How to Never Lose Your Messaging’s Plot


Have you ever started telling a story and gotten lost half way through? No, not a story, a joke.

And halfway through, you wonder if the the pig should have been driving the sports car because otherwise the punchline doesn't make sense. Wait, what was the punchline again?

Sadly, this is how most businesses treat their messaging. Someone sells them on a channel ("Billboards! It's the new brochure!”), they put their message out there on it and then what?

This is especially true now that everyone and their mom is social, and you can't legally publish a book or article on marketing without saying that everyone should be marketing within the social sphere. Sure, you're on Facebook, and maybe if everyone you know is on Facebook, Facebook is a smart place to market. You get hundreds of people excited about you on Facebook and, well, now what? You don't want to start the Facebook joke without knowing the punchline.

By now, you should know the term “call to action" (CTA, no relation to the Brown Line). It's the thing at the end of your marketing message that tells customer what to do next. Get more information. Call your sales rep. Sign up for this newsletter. Buy today and you'll get an extra 10 percent off. You did great work getting the customer excited, and the call to action is the punchline.

This isn't just true on simple marketing messages. Even if you're more of a "complex sale" kind of company, where sit can take three to 18 months between not knowing who you are and cutting you a check, the CTA is crucial. You just have to lead your customers down the breadcrumb trail.

For example: Your product is complicated, so your initial marketing is all education-focused, getting the target to understand the solution. You send a brochure underlining the problem you’re suspecting the target has. The target reads it and then what? They aren't ready to buy yet, so you can't ask them to buy. And maybe it's too soon for an in-person meeting. So maybe the CTA should be: "Go to this URL and read this ebook about your problem."

Of course, at the end of the ebook, there should be a CTA about how they should email a rep to set up an appointment to talk. And at the end of the conversation, the reps will have a CTA about an in-person visit to the target's location. And the CTA after that might be to buy.

See how many steps in the sales process? Each step needs a CTA at the end of it, otherwise, no one will know what the next step is, no matter how excited they are by your product.

James Ellis is a Google Analytics-certified digital strategist who has helped non-profits, state governments, small businesses and multi-national firms get smarter about doing business online. He used to be the first @BuckyBadger, which means he can type with big fuzzy paws. You can get in touch with James at to tell him how many ways he's wrong.

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