There’s a mistake that both amateur and professional marketers make all too frequently. It shouldn’t happen but it does. That mistake is forgetting the call to action.

What is a call to action, you ask? In simple terms, it’s the instruction you give to the reader or viewer about the next step you want them to take. “Call now to place your order” is a call to action. So is “click here for more information.” So is “contact us to arrange an appointment.”

Whether you’re writing an ad, a website, a TV commercial, or a marketing email, you’re hoping that it will motivate someone to do something. That desired action (or the next step in accomplishing it) becomes the call to action. Without it, the reader or viewer might not know what to do.

Often, marketers assume that the call to action isn’t needed because they believe the next action is obvious to the target audience. Bad assumption. We can never assume that readers and viewers will react to messages in the way we intend, so it’s important to give them explicit instructions as to what we expect.

Other marketers shy away from call to actions because they’re afraid they sound to “salesy” and will somehow offend the audience. There’s nothing wrong with sales efforts, especially if what you offer fulfills a need the audience has. Don’t be ashamed of trying to make a sale and then closing that sale by asking for an action. Pretending you’re up to something else is actually more offensive than being honest about it.