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5 Ways to Put Your Email Call to Action to Work

June 27th, 2013 | No Comments | Posted in Fundraising

Having an effective call to action in your email marketing — whether part of newsletters, transactional emails or lifecycle campaigns — is a must if you want to engage and convert your customers.

One of the worst things you can do is “wing it” when it comes to creating a call to action, yet this is all too common for online businesses.

Today, we will take a look at some great examples of email campaigns that really nail the call to action. Hopefully, they will provide inspiration for your campaigns across the board.

1. Images Can Cost You Sales

With up to 60% of all recipients regularly turning off images, it’s clear that relying on images in your email marketing campaigns is a risky move.

Images can be very useful, but it’s important to have a fallback — and there are lots of things you can do to maximise the look and feel of your campaign for times when images are enabled, along with the times when they are not enabled.

This is particularly true when it comes to your call to action. On a website, having a big orange button is a powerful way to attract your customers’ attention and get them to click. Although this works equally well in email marketing, incorporating a big button can be tricky, as using an image means many customers will never even see it!

However, there is a simple way to combat this: use HTML to create buttons instead! Most email marketing campaigns use images; but, with a few tweaks, you can stand out from the crowd.

Here are two great examples of campaigns using non-image-based buttons.

The first, from Memrise:

email marketing HTML button

The second, from GetResponse:


As you can see, both campaigns have huge buttons that look great… and neither uses an image.

Here is some code you can swipe to create a button just like these:

HTML Button code

To go even further, a little trick you can do is to include some shadows or background images for the customers that view your email in their browser. By default, these styles won’t show up in email clients, but will give your buttons a little extra “pop” when viewed via browser. The GetResponse campaign above does this nicely. Below is a screenshot of the campaign when you view it directly in your browser:


If you’re after more tips on how to use HTML effectively in your email campaigns and need some resources to get you going, check out this guide to HTML templates in email marketing.

2. Focus On Value & Direction

All too often, you see emails that have calls to action with copy like “Submit” or “Click here.”

This is never the ideal approach when it comes to marketing optimisation — you should alwaysfocus on the next step, including the value the reader will get from taking this step. Rather than focusing on the actual action (i.e., clicking or submitting) you should be focusing on what follows.

This doesn’t mean you need to have a lengthy call to action; it just means things need to flow.

This example from LinkedIn is a good one:


If you are invited to LinkedIn (and are not a LinkedIn member already), they’ll send you an email similar to this. It would be tempting to include a call to action that says “Sign up for LinkedIn” or “Build your profile now,” but both of these CTAs are quite self-centric (i.e., focused on LinkedIn and their own benefits).

In contrast, having the personalised copy — “Confirm that you know [insert friend's name]” — is truly powerful. In most cases, the invitee does know the person who has invited them to LinkedIn, and clicking this button is a rather innocuous next step.

Another, simpler example is this campaign from LinkedIn:


In this instance, the simple “Continue” works well — it makes it sound as though you need to click through and do something in order to recognise the endorsement (the truth is, you’ve already been endorsed). Although the copy isn’t that exciting, it is a great example of focusing on the next step and the value for the recipient in order to create a CTA that converts.

3. Repeat Your CTA

Repeating your primary call to action is a simple and effective way to increase click-throughs. Generally, the primary focus of your email marketing campaigns is to get more customers, and reiterating your CTA is a tactic used by some of the world’s biggest brands to ensure their customers convert. It might seem pretty “base,” but it really does work!

This can be as simple as including links on multiple images, titles and anchor text; or, it can be a little more deliberate.

A common way of repeating the call to action is to use a postscript (the “P.S.”). For some reason, readers are predisposed to read the postscript every time. Perhaps a throw-back to the days of letter-writing, the effectiveness of the postscript is truly there and you should embrace it.

This example from Lars at KISSmetrics is a good one, as Lars reiterates the call to action in the postscript, below his signature.

Email Marketing Postscript

Even when you’re not explicitly asking customers to click through, this tactic can work. In the following campaign, the team at Tout encourages customers to call them up directly by reiterating that’s what they’re after in the postscript:

Email Marketing Postscript Tout

Adding a postscript is easy. Consider adding one to your campaigns today, and start by being personal and reiterating your call to action. Measure the increase — I guarantee customers will read this postscript and you should see a lift in click-throughs!

4. Use Urgency

Psychology is behind every human action. This should never be forgotten when optimising your email campaigns.

Urgency is a powerful psychological motivator. As Greg Ciotti points out in his excellent article on customer psychology, when used correctly, urgency can make customers take the next step.

Generally, urgency in emails comes down to timing and tying a deadline to your call to action. Greg explains that the trick is to very clearly outline the steps your customers have to take and hit them with a specific call to action whilst applying a little pressure via a timeframe.

This example comes from Dunked. When you reserved your name as part of the beta, you received a few emails over a six month period. This campaign ultimately followed up to ensure customers re-engaged with Dunked and signed up properly. Using time pressure, the campaign is effective in driving customers toward the desired goal:

Email Marketing Urgency Dunked

Urgency can also be used in more subtle ways. When you book a flight with EasyJet, they send you a series of emails leading up to your departure advertising specials on accommodations. This is implied urgency, as you know you are leaving shortly on your trip and thus have a limited time to book a hotel. Another subtle example of urgency working wonders!


5. Test Unique Formats

Generally, it’s best to have a single call to action. This goes with the old saying, “Keep it simple, stupid.” You don’t want to make your customers think too much — you want to make their choice obvious.

However, there are times when testing multiple calls to action, or unique formats, can be really powerful.

Take this example from CrazyEgg:


Their goal is to get the maximum number of customers contributing feedback. The simple tweak of breaking the primary call to action down into multiple buttons actually makes customers’ lives easier by saving them time. Rather than take them to a webpage where they have to fill out a form and click “Next” (the norm), this approach reduces the number of clicks your customers have to take by at least two.

This reminds me of a saying I heard recently: “You should work to reduce the clicks to wow.” The fewer clicks your customers have to take to get to where they need to be, the more customers you’ll convert.

CrazyEgg isn’t the only one crazy enough to try it. Amazon does something similar in their book recommendation emails (triggered when you purchase a book on your Kindle):


Another great example of making customers’ lives easier with a little thinking outside the box.

Your Turn

What calls to action have worked well for your business? What ideas here can you implement in your own campaigns?


About The Author: Chris Hexton is the CEO and Co-Founder of Vero. Chris spends his time working with Vero’s customers to send smarter emails based on what their customers do and don’t do on their website.

Studies have piled up in recent years, making clear that newer, hands-on methods of teaching science—emphasizing discussions over lectures, practical applications rather than rubrics—can significantly improve student success.

June 27th, 2013 | No Comments | Posted in Education

A recent Chronicle of Higher Education article by Paul Basken examines the research on, and push for, better methods for teaching university sciences by former White House adviser and Nobel Prize-winner Carl E. Wieman. The author explains that Wieman “made a second career” of studying and promoting a hands-on approach to teaching science — where discussions are more important than lectures and practical applications are better than rubrics. His work at the White House culminated in his proposed annual survey of teaching practices as a way of encouraging improvements, but it was met with resistance from many universities and is now off the table. Last summer, Wieman resigned because he was “frustrated by university lobbying and distracted by a diagnosis of multiple myeloma.” However, as the Chronicle points out, Wieman’s efforts have led to progress in research into updated science teaching methods. One of these advances is the Association of American Universities’ 5-year project to raise the quality of undergraduate teaching and learning in science and math fields.

How Educating Your Donors Can Put You in a Financial Death Spiral

June 27th, 2013 | No Comments | Posted in Fundraising

The purpose of fundraising is to raise funds. I only bring it up because it’s not as obvious as it sounds. Many organizations believe they should use their fundraising program to educate donors. To tell them things they don’t know, but we’ve decided they ought to know.

Most fundraisers have a handful of offers that work well. If they’re on top of things, they’re always testing to find new offers to expand their portfolio. But they consistently use the winners, those offers their donors respond to best.

Educate-the-donors fundraisers have a different approach: They use fundraising offers whether they work or not, because the goal is to give donors a “rounded” picture of the work.

That means they trot out calls to action that most donors don’t understand and don’t respond to. Donor-educators believe it’s worth the price. Some claim it will pay off over the long term as non-responding donors have aha moments. Others just seem to want to be understood, despite the cost.

So let’s look at the cost.

Let’s say you have 100 current donors. You send them 12 fundraising appeals a year.


  • 10 of those have strong offers, with an average response of 8%
  • 2 are not as good, with an average response of 5%


Over the course of a year, that’s 90 responses. At an average gift of $40, you get $3,600. Since many donors give more than once, that nets out to 45 donors giving in the course of a year.

The other 55 lapse. You will never again hear from most of them. The following year, the 45 who didn’t lapse will give $1,600.

Let’s try that again, but apply educate-the-donor metrics:


  • 2 strong appeals, averaging 8%
  • 5 mediocre appeals, averaging 5%
  • 5 weak appeals, averaging 3%


That set of donors got a broad education of the organization’s activities. But at what cost?


  • Total giving: $2,240
  • 56 gifts
  • 28 donors giving


That’s a 37% drop in revenue and number of gifts. Which hurts. But here’s the big hurt: Instead of 55% of the donors lapsing, 72% of them lapse. The remaining 28 will give just $1,000 in the following year.

Unless they’re pulling off miracles in new donor acquisition, that organization is in a financial death-spiral.

An educate-the-donor fundraising program has extremely high costs. Short term, and even more so for the long term.

And here’s the really sad part: Poor response is mostly a product of low involvement. Those weak appeals you send out to teach — nobody even reads them! They fail at teaching just as miserably as they fail at raising funds. There’s no education, no aha moments, no deeper understanding. And you lose your job in the bargain.

If you don’t want that, use your fundraising program to raise funds. Donors are in charge of their own education. They don’t want — and seldom accept — your help.

Posted by  on 21 June 2013 at 07:22 in Fundraising |


Americans seek savings from Canadian PSE institutions

June 27th, 2013 | No Comments | Posted in News and Updates

American students are seeking Canadian PSE degrees at an increasing rate, according to an article in USA Today. Since 2000, there has been a 50% increase in enrolments at Canadian colleges and universities, and that number is expected to grow, as US PSE institutions continue to increase tuition and with federal student loan interest rates scheduled to double on July 1. The cultural transition for US students is relatively easy, and the cost of international Canadian tuition fees is much cheaper than at many US institutions, sometimes up to one-half or one-third of the cost of some US private and public institutions. US graduates from Canadian colleges enjoy less debt and comparable employment opportunities, making Canadian PSE an attractive option for today’s US students. USA Today

4 Canadian universities make THE Top 100 under 50 ranking

June 27th, 2013 | No Comments | Posted in Canada, Education

Simon Fraser University, the University of Guelph, the University of Victoria and the University of Calgary have been recognized by Times Higher Education as being among the world’s top 100 universities under 50 years old. A “100 Under 50” ranking means that the institution shows great potential for the future. THE uses the same 13 indicators as those it uses for its World University Rankings (published in March), but re-calibrates them to reflect the special characteristics of younger universities, “giving less weight to subjective indicators of academic reputation.” uVic took the 20th spot this year, uCalgary was awarded number 23, SFU sits at number 26, and UoGuelph is ranked number 55. Times Higher Education

Ugly gets direct-mail packages opened

June 25th, 2013 | No Comments | Posted in Fundraising, Marketing

Ugly Direct Mail Works

Ugly Works

May 07, 2013 | Steve Thomas

Hoots reminded me a few days ago how much she likes ugly. I have to say, it’s hard not to take that kind of comment personally, after all, we’re married and partners in all things.

But once I realized she wasn’t talking about me, I caught up. And I had to agree, I like ugly, too. In a world where beauty reigns . . . where even newscasters are chosen for their chiseled features or Cosmopolitan allure, I like ugly.

Ugly gets direct mail packages opened.  We do a ton of direct mail for clients. Both mail we produce, as well as projects we consult on. The reality is that good direct mail is sorta ugly.

In a world where the post office is struggling, and many organizations’ response rates are declining, and my mailbox is crammed full of everyone’s “offer,” I want direct mail appeals for my clients to get opened.

And ugly works. Don’t believe me? Try this: Spend an hour at the post office watching people pull mail out of their PO Boxes and sort through their mail. Almost all the items look the same. Almost all of it gets tossed in the trash right there. Even the pretty, polished advertising pieces get trashed.

But watch what happens when someone gets the UGLY PIECE. (If you’re lucky enough to run across it).  They handle it . . . they look it over . . . they put it in the take home pile. Sometimes it gets opened on the spot! And that’s the hardest thing to do in direct mail . . . get the envelope OPENED.

Over the last five years, we’ve tested package after package after package. And it’s true. UGLY wins over pretty every time. With the same internal components. UGLY gets the package opened.

So if you want your appeals to get tossed straight in the trash, if you like the idea of hundreds of your carefully crafted and most eloquent requests for funding to never get read, then avoid “ugly.”

Here are my rules to make sure your donors ignore your direct mail:

Make sure your envelopes blend in.  Better yet, make them look like pretty, slick advertising pieces; you know, to show how professional and cool your organization is.

Don’t use bright, contrasting colors; they won’t match your logo palate. Make sure you have your branding document near at hand when designing.

Refuse to use an unusual or attention-grabbing teaser; after all . . . they don’t fit your image and who really reads those words anyway?

And most of all, NEVER use a large, unusual font; people might think you don’t understand great design!

Bottom line: if you want to improve your direct mail revenue, then be bold, embrace a little “ugly.” It’ll be OK, in fact, you may enjoy the income more than great design. (I know you may be hyperventilating at this point, but it’s OK, it’ll be worth it when you see the improved income).

Don’t believe me? Good. Test it. Do it. Get someone’s attention. GET UGLY.

Remember, it’s a direct response fundraising piece . . . it’s not primarily branding design. It’s primarily about getting the envelope opened because if they never open the envelope it doesn’t matter how perfect your message was. Sad but true.

I like ugly.  Ugly raises money. And I’m all about raising money.

Steve Thomas
Partner, Oneicity

Looking for donors who fund organizations like yours? Want to know what your prospects can give or do give?

June 21st, 2013 | No Comments | Posted in Webinars and other Training

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Employment rises among Canadian youth

June 21st, 2013 | No Comments | Posted in Canada

Statistics Canada reports in its latest Labour Force Survey that in May, employment was up 54,000 among 15- to 24-year-olds, with gains in Alberta, Ontario, and Quebec. This growth pushed the youth unemployment rate down 0.9 percentage points to 13.6%. With the employment increase last month, year-over-year gains for youth totalled 48,000 (+2.0%). Statistics Canada also reports that the rate of summer employment of returning students ages 20 to 24 was 59.9% in May, similar to that of 12 months prior. Their unemployment rate was 15.5% last month, little changed from a year earlier. 

Labour Force Survey, May 2013

Following little change the previous month, employment rose by 95,000 in May, with most of the increase in full-time work. This employment gain pushed the unemployment rate down 0.1 percentage points to 7.1%.

Chart 1

Line chart – Chart 1: Employment, from May 2008 to May 2013

Chart description: Employment

CSV version of chart 1

Compared with 12 months earlier, employment grew 1.4% or 250,000, all in full-time work. Over the same period, the total number of hours worked rose 1.1%.

In May, employment increased in Ontario, Quebec, Alberta, New Brunswick and Manitoba, while it declined in Prince Edward Island.

Employment rose in construction; retail and wholesale trade; “other services;” and business, building and other support services.

All of the employment gains in May were among private sector employees, offsetting losses over the previous two months for this group.

Employment in May increased among youths and people aged 55 and over, while it was little changed for those aged 25 to 54.

Chart 2

Unemployment rate

Line chart – Chart 2: Unemployment rate, from May 2008 to May 2013

Employment gains in several provinces

In May, employment in Ontario increased by 51,000, with large gains in full-time work partly offset by losses in part-time work. With this gain, the unemployment rate fell 0.4 percentage points to 7.3%, the lowest since November 2008. Year-over-year growth was 2.0%, higher than the national average of 1.4%.

Employment in Quebec rose by 20,000 in May, offsetting declines earlier in the year. The unemployment rate was 7.7%. Compared with 12 months earlier, employment was up 1.3%.

In Alberta, employment increased for the second consecutive month, up 19,000 in May. Despite this gain, the unemployment rate for the province was up 0.4 percentage points to 4.8% as more people participated in the labour force. On a year-over-year basis, employment growth in this province was 2.3%, all in full-time work.

The number of workers in New Brunswick rose by 3,700 in May, offsetting the decline in April. The unemployment rate for the province was 10.5% in May. Compared with 12 months earlier, employment was down 1.3%.

Following a decline the previous month, employment in Manitoba increased by 3,000 in May and the unemployment rate was 5.7%. On a year-over-year basis, employment was little changed.

In Saskatchewan, employment was little changed for the fourth consecutive month. Nevertheless, year-over-year growth was 2.9%, well above the national average.

Large gains in construction in May

Following two months of little change, construction rose by 43,000 in May. With this gain, construction was up 5.8% or 74,000 from 12 months earlier.

In May, employment in retail and wholesale trade increased by 27,000. Over the previous 12 months, employment in this industry rose 3.1% or 83,000.

Employment in “other services,” such as repair and maintenance or private household services, increased by 22,000 in May. Despite this month’s gain, employment remained below its level from 12 months earlier, down 5.5% or 45,000.

The number of workers in business, building and other support services rose by 21,000 in May. Compared with 12 months earlier, employment in this industry was up 5.6% or 38,000.

Employment rose by 95,000 among private sector employees in May, and was little changed for public sector employees and the self-employed. Compared with 12 months earlier, the number of private sector employees increased 1.1% or 123,000. Public sector employment was up 2.6% or 92,000, mainly from gains in health care and social assistance. Self-employment was little changed over this 12-month period.

Employment up among youths and people aged 55 and over

In May, employment was up 54,000 among youths aged 15 to 24, with gains in Ontario, Quebec, and Alberta. This increase pushed their unemployment rate down 0.9 percentage points to 13.6%. With the employment increase in May, year-over-year gains for this age group totalled 48,000 (+2.0%).

Following two months of little change, employment among people aged 55 and over rose by 34,000 in May, with gains for both men and women, pushing the unemployment rate for this age group down 0.3 percentage points to 5.8%. Over the previous 12 months, employment increased 142,000 (+4.4%), mostly a result of population ageing.

Among people aged 25 to 54, employment was little changed in May. Compared with 12 months earlier, employment for people in this age group was up 60,000 (+0.5%).

Student summer employment

From May to August, the Labour Force Survey collects labour market data about young people aged 15 to 24 who were attending school full time in March and who intend to return to school full time in the fall. The May survey results provide the first indicators of the summer job market, especially for students aged 20 to 24, as many students aged 15 to 19 are not yet out of school for the summer. The data for June, July and August will provide further insight into the summer job market. The published data are not seasonally adjusted, and therefore comparisons can only be made from one year to another.

The rate of employment among returning students aged 20 to 24, that is, the number of employed as a percentage of their population, was 59.9% in May, similar to that of 12 months earlier. Their unemployment rate was 15.5% in May, little changed from a year earlier.

Note to readers

The Labour Force Survey (LFS) estimates are based on a sample and are therefore subject to sampling variability. As a result, monthly estimates will show more variability than trends observed over longer time periods. Estimates for smaller geographic areas or industries also have more variability. For an explanation of sampling variability of estimates and how to use standard errors to assess this variability, consult the “Estimates quality” section of the publication Labour Force Information (Catalogue number71-001-X).

The employment rate is the number of employed persons as a percentage of the population 15 years of age and over. The rate for a particular group (for example, youth aged 15 to 24) is the number employed in that group as a percentage of the population for that group.

The unemployment rate is the number unemployed as a percentage of the labour force (employed and unemployed).

The participation rate is the number of employed and unemployed as a percentage of the population. For more detailed information, see the Guide to the Labour Force Survey (Catalogue number71-543-G).

Unless otherwise stated, this release presents seasonally adjusted estimates, which facilitates comparisons by removing the effects of seasonal variations. For more information on seasonal adjustment, see Seasonal adjustment and identifying economic trends.

Each year, the LFS revises its estimates for the previous three years, using the latest seasonal factors.

Develop better strategies to close major gifts with RELATIONSHIP MAPPING

June 12th, 2013 | No Comments | Posted in Webinars and other Training

Attend a short online demonstration to learn more about how Prospect Visual enables universities and other non-profits to see paths to better prospects and bigger gifts.

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