A call to action is an interaction between the company with the website and the viewer.
What is a Call to Action (CTA)?
By Douglas Krantz
The salesman's greeting starts out the conversation with "How's it going?", this requires an answer. The server at a restaurant stops by in the middle of the meal and says "How's the food?", this also requires an answer. Both of these questions require an immediate reply, and in both cases, whether the responder feels like giving a positive response or not, the comeback is almost always positive.
These are subtle examples of Call-to-Actions or CTAs. The calls are the questions asked by the salesman/saleswoman or server; the actions (usually positive) are the response given by the listener. Because the responses are positive, further positive responses are easier to elicit.
Other CTAs are more direct.
Two-Way Communication - the Interactive Website
For a website provider, the call-to-action is more than just providing pictures and text, it's asking the visitor to do something, to respond back with a key click, push of a button, make a comment, send in a name or email address, request literature, request an offer, buy something.
For the visitor, the call-to-action is more than just looking at the pictures and text; it's sending a reply back to the company sponsoring the website.
This is two-way communication; this is interaction between the website provider and the website visitor; this is a Call-to-Action.
Call-to-Actions Open Doors
The interesting part of a Call-to-Action is that it's a marketing tool. It shows the visitor that the website provider is interested in the visitor.
But the CTA is not a sales tool; it isn't meant to close a sale. Except for some retail websites, first time visitors don't reply to Buy-It-Now CTAs.
The Call-to-Action just makes it more comfortable for the visitor to interact. It makes it easier for the website visitor to, sometime later, talk to the sales team; it's a way to break the ice. If the visitor isn't ready, or even doesn't want to make a commitment. It shows the visitor that the sales team isn't going to bite the visitor's head off.
Penalty for No Call-to-Action on a Webpage
Remember that most first time visitors to any website aren't ready to interact at all. Because of many reasons, they just move on. However, for those visitors who want to see more, the website needs to be ready with some sort of subtle Call-to-Action.
According to About.com, the failure to have a Call-to-Action on every webpage "leaves the target audience unclear on the appropriate next step, which may result in dismal results."
Without a Call-to-Action, because the page doesn't tell anyone to do anything, all the information on the webpage might as well be posted on Wikipedia.
Types of Call-to-Action
A call-to-action can be How's the Food?, How's it Going? Click Now for Free Offer / Trial / Literature, The First 100 Responders get a Free Added Bonus, But-it-Now.
Be careful. As such, most Call-to-Actions shouldn't be a Call-to-Sales. First time visitors just want to be casual.
At least in the eyes of the visitor, a sign-up sheet requiring name, email address, company name, phone number, and other information looks like a Call-to-Sales. If this is on the page, the first time visitor may be afraid that this required information will be followed up with a phone call from the sales department. Any first time visitor is not ready for the sales department.
As the website visitor progresses from "just looking" toward "I'm interested," Call-to-Actions are a wonderful way of interacting. However, just responding to a simple greeting or how's it going type of question should be the first Call-to-Action seen by any new visitor when first landing on a website.