How to write an effective call-to-action in emails

How to write an effective call-to-action in email marketing
How do you get your customers to do what you ask them to do? Perhaps you’ve struggled with this question in your efforts to drive sales or sign up subscribers to your newsletter. The answer is to write an effective call-to-action.

In this part of the guide, you’ll get five handy tips to help you create a call-to-action in emails that your customers can’t resist, along with an example of what it might look like in your newsletter.

Table of contents

What is a call-to-action?

call-to-action illustration

A call-to-action is an invitation to action by telling you what you need to do and then motivating you to do it. In other words, CTAs have a clear purpose directly linked to some form of closure.

For this reason, they are an effective marketing strategy in all sales and marketing. The most common way to apply a call-to-action in emails is through clearly placed buttons and links, which inspire a beneficial purchase, encourage a subscription, or close an irresistible deal.

The message that a call-to-action usually is based around, is often short, concise, and directly addressed to the recipient. Significantly, CTAs also like to play on the emotions of the recipient by pointing to a problem with high recognition, where your product or service is the only solution.

5 tips on how to write an effective call-to-action for your customers

1. Speak plainly

The core of your call-to-action is the message itself. Part of the trick here is to be brief, preferably using verbs and keywords that describe your recipients’ problems or needs in various ways and suggest solutions. For example – win, lose and save.

Remember that clear directives that don’t require further instruction or background information work best. Feel free to outline the benefits of your offer, but keep it simple so that your recipients can subscribe or make a purchase decision straightaway.

Your choice of words can make all the difference, as you don’t want your call-to-action to signal that your recipients have to give up or pass on something to take advantage of your services.

Words like – invest, support, and donate do not necessarily have to be a bad word of choice but may still require something from their recipient, whereas: earn, discover, and get, only deliver added value and benefits.

A good trick when formulating the actual button text for your CTAs is to start with yourself and the phrase “I want…..“. Then fill in the obvious benefits of your offer, from the recipient’s perspective.

For example, I want to receive 25% off all my purchases or, I want to learn to sail in 7 days.
If you then remove the “I”, your final call-to-action may land in: Get 25% off all your purchases or, Learn to sail in 7 days.

2. Promise a reward

An effective way to win over your recipients is to tie your call-to-action to a gift or added value. For example, this could be a priority on a sale, a gift card to shop for, or a discount code.

If you work in digital marketing, it’s a good idea to give your customers access to downloadable training materials or give access to premium services when they sign up for your services or renew their subscriptions, all at the touch of a button.

It can also be effective to create a so-called “fear of missing out” by timing your offer to inspire action. For example: sign up today – get a month free.

3. Keep it simple

What if someone offers you too many options or asks you to perform several tasks in parallel? Probably not much, as it can often lead to fragmentation and confusion.

A phenomenon demonstrated in “The jam study“, a study published at Stanford and Columbia University, shows that increased choice does not necessarily generate more purchases. For that very reason, the key to a successful CTA is to pick one thing you ask your customers to do and then stick to it, which depends on what you want your call-to-action to generate.

Do you want your latest eBook to be read or your breakfast seminar fully booked? Well, then that’s exactly what you should be calling for and nothing else.

4. Make it obvious

A well-executed call-to-action should be easy to understand and impossible to miss. Of course, visuals come into play. By giving your call-to-action a contrasting color and a solid placement, you can prevent your offer from getting lost in a maze of information.

It helps to work with colors your recipients can associate with, such as red and green as well as established elements they are already familiar with.

With that said, buttons and links should look just like regular buttons and links and be click-friendly. You can place a Call-to-action in several areas in a newsletter or on a website if it makes it easier for your recipients.

5. No hassle

The great thing about CTAs is that they don’t leave much to chance. They’re distinct, beneficial, and easy for your customers to find. For that reason, the action itself must be as simple as it can possibly be.

Consequently, your call-to-action should not generate a lot of work for your recipients or take up too much of their time. Therefore, avoid elements that involve lengthy instructions, extensive forms, or cumbersome directives, and highlight the benefits of choosing you.

What will happen when they click the link? How can you make their life easier? Perhaps you offer exceptional service, free shipping, or some other added value making it extremely easy for your potential customers to decide and take advantage of your offer.

Here’s an example that touches on all of the above.

An example of a call-to-action in a newsletter

Over to you

A good call-to-action is impactful on all levels. Verbally, with a text and spirit that evokes emotions. Visually, with a look and feel that immediately grabs the recipient’s attention and ties it together. Regardless, if your goal is to sell more or convert more, call-to-actions help your customers take action.

By keeping your message simple and speaking plainly, you avoid misunderstandings and long-winded exposition. When the goal of your call-to-action is clear to you, it will also be clear to your recipients.

In the next part of the guide, we touch on the importance of subject lines and how they affect the open rate of your emails.

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