The call to action is so important in the world of online marketing that it has its own acronym: CTA. This is the part of your email where you get the reader to do something: This is where they go to your website or request more information. It’s the point of the whole thing — or is it? So let’s learn when to use the email call to action to increase user engagement.

You don’t always need an email call to action

Not every email needs a call to action. Take a drip campaign, for example: Let’s say your reader subscribed to a six-email campaign. She’s giving you a chance to tell her a story. Take your time, build it up. You can afford to send one, two, or even three emails that have no calls to action. Make each email interesting, end with a cliffhanger, and leave the reader looking forward to the next one. Sometimes, not being able to click through can build anticipation and act as a powerful incentive to act later — think of a movie trailer that comes out long before the movie hits the theaters.

And sometimes, it’s okay to simply tell a story. Even when it’s a single email and not a drip campaign. If you can share everything you have to say within that email, that’s fine. Not every time, and it depends on your style and brand, but the call to action isn’t sacred.

But when you do, focus is power

“Click here!,” “No, click there!”

It’s easy to go overboard with calls to action, especially when you first start using them. Having multiple calls to action won’t necessarily make readers click more. It may end up being confusing, or even sounding overly needy or pushy.

Email Call to Action
“Don’t miss the fun!” is Ulta’s way of creating a conversational call to action.

Having just one or two calls to action also makes it easier to test different styles, locations, and types of calls to action between newsletters. You only have to change one or two elements in your newsletter, allowing you to carefully hone and craft your call to action over time.

Weave it into your story

The best calls to action happen in your reader’s mind. Your text leads them there, subtly and naturally. Once they’re done reading what you have to say, they naturally want to do something — talk to you, perhaps, or read even more, or look at photos of whatever it is you’re offering.

A good email call to action feels obvious and natural, because it flows from what preceded it. If you’re telling a story about the new blends of fair-trade, shade-grown, organic coffee your boutique is offering, the link at the end should not say “Visit Website.” Think of your call to action action as a clickable punchline.

… But make it stand out

A call to action is, of course, a call — it cries out for your reader to do something. So visually, it shouldn’t hide. A big button works as an email call to action, but a link also works. If it’s a link, make sure it’s a prominent color.

This doesn’t contradict the previous tip (weave it into your story). The text and placement should feel like a natural part of your story, but the visuals should say “Click me!”

It doesn’t have to be about you

Your email call to action is not about you. It’s about your reader, and at its best, it’s what your reader needs, not you. So if the right thing for your reader is to another website, or do something that can’t even be tracked (“Go out and take a walk right now!”), that makes for a fine call to action, too. Because it’s genuine, and it shows you really care.

Putting it into practice

That’s all well and good, at least in theory. But what about your email and your call to action? I’d love to hear about them in the comments. If you’re not sure how these apply in your case, let’s brainstorm! Share your call to action ideas and questions below, and maybe we can learn together.

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