How to Optimize your Email Calls to Action (CTAs)


You’re doing everything right.

You’ve split your customers into segments to ensure that everyone gets the right messages.

You’re delivering excellent content, and experimenting with video. You’ve even spent months analyzing your copy to ensure that you’re speaking your audience’s language.

So, why aren’t you getting the click-through rate that you deserve?

There could be a number of answers to that question, including email sender reputation, or just poor timing. However, the most common answer is simply that your CTA (call to action) button isn’t pulling its weight.

Read on to learn how to fix your CTA stresses.

Why Are CTA Buttons so Valuable to Email Campaigns?

You’ve probably seen CTAs on landing pages and product pages before. As valuable as your buttons are in that stage of your buyer interaction cycle, they’re also incredibly important for your email campaigns too.

While your emails are excellent for keeping you connected with your target audience, your CTAs are how you draw those leads back to your website and into a new stage of conversion.

The right CTA has a massive impact on your ability to convert because they let the customer know what the next step they take needs to be. According to Campaign Monitor, button-based CTAs increase click-through rates by up to 28%.

After your reader examines your email content and gets a better insight into who you are and what you can offer, they’ll see a button at the bottom of the email page asking them to take the next step. If you’ve built the right relationship with your customers up to then, they should feel comfortable converting with you.

So, how do you make sure that your CTAs are really making an impact?

The following steps will help with that.

1.    Focus on Benefits (What’s in it for Them)

Even when you make the next step in your conversion as simple as clicking a button, you’re still asking for effort from your customers. The CTA in your email asks your subscribers to leave their inbox and come back to your website to browse or buy. They need a reason to stop whatever they were doing and interact with you instead.

For instance, when Campaign Monitor, an email marketing tool, started sending newsletters to their customers for their new email course, they were careful to include the word “free” in their CTA. This instantly tells customers that they’re getting the benefit of something valuable, without having to pay:

CTA with offer

Instead of just sticking to generic content like “Visit Now” or “Read More,” let your audience know that they’re taking the right next step by connecting with you. Even a basic benefit like a “free course” could be enough to push your readers off the fence.

2.    Choose Your Words Wisely

If you’ve read through our guide to customer retention before, then you’ll know that the words you use can have a big impact on your audience. Say the wrong thing, and you could send customers rushing to your competitors.

CTAs are a particularly sensitive place in the email marketing campaign. Choose the wrong words there and your risk of conversions will be reduced significantly. For instance, “friction” words are the terms that make your customers feel pushed or pressured into doing something. For instance, “Submit,” “Buy” and “Download” are all friction words.

Rather than drawing attention to what you want your customer to do for your benefits, focus on what the customer gets in return, like “Access your free account”. Changing a single word can increase your conversions by up to 14.79%, according to ContentVerve.

Check out this fun example from Zendesk. The term “Start Exploring” makes the next step in the conversion cycle seem fun rather than just daunting or expensive.


3.    Focus on Providing Ownership

In general, your customers are more worried about avoiding loss with their day-to-day behaviors than they are about actually gaining something. If you convince your customers that they’re going to miss out on something if they don’t connect with you, then it’s more likely that they’ll jump into action.

For instance, take a look at this CTA from Kcal Extra. The example is from a website popup, but the lesson still applies to your email too:

Kcal explore CTA

The next time you’re writing an email call to action, ask yourself whether you can give your followers some extra ownership over their experience. For instance, instead of just “start your free trial”, switch to “start my free trial”. The switch in that single world tells your audience that they already have something from you.

By clicking the back button on their email and failing to engage further, your customer is then abandoning something that already belongs to them. This is much harder for most people than just saying no to a random offer.

4.    Make Your CTA Stand Out

Even perfectly optimized CTA content won’t do much good if your button just blends into the rest of your page. Remember, your buttons need to stand out among your content if you want to make sure that they get noticed. You’ll need to select a button color that contrasts with the typical colors in your email to get started.

Take a look at this email from the Freshbooks brand. While the rest of the email is an authoritative blue shade, the CTA button is a bright and appealing green.

zenpayroll email call to action

The brightly colored email is excellent for grabbing attention and pulling the reader to the next stage in their buyer journey. If you’re not sure which color to use, try squinting when you look at your email to see whether your button is still prominent enough to catch your attention. If you don’t instantly see the button when scrolling through your email, try again.

5.    Put Your Button in the Right Place

Once you’ve figured out what you’re going to write on your CTA button, and what color it’s going to be, you’ll need to think about where the button should go. A lot of people agree that the CTA needs to be above the fold to work best. However, it’s difficult to know where the fold actually is in a world of smartphones and mobile devices.

If your product/offer is easy to understand, like getting a free download, there’s nothing wrong with placing your button high up on the page. This is particularly true if you already have a good reputation. A high CTA is easy to see and click when your customer wants to jump to the next step of their journey fast.

However, if there’s something complicated about your CTA, then you may need to place your button below some text, pictures, or a video that explains why your customer should convert.  For instance, Authentic Jobs shows an image of the new dashboard they’re talking about before their CTA.

Authentic jobs

The ideal placement all depends on how ready you think your customers will be to convert when they see your offer.

6.    Get Psychological

Finally, if you really want to increase your chances of conversions with your email marketing campaigns, there are few things more effective than getting into their heads.

Psychology is deeply involved with every human action and interaction. Keep that in mind when you’re building your email strategy. For instance, urgency is a powerful motivator for many customers. Urgency in emails is all about getting your wording right.

For instance, if you tell your customers that they only have so long to make a purchase or finish the conversion that they already began, they’ll instantly feel a sense of panic. In many cases, this panic is underscored by the essence of “FOMO” or fear of missing out. No-one wants to lose a great deal.

Rather than just telling your customers that the clock is ticking, remind them of what they’re going to miss out on. Highlight the importance of what they need to do if they want to avoid losing the deal that they already have. For instance, Dunked.com sends this email to customers who forget to finish the double opt-in process:

Dunked FOMO example

The email is effective because it highlights what the customer could miss, and also provides clear steps on what they need to do next.

A lot of pressure in your emails can send your customers running in the other direction. However, the right amount of pressure, applied strategically, could be incredibly useful to your campaigns.

Get Ready to Encourage Action

Ultimately, the CTA buttons on your emails are the primary components driving people to your product or website. If you fail to get your calls to action right, then you could miss out on some essential conversions for your brand.

Fortunately, the tips above will help you to spruce up your buttons in time for your next campaign. What’s more, if you need any extra help, you can find more guidance on how to enhance your emails right here on our website.


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