Let’s talk about board games

I was watching a friend play Mouse Trap with his kids recently when I had a thought about the importance of calls to action (CTAs) in film.

You really can find inspiration in anything, I guess.

Are you familiar with Mouse Trap?

It’s a great, silly board game, if a little complicated until you get the hang of it. One essential component of the game is that the players all contribute, one piece at a time, to the construction of an elaborate booby trap around the board.

This cat certainly doesn't know the rules!

This cat certainly doesn’t know the rules!

When it’s your turn, you may have the opportunity to snare someone else’s game piece. If you’ve done everything right and all the various little fiddly bits are properly in place, you spring the trap and it unfolds like clockwork.

It’s a lot of fun when it goes the way it’s supposed to. You start by turning a crank, which sets a little metal ball rolling. Somehow, via staircases, ramps, seesaw levers, weights, and more, this ends with a net slithering down to entrap a little plastic mouse.

But if a mistake is made somewhere along the line, the trap stalls in the middle and the mouse goes free.

What does this have to do with Calls To Action?

As I watched all this play out in the game, I felt a certain déjà vu. I don’t think it’s just me, though; it really was a microcosm of a very familiar progression.

A well-produced video takes a lot of elaborate work to set up.

When it’s viewed, every step along the way contributes to your final goal. You set it all in motion – not so different from a little metal ball gathering steam as it heads into the final stretch.

I had an especially enlightening moment the first time the trap failed right before the end. After all, I’d seen similar failures before. In the video world, it’s possible to create something that brings you right to the brink of success, everything chugging along as expected… right up until the desired result fails to materialize.

This is often the consequence of skipping one particular fiddly bit.

Say you want your viewers to take a certain step when they’ve finished watching. Maybe you want them to make a donation or sign up for your mailing list. With this goal in mind, you capture the essence of your organization in a focused, evocative video, which you utilize perfectly. Viewers are consistently moved by the experience. They’re open to participating.

But you don’t include a CTA. You don’t spell out for viewers exactly what steps they can take to contribute. And with that piece missing, it’s hard to land any mice.

If you’ll forgive me for bringing in another metaphor: Making a video without a CTA is like practicing your home run swing without ever trying it out on a real, live ball. You can have the perfect stance and grip; you can rotate from the hips and bring your whole body into it, gathering amazing force. But you still need something to hit, or all that momentum never gets the chance to have an impact.

Steps forward

Your video can generate the perfect response in the audience. It can make them like you and want to help you. But unless you direct that energy towards an actual object, it will melt away without producing any notable outcome.

There are various options, but even something as simple as a title card at the end of your film can make all the difference. “Join the movement!” “Become a leader!” “Enroll today!”

Videos that contain a CTA get 380% more clicks than when the CTA appears on the sidebar of your web page. There are numerous reports of an 80% increase in revenue within the first month of adding a CTA. Another example of the power of CTAs: Emails with a single CTA have seen increased clicks of 371% and sales 1617%!

Let viewers know how they can get involved, and see what a difference it makes.

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