May 18, 2021 (Updated: May 4, 2023)
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.
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.
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:
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The appearance of a CTA typically depends on where and how you use it. Here are some of the most common CTA applications:
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:
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.
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:
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.
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:
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:
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!”
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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:
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.
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.
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:
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.
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:
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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:
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.
More from the author: