How to create a call to action (CTA) that works

The final piece to the email conversion puzzle is to give your readers a compelling reason to click.

If you've read the previous chapters of the Ultimate Guide, you know how to write effective subject lines and content that clearly communicates your message. There's just one last step to complete your email masterpiece. 

You need a call to action (CTA) that works!

In this chapter, we will share everything you need to know about CTAs — from the placement to button text and design. But first, we’ll let you in on the secret to a successful CTA.  

The secret behind a CTA that works

The best CTAs are more than just a bright button with catchy text. The reality is that every element of your email contributes to making the CTA work.

A successful CTA does not function independently. Instead, CTAs work more like the climax of a compelling story. 

Every great story follows the same format. First, you are drawn into the story, then you learn the premise, which ultimately builds until you reach the most important part of the story — the climax. 

The end of the story depends on what happens at its peak. This is how email conversions work as well.

The CTA is the climactic point of the email. It’s is where the story has reached an inflection point and the reader gets to decide how the rest of the story plays out. And like the climax of a story, the CTA doesn’t work unless the other parts of the story build up enough interest.

You need to build the story with the subject line, content and design. By the time the reader gets to the CTA button, they are primed and ready to click.

Do your subject line, content and CTA work together to create a cohesive story that leads the reader to an action?

Where to put your call to action

It's important to note that there are lots of different types of email formats and layout options, which affect the placement of your CTAs.

If you have a newsletter with multiple topics leading to different pieces of content, the CTA buttons should be clearly aligned with each section. 

Here is an example of multiple calls to action that are organized really well:

For emails that have a singular focus with one CTA, the placement should follow the logical progression of the story. People read from the top left to right of an email, so it makes sense to place your CTA buttons towards the bottom or to the right of the content. 

If the content builds enough interest, the CTA button will be waiting at the right place for the reader to click. 

Make sure the CTA links to a landing page that complements the email content and continues the story to ensure a cohesive experience.

Lastly, don’t assume the reader only clicks on the CTA button. People often try to click different elements in the email like the logo, headlines, and images. Consider adding the same link to those elements if you think it will help the reader.

How to write call-to-action text

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Everyone has seen these CTA words a million times. These words are not only overused, but they sometimes cause friction with the reader because you are asking them to do work. 

When you use generic text, you are missing an opportunity to get more clicks.

People already know that you want them to click. The trick is to let them know what is in it for them by highlighting benefits, setting expectations and making it personal.

Here are three ways to leverage the text in your CTA buttons: 

Speak directly to your user

Email is personal. Try speaking directly to your subscriber like you would a friend or colleague. A recent study by Unbounce showed that using the first-person pronoun in your button text resulted in a 90% increase in clicks.

For example, instead of “Get ebook” try ‘Get my ebook” This small change can make a huge difference.

Use approachable action verbs 

Not all action words work. Some verbs make the reader uncomfortable or even stressed. These words include verbs like submit, enter and download. Is this how you talk to people in person?

Instead, try words that let the reader know they are getting something in return.

Approachable action verbs like get, find and try tell the reader there is a benefit waiting for them. For best results, combine these action words with an actual benefit to seal the deal. 

For example, ‘get my 20% coupon’ or ‘try a free game’ work really well because they use an inviting action verb with something tangible for the reader.

Create urgency 

If you have a limited offer or your email is time sensitive, use it to your advantage with a CTA that raises the sense of urgency. People hate to miss out. Use button text that lets your reader know that they must act now to enjoy the benefits.

While it's easy to add the word ‘now’ at the end of your button text, try experimenting with phrases that raise the stakes. For example, ‘Experience it before your friends’ or “Offer ends 6:00 PM”.

For something a little different, MailerLite has a countdown timer that you can insert into your email to heighten the urgency.

Check out our countdown timer.
Using a Countdown Timer Effectively

How to create CTA buttons that work

The best way to get more clicks is to include a button. Sounds obvious, but some people prefer to use links or images as their CTA. 

Buttons make it 100% clear that you want the reader to click.

You also must consider mobile devices that rely on touchscreens. Buttons are much easier to find and click on when you are using a smaller device.

MailerLite offers a library of button options. All you have to do is customize them to fit your email. Here’s how to make your CTA button stand out:

1. Use contrasting colors

Take a look at your email design and choose a button color that will stand out. Make sure the button color pops without clashing with the background and text colors. The goal is to make it cohesive while still ensuring the CTA button is the loudest color on the screen.

2. Make it interactive

You can use shading to create an illusion that the button lives on a different plane. Or, you can make the button change colors and depth when the mouse hovers over it. These little tricks enhance interactivity.

3. Less is more

If you have too much clutter in your email, the CTA will be hard to find no matter how bright or big. Think about the negative space in the email. Make sure there is enough white space around your button to avoid any visual noise.

4. Try adding directional cues

Many people have found success by adding arrows that point to their buttons. While this is a good way to draw your readers to the button, it might also be distracting to the content. Another more subtle technique is to use imagery that points to the CTA. 

For example, instead of a person looking directly at camera, they can be looking in the direction of the button.

5. Make the button big enough

OK, this is not permission to make your CTA button humongous. You don’t want it to be obnoxious, but at the same time, it must be large enough to be found quickly. Use your judgment and do an eye test. Can you find the button?

These five tips are meant to guide you in your design. At the end of the day, you need to look at your overall layout and do what works. As long as your CTA is easy to find and easy to read, people will have the opportunity to click.

Keep testing your CTA

The advantage of email marketing is that you can always test. Testing different buttons and text options will give you the freedom to experiment and be creative. 

And remember, your CTA is only part of the conversion story. Try testing other elements of the email like imagery or headlines to see if it affects clicks. We will cover the ins and outs of A/B testing in chapter 10.

Skip to Chapter 10: Email Testing
Email Marketing A/B Testing Made Simple