I want YOU for U.S. Army.
Most Americans have seen permutations of this image dozens of times, for everything from bake sales to baseball games. This recruiting poster is possibly America’s most famous recruiting poster.
Now, you may ask why I’m talking about recruiting posters. This is a marketing blog, after all. The reason is that the US military has mastered the Call to Action (CTAs), and has spent over 100 years fine-tuning the art of getting conversions (recruits). As such, we as marketers can learn much from their own Calls to Action, both past and present.
Think about the poster to the right. What stands out to you? If you count “US” as one word, there are only 9 words on the page. The only verb on the page is a primal, active verb: “want”. It makes the relationship between Uncle Sam and the reader personal. The word “you” is in a different color, emphasizing that relationship. You can see the urgency in Uncle Sam’s eyes, and in the word “nearest”.
As can be demonstrated through many recruitment posters throughout the last 100 years, the military has given us a blueprint as marketers to maximize our own “recruitment posters”: action-packed and enthusiastic text, a sense of urgency, a short and simple message, a reason for action, and contrasting colors. If you include all of these factors in your CTA, your Click Through Rate will soar up into the wild blue yonder, and you can sing “anchors aweigh” to your old conversion rate!
There are 6 words on this recruitment poster, and 3 of them are powerful action verbs. Fight! Go! Join! Combine this broadside of action verbs with the outstretched hand of the sailor in the picture, and we have a compelling Call to Action: “Join me to fight! Let’s Go!”
Studies have shown that verbs are the most shared parts of speech on Twitter, and the correct choice of action verbs can boost your conversion rate even further. Given these statistics, the best way to start your own “recruitment poster” is to summon your customers to action by using Trigger Words. Trigger words are the words that trigger a customer into clicking. While “Fight!” and “Let’s Go!” might be a bit strong for most businesses, we can choose other appropriate action verbs. “Join” is a fantastic trigger word, as are “submit”, “make an appointment”, and “contact”.
A Sense of Urgency
In this poster, we see an action-packed call to action: “Dish It Out!” However, that’s not the most interesting part of the poster for our purposes. The more interesting part for us as marketers is “Choose Now While You Can”. While we are unable to recreate the particular situation in which this phrase would be accurate (we can’t draft customers, after all) we can learn about urgency from it. Your customers want to know why they should act right now. It’s supply and demand: if you create scarcity, the demand will rise. While these tactics cannot always be applied, use them whenever possible.
Reason for Action
Avenge Pearl Harbor. Remember the Maine. Never forget. All of these are galvanizing reasons for action. They provide the “why” behind the call. Why should I join the Navy? To “Avenge Pearl Harbor!”
In marketing, we might call this a “Unique Selling Point” (USP). Even in peacetime posters, the military offers USPs. Good pay, travel, and being the “First to Fight” are commonly mentioned in military propaganda before and between the World Wars. As the Navy shows us here in this poster, blending your CTAs and your USPs can result in a very powerful and concise message: Do X for Y. It’s urgent, it’s active, and there’s a reason for the urgency.
The military has been perfecting the art of maximizing their “click through rate” with their own specific calls to action for 100 years, and there is much we can learn from them as marketers. You should always have action-oriented text because these words trigger a customer to act on our websites. Creating a sense of urgency via a limited-time offer or sale drives customer interaction because of supply and demand. Giving the customer a reason for their urgency makes them even more likely to engage with your call to action.
If you include these pieces in your own “recruitment posters” via call to action on your website, you’ll be sure to blow ‘em out the water!