Next time you’re at your local mega-super-multiplex cinema, watch the movie patrons as they walk out of whatever film they just finished seeing. What do you expect to witness? Stunned silence from the audience of a grim war drama? A throng of kids bursting out the door, zapping each other with imaginary ray guns after an afternoon with a sci-fi action flick? Smiles, laughter and hand-holding between couples as they exit a top-flight romantic comedy? That’s what I would expect from a movie that has done its job well and entertained in the way it meant to entertain. (If you ever see stunned silence from an audience as they file out of a romantic comedy, you may safely take that movie off your list of things to do.)
A successful movie or play takes pains to make sure its audience leaves the theater in a specific emotional state. Even after weaving a powerful spell for two solid hours, however, the movie can still falter if the ending doesn’t follow through. Either the viewers immediately forget what they just experienced, or they walk away frustrated and confused. Either way, they don’t return, nor do they tell their friends to go see the movie, and so the movie tanks.
You and I face the exact same challenge with our website or print-marketing content — only for “ending” substitute the term “call to action.” You can lead your reader by the nose all the way from the opening header to the closing paragraph, but you’ll still lose the sale without an inspiring finish.
An effective call to action is consistent in tone with what came before (no jarring shifts that wreck the mood), clear (because an ending should feel like an ending) and commanding (“Laugh! Cry! Think! Buy something!”) Do it right, and your audience will go forth doing what you want them to do. Do it wrong, and they’ll just go forth.
May your next marketing venture earn four stars from your most demanding critics — your target market!
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