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10 Call to Action Techniques

April 20, 2011

In my last website whitepaper The Importance of your Call to Action I reminded readers about avoiding the over use of  “click here” and thinking carefully about the design and placement of any call to action. As all marketers know, every website should have an objective for users to complete; whether it is filling in a contact form, signing up for a newsletter, picking the phone up etc. Of course, an email marketing campaign is no different.

Following on from my more in depth article; thought I’d give you a quick precis of 10 practical techniques to help you a bit more with this:

1. Identify a need
Before a user is willing to complete a call to action they have to recognise a need. Identify a problem and present a product that solves that problem.You also need to communicate the benefits of responding. What will the user get out of completing the call to action? Skype states ...Make calls from your computer — free to other people on Skype and cheap to phones and mobiles around the world. A crystal clear explanation of what the user will get. 

2. Sweeten the deal
Sometimes you may have to sweeten the deal to encourage recipients to complete a call to action. Incentives could include discounts, entry into a competition or a free gift etc. The more creative the better.

3. Less is more
Too many same calls to action and the user becomes overwhelmed. Studies in supermarkets have shown that if the shopper is presented with too many varieties, they are less likely to make a purchase. It is not so much the number of actions as the distinctiveness of each.

4. Use active urgent language
Tell users what you want them to do very clearly. Include active words such as:

  • Call
  • Buy
  • Register
  • Subscribe
  • Donate
These words can be used alongside phrases such as:
  • Offer expires May 31st
  • For a short time only
  • Order now and receive a free gift


5. Get the position right
Another important factor is the position of your call to action on the page. Keep in mind that ideally it should be placed high on the page and in the central column. More about this in my whitepaper.

6. Use white space
The more space around a call to action the more attention is drawn to it. Clutter up your call to action with surrounding content and it will be lost in the overall noise of the email.

7. Use a contrasting colour
Colour is an effective way of drawing attention to elements, especially if the rest of the email has a fairly limited palette.

8. Make it big
It is certainly true that size isn’t everything. However, it cannot be denied that size does play a large part. The bigger your call to action, the more chance it will be noticed.

9. Have a call to action on every landing page
A call to action should not just be limited to your email campaign and landing page.  Every page of your site should have some form of call to action that leads the user on. Your call to action does not need to be the same for each page. Instead you can use smaller actions that lead the user towards your ultimate goal.

10. Consistency throughout
Finally, consider what happens when a recipient does respond to your call to action. Just as I talked about in my article Brand Consistency is the Future; consistency is again key here. The rest of the process needs to be consistent and as carefully thought through as the call to action itself. Resist the temptation to collect unnecessary information. as there is a danger that users will drop out of the process.

An effective call to action is the linchpin of a successful campaign and involves drawing together best practice in usability, creative visual design and powerful copy writing.However, if it is done right it can generate real measurable ROI and in the current economic climate; that is of course what we all want.

If you have any examples of great CTA's that have worked for you then please post a comment below.

Posted by Rebecca McCormick
Email Design


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