5 Easy Tips for Creating The Most Effective Email CTAs

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Think of an inbox… like a to-do list.

Each email represents a piece of communication that requires some form of interaction. Even if that interaction is simply “check mark and archive.” (Don’t let that be your email of course!)

Many emails remain unread, so the ones that DO get opened (Hopefully yours!) and scanned must clearly prompt the reader to take action in some way. That’s where CTAs come in. If you don’t already know by now, a CTA (call-to-action) is the component of your email that designates the desired outcome of someone reading your message. Without a CTA your subscribers can’t know what’s expected of them.

Your CTA might appear in the form of a button, a highlighted sentence with a hyperlink to supplemental content, or a link to a lead magnet. Which ever one you choose there are key strategies you’ll want to incorporate to ensure that your to-do list item resonates in as many inboxes as possible.

Follow these five simple tips to ensure you are using the most effective CTAs in your email!


Tip #1: Be Concise

Effective Email CTAs - Apples Watch

As soon as someone opens this email, they know exactly what they’re suppose to do… ‘Shop.’

The desired action is simple, and the button prompting that action is nice, shiny and blue! The CTA itself contains only one word, it announces itself with brevity, and it knows what the reader wants.

The CTA could also be ‘Shop Now,’ which is just as compelling and concise, however; ‘Shop for the Series 2 Apple Watch Now,’ on the other hand, might be too busy. Context and descriptions of products, services, and insights should not be within the copy of the CTA button itself. 

You want your emails to contain a bit of intrigue without hiding the way you would like your audience to behave.


Tip #2: Use Strong Visuals

Effective Email CTAs - Bonobos Email

The idiom typically goes “A picture is worth a thousand words.” In email marketing terms, that translates to “A compelling visual theme or a striking image can often replace dozens or hundreds of words!”

Depending on your brand and the story you are trying to tell en route to a compelling CTA, you may be able to most effectively compel a reader with style and confidence. The Bonobos email above establishes a stylish brand to sell contemporary menswear. Bonobos accomplishes this by creating an email that is very, very…  pretty.

Since the design of the email IS the message, the ‘Shop Now’ CTA should resonate as a natural next step for readers that appreciate this purposeful visual composition. The copy above the ‘Shop Now’ CTA button playfully references “wallflowers” and supports the visual approach. Tying things together in a way that draws the reader’s eye to the desired action.

This email is like a witty, fashionable friend that knows you want what they have.


Tip #3: Incorporate Humor

Effective Email CTAs - Dog Mattress Email

The screenshot above is from a Casper Mattress email about dog mattresses.

Sidenote: Scientifically tested dog mattresses are a thing!

Sure – The CTA ‘Get the Dog Mattress’ seems a bit busy by normal standards, but it is tonally consistent with the rest of the email. It’s comical length maintains the light, humorous tone set by the paragraph of witty body copy and the funny picture above. Silliness and cute dogs are the priorities here. People who appreciate those things will want to buy nice things like mattresses for their furry friends. A CTA like ‘Shop Now’ or ‘Buy Now’ CTA could actually look and feel too formal in this particular email.

A humorous approach works for products like dog mattresses, but it obviously isn’t always appropriate. The question of whether or not to add a touch of humor is one well worth asking since something that is both funny and compelling transcends the obligatory nature of a ‘to-do-list-like’ inbox in the first place.  


Tip #4: Establish Credibility

Effective Email CTAs - Turbo Tax Email

In this TurboTax email, the CTA ‘Let’s get started’ is short for ‘Let’s get started on your taxes!’ Filing taxes isn’t a fun process for anyone, so this email explains why the reader would trust what lies behind that ‘Let’s get started’ CTA.

Credibility is built by including copy about getting your “biggest refund again this year” at the top of the email. and showing an enticing tax return amount on the tablet screen to the right. The implied CTA here is ‘Trust.’ That may sound dramatic in reference to email marketing, but it is what makes someone use a product like Turbo Tax software.


Tip #5: Do Some Imaginary Scrolling

A quick test you can do is to simply eyeball your email and imagine you are the recipient instead of the sender. The more you have to scroll to find your to-do list item, the less likely it is that you will get clicks.

Minimizing scrolling is especially pertinent when emails are designed to get a response from an existing lead or customer. For example, the Udemy email below asks the reader whether he or she wants to stay on a mailing list. This obviously isn’t an initial communication since the recipient is already receiving emails regularly from Udemy. It’s like a check-in that needs to be extremely to-the-point. The copy is concise and it’s really only expected that the reader will see the CTA button itself.

Effective Email CTAs - Udemy Email

Another good scroll test is to see if you should offer your CTA multiple times. This is useful when all of your email content centers on one simple action. The Rifle Paper Co. email below is a great example of presenting the same ‘Shop Now’ CTA several times as new content is shown. The desired audience behavior remains visible as someone continues scrolling through this email.


Effective Email CTAs - Rifle Paper Co. Email


So, why write effective email CTAs? Well, It’s important because THAT is what people will scan for when they don’t actually want to read an email.

When someone opens email after email asking “What do you want!?” yours will stand out as having a clear direction. Your emails will be more successful because you are getting to the point and taking the time to understand your audience’s needs.


Wrapping It Up

For more insights into CTAs and other elements of successful email marketing campaigns, please subscribe to our newsletter! We’ll help you stay ahead of the game with in-depth email marketing strategies.

If you have any questions, feedback, or thoughts about effective CTA creation, please feel free to share those in the comments! We’d love to hear from you.


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Jerrik Neri

Jerrik Neri

Jerrikis a Sendlane warrior by day and an avid and aspiring Web Developer ninja by night. His passion for programming and technology which has cultivated since he was young, has landed him in this company - helping people and fixing code.
When he’s not helping out and fighting for Sendlane’s cause or staring hard at long lines of code, you can find him at the gym trying to lift heavy things, or at home, trying to be the next E-sports gaming professional.
Jerrik Neri