Web designers have a habit of throwing around the term ‘attention-grabbing' – Attention-grabbing headlines, attention-grabbing design, attention-grabbing logos, etc.

But when it comes to creating a successful small business website, grabbing attention is only half the battle. Now you need to direct it somewhere.

Grabbing attention without making good use of it is like collecting seeds – No matter how many seeds you have, they're not going to grow into anything until you plant them.

This is done using calls to action, or CTAs - Statements or directives written and designed with the intention of prompting a response.

  • 'Call now'
  • 'Get in touch'
  • 'Book today'
  • Etc.

Attractive visuals, smart design and clever content grab your customer's attention. CTAs turn this attention into calls, customers and cash.

People respond to instructions - They will sooner click on a button because you requested, invited or told them to than click on it without being asked. You can festoon your website with phone numbers, email addresses and links, but unless you tell them to call you, email you or click the link they're not going to take action.

With that in mind, here are 6 tips for crafting calls to action that transform your hard-earned customer attention into needle-moving actions for your business.

1 - Give people a compelling reason to take action.

Humans are hard-wired to find novel things attractive and compelling. Your calls to action should reflect this.

Does this mean you should aim to reinvent the wheel with every button, widget or phone number for the sake of it? No. There's a middle ground to be found here.

Consider these examples, and ask yourself what is more compelling.

  • ‘Call us' or ‘Get in touch with us for a free consultation'
  • ‘Buy now' or ‘Order now and save 15%'
  • ‘Follow us on Instagram' or ‘Join our Instagram community for updates and inspiration'

The second ones stand out more - Not because they're longer, but because in each example the customer receives something in exchange for taking action.

2 - Think about the fold

Where you put your calls to action matters just as much as what they say and far more than how they look.

You could pour your heart and soul into writing a 750+ word landing page for your business filled with the most compelling and juicy copy imaginable, but if you put a call to action right at the bottom of the page it will flop.

One solid place to place a call to action can be above the fold.

‘Above the fold' refers to the portion of a webpage you immediately see upon clicking a link before you scroll. Nine times out of the this will consist of the headline and company name – Why not round things out with a call to action?

Granted, this makes more sense in some occasions and less sense in others. If you are an emergency plumber or locksmith, chances are that somebody has come to your site because they need your services as soon as possible. They already know what it is you do and how you can help, so a call to action above the fold is a natural fit.

If you have a more technical or evidence-driven service like copywriting, web design or business consulting, on the other hand, your potential customers are going to need to read more content and see more proof before they make a decision.

A CTA above the fold isn't going to hurt, but don't expect it to help much either.

3 – Strike while the iron is hot

Your reader's attention isn't a static thing.

A potential customer might be losing attention as you detail the dry-but-necessary details of your business, but equally it's going to jump up when they see some social proof.

  • Stunning before-and-after comparisons
  • Glowing testimonials
  • Lists of qualifications

These represent sudden and stark jumps in your reader's attention. When they read one you go from a small business to a small business with knowledge and experience.

If their attention is now at an all-time high, then why not capitalise on it with a call to action?

4 – Know your customer

Different industries have different customers base, and each customer base speaks a slightly different language.

Your calls to action should reflect this.

‘Get in touch with us today to discuss how our industry-leading plumbing solutions can assist you' will stand out like a sore thumb on an otherwise-pally website for a friendly local plumber.

By the same token, ‘Put the kettle on, pick up the phone and we'll have a natter' would not work on a solicitor's website.

5 – What are you implying?

There's only so much you can put in a call to action before they become overlong, overengineered and ineffective. Each word of a CTA needs to have a good reason to be there.

Some words have more impact, and so are more useful, based on what they imply.

  • ‘Join us now' suggests exclusivity, and the idea that the customer is currently missing out on something that other people have.
  • ‘Don't miss out' is a more direct way of using FOMO (Fear of missing out), because it suggests that there are limited slots available for whatever it is you're offering.
  • A subtler example would be referring to a phone call as a ‘free consultation.' You're implying that you would normally charge money for a consultation, and so by having one for free your customer has, in essence, saved money.

There is a whole world to write about when it comes to this, but you get the point. Consider the deeper meaning and implication behind each word in your CTA.

6 – Be smart with sizing

Just like there are infinite ways to write your CTAs, there are infinite ways to design them. That said, it's possible to overengineer a CTA's design in the same way you can make a CTA overly wordy.

This requires you to think about just how much ‘oomph' given CTA has.

If you are pulling out your big guns after piling on the evidence/social proof (See tip #3), it makes sense to make the CTA extra eye-catching – Maybe centre-aligned, in a different font and with a coloured background.

Is this going to have the same impact for the words ‘Call now' or ‘click here', every time they appear on the page? Probably not. If anything, you're better off just making these ‘minor' CTAs a larger font or underlining them.

So, in summary...

There's more to a good call to action than meets the eye, but this doesn't mean you need to spend hours engineering each and every one.

You're better off having several ‘good enough' calls to action than a few perfect calls to action. ‘Call now', ‘buy now', ‘get in touch' and the like are a little boring because we see them everywhere – But we see them everywhere because they tend to work.

Use these as your baseline, but find ways to inject a little personality and make them compelling to keep them from being stale.