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Call To Action in Emails: The Only Guide You’ll Ever Need

Saffa Faisal

An email without a call to action is like a Coke without fizz - incomplete and purposeless. 

Call To Action (CTA) in emails will not only quench your thirst but that of your subscribers as well. It gives them direction while bringing you conversion after conversion. According to WordStream, emails with a single CTA button increases clicks by 371% and revenue by 1,617%. Woah. 

But not every CTA will promise you such consistent wins. This is where we come in. We’ve prepared for you a comprehensive call to action in emails guide that will take your email marketing game to the next level. 

For your ease, we’ve divided each section into chapters. So read them all or skip to your favorite one - you’re in control.



Chapter 1: Basics of call to action in emails

In this chapter, we uncover the basics for you to become a CTA expert. We discuss everything from its importance to the secret that makes CTAs truly work. 

What is Call to Action in Emails? 

A call to action is simply an invitation for your subscribers to take an initiative. In our case, this invitation is via email. 

Let’s take the example of Adam (shameless Maroon 5 fan here). Adam owns an eStore of women’s designer clothing. He, and his team, spent months creating their summer collection of luxury Prêt-à-Porter. They proudly launch it by sending a well-designed email to their entire mailing list. 

Is that it? Was the purpose to show off the designs? Heck, no! 

What Adam wants is sales - lots of them. If only the email had a CTA button (invitation) that said ‘Treat Yourself Today,’ Adam’s subscribers will be enticed to purchase (initiative/action). 

The Importance of Call to Action in Emails 

CTAs in emails make perfect sense, yet some companies fail to feature one. If you’re still not convinced why calls to action in emails are important, we suggest you read this one out. 

1. Helps in Conversions 

This is an obvious. The prime purpose of CTAs is to convert your audience by redirecting them to a landing page. CTAs provide direction to your audience and compels them to perform the action you desire.  

2. Continues the Buyer Journey 

The buyer journey is like you providing free chauffeuring services to your subscribers. If they don’t like your service, they can simply get off the ride at any time. Well-timed and persuasive calls to action ensure that your subscribers are hooked on at each stage of the buyer’s journey; awareness, consideration, and decision. 

Consider the example below of how targeted CTAs maintain interests and transitions your audience through the different levels of the buyer journey. 

The right CTAs make the buyer's journey transition smoothly

3. Improves Customer Experience 

All your marketing efforts must be directed towards making your audiences’ lives easier. If the user experience is lacking, you can kiss your chances of high returns goodbye. 

When you launch email campaigns, your subscribers shouldn’t have to search for a landing page link. Even if you seize their attention through attractive email design, no one will put in the effort of looking up your website. 

CTAs put everything on a plate for your audience; the next step to be taken and the landing page link. Hence, improving customer experience. 

The Truth Behind CTAs That Work 

Calls to action will only work with supportive email elements

Would you call a badly written and directed movie your favorite one only because of its good soundtrack? Obviously not. For a movie to be your favorite, it needs an impressive storyline, persuasive acting, error-free directing, and an amazing soundtrack. The same logic applies to emails and CTAs. 

The call to action in your email might be the most convincing there is, but it won’t work if the email copy and design are lacking. For a CTA to perform, the remaining email elements must support it in its mission. 

According to Unbounce, 90% of people who read your email’s headlines also read the call to action. From the header to the footer, the entire email must play its part in convincing the reader to convert - only then will your CTAs work.


Chapter 2: Writing call to action copy that converts

There is nothing more persuasive than using the right set of words. Chapter 2 explains how to nail your CTA copy so you can witness countless conversions. 

1. Use Appropriate Action Words 

A CTA is an invitation to act. So, it makes perfect sense to use action words. However, not all such words will give you the results you’re aiming for. 

Action words, like submit or enter, stress out your subscribers as they feel they’re giving instead of receiving. Words like get and try change the narrative. They make your audience feel as if they’re gaining a benefit by clicking on the CTA button. 

2. Write from the First-person Viewpoint 

Personalized experiences are what make your audience truly convert. If you’re segmenting your audience, greeting them with their first fame, why not personalize CTA buttons? 

Writing calls to action from the first-person point of view (I/me/my/we/our/us) is proven to skyrocket clicks. As per a research, changing the CTA from ‘start your free trial’ to ‘start my free trial’ increased clicks by a whopping 90%. 

Writing CTAs in first-person viewpoint increases clicks by 90%

Why does this work? Well, apart from being personalized, writing in the first-person viewpoint ensures the reader is in control and can visualize the outcome to be realized. 

3. Keep it Short and Sweet 

Your subscribers are already doing you a favor reading your long newsletter; why test them more? 

Let’s get this straight; calls to action in emails will not work if they’re too long. The recommended length for a CTA is between 2 to 4 words. Anything more than that will simply get lost in the email clutter. Anything less than 2 words will straight up appear abrupt and rude. 

4. What’s In It for Me?

It’s a selfish world out there; why expect your audience to listen to you? For them to perform your desired action, you need to highlight what is in it for them. 

Let’s take the example of an ebook of reducing debt you’re offering as a reward for subscribing to your mailing list. Which CTA sounds better? 

‘Download Now’ 

OR 

‘Give Me Financial Freedom’

Obviously, the second one. Once you focus on the value you’re providing instead of what you’re getting; you’ll witness numerous clicks on your CTA buttons. Stats prove our argument too. Benefit-centric CTA copy in emails can boost click-through rates by up to 10%

5. Use Numbers Wherever Possible 

Let’s take a trip down memory lane to your senior year of high school. Remember when your career counselor advised you to add numbers in your CV whenever discussing achievements? Remember how she said numbers add weightage to a rather abstract achievement? Email calls to action follow the same logic. 

Numbers should be used in CTAs, wherever possible

Whenever possible, add numbers to your CTA. Instead of writing ‘Shop Our Sale Now,’ write ‘Avail 50% Off Now!’ Numbers stand out, grab your reader’s attention, and initiate an impulsive purchase. 

Other than discounts, you can use numbers in CTAs for showing the remaining days in a limited-time offer or discussing product features. 


Chapter 3: Designing high-quality email calls to action

Let’s face it; if it ain’t looking good, it ain’t going to convert. This chapter discusses how you can create well-designed CTAs that capture, compels, and convert your audience. 

Focus on the Color 

Color is the first thing that one thinks of when it comes to design. Well, rightly so since color not only grabs attention but can trigger emotional reactions as well. 

So which color should be used in your CTA buttons? Red or Blue? Should you opt for brand colors? Should the background color match with the CTA one? Easy there, tiger. Read the following pointers of using color strategically when designing CTAs. 

  • Different colors ignite different emotions. For call to action in emails, you’re better off using high-energy colors, like red, dark blue, and purple. The following image shows the personality characteristics of different colors; 
Different colors represent different personality characteristics
  • Irrespective of the color chosen, remember it must be of a contrasting one to the background color. CTAs are designed to stand out - if it has a similar color to the background one, it’ll just merge with the email and be easy to ignore. 
  • Using brand colors for CTA buttons is a proven way of improving conversions. This reinforces brand identity and ignites brand recall. In fact, 48% of companies match their CTA buttons with the color of their logo. 

Buttons > Links

How would you react if you receive an email that includes the following call to action; 

Download now! Limited Time Offer! 

We don’t know about you, but our mind is screaming malware. The truth is that embedded links seem shady and can easily get lost in the email copy. 

The solution? Use call to action buttons - brownie points if it’s 3D. CTA buttons instantly stand out, appear legitimate, and grab your readers’ attention. In fact, CTA buttons instead of hyperlinked text can increase conversion rates by up to 28%. 

Use Graphic Elements 

Who says CTAs only have to be plain text

One CTA best practice is to add graphic elements, like lines, arrows, and emojis within the button. As long as you don’t clutter the CTA or go overboard with the graphic elements, you’re good to go. 

And oh, if you’re curious about whether visual elements bring positive results in CTA buttons, you should know that they absolutely do. The famous jewelry brand, Helzberg Diamonds, experienced a 26% increase in clicks after adding an arrow in its CTA button.  

Negative Space is Your Friend

Our whole premise of using CTA buttons over links was because they stand out. However, the latter won’t be possible if you surround your email’s CTA buttons with text and images. For a CTA button to be what it is, it should easily stand out - no second-guessing where the invitation to act is. 

One way through which CTA buttons can stand out is by embracing negative space. White space acts as a refresher for your subscribers’ eyes and easily helps them identify where the CTA button is placed. 

To prove our point, consider the following example;

Negative space around CTAs make them stand out

Be Wary of the Size 

If the size of email banners isn’t optimal, your email will fail to load. Similarly, if the size of your CTA button isn’t up to the mark, it will cease to convert your audience. 

The size of your CTA button in an email should be of an optimal size. If it’s too small, it will be easily ignored. However, if it’s too large, it’ll appear obnoxious and salesly. 

The font size of the CTA copy should be 16px so that it’s easily read on all devices. For the dimensions, it is recommended to follow 44px to 44px when designing CTA buttons. 


Chapter 4: Call to action in emails - 4 additional tips

Hey, we care for you, which is why we’ve created a separate chapter of CTA best practices that will level up your email call to action game. 


4 best practices that will level up your calls to action

The More the Merrier 

Whoever said you should put one call to action in an email is absolutely wrong! This might come as a shocker but please, use more than one call to action. 

Your readers are busy people. If you’ve comfortably stacked your CTA at the end of an email, chances are your audience might abandon the email halfway. You should be converting your subscribers at every possible stage. 

Now we don’t mean you bombard your mailing list with CTA after CTA. What you should be doing is creating a primary CTA button which should be followed by multiple secondary ones. 

For instance, when showcasing your summer clothing collection, its relevant landing page can be your primary CTA. On the other hand, landing pages to dresses, shirts, and pants can be the secondary CTAs.

Placement Matters 

Should you place the call to action above the fold or towards the end of your email? In all honesty, researchers are confused. While some argue that CTAs should be at the end since its the climax of a story, others believe that they should be on the top. 

What’s the solution? A/B test to find out whether your audience appreciates your singular CTAs above or below the fold. This confusion also reinforces why multiple CTAs should be used since you can occupy every single opportunity to convert. 

Create a Sense of Urgency

What’s the best thing that was invented for marketers? FOMO or Fear Of Missing Out. 

Use FOMO to your advantage and alter your CTAs by adding a sense of urgency. The latter plays with your audiences’ minds that hey, this offer is for a limited time, better buy it now. Hence, resulting in an impulsive purchase. 

You can create a sense of urgency by adding words like now, limited time, X days left, and urgent. 

Don’t Be Intimidating

CTAs can be intimidating. How so? When you write CTA copy like buy now, it increases the implied cost for your subscribers. Hence, making them uncomfortable since a great share of their time and money is involved. 

What you should do, in comparison, is increase the implied value through your email CTAs. When researchers changed the CTA from ‘Find your solution’ to ‘Learn more,’ click-through rates skyrocketed by 77%.

When you focus on the implied value over its cost, your subscribers feel as if they’re in control. Hence, increasing their chances of converting. 


Chapter 5: Examples of email calls to action that get clicked on

In Chapter 5, we present to you 3 brands who are absolutely killing the email call to action game. Their CTAs not only tick the right boxes but have proven to be a source of multiple conversions. Let’s get you inspired. 

ColourPop 

Email example of colourpop

The renowned drugstore makeup brand has figured out its CTA strategy to the tee. In the below email screenshot, ColourPop shares reviews of its pressed glitter palette and then uses a friendly and conversational CTA to attract clicks. Notice how the first-person point of view has been used in the CTA.

Bellroy 

Email example of bellroy

In the following newsletter, Bellroy has used 6 calls to action, but they all make perfect sense. For its recent work essentials launch, the secondary CTAs mention the products’ main feature. This is followed by a primary CTA of ‘Get Organized’ at the end. 

Blue Apron 

Email example of Blue Apron

To promote its plant-based burger patty, Blue Apron has used a too good to resist CTA button. The latter highlights the percentage off, which compels the reader to click on it. 


Bonus Chapter: Examples of email calls to action that get clicked on

This bonus chapter provides a cheat sheet for getting your CTAs right every single time. For CTA design, you should blindly trust Unlayer’s HTML email templates with CTA buttons that attract and convert your audience. For CTA copy, mix and match from the below image to create high converting calls to action.

Cheat sheet for getting your CTA right

Wrapping it Up 

Designing call to action in emails is not as easy as you might have thought. It requires a value over cost approach and a design structure that attracts and maintains attention. Luckily for you, this guide covers all you need to know to create CTAs that convert big time.

Which chapter was your favorite? Comment below!

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