Content Marketing

How to write an effective call to action for email campaigns

The call to action (CTA) is one of the most pivotal elements of your email marketing campaign. This article showcases 9 valuable tips for creating an effective call to action, helping you to improve your ability to get someone to click your button and land right where you want them.

Take the time to optimise your call to action. Email marketing works, but only if your campaign effectively tempts recipients to open your email and complete your desired action. Getting it right can be the difference between success and failure.

For the purpose of this article, let’s assume your subject line was compelling and we are now talking about someone who has opened your email. Your prospect’s next reaction could depend on whether your call to action is clear and enticing, and whether it fits in with the email’s design, layout and purpose.

Here are 9 top tips for writing effective and appealing calls to action for your email campaigns:

1. Start with a clear value proposition

If the content of your email is not clear, it doesn’t matter how good your call to action is. Your email must start with a clear value proposition. This is essential for engaging your audience. If your prospects don’t understand the value you’re providing, they’ll be reluctant to act. Make it worth their while. The best way to achieve this is to have a clear understanding of who you are speaking to and why they need what you are offering.

2. Use verbs and a direct approach

You need a direct approach when writing your call to action, making sure the instruction is clear and specific. For example,  instead of ‘Learn more’, use ‘Get your free consultation here.’ Typically, words that are more specific to your services or products will perform better than generic phrases. Verbs, action words as we called them in school, work best.

3. Test your button copy

The words you use may or may not have a big impact on your clickthrough rate. It is more likely to other elements in your email campaign that will impact your results. But take time to test and see what you discover. Try sending the same campaign but with two calls to action. Perhaps test a free trial against a download. Review your past campaigns and make improvements. Test at least two CTAs. If you’re not testing there is no way to improve your click through rate.

4. Buttons or links?

Typically buttons are best for your primary call to action, simply because they are hard to miss. But use one – not loads. Make it clear what you and the prospect to do. Be clear yourself, on that one single purpose for your email. If you’ve got too many actions, consider creating multiple emails to support them. Links can be used in the body to reinforce your button. The combination of the two works quite well.

5. Align your CTA with your recipients’s stage in their buying cycle

Enhance performance even more by being clear about what stage your email recipient is at in their buying cycle. Are they in the early stages of discovering a need? Are they researching option for solutions? Are they evaluating their options? Or perhaps they are at the final stage and are ready to make a buying decision. Target your email to make sure your CTA is in alignment with the stage they are at in their buying process. This will mean you need to produce more than one email campaign, with more than one type of response device.  This leads us to another topic…

What you really need to do is to graduate from email marketing, and move into email remarketing and marketing automation. This will enable you to automatically release, well timed email messages in sequence, to your prospects. There are some great tools out there to help you do this. I’ll be covering more on this topic in a future blog post. (Make sure to subscribe to this blog so you don’t miss out on the article. You can subscribe here.)

6. HTML vs images

Email buttons can be done in two ways. They can be designed as images or built with HTML code. There are advantages and disadvantages of both, but we recommend HTML buttons, simply because they don’t require your email recipient having images enabled in their email client. If images are not enabled, they can’t see your call to action.  They will also load faster. However, a well designed button can have a BIG impact if it helps to convey your overall message more clearly.

7. Design matters

The font and colour of your call to action must work with its position on the page. Make sure the message stands out against the background for visual impact. And make sure that your overall design is helping to support your message and make it clearer. You can find countless research testing button colours and the placement of a button in your email campaign.

8. Check your links

Link your call to action to the right landing page. Its a simple thing to do and a simple mistake to make. Don’t get caught out, test your links.

9. Perform the Squint test

This is a test that Mailchimp discusses and I think it is brilliant. Look at your screen and squint. If you can still see your call to action, it’s existence on the page is obvious, which is what you need. You can read more about that in this article on the Mailchimp blog, plus a few other handy tips.

Use email marketing as one of your marketing tactics. Simply because it works.

A survey by McKinsey for Custora, showcased in a recent LinkedIn article, revealed some great stats for email, with conversion rates for email marketing quadrupling in the past 4 years. You can download the full report from their website here.

So don’t go pushing all of your marketing budget from email into social media. Make email work harder for you. The call to action (CTA) that you use in your email campaign can impact your clickthrough rate and your customer acquisition rates. Take time to think and plan your email campaigns, as well as your call to action. You’ll be glad you did.


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