How to Come up with the Perfect Email Call To Action?

About two years ago my boss held his first webinar. He spoke about the basics of copy writing. Around 300 people watched the live feed, which was a result we didn’t even dream about.

Our goal was lead generation, the webinar was the lead magnet. We wanted to reach new people with the format and communicate that we were professionals. Copywriters who really know what they are doing.
So the reach was a tremendous success, all the feedback was positive, not a single negative reaction. We managed to reach and engage the right audience because earlier we had communicated about the webinar on carefully selected channels.

However: it failed to bring virtually any new leads.

After two days we started to think about the reasons. It took maybe two minutes to realize what was wrong.
The webinar was planned for 30 minutes and became more than 2 hours long because of the questions we received. It was very tiring for everyone involved. By the end, Zoltán, who presented the webinar, was completely exhausted.
And he forgot about the call to action (CTA) at the very end.

300 people were watching at that time and none of us realized we should tell them to subscribe.
The thing is: you can tell the best story of your life, but it is just that, a simple story. Until you include a call to action. Adding the call to action is what makes it a valuable piece of online marketing.

What is a call to action (CTA) in email campaigns?

A call to action is simply, like its name suggests, a request that you make to your audience to entice them to go through with an act or an action.

In other terms, a call to action or CTA in marketing is used to refer to an instruction or a request that a company makes to its audience in order to provoke a certain response or action.

“Call to Action” is a marketing method that has always been used by companies to activate their customer base.

What is a good click through rate?

According to the latest email marketing benchmarks by Mailchimp and SmartInsights, in most industries, you have a 1 in 5 chance that a given recipient will open your email. And after they have opened it, you have a 1 in 10 chance that they will click on whatever link you put inside.

The average click-through rate for Email Marketing Campaigns is around 2-4%.
But I have seen newsletters with CTR (click through rate) over 20% and I personally wrote more than one.

I know that it doesn’t come down only to the call to action. For starters, if you have a strong, segmented list, you can have a 100% open and click-through rate. But in most cases you simply can’t do that because analytics and content creation alone would bankrupt you long before you get the chance to monetize those leads.

So now, I am going to tell you a few things about how you should write your offer and call to action so you can improve any email you have in mind in the future.

How to come up with a call to action?

Before you start designing your email and inserting your call to action, you need to answer these three simple questions that will help guide you in the process. You need to put yourself in your subscribers shoes when you create your CTA.

What are you offering?

It’s best if you summarize what your prospect will get out of the deal – not only by clicking the call to action button and going through to the landing page you have set up, but also by actually taking the offer afterward.

Take a look at this call to action example from the New York Times. The email barely contains anything other than two call to action buttons.

Two CTAs example in the New York Times email

However, their offer is clear. I know exactly what I will get if I click on one of the call to action buttons:

I will get to explore the New York times subscription offers, through which I will become well-informed and able to form an unbiased opinion.

(Their headline is also catchy and straight to the point, take note.)

The design of the call to action is also well thought out. It’s placed at the very beginning of the email for those who are ready to take action after reading the first few lines, and it is also repeated in the email later, for those who prefer to read more before acting.

What do you want in return?

Have you ever clicked on a “free” offer just to discover that it is only free in a specific way?

You know, you just have to pay for shipping, but that costs 10 times as much as it should. Or the product is only free for certain users, like premium members.

This is not simply a surprise, it’s a lie.

Before I even consider clicking on that call to action button, tell me the price I am going to pay, even if you can only tell that figuratively.
Or imply it at least.

CTA example - Book a consultation

In this call to action example, it is clear what I will get: expert advice.

It is also implied, that although the consultation is free, I will pay for it in a way: with my personal and business information (without which there is no point in a consultation) and of course my time.

The words you use to write your call to action matter a lot, for example:

  • “Book” or “Register” call to action buttons imply that you have to provide at least your contact information.
  • “Read” or “Check out” call to action buttons imply that you pay with your time and attention.

What should your subscribers do?

You should help your subscribers go through with the intended action by telling them exactly what to do.

This helps eliminate confusion, and also saves them a lot of time answering questions like “how can I get the ebook?” or “where can I buy your product?”

Most of the time you can just skip this because your recipients will be able to recognize an e-commerce call to action for example and act according to the instructions.

However, sometimes, you have to provide a few extra details in your email to accompany your call to action, like this.

Light HTML email exmaple

See? It’s quite simple – although in this call to action example, the design is far from ideal.

If you simply insert a plain URL link to your landing page using plain text, your call to action might be buried inside lines of text and will not be noticed.
Even worse, your subscribers might think your simple text email is spam and ignore it completely or report it.

You need to convince your subscribers to go through with your call to action and offer, and that means presenting them with a beautifully designed email.

If you don’t have any background in HTML, you can simply use a pre-designed email template. These email templates are responsive and work for all versions of Outlook, and are supported by every email client. That way you are certain that each one of your subscribers can open and view your email seamlessly.

You can also edit the same email template to contain two different calls to action and links according to your client’s device (desktop or mobile).

How to write a compelling call to action in an email?

Once you have an idea about the key elements relating to your CTA, you need to think about how you will write your call to action in a compelling and persuasive way. Here are a couple of things to keep in mind.

Avoid generic call to action buttons

such as “Download” or “Click here”. Reference a specific action instead. When you write your call to action, choose the right words very carefully.

Don’t be afraid of a longer call to action

For example, If in your main message is something like “Take your business to the next level” then in your call to action, you could reference it and write “I want the knowledge to boost my business”.

Write as if you were the reader, the potential customer

To see what I’m talking about, look at the best exit popups. They try to grab attention by giving you a chance to decide what is good for you. They word buttons so you have to make a personal decision, often they begin with “I” or “me”.

Exict popup example - want to grow your email subscribers for free?

Know your incentives

I want to share with you a couple of techniques you can use simply by including a few words in you offer.

If your reader still needs a little push to go through with your CTA, the fear of missing out (FOMO) can be a powerful ally.

You should also build on this in your subject lines if you have email sequences, and it is just as effective for CTAs.

Here are some tricks to unlock the power of FOMO:

  • Setting a Deadline

Say you are standing in a brick&mortar store thinking about buying a discount product. You want it, the quality is good, however the price is a little over your budget, so you hesitate. One thing that can force you to decide right then and there is if you are told that the store closes in five minutes, and that the offer is only valid until the end of the day.

Choose a reasonable deadline: you don’t want to turn away your customer by implying that they have already missed the opportunity.

“Until midnight” is a reasonable deadline, “in the next five minutes” isn’t.

  • Limiting the offer to a certain number of customers

You can say that only the first few customers get the best deal, or there is limited stock for that particular product.

Be honest though: if you write that the offer is only available for a certain period/stock, stick to it, keep that promise, otherwise you will erode trust.

  • Social inclusion

You can spice up your call to action with something like:
“Join 5413 marketers who already know how to write the perfect call to action.”

(Also, avoid round numbers, for example 5000, it sounds weirdly fake. Very specific numbers like 5413 work better, they somehow seem more “real”.)

  • Exclusivity

You don’t have to limit the offer by a deadline, you can simply offer it to a select few people. But if you do, let them know.

If you are segmenting your subscriber list, you can personalize and target your offers.

Make sure to tell your readers that you are in fact doing this, they will feel special.

Say you have an e-commerce website that sells clothing. You know that there are huge storms coming in a certain area. Look at your list and create a segment of residents of that area. Create a special discount for waterproof equipment and in your offer tell them
“This offer is only available to [whoever you are offering it to].”

This can increase the click-through rate as it creates the feeling of exclusivity, you make your potential customers feel better and let them know that you care about them.

  • Q/A

You can close your offer with a question, and of course, the answer should be the call to action itself.
If you are asked a question, you are more likely to react to it than if you are presented a simple statement. For example:

Do you want to double your CTR?
Yes, teach me how to write a good call to action.

Test your call to action

Don’t be lazy. Test your call to action with colleagues, friends or even come up with a couple of versions and run A/B tests with a fraction of your audience.

Wrapping up

Whatever you do, remember that the call to action is the most important part after you actually got someone to open your email.

Start with it, word it carefully, think about your offer and always put yourself in your subscribers shoes.

What would make YOU click on that call to action button?