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5 Ways to Put Your Email Call to Action to Work

June 27th, 2013 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.

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