The psychology of the call to action: The do’s and the don’ts

We are all aware of the so-called call to action (CTA), which is used by online brands and businesses to promote a specific product or service. While the vast majority of business-owners apply CTA’s throughout their website content, marketing material and point of sale copy, however, this often done in a generic and non-strategic manner that proves ineffective.


This is because there is a clear psychology behind the concept of the call to action, and this must be understood if you are to successfully market and sell your business proposition. There are a number of do’s and don’ts to consider when crafting your CTA, both in terms of its presentation and the timing of its delivery. There are now dedicated firms offer businesses guidance on this area. With this in mind, let’s take a look at these and help you to craft your campaign.

The do’s of a successful CTA

  • It is interesting to note that the human mind expects a CTA when liaising with business owners, and this is something that the most proactive firms recognise. The typical CTA is part of a logical progression through any website or landing page, and it is underpinned by a ‘perceptual set theory’ which established how the human mind perceives people, objects and events. To capitalise on this, you must design the layout of your landing pages to optimise the CTA experience, while also using direct and customer-focused language.
  • The human mind is also innately curious, and CTA’s play into this perfectly. More specifically, they appeal to our sense of the unknown, and the potential to reinforce the sense of either anticipation or reward. This relies on the psychological principle that both of these emotions are usually a prelude to satisfaction, which is what we desire as consumers and individuals. To put this psychological theory into practice, you will need to create enticing and engaging copy that is supported by appealing imagery or video. More specifically, use positive terms that describe the core features and benefits of your product or service, as this will have a cumulative effect in the customers’ mind.

The don’ts of CTA psychology

  • In terms of don’ts, remember that the type of language that you use it central to your chances of success. If we success that CTA’s trigger the human mind’s desire for satisfaction, then it is crucial that customers’ understand your proposition and the benefits that it holds for them as individuals. If you use business jargon or overly-complex copy that only people within your industry would understand, the CTA will fail as customers have little or no opportunity to develop a genuine sense of excitement or anticipation. To help avoid this, interact regularly with customers through social media and take the time to understand their language and the terms that they use to describe your company.
  • Finally, you must never mislead the customer if you hope to earn repeat and long-term custom. After all, the typical human mind boasts incredible powers of memory and it is unlikely to forget instances where it has been fooled, duped or misled by established brands. This will create a sense of cynicism that is hard to negate, and it also explains why so many businesses achieve initial success on the back of generous promotions only to fail once their claims have not been followed through. You must therefore detail the terms and conditions of any CTA in careful detail before publishing it, avoiding any confusion or offers that may mislead individuals who are new to your business or sector. Also, be sure to publish any fine print in detail and make this easily accessible to the consumer.