The first act had gone fine. The audience hadn't exactly leaped to their feet in an ovation, but they were still there when the intermission lights came up, and most of them appeared to be awake. So far, so good, I thought from the catwalk where many playwrights (or was it just me?) prefer to hide during a production of one of their plays.
My playwriting teacher knew where to find me, of course. "They like the play. The only thing you need is a new curtain line."
"New curtain line?"
"Yes. The closing line of the act isn't really strong enough. You need to put something else there that will really resonate with the audience on the way out, something that will draw them back for Act Two."
"Uh...okay." I wouldn't have minded having this conversation before opening night of the production, but sometimes you really can't tell what works and what doesn't until you try it out. So after the show I went home, thought up a new line for the leading character to end the first act with, and the next night the whole scene -- in fact, the whole show -- worked better.
Copywriting has its own version of the "curtain line." It's known as the call to action.
The call to action is that last compelling statement in which you force the readers to react to what they've just absorbed in a specific way. Maybe it's time for them to pick up the phone and place their order. Maybe it’s time for them to fill out the request form for more details. Maybe it's time for them to whip out their credit card and make that payment. The point is...it's time. You've delivered a compelling message to them; now it's time for them to respond appropriately.
A good piece of copywriting has a shape to it, just as a well-written act in a play does. An effective act grabs the audience from the beginning, ratchets that interest level higher and higher, then leaves them in the most powerful, congruent emotional state possible -- the precise emotional state you want them to experience. Marketing copy should build in the same manner, ending with such an emotional punch that the reader feels compelled to take the next step.
So when you write that marketing piece, save the best for last. Rally the troops -- your readers -- with a rousing call to action. Challenge them to act on that feeling you just planted in them. Turn those prospects into customers and those customers into repeat customers. Get what you want the easy way -- by asking for it.