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'Call to Action' in Letters

By: Beth Morrisey MLIS - Updated: 5 Oct 2010 | comments*Discuss
Call To Action Letters Business Personal

‘Call to action’ is a phrase often associated with the business world but simply means asking readers to complete a certain action when finished with a letter. Calls to action are often used in sales and marketing letters, in newsletters and on websites but they can also be used in personal correspondence as well. A good call to action will identify for the reader why the action is needed and how the reader will profit from it, include specific instructions for the reader to follow and highlight a deadline by which the action must be completed.

Why the Action is Needed

When you ask someone to do something, you need to let them know why. When writing calls to action in letters this means identifying for your readers a need they have, perhaps even one that they might not even recognise yet. Common needs associated with calls to action include:

  • Saving money.
  • Making money.
  • Finding employment or more suitable employment.
  • Making life easier with a new product or service.
  • Staying in touch with family and friends.
  • Helping make an event a success.
  • Assisting others/volunteering.
  • Gift giving.

How the Reader Will Profit

It may seem like once a reader understands the need to take action, (s)he will understand that it will bring its own reward. This may be the case for some but most readers will also appreciate an explicit explanation of how they will profit from taking an action as well as an immediate reward. Free t-shirts or other small items, free shipping, a gift certificate, a free newsletter or eBook and a free trial of a subscription service are all common items given to readers who complete a call to action.

Specific Instruction for the Reader

When you want readers to do something it only makes sense to give them specific instructions on how to do it. Usually these instructions will be short and to the point, very often only a sentence or two. When they are published online, for example in an email or newsletter, they will usually include links to other relevant pages. Specific instructions for calls to action often include phrases like:

  • Please RSVP.
  • Click here for the online survey.
  • Email abc@xyz.com with the subject line “Reader Offer”.
  • Complete and return the enclosed postcard.
  • Call [telephone number] now to ask about our VIP Services Package.
  • Looking for love? Visit OurDatingSite now for the largest dating database on the web.
  • Don’t waste money. Call LovelyNewBank now on [number] to begin fee-free banking.

Deadline for the Action

Even when it makes sense for a reader to follow a call to action, most will wonder why they should do it now and not next week, next month or even next year. Publishing a firm deadline, often in conjunction with a negative result for missing the deadline, will help readers understand the urgency of the situation. Phrases as simple as “Offer ends 31 October”, “Applications accepted until 15 November” or even “Offer valid while supplies last” all convey a sense of urgency, most with a firm date for after which the reader will miss out on something. While a deadline may not convince a reader to follow a call to action, it could help sway those who are thinking about it into doing it now.

Both business and personal letters may request something of the reader, and this request is usually termed a ‘call to action’. The most effective calls to action include information on why the reader should undertake the action (the need for it), how it will benefit (profit) the reader, specific instructions for the reader to follow and a deadline by which the action should be taken for the best result.

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