We all know call-to-actions are powerful. They have the power to turn visitors into customers. We’re told to test them over and over again until we’ve created the perfect catalyst for the click.

As an online marketing consultant, I have my fair share of ups and downs. You get your hands on a lot of data and can see awesome results from using it wisely. Other times even with this data your decisions can be trumped by internal politics. This is a case of the latter I experienced. I hope this will be educational. Let’s start with a little background about this company.

This company generated 99% of their leads from inbound marketing.

The company I was working with had a very strong search presence. They were smart and got on the search engine optimization (SEO) wagon a decade ago. They were getting hundreds of leads a day. Their sales team of twelve fielded inbound phone calls, chats and emails all day long. Most of these orders were one-off sales. Some were big repeat clients.

The company’s goal was landing bigger, better and more committed clients. To do this, the sales manager wanted to get every lead on the phone so a salesperson could identify high quality prospects. I was concerned about that because I had a really good marketing program running.

Prospects could only get pricing two ways: calling in or giving their email.

The website had a price list download tab off to the side. This was the only way to get pricing without speaking to a person. In fact, my call-to-action on other pages was “get pricing without getting on the phone.” I don’t think sales liked that much, but it drove email leads.

Email marketing is incredibly powerful. It’s one of the highest return on investments a business can get for their marketing spend. The barrier to entry is low as there are tons of great email marketing tools available. Regardless, I was asked to get rid of the button. I didn’t want to do this because the button fed into our email drip campaign which generated leads and sales. So we reached a middle ground.

We changed one word and it destroyed our leads.

As a compromise we decided to keep the CTA button but change one word. Here’s what the change looked like.

Look at the orange button in the bottom right corner.

example of a lead generation button for download pricelist

Before the change you can see a call to action on the button for “Download Pricelist.”

Now look at the updated button

lead generation button with download product list button

“Download Pricelist” became “Download Product List.” That’s it. Not a big deal?

Here’s what happened.

Leads from our download form dropped by 81%

When you test something you need to have a way of measuring change. For this test we were seeing if changing “Pricelist” to “Product List” would decrease downloads of the pricing and increase calls. Everyone agreed we’d test it for 30 days. Within the first two weeks it was very clear that this was cutting our download form leads and not increasing calls. This button went from generating 50 leads a day to 10.

We had some pretty basic email marketing setup. Here’s a funnel illustration showing what we had going on.

email marketing funnel example for a lead generation showing different stages of leads.

A site visitor would click the orange button, fill out a form and immediately get an email with a download link. This link was for a pricing guide so visitors could get an idea of how much it would cost to do business with the company.

The next business day, an automated email was sent to them asking if they needed help with anything. This looked like it was from a real sales person. If someone replied to this email, they’d get put into the sales cycle. A percent of these leads would turn into customers.

This easy little automated marketing was generating at least 5 sales a week. At an average $1,200 per sale, that’s $6,000 a week in revenue.

Within three weeks we decided to reverse the change due to the impact on leads and revenue.

We put the old call-to-action up and guess what happened.

After putting the old call-to-action with “Download Pricelist” back on the site, our downloads returned to previous numbers. They went up almost 81% exactly within one week. The automated system went back to generating around 50 leads a day.

The big takeaways

Here are the big takeaways from this experiment

  • High performing call-to-actions are directly related to customer wants. In this case, customers wanted pricing and had no way to get it without calling or downloading a PDF. If the website listed pricing, this call-to-action wouldn’t work nearly as well.
  • Don’t have bias. Testing things requires letting go of your personal opinions and looking at facts.
  • You need to have an if then statement. For example, if we remove this call-to-action, calls will increase.
  • Always have a system in place for measuring changes. If you change something, you need to have a way of measuring the impact this change has.

What results have you seen from testing call-to-actions? Butted heads with sales? Would love to hear from you, feel free to share in the comments below.

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