3 tips for a stronger call to action (CTA)

We've seen many examples of email signature campaign success relying on 'Click here' or 'Read more' - It's wrong!

It doesn't tell recipients what you want them to do. Nor does it answer that universal question:

What’s in it for me?

In a marketing message, the call to action has three elements: 

  1. the action you want the reader to take, 
  2. the words you use to issue the call, and 
  3. its physical appearance (text, image) 

Avoid 'Click' in your CTA - Instead, show a button

You don’t have a lot of space to tell contacts why they should click a link. 

So, the call to action – or CTA, the phrase that will compel the reader to click the link and start down the conversion path – must deliver as much information as possible in just a few words.  

Showing a button works where 'click here' fails to deliver.

I can understand how 'click here' got promoted from simple command to lofty CTA because it’s simpler than saying 'Please click your mouse button on this link so that you will jump from this email to the specially designed landing page we have created for you at our website.'

For a retailer, the email message tells the customer, 'Buy now!' - However, the buying process doesn't necessarily start when the reader clicks through to the Web site.

Instead, the link you provide takes the customer to a product page for more information: product descriptions, pricing, image shots, discount amount, and the like.

So, the email message isn't necessarily asking the customer to commit to purchasing but merely to learn more about the product. If the customer isn't ready to seal the deal right from the email message, 'click here' might appear to demand a greater commitment than he or she is willing to make. 'Learn more', 'Show me' or 'Here's how' might more closely reflect what’s going on in the customer’s head.

Be realistic and clear about what actions you want your email message to inspire. This will help direct you to design an effective call to action.

Express your CTA clearly

Once you know the action, your email campaign message should inspire. You must design the call so that it tells the reader what to do and what to expect for doing it.  

As with so much else in marketing, a CTA often explains the benefit the reader will get, answering the 'what’s in it for me?' question, and should be expressed as an action.

Marketers whose email message generates a product or service purchase should match the CTA to the landing page where the email link will send clickers. If it’s a page of images showing different varieties of the same product, the call could invite the reader this way: 'See all 20 colors here.'

Informational messages – news, bulletins, updates – direct the reader to get the full story at the Web site. 

Again, you need to tell the reader not only what to do but what he can expect by doing it. 'Learn more techniques to increase click-through rates' is both information and action-oriented, where 'click here' falls flat.

Use boldface to make CTAs pop

Besides linking the product or service name to your landing page, you should also boldface it to help it catch the eye, primarily if you rely on text more than images to tell your story. 

Boldface makes scanning much easier (see how that got your attention in this article).

You can also boldface action words, key phrases and anything else that can drive the reader’s eye down to the official call to action. (These can be but don’t necessarily have to be hyperlinked.)

Don't sprinkle boldface type too liberally through a message. This will only camouflage the CTA in plain text and make it look like the least important part. CTAs need to stand out, not blend in.

Increase the font size of the CTA - don't shrink it. Make it prominent and obvious. Use white space to offset or highlight the CTA. If the action at the end of an article abstract is to read the full story, don't just run the last sentence into the CTA. Use a hard return, indent and make it easy to see precisely where the CTA is.

What's next?

34 strong CTAs to make recipients click, phone or buy

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