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How to tell stories with your websites

Developing Calls-to-Action for your Website –

I finished NaNoWriMo today – for those of you who’ve never heard of it, the challenge is to write a full novel in the month of November (or 50,000 words total of writing). I finally wrote The End after 46,048 words. How is this relevant to websites?

Well, like I say in the very middle of the homepage, a good website tells a story. In many ways, your website is a lot like a book: you must entice someone to glance at it, and then you must pull them in with carefully crafted hooks that pique their interest. A book is, after all, just a sales pitch from the moment someone flips it over in Barnes and Noble to read the back cover.

Today, let’s talk about how you can use principles from writing to strengthen your website:

Every story needs a plot

Discovering the best call to action for your page.

Every book needs a plot, and every web page needs a reason for existing. Pure content presentation isn’t enough. Almost every web page on your site must have a task that you hope visitors will complete: a call to action. If it’s the events page for your organization, you hope that visitors will find relevant events and attend them. If it’s the marketing page for your flagship product, you hope that customers will buy that product.

Every page makes a pitch to its viewers, and a page without a call to action is doomed to wander aimlessly. The two examples are off the top of my head, but the principle stands: you should have a concrete call to action for every (or nearly every) page on your website. After all, if we don’t know what we want our visitors to do with the page, what’s the point of putting it on the website at all?

If you work with a web design agency, they can help you to fine-tune your calls-to-action so that they match your audience, your business, and the products you are selling. In the meantime, focus on building one concrete call to action for every page on your website!

The world’s shortest rom-com

Or, why your call to action should be reasonable

Imagine a romantic comedy with a guy who thinks his waitress at the local diner is pretty cute. They flirt a bit, and then he pops down on one knee and proposes. First of all, that would be the shortest movie ever; secondly, there’s no way she’d say yes – even in a rom-com (Relevant XKCD comic)!

When developing calls-to-action for your website, be careful not to ask too much of your visitors. A lot of times, a direct link to buy your product is not the best call-to-action on your product page – especially if your product is expensive or requires a lot of work. A better path might be to suggest a sales call or an informational email, or even a free resource better explaining your product’s benefits.

Selling your customer on your product is not the same thing as selling your customer your product. Before they say, “Yes,” you must make the case that they want to say “Yes” anyways. A convinced customer is likely to buy your product anyways, but a customer who’s waffling will turn tail and run when you hit them with a giant BUY NOW button.

You might also need to adapt your calls-to-action to your particular audience: even if that means choosing a call to action that might not be the absolute best in a vacuum.For example, say you have a product that you sell largely to an older audience. The most effective call-to-action might not be an online form or “Buy Now” button – it might reap more benefits to make your call-to-action a simple phone number, so that your sales staff can close the deal via a medium your audience is more comfortable with.

Draw your visitors in

Ruthlessly cut any content that doesn’t make your case.

So now you have a call to action for your page: great! But dropping a big button at the top and bottom of the page is not going to cut it. No, now you must prune the content around that call-to-action. If anything on that page does not work to convince a visitor to follow through on your call to action, it must be pruned off the page.

This is an incredibly tough job for most businesses – but cramming more and more content on a page is not always the best path. Some customers respond better to two really good testimonials than a wall of ten faceless testimonials. Maybe a short video seals the deal for your customer base. Or maybe a real-world use case is just what that company needs to pull the trigger on your widget.

The point is, your content should be evaluated in light of the call to action you’ve already settled on. Now you have a concrete rubric for what content to include on your page!

Creating calls-to-action for your website is not an easy, quick process. It requires a lot of knowledge of your customer base, and it requires a willingness to get into the weeds with your website content and messaging. But if you make the investment, customers will be able to tell the difference. There’s a huge gap between a sleazy, hastily slapped-together “Buy Now” landing page and a landing page that takes the time to consider the customer, make a strong case for the product, and leave your visitors with a small call to action that leads to more.

Take the time, and you will reap the benefits.


Thanks to João Silas for this week’s image!

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