I need to clear something up. It’s been bothering me for a while, and it’s a topic that might be a bit polarizing.
I think we’ve placed too much emphasis on the call to action.
Don’t get me wrong. I think a strong call to action is still vital, and I even wrote a post about the importance of a call to action.
I just think we’ve become too infatuated with the call to action.
Maybe it’s because 70% of small B2B business websites don’t even have a call to action. Maybe it’s because I’ve heard more marketing managers than I can count murmur, “It needs a call to action,” in a meeting then sit back and smirk like they just delivered upon us all a prophetic vision from a higher plane of existence.
There could be a lot of reasons why this has become such a focal point in the industry. But take a look at this:
Those are the average monthly searches on Google for the term “call to action.” That’s a lot of searches for one term, further illustrating the popularity of the call to action.
That’s no secret. But this is:
Context for action has so few searches Google doesn’t even register it as a viable term. No one is even talking about this, let alone searching for it.
Understandably, you might be wondering what context for action is. I don’t blame you. It’s a term I just made up.
Yet I believe this single phrase will change the way you talk about consumer messaging.
What Is Context For Action?
Interestingly enough, this principle isn’t earth-shatteringly new. Whether or not you realize it, you’ve always focused on a few of the elements included in the overall context for action.
What this is, however, is a better, more unified way of evaluating the effectiveness of your entire message.
Context for action (CFA) is any element surrounding a call to action that inspires action. The CFA is everything that precedes your call to action.
The yellow circle is the call to action. It is the last step in a “purchase decision,” separating the user from the desired end goal. The black circle is the context for action. If you notice, it is literally everything else on the page.
See, the CFA isn’t one concrete thing to point at. It’s more of an idea — a way of looking at the elements that surround your call to action.
It is the body copy in a sales letter.
It is the headline of an article.
It is the image on a landing page.
It is the context of the message in which your consumer makes the all-important decision of action or inaction.
Using the AIDA model as an example (Attention, Interest, Desire, Action), the CFA would satisfy the first three steps. A good use of CFA builds compliance throughout the message, calling upon one or many emotional appeals to prompt action.
On the surface, it sounds slightly obvious, doesn’t it? Everything that isn’t the call to action is, inherently, context for that action.
Here’s the thing, though — this isn’t the way most marketers craft their messages. They don’t focus on the core context for the action.
A general message ideation/creation without the CFA way of mind looks like this: The sender thinks about what they want to say, how they want to say it and whom it will go to. They create the piece and slap a headline on whatever they created. Finally, they try to find an image that fits what they talked about.
Viola. Message, right? Wrong.
Basically, they think of all these elements in a medium as “parts” they have to stitch together to make a patchwork quilt of sorts. It’s a cascade effect of creating the main content, then making piece X fit the content, piece Y fit piece X and so on, with each piece being dependent on the preceding piece.
That’s all well and good, but the core of your message is diluted through that process. That’s why a CFA mindset is so vital.
If you start looking through this CFA lens, I promise you will dramatically strengthen every aspect of your message.
How do you do that? You only have to ask three questions.
The Three Questions For Successful CFAs
If everything you create in a message is the context for action, then you need to figure out exactly what will cause that action.
This is where the CFA mindset kicks in. Take your idea and forget about what medium you’ll publish it on (sales pages, emails, Facebook posts, etc.). Push all that to the side and focus on the core idea behind why you’re crafting your message.
Once you have that in mind, you need to ask yourself two questions:
- From your perspective: “What will make my audience care?”
- From audience perspective: “Why should I?”
These are big questions that will shape every piece of content creation. Body copy, headlines, imagery, all of it. We wrote a piece about getting inside the mind of your audience , and that’s something these questions help you do.
From your perspective, you need to think about what would make your audience care about what you’re creating. What can you do as a message crafter to make your content matter? Can you make it unique? Does it offer tremendous value? Figure out your hook and address these questions right away.
Then, do the same thing but from the audience’s perspective. Ask “Why should I?”
It’s essentially the same question as before, but this time you’re really putting yourself in the audience’s shoes. Why should you, the message consumer, spend your valuable time reading this copy instead of literally anything else in the world?
When you can come up with the same realistic answer for both questions, then you’re ready to answer the biggest question of them all.
What’s Your Context For Action?
You’ve got your message idea. You know how your message will be unique. All you have left to do is answer one final question.
What’s your context for action?
This is the new question everyone in the marketing world needs to start asking. It’s simple, but answering it will provide a much higher understanding of your message’s goal than any other question would.
When someone asks you, “What’s your CTA?” all you have to do is point at the call to action. When someone asks you, “What’s your message idea?” you only have to talk about the content, but even that becomes a lengthy explanation and doesn’t include the result you want your audience to have.
When someone asks, “What’s your CFA?” you really have to show a command of your message in a succinct way. This question encompasses almost every element of your message and medium, which means the answer could potentially be long and complicated.
But there’s a specific, concise way you need to answer this important question. Get this phrase tattooed somewhere on your person:
I want them to feel (X) because (Y) so they do (Z).
This answer is short yet packs a lot of informational punch. It’s like Albert Einstein said: “If you can’t simply explain it, then you don’t understand it well enough.” If you can explain the rationale behind why people should act on your message, then you have a strong context for action.
And, in the spirit of Albert Einstein, I’m about to say something I never thought I’d have to say when I became a copywriter.
Let’s do some math.
X = Emotion: You want the message recipient to feel something. Whether that’s curiosity, excitement, urgency or any other emotion, the aim of your message should be to create a feeling. That’s the first step.
Y = Reason: Why should they feel that feeling? That’s the reason you need to determine. Should they feel urgency because only 500 people get to read the article, or is it because the content will expire within one day? Know the specifics behind how you will inspire feelings.
Z = Action: What do you want them to do once they interact with your content? This bleeds into call to action territory, but it’s important to know the end goal so you can shape your context to fit accordingly.
X+Y=Z. You’re taking your content idea and combining it with this formula to create your context for action.
For example, if someone asked me what my CFA was for a new eBook, I could say:
I want them to feel a sense of urgency because only 500 people get to read the eBook so they end up giving their email address to read the article.
In that one sentence, I’m telling you how all the messages I craft will make people feel and act a certain way. It’s my context for action, and it applies to everything I write that focuses on marketing this eBook.
This unified way of thinking is important for individual pieces, but crucial for large-scale, multi-faceted campaigns. To show you what I mean, I’m going to open the curtain just a bit and let you see how we at LeadPages used this method to market our newest page template.
Context For Action Case Study
We recently created a new landing page template that will help turn cold leads into warm leads before you send them to your main sales page. We market this template a few different ways, but the main mediums are Facebook, email and the template blog post.
Those are completely different mediums with different formats, which is why traditional content creation ideology would hinder our messaging. There needed to be a way to ensure all our messaging was uniform, which led to us implementing the CFA methodology.
Think back to the equation we used for determining the CFA. I want them to feel (X) because (Y) so they do (Z). We needed to answer this question before we could write our first word of messaging.
In this instance, here’s what we came up with:
I want them to feel desire because we’re providing a way to turn cold ad traffic into warm leads, so they want to download our free template or become a LeadPages customer.
From there on out, every message we crafted needed to accomplish this sense of desire by demonstrating this unique benefit our template promises. Each medium had a different call to action, or a “mini-goal” to accomplish, ultimately leading to a template download or sale.
With this Facebook post, you can see the CFA in action everywhere. This post is only an entry point, driving traffic to our main blog post page.
Facebook, in general, is a shorter medium, so there isn’t a lot of opportunity to be wordy. However, every bit of content in this post is ripe with context for action. Our post description, imagery and link description all convey the benefit of what this landing page can do.
It’s important to note that, although the overarching CFA for this campaign is to get people to download the template, the action is adapted to fit earlier stages of the campaign.
On this Facebook post, for example, the real action we’re focusing on is to simply get people to click on the link to the page. However, we’re also hinting at the larger, overarching action of downloading the template by letting them know “we have the perfect landing page for you.
The email is a bit more long-form, so we get to be more convincing with a full-bodied context for action in the form of enticing body copy. This, like the Facebook post, is designed to drive traffic to the template blog post.
Again, we’re instilling a sense of desire by showing just how valuable this template can be. We talk about why you need this template, how we promise performance and what you can do to create a high-converting ad to drive traffic to this page.
Template Blog Post
This is what all the messaging pushes towards, yet this is still just a piece of communication to demonstrate how valuable the template is. As such, it follows the same guidelines we set forth for our context for action.
We use an eight minute video here instead of body copy as the main focus for our CFA. In it, we deliver on everything we promised in the email AND Facebook post, showing off the effectiveness of this template.
The page finishes with a strong call to action below the video, prompting visitors to download this great template or become a LeadPages customer so they can instantly customize it without touching a line of code. Every bit of content we’ve created in the three examples I’ve shown have different formats and delivery methods, but they all stay consistent in what they try to communicate.
That’s the power of the context for action.
If you want to start getting into this CFA mindset, I’ve created a quick worksheet you can use in your next marketing effort. You can download it by clicking the button below, and it will help you get a high-level look at all the messages you’re creating and how to keep a consistent CFA throughout.
Check out the worksheet and leave a comment below to let me know how you plan on using it!