Does Your Copy Need A Call To Action?

I recently read a comment on Linked In that said some of the best copywriting has no call to action. None. Really?

As a commercial copywriter who writes to sell, I have to disagree.

I could understand if they were referring to the clever and pithy prose usually written with a Cannes Lion award, instead of the target audience, etched in the mind. But in commercial writing—whether it’s a website, email or sales brochure—imbuing your copy with implied CTAs can help you tap into the psychology of the reader and nurture a lead right through to a sale.

Different types of CTAs

There are several different types of call to action depending on who you’re speaking to and what you’d like them to do next.

Here I’ll focus on the difference between a call to action that’s ‘explicit’ and one that’s ‘implicit’.

An explicit CTA is phrased in the imperative form and usually placed at the end of your copy to direct an action (e.g call today, buy now, click here and so on).

An implicit CTA is a suggestive phrase that nudges your reader towards a particular course of action.

For example, one of the following CTAs is implicit:

  1. Come visit us at the marketing conference
  2. Download our free whitepaper today
  3. The best writers use moleskine notebooks
  4. Subscribe now and get a free three month membership

1, 2, and 3 are explicit calls to action (phrased in the imperative form)

The call to “use moleskine notebooks” is implied, without anybody saying, “Use moleskine notebooks!”

Should you always ask them?

Most copywriting advice suggests you should  ‘always ask them’ with an explicit call to action. But can you rely on a couple words at the end of your copy to persuade your reader to act?

Ofcourse not.

Think about what you’re asking. In any form of marketing you’re asking people to spend their hard-earned cash, give up their valuable time or inconvenience their daily lives. When you put this into context, a simple ‘call today’, ‘buy now’ or ‘click here’ seems perfunctory. You have the same chance getting a date with Miss World pleading on your knees ‘Go out with me…go on, you know you want to’.

You need more.

Good copywriting should be subtle and nuanced, creating motivation for the next action, and sparking a new journey—even if it’s just building a relationship. You need to ensure that every sentence makes your reader want to read the next. When you layer implied CTAs throughout your copy, you create motivation for the reader. You’re not just asking them to buy, click or call, you’re persuading them, in a soft and subtle way, that they’ll benefit if they do.

If you do this, then by the time you ask or direct them where to go next, they’ll have already decided to go.

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