There’s a lot of guidance on the internet about the necessity of clear and concise language in calls-to-action. But a strong verb alone isn’t enough to compel a reader to take action — users need to understand both what the action is and why it’s valuable for them.
The inclusion of that “why” is what separates a call-to-value from a call-to-action.
Call-to-Action vs. Call-to-Value
A call-to-action (CTA) is a visual element that entices a visitor to complete an action. A call-to-value is a CTA that also contains a value proposition, providing the site visitor with more context to inform their decision.
“A user is never going to just make the decision based on what the button text says. There’s supporting copy that has to be associated with any button, whether it’s a call-to-action or a call-to-value,” says Manager of Web Strategy, Kelly Molloy. “That ratio shifts a little bit as you start writing more calls-to-value because the ‘why’ question is answered within the button copy, so you’re depending less on the supporting copy to do a lot of the work.”
“Learn more,” “download now” and “get started” are all common CTA buttons, but they rely on the header copy to provide essential context. What will they learn more about? What are they downloading? What are they getting started on? These CTAs tell the user what action to take, but don’t explain what the user will get out of it.
A button that says “Explore New Breed’s portfolio,” on the other hand, explains both what action the user should take and what they’ll gain from taking it. We want the visitor to explore and research further, and by doing so, they’ll get to examine our work samples.
“Headers and supporting copy are certainly still important in providing contextual information about a specific offer,” Kelly says. “But, we use buttons as a standout design element since that’s the action we want them to take. Thus, if we leave out the value in the button copy, we’re missing the mark.”
While writing calls-to-value can add a couple words to your button, they also improve the scanning experience on your website because the most visually attractive element on the page is providing more relevant information.
“If [users] are skimming the site and the primary design element is on the button and the button doesn’t include the information that’s in the header or subheader, then they’re missing some of the key information as they skim,” Kelly says.
When to Use Calls-to-Actions vs. Calls-to-Value
Whether a button should be a call-to-value or a call-to-action depends on how it’s functioning on the page.
For example, calls-to-value are great at guiding visitors to landing pages. But, once a user arrives on that landing page, the next button they see will be on a form. This button doesn’t need to say “submit this form to download your e-book”; instead, it can just say “submit.”
“We do a lot of work to get someone to a page that has a form. Once a user gets to that form, we still need to have the supporting content and value prop on the individual page, but no longer is that button the thing that will convince them to go to the next step,” Kelly says.
By the time a visitor reaches the button at the bottom of a landing page form, they’ve already made up their mind about what action they’re going to take. So, reiterating the value proposition can feel like overkill.
Additionally, in places on your site like contact us pages or blog listings where the value is obvious, you can also use simple CTAs that say “get in touch” or “read more.”
If you’re not in a situation where using a straightforward call-to-action is preferable, though, you should default to using calls-to-value instead. If you have doubts about which will be more effective, you can always run A/B tests.
Calls-to-value provide more context than calls-to-action, though in doing so, they’re typically also longer.
However, the need to consciously choose between the two really only comes into play with buttons. Other CTA formats like inline CTAs, form CTAs and conversational CTAs tend to include more of an inherent value proposition because their formats have more text to work with.
Quinn is a writer and copyeditor whose work ranges from journalism to travel writing to inbound marketing content. She’s super passionate about grammar and punctuation and loves learning new things that she can share with readers. Her favorite punctuation mark is the em dash.