She walked out of a grocery store with a big bag of yummies anticipating a lazy Friday evening. Suddenly a man topped with a stylish cadet hat anxiously appeared in front of her.
“Hi,” said the man. “I am sorry. I have seen you in the store before.”
This uplifting introduction made her wonder why her appearance in the store made the man sorry. As a polite person she was going to apologize for the inconvenience, but he immediately continued.
“I must be an idiot. I am sorry. My name is Henry. Here is my card. Now it is probably better if I go grocery shopping.”
After uttering the last word, the self-proclaimed idiot turned and trotted inside the store. She tucked the card in a bag and resumed her walk home. There was no reason to text him. No plans to discuss. No clue what to do with that unexpectedly acquired business card.
Some fifteen years ago she might not have needed a clue. It was the pre-Instagram era. People were bored. They opened Internet chats to talk to complete strangers. They spent days playing online backgammon. It is different now. Now, when even Netflix fails to drag our attention from our cellphones, we have to be descriptive and explicit in our messages to be sure they are correctly understood.
Marketing people were the first to discover this necessity. They coined the term “call to action” and created a whole science around it. According to that science, there should be a clear and understandable stimulus at the end of each message. So, here is my call to action:
If you are writing a business proposal, define the matter clearly and don’t forget to set a date for a call or meeting. If you are building a website, recommend that your visitors subscribe for updates, buy products or services, and share content. If you miss someone, go ahead and invite him or her for a coffee or for a gluten-free smoothie if that someone is Californian.
P.S. Of course, every rule has exceptions. Some negotiations require more delicate approaches. Most likely, they should still include a call to action; it just has to be delivered with gentility, diplomacy, and finesse. There is a whole other science to that, but one thing is certain: the self-proclaimed idiot forgot his call to action. I wonder if he forgot his grocery list too.