One of the topics of discussion in my last post, 5 Ways Small Businesses Can Succeed on YouTube, was the importance and challenge of creating a call to action (CTA) in your video that engages customers and stands out from the other CTAs in the YouTube interface (such as watching additional videos). A video without a strong CTA is a missed opportunity for a small business looking to create new business from their video marketing. This is an important difference between video marketing for big brands and video marketing for small businesses. A large brand can post a video and use "softer" measures of success such as reach, brand recall, and impressions, but small businesses have limited budgets and success is measured in terms of ringing the cash register.

So let's look at a few ways you can create a compelling call to action that works for your business.

Offer a Unique Discount to Video Viewers

Perhaps the easiest way to measure the effectiveness of your video at driving sales is to provide a unique offer that isn't available anywhere else. If you're a restaurant you could offer a 2-for-1 special, a free appetizer or drink to people who watch the video and mention it to their server when ordering. You can measure whether the video is helping your business by tracking the number of discounts redeemed.

The keys to making this type of offer work are:

  • It has to be memorable and valuable. It takes effort to remember a special offer or discount. People will only remember the offer it if it's worthwhile. If you're not sure what your customers like or want simply ask some of them. Then use that feedback to create the offer in the video.
  • It has to be unique. This should go without saying, but if you make the discount in your video 10% off your services and you have 10% off coupons in the YellowPages and elsewhere you won't be able to track sales from your video.
  • It has to be easy to redeem. The offer should be simple and straightforward to redeem. If you complicate things by requiring multiple steps, or put excessive restrictions and redemption rules around your offer you significantly decrease the likelihood of response.
  • You need to close the loop. To continue the restaurant example, you want to give that offer a special menu code or provide some other way of measuring the redemption rate. If you're not having your servers, bartender or hostess track mentions or redemptions you won't have any idea whether your video is working for you.

Create an Ongoing Relationship

Another powerful way call to action is to create an ongoing relationship with the viewer – transforming a onetime viewer into an engaged potential customer. There are a few simple ways to do this on YouTube. The lightweight way is to ask them to subscribe to your channel. This is a great option if you publish video content regularly and have an audience that tends to visit YouTube frequently. Once they're subscribed they'll be notified when you publish new videos. You can also use the new YouTube bulletins feature to post news messages and video URLs to their home pages reminding them to come back to your channel page or latest video.

The more involved, but perhaps more valuable way, is to encourage them to sign up for your email newsletter, Facebook Page or other database marketing system. If you choose this call to action it's important to make the link to your sign up form easy to remember and accessible.

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The keys to making the email sign up call to action work are:

  • Make the link easy to get to. Put the direct link to the sign up form in the description of your video. YouTube will automatically change it into a hyperlink that users can click to sign up. You should also add it to the Website field of your channel's profile information. You can also put the URL in an annotation in the video so the viewer is bound to see it while watching the video.
  • Make the link easy to remember. Create a link that makes sense and is easy for people to remember. A link like is much easier than If you use Facebook make sure you use a custom URL. is ours for example. Keep it simple.
  • Show it and say it. You'll make your call to sign up more memorable if you mention it and show it at the same time. Consider showing your URL in an annotation at the same point you mention it in the video. The audio and visual cues will help viewers register it as an important take away from your video. Also, point out where they can find the sign up link after the video ends.
  • Tell them what to expect. If you ask someone to join your mailing list make it clear what benefit they'll receive by joining. Will they get special offers, latest news or free content? Will you protect their email address? How often will you email them? Try to address some of these questions upfront to maximize signups.

Ask Them to Spread the Word

Perhaps easier than subscribing to your channel or email list is enlisting your viewer's help in spreading the word to their friends online. YouTube makes this easy with their "Share" button located right below the video player. Ask them to post the video to their Facebook page, Tweet about it, blog about it or email it to a friend who they think could benefit from seeing the video. Because sharing a piece of content is a tacit endorsement of you and your content viewers will only share it if they think it is valuable enough to do so.

Those are just three ways to create a call to action in your video. By using an effective call to action you can track the success of your video at creating new business for your business. Have an effective call to action that works for you? I'd love to hear about it in the comments.

HOW TO: Create A Call To Action In Small Business Video Morgan Brown 200x204 About our Guest Author: Morgan Brown is currently the director of marketing for TurnHere, a leading online video production and advertising company based in Emeryville, CA. Over the past 10 years Morgan has been immersed in various roles of marketing and in particular, online marketing. Morgan is the co-founder of Social Media Club Orange County and has given many talks on how businesses can leverage new technologies to build customer relationships and increase sales, reputation and loyalty. You can learn more about Morgan via linkedin or his personal blog.

  • Timo Mouton

    Great article and agree with feedback from @grantcrowell

    Would like to add that if you keep your content neutral and valuable (and not promotional) you will increase your CTR rate on the Call-To-Action. Also try putting it near the end of your short video (2min, max 3min). Give the valuable information and then show the Call-To-Action.

    Concerning technical part, Explania is a platform with a video player with possibility for outbound links and clickable Call-To-Actions inside video. We have in general a CTR rate on the Call-To-Action that is more than 10% of viewers.

    If you would like to test this, check

  • Adam Fleming

    I'm obviously new to this thread but wonder if anyone has tried a mobile (SMS) call to action within online video? If so can you send me a link to an example?
    I'm working with a web-tv start up on their mobile component.

    Thanks for the post.

  • Josh

    Thank you for this post it was very interesting. I specifically liked the idea of offering something of value to the customer as most people think if they do not use a call to action then they can not retain a customer.

    If your video is good in itself them you will be able to get that customers with a well done action step such as the one mentioned in this post.

  • askmrvideo

    Having a simple and compelling CTA is key to any campaign (video or otherwise). It's one thing to entertain, educate, and/or inform, but it's not enough if you want to "continue the conversation". Studies show that it takes "7 touches" to get someone to act or respond to your offer. The best CTA then is one that allows you just that - follow up. I use the Video Optin Machine and also Veeple's optin box. with an added bit of reciprocity - something of value in exchange for something of value (their name and email for a report for example).

    • Morgan Brown

      Great suggestions. Thanks! I think the idea of exchanging value is a crucial one. Trading an email for a whitepaper,top list of tips or otherwise is a great way to engage potential customers and give you permission to continue the discussion with them. Thanks for the comment!

    • Mark Robertson

      Good to see you on here... thanks for the comment Perry

      • askmrvideo

        Thanks Mark, figured I'd start commenting and not just lurking! You have a fantastic site here.

  • Grant Crowell

    With all the talk in this article about calls-to-action, it's surprising that there's no mention or review of online video technology solutions that incorporate click-ability and other calls-to-action. I'm also surprised that TurnHere doesn't either incorporate the technology into its own custom video player, or partner with a company that can offer that technology. (That's not saying it's required to have a compelling call-to-action, but it would seem to make good sense to at least have that as an option and test it out via analytics.)

    • Mark Robertson

      go write your book ;-) Na, just kidding - it is nice to see proof that you are reading ReelSEO... haha... me so funny

      • Grant Crowell

        Mark is talking about my upcoming book, "100 ways that Mark Robertson violated me." It's a tear-jerker.

        • Mark Robertson

          only 100? Must be the best of them

        • Grant Crowell

          Nah, just the first edition. There are photos and witness testimonials with each, so that's all I could fit. It's subtitled, "The ReelSEO contributor initiation." I won't be silent no more.

    • Morgan Brown

      Great point Grant. I was focused on creating a call to action from a content perspective and not from the technology side of the game. A review of the technologies that empower the hot spots, clickable players, etc. would definitely be an interesting and valuable extension to doing it via content.

      Regarding TurnHere's technology, we're currently focused on creating technology that makes creating custom video for small business an affordable reality. Enhancing player capability is definitely on our roadmap, but we're just not there yet.

      Also, unrelated, I heard your question you asked Stan Lee on the Nerdist podcast, it was a good one!

      • Grant Crowell

        Thanks for the feedback to my feedback, Mark. And I will still be in the camp of content over technology when it comes to figuring out what's the best call-to-action solution for most people. The two technology providers I am aware of that provide in-stream clickability for video content (and not just video ads) are Hustream and Veeple. I haven't tested either one out yet to find out yet, but I would be interested in hearing from other's on their own experience.

        I would also be interested in seeing a technology solution where you can do multivariate (A/B) testing of video content, and see which calls-to-action are most effective – just like with pay-per-click search advertising.

        • Mark Robertson

          multivariate (A/B) testing - Treepodia, Eyeview, and several others - primarily in use currently fore-commerce content.

    • Daniel Sevitt

      It's a good point, well made. At EyeView we recommend building the call to action into the video's content early and often. We encourage our customers to remember that the point of having a video is not only to watch the video, but to encourage viewers to download/purchase/register/deposit.

      In addition to the video content, we also add a clickable branding area to our player so that the call to action button features prominently during the running time of the video and mimics precisely the look and functionality of the call to action button elsewhere on the page.

      We are also experimenting with flash overlays which draw the viewers' attention from the video to the call to action button. These animations can exist in-player or outside the boundaries of the player and work in conjunction with the video content before, during and/or after the video plays.

      We A/B test all these elements for their impact on conversion and have seen some impressive gains. We'll be publishing the next set of test results shortly. Until then, feel free to get in touch if you want to hear more. Cheers.

      • Morgan Brown

        Sounds like a great solution Daniel, please keep me posted when you release the findings. It would be great to see how the in-stream overlays vs. supporting CTA's etc. perform. Thanks for the comment!