Master the Art of Primary and Secondary Calls-to-Action

Multiple calls-to-actions can be found on websites, overlays and even commercial emails. In most cases, they do not carry the same weight, which means one of them is more important than the other.

The concept of primary and secondary CTA

Primary call-to-action is meant to encourage the most desired action you want visitors to take. It leads your prospect towards the conversion. Secondary CTA provides an alternative action for the prospects to take. It usually is less visible and prominent than primary one and can be helpful when engaging with those prospects who are not interested in an original offer.

Primary and secondary calls-to-action can be divided into two main categories, complimenting and contrasting, depending on their relation to one another.

Complimenting calls-to-action

This concept of primary and secondary calls-to-action is based on the belief, that not everyone is interested in the same offer. Even though primary CTA is an ultimate outcome company expects from the visitor’s actions, secondary can be helpful to further direct prospects toward a successful original conversion.

Video chat and voice call service provider Skype uses complementing CTAs on their website.

The moment visitor opens the homepage he is immediately introduced to two options — two calls-to-action. Primary invites to download the application, which is the ultimate outcome company expects to receive from the prospect. Secondary, on the other hand, encourages to “Start a conversation” instead. By clicking this button, visitor can enter a conversation room where he can exchange messages with his friends (which he has to invite to join him by sending a link to conversation).

This particular offer allows prospects to try Skype without having to download or install it. It is a great introduction to the product that can eventually lead to conversion.

Another way to present complimentary CTAs is by providing exact same product in two different versions (free and paid or trial and full service).

Primary CTA “Get Spotify Free” is more visible and aimed at all website visitors, especially those who have not tried Spotify service yet. While secondary “Get Spotify Premium” carries less visual weight and is more likely to be oriented to those visitors who have already tried free service and would consider upgrading their account to premium. Secondary CTA can also be more appealing for prospects who are simply not interested in trial service and want to get full service immediately.

Contrasting calls-to-action

Contrasting primary and secondary calls-to-action are those buttons that have a distinctive difference in the outcome that follows after clicking them. One is likely to be associated with positive outcome while the other — with negative. Such CTA buttons are commonly seen on various types of forms or commercial overlays.

Primary action is the most important action as it enables conversion completion. Depending on your conversion goal, primary call-to-action buttons can be: “Get Free Trial”, “Submit”, “Download”.

In contrast, secondary CTA button is an alternative, less important action offered to the prospect. It can cause negative consequences when used accidentally. Therefore, visual presentation of secondary CTA should be well thought through.

The chances are that by presenting buttons with equal visual weight, you will not only confuse your visitors, but also increase a chance of negative outcome. Reducing the visual dominance of the secondary CTA minimizes the risk of potential accidental click. Let’s take to the practice by analyzing couple of examples.

Is it immediately clear what you should click, in order to get the cost of fleet operation reduced? Not really. You have to read headline and sub headline to understand the offer and then take another moment to distinguish which of the button is more appealing to you.

Ideally, prospect should immediately know which button to click the moment he makes his mind to proceed with the offer (or not).

In this case, both CTA buttons stand out and create unnecessary obstacles for the prospect to immediately engage with the offer.

By making minor changes to the secondary call-to-action you can significantly improve the visual weight of the primary one (example on the right).

Another way to avoid accidental clicks on secondary call-to-action is not giving it a shape of a button. Take a look at the example below.

Primary action “Get Your Free Trial in 3 Minutes” is visually dominant. It also has a check mark which indicates positive action and outcome. Secondary CTA “I Want to Continue to Waste Time” is less visible and does not appear as a button. It is provided as alternative option for the prospect, even if it associates with negative outcome for the company.

Having primary and secondary calls-to-action on your website or overlays is not considered mandatory. Nevertheless, having such option can help you lead the prospect towards the ultimate outcome — desired conversion. It is important to choose wisely which action out of the two is more important as such decision will directly influence conversion rates. Match the visual presentation of your CTA buttons to their importance since the button with the stronger visual weight will get more attention.

Originally posted on MaxTraffic blog.