant return.

Try this exercise

Set your timer for 30 minutes. Go to your website.

Jot down 10 pieces of content that lack a call to action.

Maybe you have a blog post without a lead magnet, or content without easy-to-find social media sharing buttons. Maybe it’s ridiculously hard to subscribe to your content. Maybe you have a newsletter that doesn’t require readers to click a link to come to your site because all of the content is in the email.

Go through each piece of content and decide what the call to action will be. You could:

  • Create both email and RSS subscriptions for your blog.
  • Provide an easy way for people to follow you on social media.
  • Open up the comments section and begin a dialogue there.
  • Put content behind a landing page so you can collect email addresses and build your database.
  • Break up your newsletter so it has links that drive people to a specific page on your website.
  • Create a lead-nurturing program for the email addresses you have.

There are many opportunities for tweaks. Even my team can make improvements, so don’t think you’re immune.

Now, get to work. Set your timer, and go!

A version of this article originally appeared on Spin Sucks.

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