Strong calls to action (CTAs) are a key element in any successful business website, as they play an important role in driving enquiries and sales. However, getting them right can be difficult, as there is not a single formula that works for every company.
Something that is effective for Amazon is likely to be entirely unsuitable for Accenture, as there are no similarities between their offerings and sales cycles. Different businesses have very different goals for their websites, so CTAs need to be tailored to reflect those aims.
While a bespoke approach is necessary, there are four key issues that always need to be considered when coming up with strong website CTAs.
Colour - CTAs should stand out from the rest of the website and colour is one of the best ways to achieve this, particularly for online retailers.
Placement - There are no hard and fast rules about where CTAs should appear on the page, but above the fold is more effective if the aim is immediate sales.
Wording - A CTA button may only have two or three words, but what those words are can make a huge difference. For example, retailers have discovered that using 'Add to basket' generates more sales than 'Buy now'.
Design - Clickable buttons are the standard format for CTAs (and as such, they are easily recognised by users), but other designs can work well for some products and services.
Here are a few examples of CTAs that have been well designed and thought out.
Showcase your benefits
One simple tactic for CTAs is to pair them with a clear explanation of the benefits of your product or service, as KashFlow and Virgin Media do.
On the homepage of its website, accountancy software company KashFlow has a button (pink, so that it stands out) that invites visitors to 'Click here for pricing and your free trial'. Directly underneath, it is made clear that credit card details are not required for the free trial, dealing with one of the major issues that puts people off trialling products.
Virgin Media's call to action button is a simple 'Get it now', but the information above it clearly explains what the benefits are of signing up to the TV, broadband and telephone package.
Homepage as one big CTA
If you are confident that people who visit your website already know about your company and want either to buy or to get a quote, the entire homepage can be used as a call to action, as Wonga and Parcel2Go do.
Visit Wonga's website and you are greeted by a form that allows you to apply for a loan within a few minutes. Most people who would be interested in this type of short-term loan know about Wonga, so taking them straight to the buying phase makes sense (from the company's point of view, at least).
Ease of use for customers is also at the heart of Parcel2Go's website, as the homepage is dominated by a form that allows people to get a quote and then book a pick-up in a couple of minutes.
Friendly or bold?
Firms in direct competition with each other don't necessarily follow the same website CTA strategy. These two personal injury solicitors choose the same spot on the top right of their websites for contact forms, but the wording is very different.
Fentons opts for the friendly message 'How can we help you?' above its contact form, which is next to a photo of a family. The whole approach is designed to create the impression that the firm is welcoming and caring.
Hampson Hughes adopts a much bolder approach, with the slogan 'Start your claim today' above its contact form, which is next to a promise of cash. Using such a direct message is not suitable for most companies, but Hampson Hughes runs extensive TV and radio ad campaigns, so many visitors to its website will have gone there with a view to making a compensation claim.
Standing out or blending in?
How to buy or get in touch should be clear on every website, but the extent to which CTAs stand out can differ greatly.
In this example, Borro's phone number and online estimate box is easy to spot, because it does not really fit with the website's design. In some ways that makes it user friendly, but there is no getting away from the fact it seems to be out of place.
The Harley Medical Group's approach is much more design-focused (as it needs to be when promoting cosmetic surgery services) and the CTAs match the site's colour scheme. Despite being unobtrusive, the CTAs are easy to spot and well worded, so do their job well.
The professional sell
When looking for high-value products or researching financial matters, most people like to take their time and consider their options, so a 'Buy Now' CTA would be inappropriate. Instead, companies need to adopt an approach that helps to establish them as experts before potential customers have to make a buying decision.
Mortgage advisor John Charcol focuses on research and case studies that establish its status as a market expert above the fold on its homepage. There is one subtle call to action, with a contact form that has the friendly message 'Need some advice? We're here to help' above it.
Chartered accountants Sheards also adopts a low-key approach, with a slogan that begins 'Maximise your wealth' above a clickable CTA button that invites visitors to 'Find out more' about the firm's wealth management services. The message is strong without being overly-salesy, while the wording on the button is ideal for a professional service that no-one will make an instant buying decision about.
Multiple messages on the homepage
Using multiple messages on a website homepage can be very confusing for potential customers and often leads to a messy design. However, when it is done well, it can be very effective, as British Gas shows.
The homepage has 11 different products or services to click through to, but the CTAs are simple and the page is well organised. This means potential customers from three core sectors - homeowners, tenants and landlords - can all easily find the information they want from the homepage.
Attempts to use multiple messages on the homepage aren't always so successful.
The Thomas Cook website has a user-friendly holiday search function in a prominent position on its homepage, but it is surrounded by so many 'offer' banners that it is not clear what visitors would be searching for. Using a carousel design on the homepage can help to avoid this sort of confusion, with each image carrying a CTA for a different offer or service.
The eCommerce classic
If you have an online shop that sells to consumers, the CTAs on product pages should be easy to find and have straightforward wording. The classic 'Add to basket' button is all that is needed, as long as the price is clearly displayed on the page.
The SportsDirect.com website does this perfectly, with the price and discount information in red to make it easy to spot and the 'Add to bag' button in green to ensure it stands out. Apparently, there's a sale on as well!
For advice on website design and online marketing, get in touch with Smart Arts.