Your Content Doesn’t Need a Call to Action — It Actually Needs Three!

Imagine you are in transition and just had a fantastic networking conversation with a recruiter.  She described a new job opportunity that would be a great fit for your skills. But as you get up to leave, you do not give her your contact information, you do not offer her your resume (with all of the additional information to build on what you’d discussed), and you walk away without writing down any of her details, either. All of the positive mojo that had been building up in that 20-minute conversation just went up in smoke, never to return.

If you were looking for work, you would NEVER end an interaction like this. 

So marketers, why do we do this so often with our content?

As I’ve written before, every consumer touchpoint should contain a clear call to action (CTA).   This includes every page of your website, every ad, every email, every piece of content, every social post… anytime you have captured a customer or prospect’s attention, you need to invite them to do more. 

But here’s the real secret: If you really want to put the customer first, you don’t just need one CTA—you need to provide three. Why? Because for any given piece of content, we cannot be 100% sure of where someone is in their journey with us. If we give them three choices: 1) one offering more of the same; 2) one to take them a little deeper down; and 3) one to take them all the way to the end, they are exponentially more likely to stay engaged with us—but at their own pace.

Let’s see how this could work for everyone’s favorite product: snow tires (which oddly enough, people start shopping for in early September):

  • The first type of CTA is a chance for customers to get to know you even better. You are still romancing them. If they just enjoyed or found value in a piece of content you created, give them a chance to read a similar article or watch a related video. For our tire example, if a consumer just finished an engaging video watching Ken Block trying to drift through a GYMKHANA course with different types of tires (and clearly having more luck with some than others), you might link them to a different Ken Block video, or you might have a link to a quick chart with more detail explaining the difference between snow tires and other types of tires (performance, summer, all season, etc.)—and what it means for the consumer (as a responsible, non-rally-car-drifting driver).
  • The second type of CTA is a chance for customers to go a bit deeper. This is their signal of intent and engagement—they are moving down the funnel toward purchase.  Although you’d want to try to keep it at least as entertaining as the previous video (I mean, shouldn’t all of your content strive to be engaging and entertaining?) you might link to another video or infographic about “What to look for in a snow tire” or a link to “Check current rebates on snow tires” (this is also a way to create a sense of urgency).  You are getting them closer to a purchase without asking for a commitment (although depending on the type of content, this is potentially a great time to ask for contact information, like an email or mobile phone number to get real-time notifications on tire rebates, for example).
  • The third type of CTA is very direct—a button to “Buy Tires Now” or “Schedule a Tire Appointment” to get people into your store to make a purchase. If people are ready to buy, you want to remove any confusion or friction in the process. Don’t make them wade through three more levels of content before they can close the deal. Trust me, if they find a competitor’s site that’s much easier to navigate for a transaction, you will lose the customer you were just cultivating in a single click.  

Actually, you’d do well to have this third CTA omnipresent on your website so people can easily transact with you whenever they are ready. It could be a “Buy Now” button on the top right, or a consistent button you repeat throughout the site, but either way, everyone should always be able to get to a purchase in one step. 

This three CTA approach could be a huge opportunity for your business, as this strategy to offer three choices after every piece of content is not yet a consistent, common practice. Clearly it will require enough content to fulfill the strategy, but here’s why this approach is worth the effort:

  1. Three is the magic number of choices for the human brain, so the odds of them staying engaged increases;
  2. All of your content will be specifically designed with this framework in mind (no more random acts of content); and
  3. You aren’t just slamming someone into “Buy Now” as the only option if they aren’t ready—potentially losing them forever. 

Great content is one of the best ways to build your brand and create trust with your customers, but once you have grabbed someone’s attention and provided them something of value, why on earth would you intentionally end the conversation and set them free? If you’re not creating these effortless next steps for customers to continue to engage with you on their terms, you are not letting your content work as hard for you as it could. 

BTW, here’s why I’m still a firm believer in the traditional model of moving people down the funnel. And here are some real world examples of content that was a complete waste of marketing dollars.  

Alex Hultgren is the CEO of Customers 1st Marketing, helping companies delight their customers and find new ones as a fractional CMO. Need help getting your marketing strategy and tactics up to speed? Drop him a line at

Heh, heh … see what I did there? 

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