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Do you want to find out how to get prospects, visitors, and readers to take the next step toward a conversion? You need a call to action (CTA), a simple yet persuasive statement that appears strategically in your marketing materials. Master the art of CTAs by discovering why these statements are so important and learning how to make yours as effective as possible.

What Is a Call to Action (CTA)?

Image via Unsplash by Marvin Meyer

A call to action is an invitation for a reader to take an action the writer desires. CTAs usually include action verbs that urge readers to do something, such as read, subscribe, or buy. The best CTAs are obvious, as they have to provide prospective customers with a clear course of action.

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Why Are CTAs So Important?

While the call to action meaning might make these statements sound simple, they’re surprisingly powerful devices. CTAs effectively guide prospective customers through the sales funnel, inviting them to proceed from the top of the funnel (TOFU) to the bottom of the funnel (BOFU). These seemingly simple prompts can help you achieve a wide range of marketing goals, including:

  • Increasing Brand Awareness: CTAs can introduce your brand to new prospects by encouraging them to read a blog post or visit a webpage. Brand awareness is at the TOFU, which typically targets prospective customers who are at the very beginning of the buyer’s journey.
  • Driving Consideration: You can encourage prospects to consider your company by prompting them to subscribe to an email list or download a marketing asset. Placed at the middle of the funnel (MOFU), this goal usually targets prospects who already know your brand and are ready to consider its offerings in their purchasing decisions.
  • Generating Sales: You can urge prospects to purchase with CTAs that invite them to buy something or take advantage of a special offer. Conversion goals are at the BOFU, which generally target shighly aware prospects who are ready to make a purchasing decision.

When to Use a Call to Action

If you know when to leverage CTA marketing, your efforts can generate much better results. As a general rule, you should use a CTA when you want to:

  • Keep a prospect’s attention. Whether it’s the first time or the 100th time a prospective customer has visited your website, you want to keep them engaged. Without a CTA, a visitor might simply click away from your website. When you add a CTA to a blog post or a webpage, you can continue to engage visitors, urging them to learn more.
  • Nurture a lead. Once a prospect has expressed interest in your company, it’s up to your marketing team to guide them along the customer journey. It’s helpful to use CTAs when you want to nurture leads from the top to the bottom of the funnel, gently urging them toward a conversion.
  • Help a customer. Prospects may want to take the next step along the customer journey, yet they may be unsure how that path looks. When you use CTAs strategically, you can help customers understand what to do next, contributing to their sense of success.
  • Inspire curiosity. Your marketing messages might do an excellent job of piquing prospects’ interest in your brand. When you use a smartly worded and strategically placed CTA, you can make them genuinely curious and eager to learn how they can solve a problem.

Where to Place CTAs

Calls to action can work well in a variety of media, from digital to print. Some of the most effective places to use CTAs include the following.

Social Media

Whether your brand uses Facebook, YouTube, TikTok, or any other platform, you can drive engagement by adding CTAs to your social media captions. Do you want followers to like your post, leave a comment, or click the link you posted? Whichever way, you can capture their interest quickly and concisely before urging them to engage.

Email Marketing

With permission-based email marketing, your brand can create myriad opportunities to nurture leads, generate sales, and guide subscribers through the sales funnel. Because people have already opted in to your email list, messages go to prospects who have expressed an interest in your business. As you gather data and learn what drives your subscribers to act, you can send more personalized and targeted messages.

Homepages

For prospects who are just getting to know your business for the first time, the homepage of your website can be a confusing place. Where should prospects click to learn more about your team, read about your services, or purchase your products? CTAs can help visitors navigate your website more easily, offering much-needed guidance for your website.

Blog Posts

Most blog posts take an educational approach, giving readers information about your company or offerings or telling readers how best to use their purchases. Whether you’re writing blog posts with the goal of driving awareness, consideration, or conversions, CTAs can help you achieve your goals and entice people to stay on your website when they finish reading.

Sales Pages

When you design a page around a single purpose — such as generating sales — you naturally want to do everything you can to achieve that goal. By adding CTAs to sales pages, you can keep prospects from clicking away and use your powers of persuasion to encourage them to make a purchase.

Chatbots

From websites to direct messages (DMs), chatbots can help users access information and navigate digital platforms. When you plug CTAs into a chatbot, you can help users understand the best steps to take or common questions to ask. A chatbot can also help them avoid confusion by clarifying what information is available for them to consume.

Digital Ads

When you pay to place an advertisement on a website, a search engine results page, or a social media platform, you typically have a clear goal in mind. Do you want prospects to get to know your brand, sign up for your email list, or make a purchase? By including a CTA in your ad copy, you can prompt users to take the action you envision.

Video and Television

Watching TV or streaming content can be a passive experience for many viewers — at least until a strong CTA urges them to act. By placing a great call to action in your TV or streaming ad, you can invite prospects to take the next step and get more value from your advertising budget.

Print Media

From magazines to newspapers, print media can also drive prospects to act. Whether you’re writing an editorial piece or placing an ad, including a strong CTA can encourage potential customers to go to your website, visit your business’s physical location, or call your company for more information.

Billboards

Because they’re designed to capture attention and prompt action quickly, billboards are also excellent places to use calls to action. When your billboard piques prospects’ attention and tells them exactly what to do next, it can help your team reach major marketing goals and generate the return on investment (ROI) you want.

What Does a Call to Action Look Like?

The appearance of a CTA typically depends on where and how you use it. Here are some of the most common CTA applications:

  • Text: The simplest CTAs appear in text format. For example, you can place text-based calls to action in social media captions, in print media, and in chatbots. In some cases, text CTAs may include information prospects need to act, such as a URL to visit or a phone number to call.
  • Anchor Text: Some text-based CTAs include anchor text, which means they have embedded URLs. When prospects click this type of CTA, they go directly to a webpage or app where they can take the specified action — which could be reading, subscribing, buying, or doing something else.
  • Buttons: Many websites and marketing emails place CTAs in buttons. This placement tends to be effective because the CTA’s size and color makes it stand out from the rest of the content. It’s also clickable, which means prospects can tap it to take action right away.
  • Overlays: When your marketing campaigns include visual elements such as graphics, photos, and videos, text overlays can help you deliver your message effectively. These CTAs are text-based, but rather than incorporating with your copy, they appear on top of the image or video.
  • Verbal: In video and on TV, calls to action may be spoken rather than expressed visually. To emphasize the message, videos and TV ads may repeat the CTA in other formats, such as a text overlay on the video. Digital videos may also include clickable elements that enable the audience to take action directly.

3 Essential Aspects of a Good CTA

Calls to action don’t have to fit a strict mold or follow a rigid formula. To make your CTAs as successful as possible, however, they should at least include a few key elements:

  1. Imperative Statement: Every CTA should include an active verb that urges readers to do something. An imperative statement should be persuasive. But just because it’s essentially a command doesn’t mean it has to sound forceful. These statements can work just as well whether they’re direct or indirect.
  2. Sense of Urgency: A good CTA should prompt the audience to take action right away, as it loses its efficacy when prospects click away or stop reading. That’s why CTAs typically convey a sense of urgency, informing the audience that they should act immediately to take advantage of the offer.
  3. Strong Marketing Message: Although the marketing message technically precedes the CTA, it’s an integral part of the package. If you place a CTA alone, it’s naturally less effective, as it’s a command without context. When you place it at the end of a compelling marketing message, you can better leverage the opportunity to persuade the audience.

How to Write a Call to Action

Writing a CTA is easier than you might think, especially if you use general guidelines to brainstorm and perfect yours. Follow the steps below to get your call to action in writing.

1. Decide on a Goal

Before you start writing, it’s important to get clear on your team’s goal. Naturally, what you want to achieve affects what you include in the CTA, where you place it, and how it looks. Here are a few ways your team can achieve these common marketing goals:

  • Increase Brand Awareness: To introduce your brand or its offerings, you can urge prospects to visit your website, read a blog post, watch a video, or follow your social media pages.
  • Encourage Consideration: To get prospects to consider a purchase, provide them with the information they need by inviting them to subscribe to your email list, download a report, or read a more in-depth blog post.
  • Drive Conversions: To generate sales, encourage prospects to make their first purchase, buy a consumable they’ve used up, or stock up during a price cut.

2. Start With an Action Verb

If you end your marketing message with a passive statement, one of two outcomes usually happens. Prospects leave or click away without taking the action you want, or they get confused. That’s why a strong call to action requires a verb that urges the audience to do something specific.

For example, a statement like “Download our latest report” tells you exactly what to do if you want to learn more about a study. In contrast, a statement such as “Our latest report is out now” breaks some interesting news but doesn’t tell you what to do next.

The most successful CTAs typically include an action verb right at the beginning of the statement. After all, CTAs can lose their impact if you hide the action in the middle of the sentence or make prospects wait until the end.

What action verbs should you use for your CTA? It depends on your goal and the placement. See the final section below for 15 great examples of CTAs.

3. Elicit Excitement or Emotion

A good call to action is much more than a neutral statement. Instead, it should incorporate psychology to engage your audience.

Start by thinking about which emotions you want to elicit. Then think about how your offer could generate those feelings. Use these examples as inspiration:

  • Happiness: “Start feeling great now!”
  • Longing: “Find your new furever friend.”
  • Relief: “Get the help you need now.”
  • Excitement: “Surprise the family with a delicious meal!”

4. Leverage Fear and Urgency

If your audience could take action anytime, why would they bother to do it now? If there’s no pressure to do what you ask, is it really that important in the first place?

The actions you prompt in your CTAs might not be matters of life and death. However, if you want your audience to take the next step, it’s important to urge them to do it sooner rather than later. You can do that with two different tactics:

  • Create a Deadline: It doesn’t matter if an actual deadline exists or not. By implying that prospects should act quickly, you can increase the chance that they’ll do what you suggest — right away. You can simply encourage prospects to act immediately, such as “Buy now!” If your promotion has an end date, you can provide a specific timeline, such as “Order before December 31!”
  • Instill a Fear of Missing Out: Creating a sense of actual fear might not help you achieve your marketing goals, but generating a fear of missing out (FOMO) can prompt your audience to act. Naturally, they won’t want to be the only ones who don’t get to take advantage of your promotion. To use this tactic, try phrasing like “Don’t miss out” or “Don’t miss your chance.”

5. Provide Value

You already know the goal you want to achieve, or the reason behind the CTA. But just because your team wants prospects to subscribe to a list, buy a product, or take another action doesn’t mean your target audience necessarily wants the same thing.

Instead, most prospects what to know what’s in it for them. That’s why it’s so important to provide value and give your target audience a reason to act.

For example, your target audience might not react positively if your CTA urges, “Sign up to receive our emails.” If your prospects are busy and already receive too many emails, they probably won’t want more. Instead, consider giving them a glimpse of what they’ll get if they subscribe to your list. You might prompt them, “Subscribe so you never miss a sale!”

6. Include Numbers or Data

If you have numbers or figures to share, it can be even easier to convey the value your company provide. Because numbers are specific, they tell your target audience exactly what they can get by following the CTA.

For example, you can tell prospects how much they can save with your special offer or how many free items they can download when they subscribe to your list. You can also state how many happy customers have already taken advantage of the offer to generate a feeling of FOMO.

7. Keep It Short

Calls to action typically span a single sentence and can be as short as a word or two. Although yours can certainly be longer than a single word, it’s best to keep your CTA as concise as possible. Essentially, a great call to action should be only as long as absolutely necessary, with no additional words or information.

After all, the marketing message comes before the CTA and does most of the heavy lifting. After reading the webpage, watching the video, or interacting with the chatbot, your target audience should naturally want to respond to the CTA and take the next step.

8. Balance Clarity and Creativity

On the one hand, you want to make the value you provide and the next steps crystal clear. On the other hand, you want to avoid using a generic CTA that your target audience has seen other brands use.

When writing calls to action, it’s always important to strike a balance between clarity and cleverness. Always err on the side of clarity to give your team a better chance of achieving your goals. But don’t hesitate to get a little creative with your pitch. Remember that you can always test out different CTAs to see what works best for your target audience.

9. Optimize for the Right Placement

When writing a CTA, it’s essential to make sure it fits perfectly wherever you plan to use it. Although some CTAs might be interchangeable, some are more location-specific.

For example, CTAs with clickable elements are often shorter, as prospects can simply click on the button or anchor text to take action. In a social media caption, you may need add more information, such as “Click the link in our bio to purchase.”

How to Know if Your CTAs Are Working

Super-simple CTAs can generate great results, and brilliant ones can flop. You won’t know if your calls to action are working unless you monitor the right metrics. Which metrics should you track? It all depends on your team’s goals and the platforms you use. Many teams track CTA marketing metrics such as the following:

  • Click-Through Rate (CTR): When you write CTAs for social media captions or email campaigns, the CTR tells you the percentage of people who clicked through and followed your prompt. A high CTR means a larger percentage of people responded to your CTA, while a low CTR means your call to action needs some work.
  • Post Engagement: Social media CTAs often encourage followers to interact with posts by liking, commenting, or sharing. More engagement can mean a successful CTA, while less engagement can mean your caption or your CTA could be better.
  • Views or Visits: If your CTA urges prospects to visit a certain webpage or watch a video, these metrics help you assess your success. They can get much more granular, depending on your goals. For example, you can check the bounce rate to see if prospects enjoyed your content enough to consume more.
  • Subscriptions: When you want prospects to sign up for your email list or receive updates from your website, it’s important to track the number of subscriptions you’ve acquired as well as the subscription rate.
  • Downloads: If you’re offering gated content such as reports or checklists in exchange for leads’ contact information, you might also want to monitor the number of downloads you’ve delivered.
  • Trials or Demos: If your goal is to get leads to sign up for a product trial or a demonstration, tracking your success rate is essential. When it’s time for trial customers to level up to the paid version, you’ll need to track conversion metrics and churn rate, too.
  • Purchases: When you want to drive sales, monitoring the number of purchases and the total amounts is crucial. However, you may want to take these metrics a step further. Consider tracking the number of times people added items to their cart and started the checkout process, too.

Who Should Test Calls to Action?

If your metrics reveal that your CTAs aren’t working as well as you’d like, you don’t necessarily have to go back to the drawing board. Most calls to action require ongoing tests and optimization to get them just right.

Every marketer should test CTAs, no matter what your goals are or which format you plan to use. After all, a call to action can make or break a marketing or advertising campaign. To generate the maximum ROI and the best possible results, it’s essential to test your CTA until you’re sure it’s exactly right.

Depending on which platform you use to market your brand, you might have a couple of different options for testing out calls to action. In some cases, it’s easiest to run a simple comparative test, which is an informal yet quick way to contrast results. For example, you might try out different CTAs in a series of social media posts. At the end of the test period, you can review the analytics to see which post drove the most engagement and identify the most successful CTA.

In other cases, you can run a split test to find a winner. Also known as A/B tests, these experiments let you randomly show different versions of your marketing materials to different prospects. For example, you might have two versions of your homepage running simultaneously or send two versions of an email campaign to the two halves of your list. Most split tests change one element at a time so you can really home in on the aspect that drives the best results.

How to Split-Test CTAs

Although A/B tests change one element at a time, you have a lot of options to choose from. Use these guidelines to test out different factors and find what works best for your target audience.

1. Update the Language

Sincel CTAs are text-based, updating the copy is a smart place to begin the testing process. Review the current copy carefully to identify what isn’t working for your audience:

  • Is the CTA too soft, or is it too direct?
  • Does it convey the value you offer effectively?
  • Is the CTA too long? Could you cut any of the words to make it more concise?
  • Does it inspire emotion or excitement?
  • Is the language overly clever, or is it clear to the point that it’s too dry?
  • Does the CTA indicate a sense of urgency?

Depending on your assessment, you might want to change a word or two or go back to the drawing board. Either way, make tweaks based on your research and test to see which one drives better results.

2. Adjust the Design

Whether your CTA includes text only or is part of a more deliberate design, you can make subtle changes. Here are a few to consider:

  • For text-based CTAs, such as social media captions, try adding symbols or emoji around the prompt to call attention to the prompt.
  • For text overlays, reconsider the size and the font. Is the font large enough to stand out? Is the font easily legible?
  • For hyperlinked CTAs such as anchor text, consider bolding the copy or giving it a separate line to call attention.
  • For CTA buttons, change the color or the size. Colors that contrast with your website may stand out more, and larger buttons can be more tempting to click.

3. Change the Placement

In some cases, your CTA might not be as effective as you’d like because prospects never see it. To ensure that it catches the eye of your target audience, consider moving the call to action to a more prominent spot.

If you’re optimizing a website CTA, you can use tools to help you identify the best placement. Heatmap analytics tools can show you where website visitors are clicking and scrolling most often. By placing the CTA in an area that already receives a lot of engagement, you may be able to improve your results.

4. Replace the Visuals

Sometimes it isn’t the CTA’s fault that your marketing campaigns aren’t delivering the results you want. If you’ve tested out different CTA elements and you still aren’t reaching your goals, consider changing the visual elements, such as the image or video.

For example, you can replace product images with new angles, update the graphic style, or recut the video. As you update the visuals, think carefully about what your audience wants to see and what would best get them to engage.

5. Review the Marketing Message

If the visual elements aren’t negatively impacting your campaign results, consider revisiting your marketing message, too. In some cases, the message may not do enough to prepare the target audience to take action. Here are a few questions to ask:

  • Does the content successfully resolve a problem the target audience has?
  • Do the tone and voice speak the target audience’s language?
  • Does the content effectively lead up to the call to action?
  • Is the content in the best possible format?

6. Rethink the Workflow

In some cases, prospects might attempt to follow your call to action but ultimately not be able to complete the entire step. If you track a wider variety of metrics, you can often identify issues with the workflow and then make adjustments to improve results.

For example, a lot of leads might click the “Buy Now” button in your email, but your e-commerce store might reflect just a few sales. If you track whether shoppers add items to their carts, enter shipping information, and start the checkout process, then you might find that a large percentage drops off at a certain point. When you know where the problem is, it’s much easier to test out changes to the workflow.

7. Check the Results

Every time you split-test a CTA element, allow for ample time to let the experiment run its course. Naturally, you want to gather as much data as possible before coming to a conclusion or making any long-term changes to your marketing campaigns. For each version of your test, you should ideally gather datasets from thousands of users.

15 Call-to-Action Examples

To write the best possible CTAs, it’s helpful to see call to action examples in writing. Use these examples of call to action statements to enhance your marketing campaigns:

  1. “Learn more.” Although it’s one of the most basic CTAs you can use, it can still get great results. This CTA tends to work best when your goal is brand awareness or encouraging prospects to consider your brand for a future purchase.
  2. “Tell us what you think.” When you want to generate engagement on a social media post or gather customer data, this CTA can be a smart choice. In some cases, you can be even more direct, such as “Leave a comment.”
  3. “Watch and find out what happens.” This CTA can be great for generating video views since it urges the audience to watch. It also inspires curiosity, which may make prospects more likely to follow through with the prompt.
  4. “Save 50%!” Although it’s short and simple, this CTA can be incredibly effective. It implies a sale, which is often tempting, and it specifies the exact discount you can get when you shop. To make this CTA even more tempting, you could add the time frame for the sale.
  5. “Get started today.” When you want prospects to start using a service, this CTA can be a good pick. It prompts the target audience to start something new, which is often tempting. It also urges users to complete the task today, which implies some urgency.
  6. “Try it for free!” Trying out a service before paying for a full subscription can tempt any potential customer, and stating that it’s free can make the offer irresistible. By including “free” in the CTA, you also communicate exactly how much the offer costs: nothing.
  7. “Get the latest stats.” This value-driven CTA works well because it explains exactly what prospects receive in exchange for their contact information: current data.
  8. “Keep me up to date.” Rather than referring to prospects as “you,” this CTA uses first-person perspective to put the words right in the potential customer’s mouth. This phrasing, which could be used in a button or at the end of an email, makes the prompt sound more personal, which can make it more attractive to your target audience.
  9. “Download now.” Short and simple, this call to action urges leads to download an asset, such as an app or a report. Although this CTA is more utilitarian, it tells the target audience exactly what to do next and when — now.
  10. “Start saving time.” Another value-driven CTA, this prompt tells the target audience about a benefit they can experience by taking the next step. This CTA requires a high level of awareness of the brand and its offerings, so it may work best at the end of a sales page or another longer marketing message.
  11. “Create a free account.” CTAs that mention “free” have a knack for getting attention. This simple prompt can encourage your target audience to sign up for an account and get started with your company’s service at no cost.
  12. “Sign up to get 25% off! Getting your target audience to subscribe to an email list can be a hard sell without a clear exchange. Telling prospects they can get a 25% discount by signing up can help them make the decision to move forward.
  13. “Join our squad of 100+ professionals.” Who doesn’t want to belong? This CTA is inviting and lets the target audience self-identify as part of the group. By indicating how many people have already joined, it also creates FOMO.
  14. “Get them before they’re gone!” This sales-focused CTA is great for creating FOMO and a sense of urgency. Right away, the target audience understands that there’s a limited supply and they must act quickly to take advantage.
  15. “Find out when we restock.” Sold-out products can be disappointing, but your brand can put a positive spin on the situation. With this prompt, you can collect contact information for the sole purpose of driving sales to BOFU leads.

As you can see, it’s crucial to use CTAs effectively and test them until they’re optimized for your target audience and your marketing campaigns. With a strong call to action, you can guide prospects from the awareness stage all the way to a sale or conversion, ultimately enabling your team to achieve your company’s marketing goals.

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