Maximize Your Call-to-Action for Optimal Email Performance

  |  July 10, 2013   |  Comments

If your email campaigns underperform consistently, perhaps you aren't giving your subscribers a good reason to engage with your message that would lead to a conversion.

Many email marketers spend so much time on the mechanics of the email process - deliverability, list growth, opens, and brand alignment - that they overlook another essential feature: a compelling call-to-action (CTA) in each message.

If your email campaigns underperform consistently, perhaps you aren't giving your subscribers a good reason to engage with your message that would lead to a conversion.

This column will give you tips to help you make sure you always include an effective call-to-action in your email messages.

  1. Keep it simple. It is amazing how often people will take the action you suggest, but you must be clear. Most readers only spend a few seconds on an email. You'll lose them if you make them wonder, "Am I supposed to click? Buy? Learn more?"

    Tell your readers what they should do, why they should do it, and how to do it. Use persuasive action words to get them to your landing page, where your website can take over to do the heavy lifting to conversion.

  2. Make it obvious. Remember that your goal for an email message is to drive clicks. We have trained subscribers to know that they should click on underlined, blue links. If your call-to-action matches this look and feel, it will result in improved click-through and, in turn, higher overall email campaign performance.

    Make sure the call-to-action has plenty of white space around it, so that readers recognize at first glance that you want them to click on the link. Use a bold font, larger font, or other visual cues when possible to draw the reader's eye to the link.

    Avoid crowding your call-to-action link into a paragraph or large text block. Readers typically read blocks of copy last (if at all). Your link will be buried where many readers will never notice it.

  3. Limit the numbers. Marketers often assume that the more choices they offer, the more likely customers will be able to find just the right thing. However, research shows too many choices can lead to consumer inaction.

    Use a minimum number of CTAs in each email. Figure out what your email's main objective is, and then make your CTA focus on that objective.

    Including too many links often confuses readers, making them think too hard about where they should click. Often, they choose not to click.

  4. Keep your CTA above the fold. Research also shows that just about half of email readers do not scroll through the copy. In line with my advice to be obvious, place at least one call-to-action "above the fold." This is a holdover from print media, meaning the space in the top half of your message. In email, it's the top one to three inches of your message.

    Don't expect that readers will scroll through your message to find your CTA. Give them a clear opportunity to click through on your email call-to-action in the portion of the email they'll see first.

  5. Don't rely on images. Most email clients block images by default. If your call-to-action relies on an image to display in your email creative, a big chunk of your subscribers won't see it. Don't rely on alt text either. Alt text usually doesn't generate enough pull to drive a click, especially on mobile.

    Use text links where possible and include a prominent text link call-to-action next to any graphic CTA buttons.

The Last Word

Your email call-to-action is one of the most important elements of your email program that affect your email campaign performance and ultimately conversions.

Without a compelling and clear call-to-action, your work to maximize deliverability, write great subject lines, and develop amazing creative won't matter.

Start evaluating your calls-to-action today. Test different designs, link placements, wording, and text/image orchestration to keep your email campaigns performing as they should.

Image on home page via Shutterstock.


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Mike Hotz

Mike Hotz is a senior strategic consultant for Responsys, working with clients to design, develop, and execute cross-channel digital marketing strategies that contribute to their cross-channel digital marketing success. As an industry veteran, Mike has worked in e-mail marketing since 1998, designing, building, and executing e-mail and multichannel direct marketing strategies focusing on increasing customer engagement, nurturing leads, supporting sales organizations, and driving revenue for companies such as CDW, OfficeMax, Grant Thornton, and

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