A few weeks ago, I shopped for a car for the first time in seven years. I wasn’t looking for a particular brand or model. I just wanted a small SUV that I could lease on the cheap with no money out of pocket.
I used email and chat on a bunch of dealerships’ websites to get a few quotes. My goal was to avoid visiting multiple dealerships. I made this clear to each dealership I contacted.
Based on the information I received, I chose which dealership to visit. Of course, the sales rep tried to get me to pay more, but I held my ground and got the terms I was quoted online.
Two other dealerships provided me with actual quotes and were very responsive. The numbers didn’t work for me, but I appreciated the effort. One dealership, after promising to send me a quote, sent me an email a few days later that said:
We believe the best way to make an informed decision is to start with a test drive and make sure you love the car.
Yeah, I bet you do.
After that, it’s just about making the numbers work. What day would work best for you to come in and take (vehicle model) for a spin?
I responded with an email that said:
I already leased a car from another dealership. The best way for me to make an informed decision is to get some general pricing before I start visiting dealerships. I need to make sure the numbers work before I let myself love the car.
Basically, the dealership ignored how I wanted to go about my car search and told me to do it their way. The action I wanted to take wasn’t what they had in mind.
Sorry, Mr. Car Dealer, but I didn’t use your website’s chat and email features so you could tell me I had to go to the dealership.
I know what you’re thinking. This is just an old-school car dealer being an old-school car dealer. But regardless of what you’re trying to sell, there’s a simple reality you have to accept.
The customer calls the shots.
This applies to your call-to-action, which is directly tied to your ability to close a sale. There are dozens of possible calls-to-action, but for the purpose of this article, I’m focusing on those that direct the prospect to contact the company.
If you don’t want to play by the customer’s rules, or at least have the flexibility to adapt how you operate to suit the customer’s preferences, they’ll find an alternative.
Don’t expect the customer, but especially a prospect interacting with you for the first time, to take the action you want them to take just because you said so. They’ll do what they want out of convenience or personal preference. You can either offer that option or risk losing their business.
For example, I’ve seen companies only include their phone number on their website or brochure. If they get a prospect on the phone, they’re much more likely to close the sale.
Others do the opposite, offering an email address and contact form, but no phone number. They don’t want to be flooded with calls and waste time talking to tire kickers.
Then you have the companies that only include a contact form on their website. No phone number, no email. They want to be able to collect as much information as possible for their database.
In all three cases, the reasons for those decisions are based on what’s best for the company, not the prospect.
Before you decide to limit the ways someone can contact you, ask yourself a few simple questions.
Is a prospect most likely to take the action I want them to take and use the communication channel I’m offering? Am I being realistic? Or is it just wishful thinking?
Perhaps even more importantly, am I willing to lose the business of those prospects who prefer to act differently?
There are ways to motivate people to take the action you want them to take.
Limiting their options for contacting you is the easiest way, but not the most effective way. For many prospects, attempting to control or change how they communicate is a deal breaker. At the very least, it gives them a reason to look for other options.
The better approach is to use your marketing content to guide prospects to the desired action.
A call-to-action isn’t just a statement that tells people what to do. It should reinforce your value proposition and explain how someone will benefit by taking that action.
In other words, don’t just bark orders. Give people compelling reasons to act.
For example, how does it benefit the prospect to call instead of email or fill out a form? Is there time-sensitive information that can’t wait for a written response and requires real-time interaction?
If the only reason for pushing people to pick up the phone is to increase your odds of closing a sale, that’s not a compelling reason. Maybe it is for you, but not for the prospect.
People expect to have options.
Even if you offer good reasons to call instead of email, it just won’t matter for a lot of people. The best marketing content in the world won’t make them do something they don’t want to do.
If the action you want the customer to take isn’t the same as the action the customer wants to take, guess who wins?
That’s why you still need to be flexible. You need to offer options – phone, email, contact form, social media, etc. You need to put the prospect’s wants and needs ahead of your own.
Let them communicate on their terms and make sure you have processes in place to respond quickly and accurately.
The bigger point is this, and it’s fairly simple. Are you willing to risk losing a customer because you didn’t offer them the ability to communicate with you through their preferred channel? Is there a valid business reason for such a decision?
The customer experience rules above all else. Fail to account for this in your call-to-action and you’ll open the door for competitors to take business out from under your nose.