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  • Writer's pictureLiz Maguire

CTAs: Keeping It Clean.

Are you just starting an email marketing campaign for your business? There are a few things to consider but overall the fundamental must-have for your communiques is relevancy. How can you be sure that your messaging is on point? By practicing a 'one CTA to rule them all' methodology in your formula. If you're asking 'What's a CTA?' or 'Formula, huh?' you're in the right place. In this post we'll look at how a Call to Action (CTA) functions as an operations tool and how to insert them in your communications formula, or 'design template'.

Let's pretend that you are working in the marketing team for a stationery company. Have your character all locked and loaded? Good! We'll be using this example throughout the post to illustrate the effective use of a CTA in communications. In this scenario, where you work for the pen company, you are tasked with sending an email to your list of subscribers showcasing a sale on of your brand website.

Let's begin, shall we?

Rule #1: Define an audience and result.

The 'Call to Action' (CTA) is the operation that you want the user/reader to perform, almost without thinking about it. Some examples of persuasive copy that can be used in a CTA instance are 'Click here' or 'Order now'. These directives are simple and results driven. Email is a great tool for putting specific messaging in front of specific eyes.

You work for the stationery company and need to advertise that there's a sale on a certain model of pen. How would you go about this?

Firstly, consider the audience that you want to 'target' with your communication. Once you have them in mind you can isolate their needs and make sure that the copy/content they receive, speaks to those. Spoiler alert: You can (and could/should) have more than one segment of user. Each one could/should get a specific email communication with copy/content referencing their 'need'. For example, let's say your target audience 'A' are individuals who have ordered a particular notebook from your company, but have not (in your system) ordered a pen. Perhaps your next target audience, 'B', are a repeat customer (set your own definition, in this instance x2 return orders) who has ordered a pen from your brand before.

Next, you have your two target audiences 'A' and 'B' defined as well as have an idea of their needs. Audience 'A' are owners of a particularly fine notebook but may need a beautiful pen, at a savings, to write in that notebook. Audience 'B' are previous customers who may like to gift themselves (or a loved one) a pen from your superior line of stationery products on offer. Where should your CTA for either/both email direct your reader?

That's right: The same place, or the sale page for the pen on offer.

But why bother differentiating the audiences if you're just going to send them the same link? Because, what you say in the message matters. Remember all that work you put into defining your audiences? The pen on offer will satisfy both of those needs but they are ignorant of each other. Segmenting allows you to speak to that individual, really drill into their use case and make sure they understand they cannot click out of this email without at least *looking* at the pen on offer. If you were to send group 'A' (fancy notebook) the copy for group 'B' (repeat pen purchaser) they might be confused and instantly shut off the curiosity. However, if you send specific messaging with a clear and direct CTA you're likely to bring more different eyes on to the same page, twice.

Rule #2: Be clear. Be concise.

Don't pack a message with directions. Decide before you send what you want your email to do. Do you want your reader to shop? Your CTA can include direct language like 'Shop now' or even reference the promotion, perhaps with '15% Off Today'. Whatever you do, whoever you are writing for, your email subject line should directly reference the CTA of your email. Your reader doesn't want to open an email with the subject line : 'Two hundred years of stationery goodies' and be whacked in the face with a graphic advertising '15% Off!'. That subject line errs more towards a conversational, less sales focused message. You are likely to irritate readers with that style of 'grabby' copy. This is where your specialized segmenting can come in handy!

For group A (notebook) you might write '15% Off Your Inspiration Today'. For group B (repeat pen customer) you might write '15% Off Your Next Favorite'. By referencing the promotion in the subject line you are preparing your reader to find the savings in the body of the email -- and if they want to engage with that, they will open the email. If they don't, they won't. It's as simple as that.

You can apply the same rule of thumb to the CTA. If your subject line, design (image and copy) all work to direct the eyes and purchase intent of the reader towards the CTA (it can be a button but also an image or in-text link, as well) you're making sure the directions are clean and simple without overloading the reader.

Rule #3: Location, location, location!

Where should your CTA go? It snuck in a little above there about where your CTA should go. In 'traditional' terms your CTA button should be 'above the fold' or on the screen instantly when the reader opens the email. For those who like write poetically long copy, this can be a bristling piece of advice. It's understandable that there are things like brand voice and tone to consider, absolutely, however those can flourish after the CTA. Most users are conditioned to open an email, skim at least the first few words, gauge interest and move on. Your CTA should be part of that first skim. Anything additional like other product/features you want to showcase, perhaps a blog, or customer reviews, can follow. The principle task of the CTA button in an email communication is to take the user out of the email and on to your website ASAP. A reader can enjoy an email but they cannot convert until they turn to your shopfront.

So, once you have an email with specific subject line, copy and images that reference the situation where your audience would be incentivized to purchase that last piece of the puzzle is the CTA. Are you ready to try?


A Call to Action (CTA) button should have clear and concise copy, directing your reader to the result you want from the communication, i.e. 'Order here'. Your subject line should reference your CTA and the CTA button should be located at the top of your email. Getting readers out of your email and onto your website to convert is the priority without sacrificing brand tone or voice.

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Want to learn more about CTAs and how to use them in your marketing communications? We can help. Write for more information, today.

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