Master the Call-to-Action

As an Email Marketer, I subscribe to TONS of newsletters. I even have a special email address that I use to subscribe to newsletters. You know when you're buying something at a retail store and the person at the cash asks you if you want to give them your email address and you almost always politely say "No thanks"? Well, I say yes. Always! My promotional inbox is almost like scrolling through a social media feed. I do it every night and save emails that I LOVE, and also ones that I absolutely can't stand. Either way, emails from other companies make for great inspiration.

Lately as I've been scrolling through all of these emails, I couldn't help but notice a common theme amongst the ones I receive from small business owners and solopreneurs:

Their emails are LOADED with calls-to-action. And not in a good way.

I receive some emails with 6, 7, even 8 different calls-to-action within one email. And the worst part is, they're all designed to look the exact same. So not only am I overwhelmed with all of the different actions I could take, not a single action appears to be the most important. 

What's a call-to-action? It's a term commonly used in marketing which refers to the deliberate ask you're presenting to your reader. For example, "Buy Now" or "Download this e-book", etc.

In an effort to ensure your communications are presented in a clear and concise manner to your readers, here are some tips specific to calls-to-action that you should think about when creating your next newsletter.

1. Try to keep your email to 3 Calls-to-Action or less.

Challenge yourself to include no more than 3 calls-to-action in your emails. Keeping the number of calls-to-action in your emails to 3 or less will force you to get really clear on what the goal is for each of your communications.

Instead of brain dumping ALL THE THINGS into one email, ask yourself what the most important actions are that you want your readers to take and create an email communication that supports those actions and ONLY those actions. Save the other actions for separate email, or heck, you may decide to botch them altogether.

Doing this will keep your communications clear, organized and to-the-point, which is exactly what you want. The last thing you want to do is jam pack an email full of all these different asks leaving your customer completely overwhelmed. Also, you're lucky if you get your reader to briefly skim your emails nowadays let alone read through the entire thing. So the more concise, the better.

2. If you have more than one call-to-action, use design to create a visual hierarchy of the importance for each action.

Design is so important when it comes to making your calls-to-action stand out amongst the rest of the email. Even if your reader decides to only skim your newsletter, they should be able to know exactly what it is they can get out of your newsletter. Whether that's an e-book, a free webinar or discounted prices on some products, it should be crystal clear.

If you have multiple calls-to-action in your email, you need know which one is the most important. Then you can use some simple design techniques to make sure this call-to-action stands out amongst the rest. Here's a quick snapshot of an email I got from Ramit Sethi where I can see he's used design to create a visual hierarchy of his calls-to-action:

You'll notice he uses a BIG yellow button as well as some hyperlinks for his calls-to-action. This is a great tactic. I've actually done quite a bit of ab testing of buttons vs. links and buttons seem to always come out on top.

Here's a snippet of an email I received from Emily Thompson at Indie Shopography. While she doesn't use a big colourful button in her emails, she plays with font size and formatting to make her most important call-to-action stand out amongst the other hyperlinks in her email.

And finally, below is an example from a FreshBooks email which shows you how to pair a button and a hyperlink call-to-action together so that there's a little something for everyone. If a reader isn't ready to take you up on your main call-to-action then it's always a good idea to point them somewhere else where they can go to get more information and hopefully convince them to take the action you want them to take.

3. AB test your calls-to-action with YOUR OWN audience to see what works best. 

If there's one thing you'll hear me say over and over again it's this, test that shit. There's SO many tips and tactics you can get on the internet about email marketing, but the best way to find what works best is to test it with your very own audience. I do this often with my calls-to-action. You can test if a button outperforms a link. You can test how the wording of your call-to-action influences your readers. For example, test "Register for my free Webinar" vs. "Register for [Exact Name of your Webinar]" to see which one performs best with your audience. Was it the version with word free in it? Or was it the version that clearly stated what the webinar was about? Test early and often and keep tabs of the patterns that start to emerge. This will help you really get to know your audience and really understand what they respond to and what they don't.