Recently a colleague lamented that he had tried various marketing strategies but was still not getting many referrals of new clients. I checked out his website and some of his online articles. They were professional and informative, but they lacked one important feature: a call to action.
A call to action in the marketing world is a statement or other directive for what you want the person to do next. You're probably familiar with calls to action on TV infomercials: "Call now to take advantage of this special offer, while supplies last!" But a call to action need not be brazen or sales-y. It just needs to be clear.

Why a call to action is important: In today's information-overload environment, people can easily get distracted and not follow through unless instructed to do so. Don't assume that they will immediately think about calling you once they read your article or visit your website. That next step may seem obvious to you, but it is not necessarily obvious to your audience. You need to point it out.

How to include a call to action in your communications:

On your website

  • Don't just list your phone number. Tell people what to do with your number: "Call for an appointment: 555-555-5555"
  • Instruct people to click on a link e.g., "Download a free journaling template here." or "Click here to get a weekly newsletter with tips for better communication with your spouse." or "Read my latest blog post on [topic] here."

On your business card

Send people to your website or blog. Include the page-specific URL and give them a reason to go there e.g., "Download free stress-busting tips at"

In your blog posts and articles

  • End your articles with a brief list of tips (no more than 4). Make them specific. For example instead of saying, "Keep a journal of your feelings," tell them how to set up the journal and when to write in it.
  • After following a couple of your simple tips, some people may be interested in more information from you. Thus, at the bottom of your article add a statement such as "Learn more about the topic of … at www....  On that page include a call to action for what the person should do next - click to make an appointment, download a document, etc.

In your presentations and workshops

Always have a handout. On your handout include tips, of course. But also give people a reason to contact you, and tell them how to do so. e.g., "Email me for a copy of the slides" [your email address here]. or "Sign up for my mailing list at www...." or "Call me for a free 15-minute consultation 555-555-5555."

At networking events with referral sources

The best time to give your business card to someone who is a potential referral source, is when they show interest in what you do (as described in my article, 16-Second Networking: Your "Elevator Speech")

As you hand the person your card, say something like, "I would really appreciate your referring patients to me." That does seem to state the obvious. However, if the recipient takes your card and nods in agreement, he has in a sense committed himself to keeping you in mind.

Summary: A call to action helps people make use of the information that they read or hear from you. It connects the dots between receiving your message and acting on it.

My call to action for you: Include a call to action in your next professional communication!