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October 17, 2012

Call Me Maybe: Tips for Effective Calls to Action

When creating digital marketing materials for your small business (web pages, social posts, mobile ads, e-campaigns), are you including strong calls-to-action (CTAs) that motivate people to act?

Users need to know exactly what you want them to do – such as download a file, click a link or subscribe to a mailing list.

A strong CTA can aid in significantly boosting your response rates and improving conversions, so it’s important to know the basics.

To create a CTA that gets users to take action, make sure you:

* State clearly what users will receive when they act. CTAs like “get coupons here” or “download e-book” make it easy to understand what will happen next.

* Place the CTA in a spot that can easily be seen. Make it stand out from other content around it. Try using larger fonts, buttons or colored text to make the CTA more prominent.

* Use strong verbs such as “download now” or “read full article” as part of your CTA. It helps to further direct people toward the action you want them to take.

* Make sure it relates. For example, the CTA in an e-mail campaign – “click to download article” – needs to relate to the content on the landing page where users will go.

Fear of Commitment

Even a rock-solid CTA could fail if you ask users to take action to soon. Be sure to use CTAs that are appropriate for each step of your conversion process. For instance, “Order Now” or “Apply Online” may be too much too soon for some, causing them to take no action at all. A link to “Learn More” (leading to a landing page with more details) may be a more effective strategy. That landing page would then be the right place for a CTA asking for more commitment. Whatever your conversion process, make sure your CTAs are right for each step.

Mobile CTAs

Mobile technology has exploded in popularity and, as a result, people routinely read e-mail on their mobile devices. These e-mails are typically displayed as text with no images, however, so if your e-mail campaigns use button-based CTAs, your mobile recipients may not be able to see them. To work around this, use text-based links and CSS styling to create text buttons that display as “buttons” on any PC or mobile device. Research has shown that during 2012, mobile devices will over-take desktop and laptop PCs as the first “screen of choice” for Web users. This means it is vital for your CTA to be visible on mobile.


Users are individuals. They read and consume digital material in different ways. Something that’s obvious to one user may be completely overlooked by others. By providing multiple CTAs on the page, you can maximize the chance users will take the action that you want them to take. You can add links to headers, logos, product photos and body text, all leading to the same landing page. This provides users with several paths to conversion, giving you better results in your campaigns.

Great CTAs = Great Results

Converting prospects to customers is the point of marketing for many small businesses. To do just that, your marketing must include clear, convincing calls to action – specifically, calls to action that tell prospects what you want them to do as the next step in your conversion process. By creating CTAs that motivate users to act, you can greatly improve the response rates from your marketing efforts and convert more browsers into buyers. If you’re not getting the results you would like from your digital marketing, take a look at your CTAs and adjust accordingly.

Lauren Hobson is president of Five Sparrows, LLC. Five Sparrows provides professional website and marketing services to small businesses and non-profits.