Follow me, Like me, Order now, Blah, Blah, Blah

Why won’t customers cooperate and just do what we ask? In today's marketing climate—with so many choices, technological devices and brand messages bombarding the senses—it's more difficult than ever to get customers to do anything, let alone what you want them to do.
In this new marketing climate, customers are savvy. If the call-to-action isn't bold and relevant, they will read right through it without doing anything. If it isn't authentic and relevant, they may dismiss it outright. Here are six tips to creating a strong call-to-action that will resonate and push customers to take the next step of engagement.

1. Build a Hierarchy

Strategy can make or break your execution. Outline your goals and construct an actionable plan. Understand what exactly you're asking readers to do, but always begin with the goal in mind. Be sure to include answers to questions that you customers might have, like “What problem will this product or service solve?”
Strategically decide what decision path best fits your customer and never create so many calls-to-action that ask the customer to do too many things. Everything should support your overall strategy and end game. Don't let other actions compete with the ultimate call to action. For example, if pushing customers to your website is the goal, don't confuse them by consistently asking them to engage on a social site.
What do you want them to do first? Second? Third? Is it an invitation? Do you want them to order? Plan your message hierarchy accordingly.

2. Do Your Homework

Again, before you market any call-to-action, spend time in the mind of your customers. Know what truly compels them and what moves them. Find the "higher order benefit," the emotional reason they do business with you. What are they seeking? Peace of mind? Confidence? A trusted partner? It's not just your product or service they're buying, but the emotional hook.
Tony Hsieh of Zappos coined the term ICEE, which stands for "Interesting, Compelling, Educational or Entertaining." This acronym is a perfect filter when planning your call-to-action strategy.
Understanding customer triggers may require research. Once you know what motivates them, your ability to craft a message allows you to reach them more effectively and understand not only what they want, but how to encourage action.

3. Make the Call to Action a Call to Arms

Don't be passive. The key word is "action." Ask for what you want, but more importantly, tell customers what's in it for them.  A timid "follow us" or “go online for more” isn't enough. Be direct. Be specific. Look at the difference it makes when you take a few carefully chosen words and aim them straight at your customer's sense of self-interest:
Another effective way to connect with your customers in the call-to-action is to call them by name. Personalization helps cut through the clutter and it’s fairly inexpensive to utilize laser personalization on the covers of your catalog.

4. Keep It Simple

Make what you're asking customers to do easy. If the next step to get them engaged is too complicated or not readily apparent, you risk losing them before they can act.
Have a QR Code? Understand that many people still do not know what they are or how to use them, so a quick reminder to click and scan with their smartphones helps. Simplicity rules.
Don't forget that simplicity applies not only to the messaging itself, but also to the destination. Wherever you are asking them to go, make sure the process is incredibly intuitive or you may as well kiss your effort goodbye

5. Follow Through

Once you've asked customers to do something, what's next? How are you going to move the activity along to get a sale or create another engagement opportunity? Create a secondary call-to-action on the back end. If you are asking them to use a QR code, include "buy now" or "call now" buttons to close the sale. If you have an invitation, allow them to RSVP. Do they need to call for more information? Once you've gotten them to act, what are you doing to push customers to the next level? Include this as part of your hierarchy as outlined above. Once you get them, don't lose them!
Relax The Back, a retailer specializing in back pain solutions, uses their catalog to urge customers to come to the retail store for a free pain assessment. Repeatedly they invite customers and prospects to “Explore the Store for More” and offers a QR code to find the nearest store or to schedule an appointment. On the back end, they include an offer to sweeten the deal. Strategically they know this is the easiest path to close a sale.

6. Test, Measure, Adapt

Test and measure, if possible. If it doesn't work, continue playing with all components. QR Codes, for example, can even be more customized through black-plate changes, making them more relevant to specific customer groups. On social sites, test special offers or engagement techniques that will get them to a purchase. While many efforts may not work now, the consumer’s purchase patterns are changing so rapidly that you need to stay ahead of the game. Testing helps.
See what works and apply it to your next program. Repeat the steps above and tweak as needed to get your customers engaged with your brand, and formulate an even more effective call-to-action.

By Lois Brayfield; J.Schmid