About two years ago my boss held his first webinar. He spoke about the basics of copywriting, some 300 people watched the live feed, which was a result we didn't even dream about. (We would've been perfectly fine with 50).

Our goal was lead generation, the webinar was the lead magnet. We wanted to reach new people with the format and communicate that we were professionals. Copywriters who really know what they are doing.

So the reach was a tremendous success, all feedback was positive, not a single negative reaction. We managed to reach and engage the right audience, because earlier we had communicated about the webinar on carefully selected channels.

Still: it failed to bring virtually any new leads.

After two days we started to think about the reasons. It took maybe two minutes to realize what was wrong.

See, the webinar was planned for 30 minutes and became more than 2 hours long because of questions we received. It was very tiring for everyone involved. By the end Zoltán, who presented the webinar was completely exhausted.

And he forgot about the CTA at the very end.

Image source: Giphy.com

200 people were watching at that time and none of us realized we should tell them to subscribe.

The thing is: you can tell the best story of your life, but it is just that, a simple story until you include a call to action. Adding the CTA is what makes it a valuable piece of online marketing.

Do you want to learn more about email copywriting? Check out our other articles on the topic below.

Average email click-through rates

Here is what you have to deal with. According to the latest email marketing benchmarks by Mailchimp and SmartInsights, in most industries you have a one-in-five chance that a given recipient will open your email. And after they have opened it, you have a one-in-ten chance that they will click on whatever link you put inside.

The average click-through rate is around 2-4%. But I have seen newsletters with CTR over 20% and personally wrote more than one.

Now I know that it doesn't come down only to the CTA. For starters, if you have a strong, segmented list, you can have a 100% open and click-through rate. But in most cases you simply can't do that because analytics and content creation alone would bankrupt you long before you get the chance to monetize those leads.

So now I am going to tell you a few things about how you should write your offer and CTA so you can improve any email you have in mind in the future.

In email, write your conclusion (CTA) first

When I am writing a newsletter or a landing page, the first thing I draft is my CTA, and of course the offer with it.

The actual offer is included in the one or two sentences that come directly before the CTA. This is what I am talking about:

I advise you to do the same: start with the conclusion so you will know where are you trying to get with the rest.

This will also help with writing headlines and sub-headlines, because you will have the main keywords and phrases you should use, mention or build on.

There are three basic things an offer & CTA should include, three questions from the user it should answer in some form.

  • What are you offering me?
  • What do you want in return?
  • What should I do?

Let's take a look at these.

What are you offering?

We have talked about benefits and how to present them. But here, at the very end you should be a bit more specific. It's best if you summarize what your prospect will get out of the deal - not only by clicking the button, but taking the offer afterwards.

Take a look at this e-mail I received from the New York Times. It barely contains anything else than two CTAs.

It is clear what I will get if I choose to act: a subscription through which I will be well-informed and able to form an unbiased opinion. (Their headline is also catchy and to-the-point, take note.)

Now it is important that I am not only told the benefits, the specific thing I will get (a subscription, and a discounted one of that) is also there. No surprises, I know what to expect on the other side: subscription plans which I can choose from.

The design of the CTA is also well thought. It's visible on the first screen for those who are ready to act after reading the first lines, and it is also repeated in the email later, for those who prefer to read more before acting.

We have hundreds of similarly well planned email CTA-s in our free responsive email template collection which includes 200+ templates. Subscribe below to become a beta tester and get early access!

 

Avoiding surprise is a key element, because surprise erodes trust in almost every scenario and consequently conversion rate when we talk about guiding someone through a conversion funnel.

What do you want in return?

Have you ever clicked on a "FREE" offer just to discover that it is only free in a specific way? You know, you just have to pay for shipping, but that costs ten times as much as it should. Or it is only free for certain users, like subscribers or members. So on and so forth.

This is not simply a surprise, its a lie.

Before I even consider clicking on that button, tell me the price I am going to pay, even if you can only tell that figuratively.

Or imply it at least.

Here it is clear what I will get: expert advice. It is also implied, that although it is free, I will pay for it in a way. With my personal and business information (without which there is no point in a consultation) and of course my time.

Wording matters here a lot.

"Book" or "register" implies that you have to provide at least your contact information. "Read" or "check out" implies that you pay with your time and attention.

What should I do?

Your consumers are not stupid. But still you should help them by telling exactly what to do. It helps eliminating surprise and confusion, and also saves them a lot of time answering questions like "how can I get the ebook?" or "where can I buy your product?"

Most of the time you can just skip this, because your recipients will be able to recognize a e-commerce offer or a form, and act according to the instructions. This is more important on landing pages, but sometimes you also have to provide a few details in email, like this:

See, it's quite simple - although in this example the design is far from ideal, but can still work in a minimal HTML email.

As you can see, properly informing the reader about what and how will happen after they click the button is extremely important. This is not the part where you have to build trust - hopefully you have already done that in your previous emails or in the current one with testimonials, social proof and so on.

The offer and CTA builds on that trust, you must uphold it. Because if you get me to click and than you abandon me (I won't know where I am or what to do) or trick me (take me to an entirely different page), than I won't do any business with you.

Good email copy starts with wording

When you write your CTA, chose your words very carefully.

First, please forget about CTAs like "Download" or "Click here". They are way too generic to be of any use.

Always reference specific things instead. Don't be afraid of a longer CTA, even if you have a button instead of a link. If in your headlines and offer the main message is something like "take your business to the next level" (which is not good, but will serve as a good example), than in your CTA you could reference it and write

"I want the knowledge to boost my business"

Do you want to learn more about email design and copywriting? We have many detailed articles on the topic in our content queue. Subscribe below to get notified when we publish a new piece.

 

Point of view matters

Most times I see buttons with only a few words and links that say "you can download the ebook here", "subscribe here".

My problem is that these don't even try to build on empathy. Try shifting the point of view and write as if you were the reader, the potential customer.

To see what I'm talking about, look at the best exit popups. They try to grab attention by giving you a chance to decide what is good for you. They word buttons so you have to make a personal decision, because often they begin with "I" or "me".

Source: Wishpond

Sometimes using quotation marks may also be effective as they can boost this effect.

Provide an actionable task

Use active language, use verbs. Give a task to the customer. In the most simple form, "Download" might suffice, but I recommend taking it a bit further than that, because let's be honest, everyone uses this kind.

The task should be something they feel like they can actually accomplish (with your help of course: see our article on storytelling in email to learn how to be the "guide"). "Learn", "grow", verbs like these might work better, because they offer long-term benefits instead of something brief.

Know your incentives

I also want to share with you a couple of techniques you can use just by including a few words in you offer.

If your reader still needs a little push to click, the fear of missing out (FOMO) can be a powerful ally. You should also build on this in your subject lines if you have email sequences, and it is just as effective at the very end.

Say you are standing in a brick&mortar store and thinking about buying a discount product. You want it, the price is good, but it is still pretty high, so you hesitate. One thing that can force you to decide right then and there to make your move is if you are told that they close in five minutes, and the offer is only valid until the end of the day.

Setting a deadline is only one option. You can also say that only the first few customers get the best deal, or there is a limited number of that certain product or package available.

Use it carefully: you don't want to turn away your customer by implying that they have already missed the opportunity. "Until midnight" is a reasonable deadline, "in the next five minutes" isn't.

Also, be honest: if you write down that the offer won't be available after a certain time or number sold, stick to it, keep that promise, otherwise you will erode trust.

You can also include some social proof. I'm not talking about testimonials, just little things. Like writing

"Join 5413 marketers who already know how to write a perfect CTA."

(Also, if you include a number like that: if it is a round number like 5000 it sounds fake. Odd numbers like this work the best, they somehow seem more "real".)

You can also close your offer with a question, and of course the answer should be the CTA itself. If you are asked a question, you are more likely to react to it than if you are presented a simple statement.

Do you want to double your CTR? Yes, teach me how to write a good CTA.

Exclusivity can also help you. You don't have to limit the offer to a certain number, you can offer it just to a few people. But if you do, let them know. If you are segmenting your list, than you can make personalized offers, and if you tell your readers that you are in fact doing this, they might feel special.

Say you have a webshop that sells clothing. You know that there are huge storms coming in a certain area. Look at your list and create a segment of residents of that area. Create a special discount for waterproof equipment and in your offer tell them

This offer is only available to [whoever you are offering it to].

This alone can increase the click-through rate as it creates the feeling of exclusivity, you make your potential customers fell better and let them know that you care about them.

Experiment with your email CTA

Don't be lazy. Revise it. Test it with colleagues, friends or even come up with couple version and run A/B tests with a fraction of your audience.

Whatever you do, remember that the CTA is the simple most important part after you actually got someone to open your email. Start with it, word it carefully, think about your offer.

This will also help you write a better email in a whole, because the first thing you have to do is break everything down for yourself and think about why anyone should take your offer.

Do you have a special CTA that worked better than the rest? Any tricks? Share it in the comments!

Author
Daniel Benyo

Daniel Benyo

Senior copywriter with 7+ years of experience