When we speak of a good landing page, we talk about its messaging, layout and offer. This offer is usually in the form of a call to action, with a form directly on your page. Often, a landing page is separate and distinct from interior pages on your site. Many times, your interior product or services pages are also “landing pages” in that they are the entrance page for a visitor who finds that page in the search engine results pages.

What’s the difference between a hard CTA and a soft CTA?

Your primary call to action (CTA) is the main action you want your visitor to take on the page. Often it involved a “request a quote” or “contact us” and assumes your visitor is in a certain place in the buying cycle. Many times, however, your visitor isn’t ready to have that kind of interaction with your brand just yet. They might be in a different phase of the buy cycle; maybe they are fact-finding, or determining your trust and experience factor. It is this vital visitor that requires and alternative way to contact with you brand — namely, the soft CTA.

The soft CTA, or secondary CTA, is a less-invasive action for visitors to take, allowing your brand to be present in their consciousness, without actually having to speak to anyone in your organization. The soft CTA is visually usually less conspicuous that your hard CTA, and is a great way to envelope prospects into your brands nurturing process.

For example, say you had a page with a “request a quote” as your hard CTA, in which they have to fill out a full registration form. As a soft CTA, you might put a subscribe to your email list, or download a whitepaper or watch a video with just a required email address.

Why should you include soft CTAs on your pages?

Without the soft CTA, the visitor who wasn’t ready to talk to you might simply walk away. Given the alternative of the secondary CTA, they now have an option to continue their brand engagement, but in a much less invasive way. And, you have captured some of their information with a soft CTA (in the example above, their email address) so you can trickle data to them on a regular basis (a subsequent email saying, “I see you downloaded this whitepaper. You might be interested in watching this video on the same or similar topic’)

What about complementary CTAs?

And even softer soft CTA (say that ten times fast),  or complementary CTA, is a download or action that requires no personal information. And while this does not allow you to put them into a nurturing program, you can put on-click tracking onto the download link (which can then be measured in Google Analytics) to measure the interest in this asset,  helping you to determine positive patterns of behavior that speak to the visitor’s position in the sales funnel. And, you can always put links in your downloads to another action, which, in itself, is ANOTHER CTA. Maybe this one requires some form of information from the visitor, and therefore puts them into the nurturing phase.

Are CTAs only used for conversions?

Your CTAs do not necessarily have to be merely for conversion. Think of the social aspects to your calls to action. You may be trying to grow your social reach, so a soft CTA to encourage people to follow you on Twitter, Facebook or Linkedin is another viable business goal. On your blog, having a soft CTA to share the post is an excellent way to increase your social and brand reach. A soft CTA can even be used to promote attendance at an upcoming event.

Make sure they CTAS complement each other, rather than competing for attention. Your hard CTA is the primary action you want your visitors to take. Make sure your soft CTA doesn’t overpower your hard CTA, from messaging to design, to placement.
Think about the goal of each action, and make sure you are considering the visitors position in the sales cycle, as well as their interests. And in the best of cases, don’t have more than 3 CTAs on your most important pages. Otherwise, you have created a hallway will many exit doors, as opposed to one entrance, one exit, and a stop at the water fountain on the way. A nice balance of the three would be:

  1. CTA1 (Hard) – fill out the form to receive a free quote on XYZ
  2. CTA2 (Soft) – sign up to receive email on free tips to improving your XYZ
  3. CTA3 (soft + complementary) – follow us on LinkedIn for the latest in product announcement, industry trends and tips for your business.

Ultimately, utilizing both a hard and soft CTA enables you to prioritize and balance your goals, lead generation or otherwise.As with anything in marketing, the only way to truly know which CTAs work best on which pages, and with each other is to test, and test again. Understand you goals, your audience, and the sales cycle and you have a clear path to success.