Now that your reader has opened your email, been hooked, and read all the way to the end of your message, there’s one last element we need to cover: your call to action.
Asking readers to respond, reply, or click can help keep them engaged and further builds that relationship between you and the reader, which is why every email should have a call to action (or CTA).
In its simplest form, a CTA is when you ask your reader to do something. This might be to click a link, sign up for an email list, download a lead magnet, or even make a purchase. CTAs in email, however, are slightly different, due to the formatting restrictions of the platform.
This is why there are really only two types of calls to action in an email that will actually be effective.
CTA Type 1: Click a link
The first type of CTA is the “click a link” CTA, where you ask your reader to click on a link to go somewhere else. This can be a product page, blog post, sales page, landing page — wherever you choose to direct your reader to.
This works really well in email because it’s a small ask. It doesn’t require much time or effort to click a link and see what’s on the other side, especially if your CTA is the following things:
Clarity should always come first. If your reader doesn’t know what you’re asking them to do, they can’t do it. Many marketers disdain “click here” but it’s actually a solid (if basic) CTA.
Can it be better? Yes. But it explicitly tells your reader exactly what to do and where they need to click and is a good default.
Your reader needs to know exactly what’s in it for them when they do click this link. What are they going to get when they click through to the next page? How will this help solve their problem?
When they know exactly what’s in it for them, they are much more inclined to click through to the next page.
The language you use in your CTA needs to be consistent with the rest of your message, otherwise you’re going to confuse your reader.
For example, say you’re reading an email that consistently talks about a webinar and then at the bottom has a link that says “Sign up for our FREE Masterclass.” Your reader is going to go: “Wait, what? What ‘masterclass’? I thought we were talking about a webinar?”
It’s confusing and erodes trust because your reader is no longer certain of what they’re getting or what they’re clicking through to.
Different readers on your list will be in different stages of awareness around the problem you’re solving. This means that different calls to action will be appropriate to them and their state of awareness.
If they’re only just learning about the problem, a call to download a free report or white paper will be more appropriate for their stage of awareness than a call to buy your product.
By matching your CTA to your reader’s stage of awareness (usually by segmenting your list), you can easily increase clickthroughs.
CTA Type 2: Ask for a reply
Whether you’re sending a cold email or an email to your list, the second type of CTA that works well is to ask for a reply. This type of CTA generally has a lower response rate because it is a bit more work to write out a reply than it is to just click a link. But, when done right, it can be very effective.
To get a reply with this type of CTA you still need to be extremely clear on what you’re asking your reader to do. In newsletter type emails, directly asking for a response (e.g., “What are your thoughts? Hit the reply button and tell me.”) is the best way to go.
With cold emails, you’re better off asking a single, very clear question that can be easily answered by the other party. Yes or no answer questions like “Is this something you would be interested in?” work well, because a simple yes or no will do for an answer — although most people will probably write a bit more.
Clarity here essential, because your reader understands immediately what their answer is–which saves them time and makes it easier to respond. And again, you also want to keep the asks appropriate. Don’t immediately jump into talking about a big sale or assume that your reader is interested in what you have.
Start small, maybe by asking if they can direct you to the right person. This helps build trust, strengthens the relationship, and makes it far more likely that your reader will respond, since it’s a small, clear question.
While email is a powerful sales tool and excellent at nurturing readers, the one type of CTA you don’t want to use in an email is “Buy Now”.
Given the formatting restrictions of email, and how reader-unfriendly extremely long emails can be, it is very difficult to replicate the persuasive selling powers of a well-crafted product page or a long-form sales letter in an email.
Plus, you’re going to have to navigate your reader away from the email anyway in order to accept payment. Which is why conversion copywriters stick to “selling” readers on either replying or clicking a link.
It’s far more effective than trying to get your reader to buy based on the email alone.
This article is Part 4 of ‘The Anatomy of a High-Converting Email’, a series on using conversion copywriting techniques to write high-performing emails. Read the previous installments in this series:
Or read on to the next installment: 4 strategic differences in writing emails for B2B versus B2C
Katie Callaghan is a Sales Funnel Strategist and Conversion Copywriter helping growth-stage startups turn existing traffic into more customers, users, and revenue. You can find her at www.startupfunnelstrategist.com.