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Effective Call to Actions for Email Marketing

CTAs (call to action) are words that provide direction and encouragement of action in your marketing campaign. We are all familiar with such words as ‘Buy Now” or ‘Subscribe Now’. These CTAs can be in various forms such as within text, a highlighted text link, a CSS button, or an image.

CTAs are written as a command to the reader’s subconscious. A use of a verb (buy, subscribe, book) and an adverb (now, today) or noun (white paper, or both works well. Limit your words to three at the most but try to stay with two unless it sounds grammatically clunky.

Here are some examples for various marketing conversions:

SaaS: Book a Demo, Get Started, Call Now, Free Trial

Shopping: View Cart, Add to Cart, Order, Save to Wish List, Buy Now, Limited Offer

Newsletter: Subscribe, Sign-Up, Register Now, Read More

Sales Conversion: Download, Get, View, Read

Not for Profit: Donate, Commit, Volunteer, Adopt, Give, Support

Use words that provoke emotion or enthusiasm

Lesser effective CTAs are more obvious ones such as CLICK HERE or READ MORE especially when in capitals. Why do that when you can just link the text relevant. This is usually done in articles when you want to refer to other material to support your article. Is it really a CTA? Or just a link. Think first.

Also remember that clarity in your copy that leads up to the CTA is as important as the CTA itself. Make sure you are not using many words when a few will do. Reduce the links in the copy so that the CTA link shines. Your aim is to smooth emotions and increase enthusiasm of action. Temper expectations by explaining things ahead of time such as No Payment Required. This works to give your audience a reason why they should take the desired action

Take advantage of FOMO

The age-old idea of missing out. Moving marketing online doesn’t create new situations when it comes to emotion. People are always afraid they may be missing out on something. Use this to your advantage.

In the case of Fear Of Missing Out (if you didn’t already know what FOMO is) use language that excites. Good examples are:

Use numbers when possible

Call to actions using numbers can work when you want to draw attention to certain criteria of your offer.

This could be something such as the number of days left in a sale, the percent markdown on a product, and even a rating. “9 out of 10” love our …

When using numbers they can also be large font and supportive of the call to action such as:

A large number discount or 2/1 type of offer ties well to a CTA, along with time parameters.

Color treatment

There is a lot of talk about color affecting call to actions, however recent research shows that red or green are equally effective. While some see red as being a stop light, this just does not stand up to research in some cases. There is of course other research which contradicts this,

In any case, go with what you fee works best and try a few options in you’re A/B tests. Make sure also to ensure that the color is in line with your overall palette. Nothing will spur off that click like bad design.


When using buttons and graphics, give some room around those. The allowance of space lets that CTA show all by itself and if it is a finger in the case of mobile or track pad, you want it easy for folks to click and go.

Remember good practices such as spacing and clarity.


Let’s face it. Marketing has a job to support sales. If you are not taking care of the basics and undertaking due diligence in your email copy then you are setting sales up for failure. Hopefully this article will help you get back on track with great Call To Actions for your next email marketing campaign.

Until next time, keep those emails rolling!

– Jim

Jim Gibbs, Senior Account Executive at Critical Impact

Jim Gibbs is Critical Impact’s Growth Channel team lead and has been selling and closing for a long time. Jim is known to be able to sell bottled water to fish.


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