If you’re taking advantage of email marketing, and regularly sending campaigns with healthy open rates, that’s half the battle to driving solid, qualified leads to your site with the intention to learn more or buy. In fact, according to Marketo, companies that use email marketing for nurturing leads often see 50 percent more sales-ready prospects. With email campaigns, you’re segmenting and targeting specific audiences, your messages are guaranteed to be delivered to target inboxes, and most importantly, you’re reaching people who are at least somewhat interested and already inside of your sales funnel. Finish off your email marketing process by driving your audience to convert with a solid call to action.

Your audience already voluntarily subscribed to receive information from you, placing them mid-way through the sales funnel. The CTA, one of the most effective marketing tricks, should aim to push them further down and seal the deal. If you aren’t getting the email marketing results you expect, it might be time to rethink your CTA strategy and start fresh with elegant, concise and bold new buttons and language. Let’s take a closer look at how you can drive up those click-through rates with the right CTAs:

Keep your CTA short

CTAs shouldn’t exceed five words – not only can you probably get your point across in two or three words, but longer phrase are far less likely to grab your readers. For example, instead of having a button or link that reads, “Download our ultimate guide to email marketing in 2016” try something bolder like “Download your eBook.” The first option is more descriptive, but if someone is skimming your email, it won’t be as apparent that the link leads to a valuable asset.

Create a sense of urgency

The more urgent the message on your CTA, the higher you can expect your click-through rate to be. Time is of the essence when it comes to keeping a reader’s attention. Even though your email recipients are more highly qualified leads than an average reader on the web who ducks out after eight seconds, according to Time magazine, your emails will still have major competition for eyes and clicks. The Radicati Group, a technology research firm, found that small business employees send and receive about 120 emails per day on average – your CTAs will need to cut through the noise of 119 other marketers if you want your readers to be engaged.

You’ll have a better chance of driving clicks if your audience understands what’s at stake. If there are a limited number of supplies or tickets, let your audience know to “Act Now!” or that they can “Get 50% off today only!” Mention deadlines, invoke a countdown or offer something scarce. It’s Business 101 – when supply is perceived to be low, you can expect demand to jump up.

Effective email marketing is one of the best lead generation tools we have, and can dramatically boost qualified, sales-ready leads. Download our free Lead Generation eBook to learn more.

Speak to your user directly and honestly

Don’t be mysterious. Tell the reader what your CTA is offering. They’ve already opened your email, so you don’t want to lose them with confusing or misleading calls to action. Using first-person language whenever possible will help your audience imagine themselves engaging with your content or using your product or services.

Vague: “Check it out.”
Specific: “Browse our catalogue.”

Broad: “Try out our software.”
Targeted: “Sign up for my trial.” 

Only push one unique CTA at a time

Don’t overuse CTAs. Your email should be focused and targeted enough to only have one distinct goal. Too many goals at once and you risk diffusing your campaign’s effectiveness.

If your email is on the longer side, repeat your CTA near the top and bottom of your message to catch people who only skimmed or skipped to the bottom. You can safely use two CTAs in your email as long as they are for the same asset or destination, and not for separate goals. Consider making one a call to action button, and the other a bolded or underlined link in the body text.

If you repeat the same CTA button, not only will your marketing message lose its sense of urgency, importance and priority, but it may induce some serious eye fatigue. You don’t want to burn your readers’ retinas with an ugly page full of flashing buttons, and you certainly don’t want to risk losing them if they can’t immediately find the most important part of your email to click on.

Squint. What do you see?

In addition to not losing your CTA in a crowd of other CTAs, you’ll need to make your link and/or button stand out from the copy. The challenge is to make it shout “Hey you, look over here!” while keeping your brand’s look and feel.

Does it pass the Squint Test? Stepping back and looking at your design from afar will help to test if it is readable and recognizable. If your reader forgot their glasses, a CTA should still be identifiable as a clickable button. It should easily stand out from the rest of the page with no context about the content surrounding it and minimal visual clues. Even though blurring the CTA below makes the buttons illegible, you can still recognize that they’re meant to be clicked.

Take the squint test to make sure your CTA is recognizable. Your audience should be able to see it and understand that it is a button even if they aren't wearing their glasses.

Get in shape

Shape matters too when it comes to a call to action button. Are you a fan of rectangular buttons with rounded corners? So was Steve Jobs, and he petitioned his engineers to include code to allow users to draw them on the early Macintosh’s graphics program. The rounded rectangle is still used widely in iPhones, iPads, laptops, apps and even keyboard buttons. Apple even owns a patent on the shape.

One of the main reasons the softer rectangle is so effective is that the rounded corners draw attention inward to the content of the button. Some studies even suggest that humans subconsciously avoid sharp corners, and that softer corners signify safety. Not only do we naturally like this shape, but Swiss mathematician and physicist, Jurg Nanni wrote in his book, Visual Perception, that our eyes and brains can process them faster than regular rectangles.

Be colorful

Every color has its own emotional and cultural connotation that conveys meaning subconsciously and instantly: Red usually conveys urgency; blue often means security; green can imply money or nature; purple and black point to luxury; and orange tends to relate to affordability. However, it can be equally important to use color to stand out from the rest of your email and make your CTA pop. White space, coupled with a color that contrasts with your brand colors, will help readers find your CTA as quickly as possible.

Create a conducive experience

Develop a good flow in your email based on what audience you are targeting and when  you’re trying to reach them. Does your CTA send readers to a time-consuming form or an online store that’s best explored during free time, or does it link to an eBook that your users will want to read during their workday? If you send an email campaign out at the right time of day, you can increase the likelihood your marketing content will appeal to the recipient.

Similarly, a good, informative subject line, along with an engaging header picture and thoughtful content, can help prime people to respond positively to your offering. Be clear there’s an offer waiting for them by including something enticing like [Free eBook] or [Demo] in the subject and header.

Email marketing is a unique and extremely effective way of communicating with your audience. The medium has remained relevant throughout the development and evolution of content marketing, social media, SEO and inbound. It’s been one of most important marketing assets over the past two decades because it is so direct, customizable and targeted. Take advantage of the fact that everyone you email has opted in to receive your messages. They’re closer to making a decision than many of your other prospects – they just need the right call to action to make their move.

Want some more email marketing tips for creating strong CTAs? Check out the video below:


Ben Silverman is Brafton's Marketing Writer. His writing experience dates back to his time reviewing music for The UMass Daily Collegian at UMass Amherst. Ben joined Brafton with a background in marketing in the classical and jazz industries. When he's not writing, he's playing drums, guitar, or basketball.