May 5, 2016

Overt vs covert calls to action

I spend quite a lot of time at home. At home I am not what you might call a ‘tidy person’. I will wander around the house thinking about Infusionsoft, or some such issue. While I am doing this I will leave cupboard doors ajar, pull out pots and pans, and generally make a mess.

I notice none of this until I am nagged.

We were talking yesterday about calls to action. I think calls to action in emails are misunderstood. Use too many calls to action or repeat the same call to action too many times and you turn in to a bit of a nag.

Nag nag nag. Buy my stuff. Nag nag.

Nobody likes a nag, and nagging drains the Reservoir of Goodwill you have built up with your readers.

So we have a problem. We want to include a call to action in every email. But we don’t want to come across as a nag.

There are two types of call to action: overt and covert. An overt call to action is generally what comes to mind when we think of a marketing email. An overt call to action will be a button or link telling the reader what to do.

I have three thoughts on overt calls to action.

1. Most people use too many links in a single email

I have been guilty of this. Up until recently I had about four sitting at the bottom of every email. I am now down to one, and I am considering getting rid of that one too.

When you include standard calls to action in the footer of your emails people become blind to them after a while. Have you ever noticed the link below that says ‘Copywriting services and courses’? I would like to know actually.

Overt calls to action are most effective when the call to the action is the only link in the email. You can repeat the link if you like, perhaps once at the beginning and once at the end of your content. But for maximum effectiveness it should be the same link.

When you give people more than one thing to do they generally do neither.

2. Too many links can cause deliverability problems

Adding multiple links to your emails is also a classic deliverability problem. The more links you have in your emails the more likely your emails are to wind up in the s.p.a.m folder.

If you think about it a personal email sent from Gmail or Outlook will rarely have that many links. Email is ultimately a personal medium.

3. Including the same links in every email makes you sound like a nag

Nagging is a skill required of accountants and administration staff. And apparently, wives. It is not a helpful skill when you are writing marketing emails.

Use ‘covert’ calls to action as a primer

A covert call to action is a passive mention of your products and services, explicitly with no link. Covert calls to action fly under the radar because they don’t show up as calls to action.

Every time I explain something about my Nurture Email Mastery course, that is a covert call to action. Every time I mention my Introvert’s Corner newsletter that is a covert call to action.

Covert calls to action are like primers. They raise awareness of your products in your customer’s mind so that when an overt call to action comes along they know what you are talking about and they pay attention to it.

You can and should be liberal with your covert calls to action. It is very difficult to offend anyone with a covert call to action because they won’t even know you are doing it.

There will be an overt call to action coming your way tomorrow.

Rob Drummond

Rob Drummond runs the Maze Marketing Podcast and Maze Mastery. Rob specialises in content production, ad creation, storytelling and CRM systems. He has two published books, Magnetic Expertise and Simple Story Selling, affordable on Amazon.