Soft Selling. Does the CTA live on in Digital Marketing?

by Cory Bergeron on May 11, 2015 3:00:00 AM Digital Marketing

Soft_Selling._Does_the_CTA_live_on_in_Digital_Marketing-754614-edited“Dad, can I pierce my ears?” asks my 12-year-old son. “I have the money; I’ve already found a place to do it. Mom says it’s OK and I really, really want to. If anyone treats me different because of my earrings, they don’t deserve to be my friend anyway.” He has me in a corner. He has covered all his bases and negated any logistical hang-ups I might default to. I delay the decision by having a 30-minute conversation with his mother, a woman who is the ultimate balance between traditional family values and non-conformity. Eventually, I sigh and give my consent knowing that my son will either love them or suffer ridicule and pull them out within a week. He is elated.

As a father of four who spent two years as a stay-at-home dad, I get hit with questions like this all the time...questions that force me into a place of discomfort, but demand an immediate decision—a Call To Action.

Parents must weigh such things daily. It is part of the job. Sure, they have tactics, but parents put things off. After all, a parent always has the upper hand when confronting a child with technicalities and logistics the child did not consider, making the decision unnecessary. But, when a decision cannot be delayed, the child's case is air-tight and a choice is demanded, there is a common truth: most of the time, the parent will suffer the decision itself far more than the results of what they decided. In many cases, until a decision is demanded of them, parents will simply find a way not to make one.

Inside the Consumer's Mind

Historically, consumers have embodied many of these same characteristics. They seem to hold off until a decision is demanded of them. Thus, the CTA (Call To Action). It has been around as long as advertising itself. Look back as far as you want. “Buy Now.” It is always there somewhere.

So, in this day and age of softer sells and “tell me don’t sell me” consumer mentality, how important is the CTA anyway? We all know the days of shouting at the screen are about as on-trend as parachute pants and pagers. Couldn’t the CTA simply drop out of the sell as well? The short answer from the front lines: No, it can't.  

During my long career in the direct response industry, I’ve found that some of my clients hang their hats on their soft-sell mentality. Others go completely “old school” with their approach to selling. Either way, the CTA is always there. It has to be. If there is one thing that remains constant in any DR sales, it is this: most customers won’t commit to a decision until it is demanded of them. Someone must ask customers for their money.

CTAs in the Digital World

The Web has re-written how this takes place. On the Internet, you no longer need to close the sale during the first point of contact—so in many cases, the CTA is now delayed. First, consumers see a 20- to 30-second sizzle video to arouse curiosity. They click and they are whisked off to a landing page with a longer video and the CTA. It may be more subdued, it may be hidden, it may be just text, but the CTA is always there and its delivery can be the difference between marginal sales and stellar success.  

Cultural landscapes will shift, technologies will advance, and sales delivery methods will change. But the hardwiring and innate characteristics of human psychology are not so quick to alter. Down deep, we are still the same creatures, experiencing the same general emotions and making the same decisions as those who lived with dinosaurs. For most who are not insanely wealthy and even some who are, making a purchase decision is harder than losing the cash itself, and most people will avoid it unless it is demanded of them. Whether it's a traditional DR or digital marketing campaign, you must take your customers from emotionally struggling to the excitement of anticipating the transformation their new product will provide! Somewhere, at some point and in some fashion, you must ask for an immediate must deliver the CTA!

Image by stockimages/
Cory Bergeron is founder of Pitch Video.

Cory Bergeron's blog
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