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Calls to action that work don’t exist separately, as they need the company of a clear value proposition and good design. All compliment each other and strengthen the message.

Read me, buy me, register for free.

Various calls to action roll before our eyes on various landing pages like a boring film reel. We reward the less effective ones with disapproving eye-rolling.

A good call to action is difficult to craft. Usually they are poorly exposed or even worse, overexposed.

They also get boring. According to the science of familiarity, lesser originality benefits our conversions.

But forget about handpicking every word in your CTA. There are cases where even a simple verb shoots clicks through the roof. How?

We will learn how to craft calls to action that work.

Calls to action that work – how the brain reacts

Summary: We expect similar designs in landing pages. We react better to stimuli that incites our curiosity. Finally, we expect to receive a reward from taken actions.

According to expectations

To have better CTAs, you need to learn the psychological rules that govern them first.

We all expect a call to action somewhere within the page – it’s due to the perceptual set theory. We perceive things according to a process of selecting, inferring and interpreting.

We see something, and we relate it to our past experiences. After that we compare the two and make a decision. If our past and current experiences overlap, we are more likely to make up our mind.

Consult the image below.

If we go horizontal, we expect the middle sign to be a letter B. It’s because the sequence is from A to C.

However, if you go vertical, the sign in the middle changes into a number. It’s because of the numeric sequence.

perceptual set theory

Most optical illusions exploit this principle.

The majority of web users expect certain patterns to repeat. Stores will look similar with carts and products. News feeds will present articles in order.

We all enter a website expecting a button with a message that will take us to the next step.

Your call to action placement and message should be familiar.

However, you need to compliment it with other elements to make it convincing.

Curiosity won’t kill the cat

Visitors are curious creatures.

According to the studies on curiosity, arousal is the main reason why we discover things. We expect something positive, but we don’t know what yet, and this excites us.

The big button with a message is doing exactly that. It foreshadows a result, but we cannot be one hundred percent sure of the effect of a click.

Maybe it will take us to the product? Or maybe to the register page? How about a video?

This is how big buttons work –their label makes us curious and we want to click them.

Curiosity in CTA button

For example, Neil Patel’s Quick Sprout makes a distinction between two target groups and the CTAs itself incites curiosity. Either we will be interested in learning how to grow our traffic or how we can coach our traffic. It promises a beneficial process, but we do not yet know how it will look like.

See below:

two target group CTA of Neil Patel

Give a foreshadowing of what happens once you click, but do not be too obvious. Moreover, promise a discovery or knowledge as the benefit.

Remember, do not go the other way – having a CTA “See something AMAZING!” which leads us to a simple register page is bad UX.

We’re dogs for rewards

The final factor that puts the previous ones into a trio of CRO mind tricks is conditioning. It’s a process familiar to us thanks to the example of Ivan Pavlov and his experiments on dogs.

Landing page design uses operant conditioning from B.F Skinner. Behaviors are a result either from reinforcement or punishment. The calls to action are a form of reinforcement that we are constantly exposed to.

We know the click on the CTA will take us somewhere, especially when it is paired with a message. It promises a reward, and we want to be conditionally rewarded.

To increase the effectiveness of your CTA, it’s good to promise a reward in your CTA. A free account, a new project started, or a book about conversion rates.

reward CTA

The patterns surrounding calls to action that work

As you have learned, CTA’s are governed by a set of rules that you need to use in order for them to be effective. However, a white page with a button in the middle is destined to fail.

To have a calls to action that work, you need to combine them with an efficient design. Also, you need value proposition that in less than few words conveys the benefits.

Let’s analyze successful landing pages that follow these principles.

large CTA and value proposition

What Hive does right: Large CTA and value proposition in the middle, shows value of the product and promises rewards.

Hive is a great example of a landing page that uses harmonic design and provides value at a glance.

A large value proposition in the middle shows that Hive combines  working and chatting. A huge quality of life change.

If a company with bad communication sees this landing page, they will understand that Hive is a great solution.

The sub-call to action below explains the reward: getting stuff done (through talking).

Even though the above the fold part lacks a button with a verb, the copywriting shows value and acts as a CTA.

value of copywriting in CTAs

What InVision does right: Value prop in the middle shows 3 benefits of the product, promises the reward of using a free forever service.

InVision takes a very simple approach. They follow the common design of placing a value in the middle, with a sub-CTA and a CTA button.

The message is well crafted. 3 adjectives tell you that your design process will be faster, better, and in collaboration with others.

The sub-CTA narrows down the type of service they sell: a prototyping and collaboration platform.

Designers that work in teams will understand that this is the tool that will improve that process.

The strength of the button is in the message: the reward is that InVision is free forever.

The above the fold part is complemented with a video in the background that shows people collaborating and working together. Videos are proved to increase conversions even by 20%.

Brand24 Curiosity inciting CTA

What Brand24 does right: Curiosity-inciting changing message being a metaphor of information flow, instantly shown benefits, a button that rewards with a free account.

Brand24 is one of my favorites because of its clever and unobtrusive design.

The changing message in the main CTA shows the dynamic internet communication. The flow of information changes within seconds, and Brand24 captures it.

The value proposition describes the instant access to online mentions, customer satisfaction, and sales.

The click will reward you with a free service.

However, I understand what kind of tool they offer only after analyzing the image of the dashboard. I believe that the page title “Social Media Monitoring & Analytics Tool” should be better exposed.

CartoDB value proposition CTA

What CartoDB does right: Value proposition that calls to action, features shown as the hero images.

CartoDB follows the example of Brand24. Their hero image is a dynamic slideshow of different map types they offer.

While the image itself portrays the value of the product, it is well conveyed through the value proposition. The easiest way to map and analyze your location data, should you need it.

The button is somewhat simple, but it fits the theme. Users coming to CartoDB already have some expectations of the tool, so the value proposition does all the work.

Marvel simple design and copywriting CTA

What Marvel does right: Simple design and simple copywriting – value in two sentences.

Marvel (not the Avengers kind) is a great example how simple design paired with good copywriting can work wonders.

The value proposition confirms that you’ll receive a prototyping tool for two environments. It also does not require coding. Easy and accessible. Then it explains that you can create a mock-up and change it into a realistic prototype. A desirable outcome for app developers and UX designers.

The call to action is standard, but thanks to the lack of contrasts, the blue color stands out. The animation to the right helps in focusing the eyesight of visitors.

Final word

As you see, understanding what forms a call to action itself is not enough.

You need to remember about other elements of a landing page. Value proposition and the design of it complement the CTA in a process that makes people convert.

Start perceiving them as one unified object, instead of a collection of few smaller elements.

You can forget about all guides about a “perfect CTA”, as a good CTA does not exist on its own.

Torsten Tromm

About the author

Torsten is CEO and founder of Userpeek. He is an old stager in the online business with 20 years of experience as an online marketer, conversion rate optimizer and UX strategist.

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