How soft calls to action will save your B2B campaigns

You shouldn't have to decide between a soft or a hard call to action. Columnist Garrett Mehrguth explains why it's helpful to offer both and shares three soft CTA tactics that will help you generate leads.

Chat with MarTechBot

Click Mouse Ss 1920My paid search campaigns are underperforming, and so are yours. It’s a fact. We all know it’s true, and we’re fortunate that they are. If they weren’t underperforming, our roles as marketers would be in danger.

The fun part is figuring out why they are underperforming.

Now, if you’re in the B2B space, then you know the importance of keeping the sales team happy with “hot” leads. The reality is that B2B marketing is a weird balance of generating marketing-qualified leads and sales-qualified leads.

It’s critical to distinguish these two types of leads as different, because your sales and management team certainly does.

Let’s unpack this conundrum a little more.

As a marketer, you know that giving someone something like a free e-book is going to have a much higher conversion rate than trying to get someone to schedule a demo.

But, you also know it’s really difficult to get someone to go from downloading an e-book to speaking with sales. Thus, you stop pitching e-books and focus only on generating sales qualified leads. And, eventually, these get so expensive to generate that your budget shrinks, trust is gone, and you marginalize the channel saying, “It’s really just not a good fit for us.”

What if I told you that there’s a powerful solution — a solution so obvious and simple that you can execute it today. Would that interest you? I think yes.

The solution is… dual calls to action.

You see, you shouldn’t have to choose whether you give your visitor a soft call to action (download e-book) or a hard call to action (speak with sales). You should let him or her decide.

Imagine you are a restaurant that only serves breaded dishes, and a gluten-free person walks in. What can you offer them? Nothing.

That bread-hating, gluten-free individual is the 90–98 percent of users who are not converting from your paid search campaigns today.

They come to your landing page wanting information, but instead all they get is a sales call. Inversely, the other 2–10 percent come wanting to speak with sales, and all you’re offering is information. To drastically improve your marketing KPIs and make sales happy, you need to offer both.

Below, you can see a perfect example of how we’re using this approach with a client we’re working with:

How Soft Call To Actions Will Save Your B2B Campaigns

The goal of such campaigns is to convert your user where they are, not where you want them to be. If they aren’t ready to speak with sales and you have no other way to capture their information on the page or give them what they want, then you’ve wasted an opportunity. Furthermore, you neglected an opportunity to drastically decrease your cost per conversion.

Sales is all about timing. But guess what? Marketing is, too. As a B2B marketer, you need to have drip campaigns and other things in place from your soft calls to action so that you can eventually turn a lead into an opportunity when the timing is right.

Here are three actionable ways you can leverage soft calls to action today — plus, one bonus tactic we’re testing.

1. Free ungated download

How Soft Call To Actions Will Save Your B2B Campaigns 1

Do you have an asset that’s so good, you’d hate for anyone who comes to your site not to download it? If yes, than this might work for you, as long as that same asset is also a natural part of your sales process.

For us, this is our book of case studies. For you, this might be your Gartner report or your own case studies. (I recommend Case Study Buddy if you need your own case studies.)

The simplest way to turn any asset into a free automatic download is to upload it to Dropbox, click share, copy the URL into your browser, and change the 0 at the end of the URL to a 1. That’s it. Now, when someone click that link, it will automatically start a download of your amazing, free, ungated asset.

2. Multi-step forms + progress bar

How Soft Call To Actions Will Save Your B2B Campaigns 2

We’ve seen up to a 400 percent increase in conversion rate with multi-step forms when we’ve tested them against traditional forms. Once someone starts the form with something as simple as “First Name,” they’re highly likely to finish what they started since they’re already invested.

Here’s the JavaScript we use for this.

3. Enable live chat on your landing pages

If neither your soft call to action nor your hard call to action align with your visitors’ needs, there’s still one last hope: live chat.

With live chat, you can target messaging to speak to the assumed intent of the visitor when they come to your page. To do this, we use Drift. Their campaigns feature, and then target, different visitor intent at scale by targeting URLs containing: /seo or /ppc and so on.

How Soft Call To Actions Will Save Your B2B Campaigns 3

As a growth hack, we’ve added a special takeover campaign to our thank-you page, so that if you convert on the soft call to action, you have the option to claim a “free audit” and speak with sales.

How Soft Call To Actions Will Save Your B2B Campaigns 4

Remember, once you get a conversion from a soft call to action, your full attention needs to go into how to get that visitor from lead to opportunity.

With that in mind, here’s a bonus tactic to increase your likelihood of soft calls to action turning into sales.

Bonus tactic: Conditional logic

If you’re offering an e-book to someone, there’s little to no reason to ask for their phone number. But without the phone number, it’s hard for your sales team to proactively contact this lead.

To solve this issue, you can leverage conditional logic in the form for your soft calls to action.

In the form below, we ask a visitor who is downloading our e-book: “Would you like a free SEM audit?” If they respond yes, we then ask for their phone number, and the lead gets routed to sales. If they respond no, then we simply add them to a drip campaign and wait for the timing to be correct.

How Soft Call To Actions Will Save Your B2B Campaigns 5

The goal here is to increase our chances of a soft call to action turning into a hot lead without decreasing our overall conversion rate.


Hopefully, this post has shined a light on the importance of having both soft and hard calls to action and raised awareness on the importance of getting your leads from interest to action. Whether you’re pitching a B2B marketing guide or amazing case studies, best of luck — optimize on!

Contributing authors are invited to create content for MarTech and are chosen for their expertise and contribution to the martech community. Our contributors work under the oversight of the editorial staff and contributions are checked for quality and relevance to our readers. The opinions they express are their own.

About the author

Garrett Mehrguth
Garrett Mehrguth is the CEO of Directive Consulting, a B2B search marketing agency, and the founder of Freshly Salted. He has been published in a wide variety of industry-leading publications. Garrett also speaks at SMX West, Share16, 3XE Digital, State of Search, Big Digital, MozCon Ignite, General Assembly, PeopleSpace Innovation Labs, SoCal Code Camp and others.

Fuel for your marketing strategy.