Experts say we hear nearly 5,000 marketing messages every single day. The same experts say we truly only recognize about 50 of them and really only remember about 4.
That’s a lot of messages delivered and just a handful of messages received.
And you don’t really need an expert or a study to tell you what you already know…there’s a lot of noise in the world. You, your family, your employees, your customers and everyone else are swamped with offers and opportunities every day.
If you’re on the receiving end of these messages, you’ve carefully tuned your avoidance mechanism. But if you’re on the sending end, with an important message to get through, what’s your strategy? Do you just give it your best and hope it becomes one of the 4? Do you just blast people over and over again in hopes they will give you a small slice of attention?
In this post (and two more to follow), I want to talk about how to effectively call people to action. If you want people to try something, buy something or click something, this post is for you.
Here are three principles to help you call people to action.
#1 – Clarify the desired result.
The first step in getting people to take action is to get clear about the action you really want them to take. This sounds simple, but it’s really hard. It’s hard to focus on one thing because I often want people to do 3, 4 or 5 things.
But that’s no good.
A while back, I was talking with a pastor who was struggling to get people connected to the church. The church did a pretty good job attracting people, but knew there was work to do connecting them. “We just can’t get people connected,” he told me.
“What does “connected” mean in your church,” I asked. “Have you truly defined what that means?”
After a few seconds of silence, this pastor said, “That’s so simple.” They had never taken time to truly clarify the desired action they wanted people to take. They offered lots of opportunities, but none were clear and obvious. Before creating a process, this church needed to clarify the outcome.
At the Story Brand Workshop in Nashville, Donald Miller said, “Your homepage should have one obvious button to push.” I shared notes and takeaways from the 2-day experience here.
He was talking about how most websites confuse people with options, links and information. We don’t present the desired outcome, we present all the possible ones.
We tend to think everything is important and the result is we confuse the customer. “If you confuse, you lose,” he said.
I looked at the Church Fuel home page and realized we were making this very mistake. We offered people blog posts, resources, courses, free downloads and a bunch of other stuff. There wasn’t a clear and obvious path for people to take.
Right now, we’re redesigning all of our pages right now so we can have greater clarity around the desired outcome.
Whether you’re running a business with multiple products or a church with multiple ministries, the struggle is similar.
More options will help you attract. But more focus will help you convert.
More stuff will help you generate interest. But greater clarity will help you lead people to action.
So before you go any further, get clarity around the single action you want people to take.
#2 – Focus on them, not you.
Did you know people donate more to hurricane relief after storms that share their same name? Or even their same initials? It’s true. People with names beginning with K donated more to Hurricane Katrina relief efforts.
Donorschoose.org ran a project asking people to donate to a school teacher that shared their same name. The result? 3x more donations. People gave more money when they knew it would help someone with their name.
There’s really a powerful principle behind these interesting facts: People are looking for themselves in other people’s stories.
And they are looking for themselves in your product, your event, and your website, too.
They don’t really care about your stuff, they care about what your stuff can do for their life. People don’t really care about the backstory of your thing, they want to know if it will make their life better.
They question they are asking is: “What’s in it for me?”
That’s why great communicators, leaders, and even websites put the other person front and center. Not the product. Not the event. Not the thing yo want them to do. People.
Let’s break down how to do this.
Level 1: Features
This is where you describe what it is.
It’s a phone with 128g of memory. It’s an online business event this Thursday. It’s a volunteer opportunity at the food pantry.
This is entry level description stuff – it’s necessary, but it’s just the starting point.
Level 2: Benefits
This is where you describe what it will do for the person.
You’ll never run out of storage space for your photos. You will learn how to network with other leaders leading growing businesses. You’ll feel good about yourself for volunteering and model selfless behavior for your kids.
Here, you’re moving beyond what the thing is and talking about what it will do for a person. You’re going deeper beyond a description and beginning to talk about people.
This is why the late night infomercials for knives show the knife cutting through an aluminum can and then smoothly slicing a tomato. They aren’t describing how long the knife is or what it’s made out of (those are features). They are showing you what you can do with it and how it will make your life easier (those are benefits).
Level 3: Outcomes
But there’s a third level that’s even more powerful. This is where you describe the results people will experience after they take action.
If you’re promoting a community group at your church, the result could be life-long friends you’ll want to go on vacation with. That’s so much deeper and much more descriptive than ordinary words like “community” and “fellowship.” You’re painting the picture of the outcome people can expect if they take action.
If you’re promoting an online course on how to make extra money, the result is having money that’s not already claimed so visiting family isn’t your only vacation option. It’s not just more money, it’s what you could do with it. The focus of your communication is the outcome, not how many videos come with your course.
Now here’s a pro tip. When you communicate all of this to someone, go in reverse. Start by talking about the outcome, then move to benefits and then end with features. Save the details for the end of your presentation or website, after you’ve helped people visualize the problem you’re solving.
That’s the power in calling people to take action.
#3 – Overcome their objections.
If you want people to take action, you’ve got to spend time confronting their objections head on.
Remember, people have built up an immunity to messaging. Their defenses are up all the time and they are naturally skeptical. They are looking for a reason NOT to take action.
The new Google Pixel phone looks pretty great, but as an Apple user for the better part of a decade, my biggest objection to switching isn’t megapixels or storage space. It’s leaving Apple. That’s why the Pixel sales page tells me I can connect a cable and switch everything (even iMessages) in three easy steps. They are confronting my objection.
Sometimes, just acknowledging people’s objections is enough. One of the biggest reasons people don’t join a small group at church is because they are busy. So just saying, “I know you’re already busy but just give it a try and see if it’s worth it.” is a simple way to communicate with empathy.
Once you clarify the action you really want people to take and think through how to communicate that in a personal and powerful way, be honest about people’s objections.
Make a list of those objections and work through them one by one. Where you can confront them, do so in a kind and honest way.
These three principles apply to all kind sof products, events, and opportunities. Anytime you want someone to do something, work through these three issues.
In the next post, I’ll pull back the curtain on how we’re applying this to Church Fuel and how you can improve the bottom line. And finally, we’ll end this series with six strategies for selling that work no matter what you’re promoting.