How to Create a Fantastic Email Call-to-Action


Marketers know the call to action plays a critical role in email marketing success. In a recent Ascend2 study, 65% of respondents said a meaningful call to action was THE most effective way to increase click-through rates.

Improving a call to action (CTA) can be a complex thing, however, especially on smart phones and other mobile devices where a CTA can easily get lost in the crowd of a cluttered email, or be too hard to click on within a small screen.

These are not insurmountable issues, however. Rather, it’s quite easy to create more compelling calls to action by, well, taking action. To help you take action on your calls to action, below we offer our tried-and-true tactics for creating calls to action that compel. Always remember, though: You need to test, test and test again to be sure you find the right mix for maximizing your CTRs and ROIs.

Use only one call to action, and in more than one place

With email marketing—and especially mobile-first email marketing—short messages usually perform better, and that usually means keep your message focused on one point—and your call to action too. Resist the urge to use more than one kind of call to action in your email. You can use different treatments and wording. But only have one end goal in mind for your email and focus your calls to action on that.

For example, you might have your CTA as a big orange button (BOB) but you might also have it as hyperlinked text as part of a sentence too, with different wording. It’s okay to have up to three different places where people can click, but make sure all three have the same goal and go to the same place. What you don’t want is three options with three different landing pages.

Start with a verb

Consider what the wording “call to action” really means: It’s a call to do something, like a call to arms. I think we sometimes forget the compelling aspect of just what the CTA is supposed to do because we are so used to it as a phrase or an acronym. But really, we are quite literally calling on people to act, not sit there. And that, also quite literally, requires a verb.

Lucky for you, verbs are almost infinite in number, so you’ll be able to find the verb that delivers the best results for you. Some of our no-brainer, obvious favorite verbs for CTAs include:

  • Buy now
  • Order now
  • Discover …
  • Start…
  • Watch…
  • Be…
  • Save…
  • Call…
  • Join…

You absolutely positively have to test to discover the calls to action that will work best for your audiences, so we can’t tell you the best verb to use, only to use a verb.

Use the word “your”

If you were to add the word “your” to some of the example above, you’d be on your way to a compelling call to action, because you’d be speaking directly to that recipient.

Use a big and colorful button

We are talking about best practices for calls to action across screens, but primarily mobile devices, since that’s where most opens happen. Only pick up your smart phone that’s sitting next to you right now while you’re reading this and test drive some of the CTA buttons in the emails you get. How many of them are a) big enough to be easily noticed and b) big enough to be easily clicked? Make sure your CTA button can be clicked by fat fingers but easily noticed by busy eyes too. Test to find a color that pops and attracts.

Use a P.S.

Back in the days before email marketing reigned supreme and people still counted on sales letters as marketing tools, the P.S. was a big deal because people would scan a letter and really only focus on what jumped out at them, which included the P.S. You can still take advantage of this tendency for the human eye to look for something that stands out (as opposed to blocks of text). Place a P.S. with hyperlinked text below your CTA button, and see what happens. It can’t hurt! And it just might catch those super scrollers who take a quick swipe through an email and then move on.

What NOT to do with your call to action

There’s a flipside to everything, right? While there are ways to better your call to action, there are also ways to worsen it, including:

  • A lack of clarity—No wishy washy wording aloud!
  • Using articles such as “the”—They only add clutter.
  • Image-only CTAs—Are you sure you want to risk an image only CTA, knowing images are sometimes disabled and not every recipient will see it?
  • CTAs that are too small—We’re talking tiny screens and fat fingers. Make sure your call to action is actually actionable.

As mentioned above, you have to constantly test each of these best practices to discover those that will generate the best results for you in your mobile email marketing. But discover you must, in order to create compelling calls to action that will generate the click throughs and conversions you seek!

Art by Justin M. Buoni // Just Justin Art

Words by Gerald Marshall // Email Industries



Leave a Reply