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The Glengarry Glen Ross Rules of Writing an Effective Call-to-Action

by | Mar 5, 2013 | Business Writing | 0 comments


Considering the principles of marketing and sales, I reflect on that iconic movie, “Glengarry Glen Ross.”  Before I started my business and back when I was still in the corporate world, I remember sitting in a darkened conference room watching that famous scene where Alec Baldwin tells that group of down-on-their-luck sales schmucks that “coffee’s for closers” and that he would give them the new Glenngary leads, but that it would be a waste, and why should he waste good leads on a bunch of losers?

Glengarry Glen Ross is honestly one of my favorite sales movies ever.  Abrasive, in-your-face, honest, it did more than instill the message of “ABC, always be closing, always be closing” in my brain; it taught me, as a young corporate sales kid, that the best of the best don’t wait for a customer to make up their mind, you tell them what they need to do and you tell them how to do it.

Think about if that movie had been written in today’s Internet marketing world.  This is what I would picture:

Blake: These are the new keyword analytics.  These are the Glengarry keyword analytics. And to you they’re gold, and you don’t get them.  Why?  Because to give them to you would be throwing them away.  They’re for converters.

Or how about this?

Blake: Your name is “you’re wanting,” and you can’t play the man’s game, you can’t convert traffic, and then tell your wife your troubles. Cause only one thing counts in converting website traffic: get them to click on the call-to-action and make them fill out a contact form.

There would probably be a few more obscenities, but I can see Alec Baldwin saying that.  Can’t you?

But how do you write a call-to-action that takes the sales principles pitched in that movie in order to bring it home for your website or landing page?  Follow these steps:

  • Remember what you learned in English.  Identifying prospects, generating leads and closing sales all rely on action.  So why do so many copywriters miss the point and fail to begin a sentence with a verb, an action word?  When it comes to a CTA, the focal point is the verb.  This is where you tell the reader just what it is they are going to do next.  They are going to click, subscribe, buy, etc.  If you put this at the end of the copy it looks less like a demand and more like a suggestion—and the would-be customer bounces.
  • Inspire action by including numbers.  CTAs are sometimes written with a level of ambiguity that only makes a reader skeptical, and that breeds distrust.  This applies to the world of sales also.  I knew at least a dozen sales guys who were overly polished in their approach and way too cheerful; they were charming sure, but it’s because their message was lacking something, details, numbers, facts—the stuff that counts.  The same holds true for a CTA, it needs details.  Put some numbers or statistics in your CTA; it gives a reader confidence and will inspire a higher number of click-throughs.
  • Cut to the chase.  Instead of burying your CTA in heap of copy, get to the point and then, like any good sales person, zip your lips.  Don’t make your would-be customer try to decipher what you want them to do.  Tell them what to do in 150 words or less and shut up.  Just like in sales, the guy who talks too much loses.
  • Don’t be overly technical or corporate.  The CTA is not about you, your company or your product, it’s about the prospect.  You need to tell them how they are going to be benefitted if they click, subscribe or buy right now.

The CTA gives you one opportunity to tell your prospect what they are going to do next, so don’t blow it!  Consider these final, Internet-marketing adjusted bits of wisdom from Glengarry:

Blake: Get out there—you got web inquiries coming in.  You think they went to your website to learn how to get out of the rain? A guy don’t surf a website lest he wants to convert.  They’re sitting out there waiting to give you their contact info, their email.  Are you gonna convert it? Are you man enough to convert it?

Get help writing the most effective CTAs and live and breathe the idea of “always be converting.” Call Grammar Chic, Inc. at 803-831-7444 or visit www.grammarchic.net.  Follow us on Twitter @GrammarChicInc and give a “like” to our Facebook page.  Text GRAMMARCHIC to 22828 for a special offer.