5 steps to an effective email call to action
24 Aug, 2015

Your call to action is usually your customer’s first step towards buying, so it’s essential to get it right. Today I share five simple tips to making your CTA work, including one powerful technique that is frequently overlooked. But let’s start with the simplest points…


1. Make it big

Use a fairly large button for your CTA. Many prospective customers will be opening your message on their phone, and if you want them to take action, you’ll need to make that button nice and easy to press with a finger.

Using a large button is not just about ease of use, though. Having a large button helps to make it stand out clearly. Which is closely tied to the second point…


2. Make it stand out

Contrasting the colour of your CTA against the rest of the email is the most direct method of bringing it to the reader’s attention. Size and position also play a part.

Whilst using interesting shapes for your CTA might help grab attention, I recommend sticking with the standard wide rectangle. Alternative shapes are generally not as pleasing to the eye, and as I mentioned last time, readers are conditioned to view rectangles as clickable buttons.

Good marketing is very much about making your product easy to buy, so don’t confuse your prospects by straying too far from convention. And while we’re thinking about making things easy for the reader…


3. Design for skim-reading

One of the difficulties with the McDonald’s email I reviewed last time was that it was hard to run an eye across it and quickly understand the offer and how to claim it.

When viewing most things (including pages of text) the human eye rarely follows a linear path. Instead, it jumps around and the brain gathers clues to determine what is being looked at.

This means you should:

  • – Make key information (and your CTA) large;
  • – Don’t overload with text;
  • – Use a lot of empty space so the eye can jump from one element to another easily;
  • – Keep backgrounds simple;
  • – Use bold colours for key information and the CTA.

Look at this brilliant example of these five components:


Notice how your eye recognises $1.00/month and Get Cracking very quickly? You can tell at a glance what the offer is, and how to claim it. And the wording of this CTA is also worth discussing…


4. Word your CTA effectively

There are two parts to a CTA. The clue is in the name: call and action.

The action is the easy part. Make sure your CTA emphasises a verb (that’s a “doing word” for those of us who view language in easy terms!). What does your prospect need to do?

Buy, shop, go, continue, get, read, try, find out, sign up – these are all common action words used in CTAs

The second element of a CTA is the call, or instruction. “Would you like to read more?” is a weak CTA. On the other hand, “Read more” comes across as a command and therefore a stronger call.

Using words that emphasise speed or immediacy are also good. These work psychologically to entice readers to click. The human brain hates the idea of missing out on a deal. It’s common to see “Buy Now” used as a CTA, and that’s about as clear as it can get.

The wording of the CTA in the example above is a great example of creativity that remains clear and effective. “Get Cracking” incorporates a sense of immediacy, as this phrase generally implies getting started on something quickly. It is also a pun on the hatching egg theme of the email (which was sent out in Easter week). Cohesion like this is very valuable…


5. Ensure your CTA links to the rest of your message

The example above links the CTA to the message content through a pun. But what about this example that uses colour to effectively convey its message:


The contrast of blue and orange (opposites on the colour wheel) does wonders to make the button pop out from the background. But there’s more than that.

Using the same colour for the 10% OFF text and the CTA links the two elements visually. In less than half a second my brain can register all of these details:

  • – The advert is for lighting, demonstrated by the image of the light
  • – There is a 10% sale available, evidenced by the large and noticeable text
  • – Pressing the box that says “Shop now” will let me take advantage of this sale, indicated by the matching colour.

Using matching colours in this way not only guides the eye from one element to the next, but also mentally links the important information. In an ad like this one, which eschews lots of text, the result is a clear and effective message and call to action.


Putting it together

Adhering to these five simple rules will raise your email click-through rates. Why not take a look through your own inbox and check if other companies are using these ideas. Let me know if you find any great (or dreadful) examples.