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The 8 Most Common Leadership Styles & How to Find Your Own

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“A good leader should always … “

How you finish that sentence could reveal a lot about your leadership style.

Leadership is a fluid practice. We’re always changing and improving the way in which we help our direct reports and the company grow. And the longer we lead, the more likely we’ll change the way we choose to complete the sentence above.

But in order to become better leaders tomorrow, we need to know where we stand today. To help you understand the impact each type of leader has on a company, I’ll explain eight of the most common types of leadership styles in play today and how effective they are.

Then, I’ll show you a leadership style assessment based on this post’s opening sentence to help you figure out which leader you are.

1. Democratic Leadership

Commonly Effective

Democratic leadership is exactly what it sounds like — the leader makes decisions based on the input of each team member. Although he or she makes the final call, each employee has an equal say on a project’s direction.

Democratic leadership is one of the most effective leadership styles because it allows lower-level employees to exercise authority they’ll need to use wisely in future positions they might hold. It also resembles how decisions can be made in company board meetings.

For example, in a company board meeting, a democratic leader might give the team a few decision-related options. They could then open a discussion about each option. After a discussion, this leader might take the board’s thoughts and feedback into consideration, or they might open this decision up to a vote.

2. Autocratic Leadership

Rarely Effective

Autocratic leadership is the inverse of democratic leadership. In this leadership style, the leader makes decisions without taking input from anyone who reports to them. Employees are neither considered nor consulted prior to a direction, and are expected to adhere to the decision at a time and pace stipulated by the leader.

An example of this could be when a manager changes the hours of work shifts for multiple employees without consulting anyone — especially the effected employees.

Frankly, this leadership style stinks. Most organizations today can’t sustain such a hegemonic culture without losing employees. It’s best to keep leadership more open to the intellect and perspective of the rest of the team.

3. Laissez-Faire Leadership

Sometimes Effective

If you remember your high-school French, you’ll accurately assume that laissez-faire leadership is the least intrusive form of leadership. The French term “laissez faire” literally translates to “let them do,” and leaders who embrace it afford nearly all authority to their employees.

In a young startup, for example, you might see a laissez-faire company founder who makes no major office policies around work hours or deadlines. They might put full trust into their employees while they focus on the overall workings of running the company.

Although laissez-faire leadership can empower employees by trusting them to work however they’d like, it can limit their development and overlook critical company growth opportunities. Therefore, it’s important that this leadership style is kept in check.

4. Strategic Leadership

Commonly Effective

Strategic leaders sit at the intersection between a company’s main operations and its growth opportunities. He or she accepts the burden of executive interests while ensuring that current working conditions remain stable for everyone else.

This is a desirable leadership style in many companies because strategic thinking supports multiple types of employees at once. However, leaders who operate this way can set a dangerous precedent with respect to how many people they can support at once, and what the best direction for the company really is if everyone is getting their way at all times.

5. Transformational Leadership

Sometimes Effective

Transformational leadership is always “transforming” and improving upon the company’s conventions. Employees might have a basic set of tasks and goals that they complete every week or month, but the leader is constantly pushing them outside of their comfort zone.

When starting a job with this type of leader, all employees might get a list of goals to reach, as well as deadlines for reaching them. While the goals might seem simple at first, this manager might pick up the pace of deadlines or give you more and more challenging goals as you grow with the company.

This is a highly encouraged form of leadership among growth-minded companies because it motivates employees to see what they’re capable of. But transformational leaders can risk losing sight of everyone’s individual learning curves if direct reports don’t receive the right coaching to guide them through new responsibilities.

6. Transactional Leadership

Sometimes Effective

Transactional leaders are fairly common today. These managers reward their employees for precisely the work they do. A marketing team that receives a scheduled bonus for helping generate a certain number of leads by the end of the quarter is a common example of transactional leadership.

When starting a job with a transactional boss, you might receive an incentive plan that motivates you to quickly master your regular job duties. For example, if you work in marketing, you might receive a bonus for sending 10 marketing emails. On the other hand, a transformational leader might only offer you a bonus if your work results in a large amount of newsletter subscriptions.

Transactional leadership helps establish roles and responsibilities for each employee, but it can also encourage bare-minimum work if employees know how much their effort is worth all the time. This leadership style can use incentive programs to motivate employees, but they should be consistent with the company’s goals and used in addition to unscheduled gestures of appreciation.

7. Coach-Style Leadership

Commonly Effective

Similarly to a sports team’s coach, this leader focuses on identifying and nurturing the individual strengths of each member on his or her team. They also focus on strategies that will enable their team work better together. This style offers strong similarities to strategic and democratic leadership, but puts more emphasis on the growth and success of individual employees.

Rather than forcing all employees to focus on similar skills and goals, this leader might build a team where each employee has an expertise or skillset in something different. In the longrun, this leader focuses on creating strong teams that can communicate well and embrace each other’s unique skillsets in order to get work done.

A manager with this leadership style might help employees improve on their strengths by giving them new tasks to try, offering them guidance, or meeting to discuss constructive feedback. They might also encourage one or more team members to expand on their strengths by learning new skills from other teammates.

8. Bureaucratic Leadership

Rarely Effective

Bureaucratic leaders go by the books. This style of leadership might listen and consider the input of employees — unlike autocratic leadership — but the leader tends to reject an employee’s input if it conflicts with company policy or past practices.

You may run into a bureaucratic leader at a larger, older, or traditional company. At these companies, when a colleague or employee proposes a strong strategy that seems new or non-traditional, bureaucratic leaders may reject it. Their resistance might be because the company has already been successful with current processes and trying something new could waste time or resources if it doesn’t work. 

Employees under this leadership style might not feel as controlled as they would under autocratic leadership, but there is still a lack of freedom in how much people are able to do in their roles. This can quickly shut down innovation, and is definitely not encouraged for companies who are chasing ambitious goals and quick growth.

Leadership Style Assessment

Leaders can carry a mix of the above leadership styles depending on their industry and the obstacles they face. At the root of these styles, according to leadership experts Bill Torbert and David Rooke, are what are called “action logics.”

These action logics assess “how [leaders] interpret their surroundings and react when their power or safety is challenged.”

That’s the idea behind a popular management survey tool called the Leadership Development Profile. Created by professor Torbert and psychologist Susanne Cook-Greuter — and featured in the book, Personal and Organizational Transformations — the survey relies on a set of 36 open-ended sentence completion tasks to help researchers better understand how leaders develop and grow.

Below, we’ve outlined six action logics using open-ended sentences that help describe each one. See how much you agree with each sentence and, at the bottom, find out which leadership style you uphold based on the action logics you most agreed with.

1. Individualist

The individualist, according to Rooke and Tolbert, is self-aware, creative, and primarily focused on their own actions and development as opposed to overall organizational performance. This action logic is exceptionally driven by the desire to exceed personal goals and constantly improve their skills.

Here are some things an individualist might say:

I1. “A good leader should always trust their own intuition over established organizational processes.”

I2. “It’s important to be able to relate to others so I can easily communicate complex ideas to them.”

I3. “I’m more comfortable with progress than sustained success.”

2. Strategist

Strategists are acutely aware of the environments in which they operate. They have a deep understanding of the structures and processes that make their businesses tick, but they’re also able to consider these frameworks critically and evaluate what could be improved.

Here are some things a strategist might say:

S1. “A good leader should always be able to build a consensus in divided groups.”

S2. “It’s important to help develop the organization as a whole, as well as the growth and individual achievements of my direct reports.”

S3. “Conflict is inevitable, but I’m knowledgeable enough about my team’s personal and professional relationships to handle the friction.”

3. Alchemist

Rooke and Tolbert describe this charismatic action logic as the most highly evolved and effective at managing organizational change. What distinguishes alchemists from other action logics is their unique ability to see the big picture in everything, but also fully understand the need to take details seriously. Under an alchemist leader, no department or employee is overlooked.

Here are some things an alchemist might say:

A1. “A good leader helps their employees reach their highest potential, and possesses the necessary empathy and moral awareness to get there.”

A2. “It’s important to make a profound and positive impact on whatever I’m working on.”

A3. “I have a unique ability to balance short-term needs and long-term goals.”

4. Opportunist

Opportunist are guided by a certain level of mistrust of others, relying on a facade of control to keep their employees in line. “Opportunists tend to regard their bad behavior as legitimate in the cut and thrust of an eye-for-an-eye world,” Rooke and Tolbert write.

Here are some things an opportunist might say:

O1. “A good leader should always view others as potential competition to be bested, even if it’s at the expense of their professional development.”

O2. “I reserve the right to reject the input of those who question or criticize my ideas.”

5. Diplomat

Unlike the opportunist, the diplomat isn’t concerned with competition or assuming control over situations. Instead, this action logic seeks to cause minimal impact on their organization by conforming to existing norms and completing their daily tasks with as little friction as possible.

Here are some things a diplomat might say:

D1. “A good leader should always resist change since it risks causing instability among their direct reports.”

D2. “It’s important to provide the ‘social glue’ in team situations, safely away from conflict.”

D3. “I tend to thrive in more team-oriented or supporting leadership roles.”

6. Expert

The expert is a pro in their given field, constantly striving to perfect their knowledge of a subject and perform to meet their own high expectations. Rooke and Tolbert describe the expert as a talented individual contributor and a source of knowledge for the team. But this action logic does lack something central to many good leaders: emotional intelligence.

Here are some things a diplomat might say:

E1. “A good leader should prioritize their own pursuit of knowledge over the needs of the organization and their direct reports.”

E2. “When problem solving with others in the company, my opinion tends to be the correct one.”

Which Leader Are You?

So, which action logics above felt like you? Think about each sentence for a moment … now, check out which of the seven leadership styles you embrace on the right based on the sentences you resonated with on the left.

Action Logic Sentence Leadership Style
S3 Democratic
O1, O2, E1, E2 Autocratic
D2, D3, E1 Laissez-Faire
S1, S2, A3 Strategic
I1, I2, I3, A1, A2 Transformational
D3 Transactional
D1 Bureaucratic

The more action logics you agreed with, the more likely you practice a mix of leadership styles.

For example, if you agreed with everything the strategist said — denoted S1, S2, and S3 — this would make you a 66% strategic leader and 33% democratic leader. If you agreed with just S3, but also everything the alchemist said, this would make you a 50% transformational, 25% strategic, and 25% democratic leader.

Keep in mind that these action logics are considered developmental stages, not fixed attributes — most leaders will progress through multiple types of leadership throughout their careers.

 





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7 essential tips for managing a newly-remote team [Infographic]

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Throughout my almost seven years here at IMPACT, I’ve seen a lot of (positive) change.

A team of 15 is now over 65. A small office has become a big one.

We’ve gone from having everyone work from our headquarters, then in Wallingford, CT, to more than half the team working remote from their homes across the country and even internationally.

I’ve made my way from an intern to an account supervisor and now Director of Operations, managing three people.

Learning how to properly manage a team is a big feat in itself.

Add in the fact that now, due to the coronavirus pandemic, our entire company is working remote and the challenges begin to pile up.

The ease of walking over to their desks, grabbing a room to have a meeting together, or just wanting to take a lunchtime walk has completely disappeared.

A team needs to be able to communicate strongly, report accurately, complete quality work based on documented goals and processes, and — perhaps most important for remote employees — feel like they’re all in it together.

Nutcache’s infographic, “7 Tips for Managing a Remote Team,” (shared below) highlights helpful advice for managing a remote team in a way that ensures everyone is able to effectively complete work and interact successfully.

How to increase your remote team’s productivity and efficiency

Having both the right people and the right tools and processes are extremely important when it comes to managing a team of remote employees. Let’s take at each of these elements:

The right people:

I’ve always envied people who can be productive at home. (I often get sidetracked by Netflix or my dog…) This is part of the reason why working remotely is not for everyone.

When opening up to remote employees, it’s important for your company to hire people who can thrive independently, as well as when working with their team.

The right tools:

Imagine a business world without email, phone calls, instant messaging, and video/screen sharing.

Having the ability to see my team’s faces everyday makes me feel connected to every single of them, and because we’re able to quickly communicate via video or instant messenger, we’re more productive and clear in what’s expected of each other.

In addition to communication tools, project management tools are also essential.

Having a software that the entire team can use from anywhere makes a world of difference when it comes to managing each person’s workload and knowing how that feeds into the team’s overall list of to-dos.

Processes:

Having company processes in place is important to keeping all teams consistent, so it’s imperative that everyone is familiar with and follows them.

You may also want to develop specific processes for the people on your team that will help keep everyone on the same page when it comes to achieving your goals.

Goals:

Speaking of goals, it’s not only essential that you have them, but everyone on your team should also know exactly what you’re working towards, what the plan of action is to achieve them, and how your goals feed into the bigger objectives of the organization.

Make sure you’re clearly communicating your team’s goals to each individual member on a consistent basis; talk about them in 1-on-1s, team meetings, and performance reviews.

Communication:

My team believes in always over-communicating. We use tools like Slack and Zoom to keep all lines open when we need help or things clarified.

We have daily stand-up meetings each morning to ensure we’re all cognizant of what everyone is working on and what impediments may be standing in their way of completing their tasks.

We also hold regular 1-on-1 meetings where we can talk about personal goals, challenges, and accomplishments.

Trust:

This one goes both ways.

A team needs to be able to trust their manager, and a manager needs to be able to trust their team.

One of IMPACT’s core values is dependability, and that feeds directly into our trust in one another.

If you hire the right people for the job, your communication is strong, and everyone knows what’s expected of them, it shouldn’t be hard to trust that your team will get things done in a productive manner.

Team building:

There’s so much value in seeing my team in person.

That’s why we make sure our remote employees periodically make their way into the office, so everyone can spend quality time with each other.

Unfortunately, that’s not possible for the foreseeable future. 

While we’re unable to make in-person gatherings happen, we have been scheduling video lunches, having after-work virtual happy hours, and game nights to keep our bonds strong and spirits high during this difficult time. 

Take a deeper look into the seven tips Nutcache has laid out in their infographic below.

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in June 2018. As the coronavirus pandemic of 2020 has the entire IMPACT team and more people, in general, working from home than ever before, we found the advice to be timeless. The write-up has been updated and republished to bring this timeless advice to you in a whole new context and light. – Ramona Sukhraj, Head of Editorial Content





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Digital Marketing Strategies Brands Often Overlook

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In the era when almost every brand has a strong online presence, standing out from a crowd can be extremely difficult. 

We all have corporate blogs, run social media accounts, send weekly email newsletters, and maybe even offer downloadable resources. With our social media feeds updating every few seconds and new articles being published constantly, gaining at least some traction is a complete success for most companies.

Of course, traditional marketing techniques are crucial for building a long-term marketing strategy. But to boost your visibility, you need to diversify your marketing efforts. Rise above the noise. Do something your competitors haven’t done yet. And you’ll see your audience start noticing you.

Sometimes, the best way to improve your digital marketing strategy is by applying overlooked marketing techniques like the ones in this article.

Here’s why you should think outside of the box

Social media accounts of many popular brands are full of posts that hardly ever receive 10 likes, let alone small companies and startups. 

By limiting ourselves to the most popular marketing methods, we’re just blending in the oversaturated market. While we all act identically, how are we going to outperform our competitors?

It always takes creativity to be noticed. And before you come up with an outstanding marketing campaign, you can leverage the following marketing techniques. They won’t guarantee your traffic will skyrocket, but they’ll surely help you improve brand awareness and reach more people (some of these methods perform especially well for the specific niches).

7 Marketing Techniques Your Competitors Haven’t Tried Yet

It’s important to know what your competition is doing and how they’re achieving their marketing goals. But it doesn’t mean you should be doing exactly the same things. 

Why try to outrun your rivals when you can simply go the other way? Using different marketing approaches, you can become the first to identify the most effective methods and succeed there. Here’s what you might want to try.

1. Launch a native advertising campaign

Native advertising has been growing rapidly for the last few years. 

By the end of 2020, US advertisers will devote almost two-thirds of display budgets to native ads. However, according to the recent research conducted by CMI and Outbrain, only 26% of marketers are utilizing native advertising to reach their target audiences. It means the rest 74% still miss the opportunity to improve their content performance.

If you haven’t heard much about native advertising, we’ll define it for you. 

Native advertising is a paid marketing method that involves using ads that fit seamlessly into the design of the platform upon which they appear. Unlike typical banner ads, native ads are non-intrusive and don’t hurt user experience.

You can find native ads in your social feeds (yes, those ads from Booking.com you start seeing every time you come back from your vacation are native ads), below articles (remember the ‘you might also like’ content?), or among product cards on eCommerce sites.

Examples of native ads and editorial content

This is an example of how native ads match the form of the publisher’s content.

It takes time to build an effective native ad campaign. But it’s worth the effort:

  • Native ads registered an 18% higher lift in purchase intent than traditional banner ads.
  • Consumers looked at native ads 53% more frequently than display ads.
  • 70% of users claimed they would rather discover products or services through content than traditional advertisements.

How to make native advertising work for you? It’s all about time, testing, and ongoing optimization. Still, you can start by following these simple steps:

  1. Set clear goals and be realistic. 
  2. Select the right native advertising platform. You can either go with a small native advertising network with strong local publisher connections to promote your local business or advertise on a large platform that partners with the most popular publishers worldwide.
  3. Align your campaign goals with campaign content. Do you want to gain more newsletter subscribers? Why would your visitors do it? Give them an incentive. Show them the value.
  4. Research your target audience.
  5. Remember about the buyer’s journey. If your goal is to build brand awareness, you’ll be targeting people who haven’t heard of your brand before (obviously). So don’t attack your visitors with overly promotional content about your brand. 
  6. Check out creative insights by Taboola trends before creating an ad.
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2. Publish survey research

Anyone having a client base or website traffic can conduct survey research. Your own research will become a source of unlimited traffic to your site, an awesome link-building opportunity, and a quick way to build credibility.

What does it take to conduct research?

  1. Idea. 
  2. Questions. 
  3. Audience.
  4. Survey.
  5. Evaluation.
  6. Infographics.

One more significant benefit of survey research is that it can be repurposed in multiple ways. While you might want to format original research as an e-book to capture your audience’s emails, you can also feature the research results in a blog post, incorporate it in your newsletter, etc.

Among our favorite survey researches are:

Semrush content creation and distribution chart

3. Get traffic from Quora

I’ve been doing marketing on Quora for quite some time. This question-and-answer website has huge marketing potential for many companies.

Having 300 million monthly users, Quora can help you increase your brand visibility significantly. 

What’s Quora marketing like?

From a platform where you can find the answers to your personal questions, Quora evolved into a worldwide knowledge base. Now you can find people asking for product reviews, solutions, business-related tips, etc. This is how entrepreneurs willing to recommend their company appeared on Quora.

Based on my own experience, I should say Quora is extremely effective for promoting mid-price segment products to the audiences located in the US.

If your company fits this description, you should definitely try using Quora for marketing. 

Here are a few tips for building a successful Quora marketing strategy:

  • Create a reliable profile. Show it’s a real person behind your answers. Add as much information as it’s possible. Create a bio, describe what’s your area of expertise, add your photo and education details, link to your social media accounts. 
  • Follow other people and topics. This will allow you to keep track of new relevant answers and build connections.
  • Answer fresh questions. Search for keywords that are relevant to your topics and look for questions that are still being discussed. 
  • Look for questions that rank on the first page of Google search results. Your answers to these questions will gain much more traction. To find these questions, you’ll need to use a keyword research tool. Learn more about the topic in the Ahrefs blog.
  • Provide real value. First of all, Quora has strict policies, and it bans answers that are marked as spam. Moreover, your audience isn’t blind, and they see when they’re tricked.

PRO TIP: If your answer got banned, but you don’t agree with it, you can appeal. In most cases, my answers were restored (when they’re really relevant).

The fact Quora performs especially well for companies that offer services to US-based audiences doesn’t mean other companies should use it. If you run a blog, Quora can be a great place to put your posts in front of more people. Find the questions relevant to your topics and answer them adding a link to the original blog post.

Example of a Quora answer for the question

4. Stay active in online communities 

There are lots of online communities where you can distribute your content. Among the most popular ones are GrowthHackers, Quuu, and Medium.

About GrowthHackers:

GrowthHackers is a community where you can submit your blog posts so that they are seen by a relatively wide audience. The more engagements your posts drive, the higher it’ll be shown in the feed. 

The best thing about this community is that to read the full post, readers will be redirected to the original blog post. This lets content marketers see how many people were interested in their content and didn’t just click on the title accidentally.

Blog article on How to maintain communication in a remote work environment

About Quuu:

Quuu is a website where you can submit your content to be shared from other users’ social media profiles. This platform works both for people who want to share relevant content consistently but don’t have time for it and for companies that want to promote their content.

About Medium:

Medium is a high domain authority site that displays curated content related to every reader’s indicated interest. The quality of content is crucial on Medium. Whether your content will be recommended to others totally depends on the reactions of people who have already seen it.

5. Sign Up for The HARO Newsletter

If you’re looking for effective link-building strategies, this technique is for you.

HARO, or Help A Reporter Out, is an online service helping journalists and content marketers to get quotes from the public. After you register, you’ll start receiving daily source requests. When there’s a topic related to your area of expertise, write an answer, send it, and wait for the journalist to reach out to you.

Contrary to guest blogging, answering HARO questions takes much less time and delivers more significant results—some journalists write for premium websites that hardly ever accept guest posts.

6. Leverage gamification

Gamification is key to improving customer engagement.

Gaming techniques, such as contests, scoring systems, and incentives help brands build brand loyalty, connect with more prospects, and increase conversions (you might have never wanted to buy this wine storage cabinet, but they’ll give it for half the price if you win!).

You can gamify almost any stage of customer interaction. There are two things your whole campaign will be built on – your goal and your audience’s interests. From there, you can start coming up with an idea, its translation, incentives, etc.

One of the most important points is that you shouldn’t overcomplicate things. It often happens that I see great campaigns I’d have been happy to participate in only if they hadn’t provided so many rules and conditions.

Here are a few campaigns that could inspire you:

McDonald’s offered an interactive advent calendar, with new special offers or gifts being unlocked every day during the festive season.

McDonald's interactive advent calendar

Starbucks offers customers to collect Stars for completing specific tasks and select rewards they can get with their Stars.

Starbuck's rewards landing page

7. Build meaningful relationships

Marketing isn’t just about posting content or running creative campaigns. It’s about relationships—not only with your prospects and customer avatar but with other brands as well. 

Host interviews

Wondering how to drive more traffic to your blog? Host interviews. Come up with a topic and ask niche experts about their opinion on it. You can either use their quotes to complement specific points in your posts or publish full interviews. Whatever option you go for, don’t forget to mention an expert in the title. 

Search for popular companies on LinkedIn and contact the relevant people working there. The names of big brands will add credibility to your articles. Don’t forget to send a link to interview participants once it goes live so that they could share it from their personal social media accounts or the corporate ones.

Collaborate with brands

Collaborative marketing is a technique lots of brands overlook. Everyone gets excited when another co-branding campaign of popular brands sees the light, but hardly anyone thinks they could do the same with a company next door.

Summary

There’s no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to growing your brand. And sometimes it seems that the first thing coming up to business owners’ minds when they hear the word “marketing” is social media marketing. 

But if you want your marketing strategy to deliver great results, you need to stand out, test different approaches, and run campaigns your competitors haven’t even thought of yet.

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Are Your Calls to Action Working Hard Enough?

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What makes a good call to action (CTA), where they should be used and how to track their effectiveness in Google Analytics.

If you want to turn website visitors into paying customers, you need calls to action that compel them to take that final step. You invest a lot of time, money and other resources into bringing traffic to your website, so it makes sense to convert as many of those visitors as possible into leads and customers.

Sadly, if your CTAs aren’t working hard enough, you’re letting potential customers slip through your hands. In this article, we look at the key aspects of effective CTAs and how you can make them work harder for your brand.

What is a call to action?

A call to action is an instructional message aimed at persuading people to take immediate action. This sales and marketing device has been used for decades to literally call upon audiences to take profitable actions; buy something, call for more info, sign up to an email list etc.

Before the age of the internet, we had CTAs at the end of radio ads, in print magazine ads and at the bottom of posters.

Source

Now, when we talk about calls to action, we’re generally referring to sections of a web page or email that look a little more like this:

Example of CTA on Vertical Leap websiteOne of the CTAs on the Vertical Leap website.

Here, we have the classic anatomy of a website’s call to action:

  1. Heading
  2. CTA copy
  3. CTA button

You’ll see this pattern repeated across the web where brands use these three elements to create a concise, compelling message, urging users to take action. They then provide the means of completing this action by clicking on the CTA button.

Example of CTA

So the calls to action on your website need to do two things. First, your CTA copy has to create enough incentive that visitors are compelled to take action. Then your CTA buttons pave the way for them to satisfy this urge with a single click.

Why should I use a call to action?

People who visit your website and don’t take action aren’t much good to you. Your marketing strategy depends on people buying, downloading, clicking and completing actions that contribute, in some way, to sales and profit. But people generally don’t take these kinds of action without motivation or an indication that the reward is worth the effort.

Your ad campaigns, content strategy and other marketing efforts build up the necessary motivation to engage with your brand and it’s up to your CTAs to turn this motivation into action.

Purchases are the most obvious use case for CTAs. But the most important calls to action are often the ones that keep leads engaged with your brand before they’ve decided to make the purchase – e.g. email signups, content downloads, free trials, webinar signups etc.

Without CTAs targeting these secondary conversion goals, you’re letting the vast majority of leads – those who aren’t ready to buy yet – slip away.

Where should they be used?

Every page on your website should have at least one CTA calling upon users to complete one of your conversion goals. Even pages that aren’t primarily designed to sell – for example, your blog posts – should have a CTA for a secondary conversion goal, like signing up to your newsletter or getting in touch with your business.

The Vertical Leap CTA we looked at earlier appears at the bottom of every page on the Vertical Leap website.

On every blog post, we also have the following CTA appear directly after the article itself:

Sign up for newsletter CTA

Now, these CTAs demand very little from users so it makes sense to have these at the bottom of blog posts where purchase intent is generally low. But what about the CTAs for your primary conversion goals, like purchases, bookings, quotes etc?

Your homepage

Of all places, your homepage should summarise what your brand is about and, ideally, you want to achieve this above the fold. This isn’t always easy but your aim is to communicate what makes your business unique and why people should be excited about buying from you.

Mailchimp homepage

If you’re selling a single product/service or have a clear brand position (like Mailchimp, above), there’s no reason you shouldn’t be able to do this. However, businesses selling much larger product ranges and competing in saturated markets will always find it more difficult to justify primary CTAs on their homepage.

Next homepage

Landing pages

Landing pages are the place for your primary CTAs. This is where you should see the best performance because your ad campaigns have targeted consumer interest and brought them here to do business.

The key things with landing page CTAs is to match the search intent of users as closely as possible. The simplest way to do this is to do your keyword research, create individual campaigns for all the queries that matter and then create unique landing pages for each one of them with CTAs that hammer home the message.

Relevance is everything here.

search result for software for remote teams

In the search query above, the user clearly states that they’re looking for software to help remote teams work together, not just generic team management software. Monday’s software essentially works the same for in-house and remote teams but the company understands its target audiences.

Not only does it bag the top position for this query but it puts the key phrase “remote team” at the centre of its campaign.

Monday landing page

More importantly, though, the company matches that same key selling point on its landing page and makes it clear to visitors that this software caters to their needs.

What does a successful CTA look like?

In terms of visual design, we’ve already looked at the typical formula for a successful call to action – the heading, copy and button trio.

HubSpot CTA example

What we’ve got here is a heading that communicates the key selling point in a few brief words, using large text and a bold font-weight to grab attention. Next, we have a section text in smaller font size and weighting that expands upon the heading and provides more detail about the key selling point. And, finally, we have a large, bold CTA button literally telling users what they’re going to get by clicking through to the next page.

The most important design principle here is contrast:

  • Colour contrast: Black text on light backgrounds, white text on a coloured CTA button.
  • Size contrast: The use of different font sizes to separate text and emphasise importance.
  • Form contrast: Bold vs regular font weights.
  • Shape contrast: The CTA button being the only defined geometric shape in view.

These forms of contrast make an effective CTA jump out from the page and give users visual feedback about which individual elements of the CTA are most important. This makes the individual elements easier to distinguish and gives their individual messages more impact.

HubSpot homepage

When it comes to CTA button colour, you should have a highlight colour that repeats for the most important elements on your site and those you want to highlight for any reason. HubSpot uses its branded orange as its highlight colour for all of its call-to-action buttons and to highlight other important elements, as you can see above.

To emphasise the CTAs on its homepage even further, the company uses a lot of greens in its hero image, which is almost opposite to orange on the colour spectrum, thus increasing contrast even further.

How effective are your CTAs?

The effectiveness of a CTA is normally measured by its conversion rate. In Google Analytics, the most accurate way to measure the performance of individual CTAs is to use Event Measurement to track the actual click of buttons.

One benefit of this is that you don’t need to create unique page redirects for each conversion goal and track them based on URLs. Another is that you can compare the total number of button clicks vs completed conversions to identify problems users might be having after they click through.

An effective call to action successfully convinces people to take action, but your CTAs can’t do this alone.

We’ve looked at some of the design principles of a successful CTA, but it’s ultimately the copy/content that convinces people to buy into your message (or not). So the wording of your CTAs is actually the most important factor – the key selling point in your heading, the additional text you provide and the wording in your CTA button.

So, if you’re looking to optimise your calls to action, start by testing different variations of CTA copy before you get bogged down in button colours and details that may have less impact on a user’s decision.

Also, keep in mind that the messages you deliver before a user sees your CTA are equally as important, if not more. So make sure your ads, landing pages, hero sections, emails and everything else are increasing incentive so that when users do see your call to action, they’re already tempted to take action.



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