Read This Now To Find Out How Calls To Action Work

All email marketers should have in mind what one famous comedian says is the best put-down line from any audience member he has ever heard. He was well versed in knocking back comments from back-row drunks, but was not prepared for one very well-spoken attendee who one night broke a silence that should have been filled with laughter. "What is it you actually want from us?" he asked.

It's quite often the case with email marketing. There is usually a hint about why you were trying to squeeze in to someone's inbox, but it's often not as explicit as it could be. That's why the latest reminder in Marketing Tech caught my eye.

For me, email marketers have to decide what they are trying to achieve with an email. Is it a piece of content about growing brand awareness and trust with no hard sales message, is it a customer service announcement that is more about information than pushing a product, or is it an out-and-out attempt to get a subscriber to convert?

Not knowing exactly what you're doing and why can often lie at the heart of a poor call to action (CTA). If we're honest, there are probably many times that you're emailing because it's Tuesday morning and that's when you send out marketing emails or you have an article by a senior executive that you've been told needs to get out there.

Whatever the reason for interrupting your subscriber's day and asking them to take a look at what you have to say, you really do only have a small window of opportunity to arrest their eye and encourage a pointed finger or mouse click to come your way. To go over the golden rules outlines in Marketing Tech, they are essentially that a CTA has to be very clear, must get over the benefits and it has to be placed well.

I would add that the best calls to actions also need a fear of missing out (FOMO). This can often come through a time limit. If you just say 10% off scarves, that's one thing and might attract someone who left theirs on the bus that morning. If you say "10% off scarves today only," you bring in people who know the will need one at some stage, so why not take a look now. 

Indeed, as I wrote this an email alert came in for a local garden centre which perfectly sums up the time-limited aspect of a good CTA. "Last chance: 20% off all furniture & BBQs ends tomorrow," the header reads. Anyone who is getting ready for the summer will likely have their attention caught. However, dare I say that this CTA isn't a CTA at all because it doesn't actually have an action. It's just telling us that a sale is coming to an end. How about "Shop Now. 20% sale ends tomorrow" as an alternative? We already know it's our last chance because it's implied in the sale very nearly being over. But the action part -- that comes with a "Shop Now" or "Buy Today" message. 

Verbs are great for this. So if you're looking at the message you're putting in front of a customer and it doesn't include the power verb that sums up what you want them to do, think again. It might be "Act now," "Sign up today," "Order your brochure," "Book an appointment" or "Grab a bargain." Whatever the "doing" thing is that you want the recipient to do, don't be afraid of putting it in there. As you can see, there are many verbs other than just telling people to "buy" -- but they ultimately all lead in that direction.

The key is wrapping up a compelling offer in a time-limited way which includes an element of FOMO. Nobody is saying it's easy, but one thing's for sure -- if you don't tell people what you want them to do, you can't rely on them always working it out for you and acting on bland messages about "new season looks" or "here's our new range."

Don't be afraid to ram home the verb you want them to do.

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