Google Email 103: Write an Email Call to Action that Clicks | Eclipse Communications: Content Writing & Copywriting

EclipseWriter Blog

Email 103: Write an Email Call to Action That Clicks

At last year’s Holiday Pops performances, Missoula Symphony Conductor Darko Butorac made a plea from the stage that incited bedlam during intermission and raised $7,345.36 in much-needed cash.

The secret? Thievery. Competition. And Elves.

The thievery involved stealing an idea from the Spokane Symphony: Let the audience choose the Pops encore by voting with their $$$ for one of two pieces.

The competition, which Butorac billed as the Encore Smackdown, took on an added dimension when he also pitted the Saturday and Sunday audiences against each other. The one that donated the most money would get a special encore later in the season.

And the elves? A dozen volunteers, scattered throughout the theater, wearing silver Santa hats for “White Christmas” or red Santa hats for “Hallelujah Chorus” and carrying stockings to collect money. (My own hat shimmered with silver sparkles.)

No one knew quite what to expect. Certainly we didn’t expect we’d collect so much money we raced to count it in time to announce the results. But the audience couldn’t stuff those stockings fast enough. From a few cents to a Ben Franklin to a pledge for $500, the money poured in.

And then the audience waited restlessly to find out which encore won. As one concert-goer said, “It’s probably the most fun anyone ever had at the Symphony.”

Which goes to show that the key to a Call to Action is ensuring it’s something your audience wants to do.

Today’s topic: Email Calls to Action

Simply enough, a Call to Action prompts your visitors to act after they read your email. Your subject line inspired them to open your email and your content kept them riveted. So you don’t want to stop there.

Build on that momentum. Tell your readers what you want them to do next. Use text, a button, an image, a video to present an offer. And make sure it’s enticing.

When your visitors click on the Call to Action link, they’ll pass through to a landing page. Here they’ll give their contact info in exchange for your [choose an adjective: valuable, fun, exciting, intriguing] offer. In short, you’re using your offer to generate leads for later sales.

Service provider MailChimp reports average click-through rates of 13-28 percent for the 40 million emails it sends each year for customers. You should aim for the high end—at least.

Sure, you could ask your audience to visit your Website or give you a call or provide their name and address. Y-a-a-a-a-awn.

If your Call to Action doesn’t promise value or fun, you’ve just lost your prospect or customer at the crucial moment. So how do you keep them around?

Choose the right Call to Action for your place in the marketing cycle.

You’ll see variations on the marketing cycle, but in general you want to move your prospects from Awareness > Knowledge > Consideration > Preference > Conviction > Purchase > Loyalty.

In the early stages, you want to keep the commitment low and the offer compelling and entertaining. So what Call to Action is appropriate for Awareness > Knowledge > Consideration? An offer of a white paper, eBook or special gift to expose them to your company and your products and services.

In the Aperion Audio holiday ad, for example, the company offered a special holiday tune by bassist Kate Davis. The graphic even features a QR code with a festive red ribbon on top. Teaming up gave both Aperion and Davis higher visibility with an audience they both wanted to reach.

In later stages of the marketing cycle, you may ask for a higher commitment to drive results. The Call to Action appropriate for Preference > Conviction > Purchase could be a product demo or sales consultation. But even this can be fun!

For example, Electro Rent, which leases and sells high-tech equipment of all kinds, recently offered a chance to win a handheld instrument to customers who requested a product demo and quote.

Make sure your offer is specific, actionable and urgent.

Assuming your email has a single goal, you need a single specific Call to Action.

That Call to Action may appear several times in your email but should always lead to the same place: your landing page.

Be as clear as possible, so your readers know exactly what they’ll get when they click. Download a White Paper on Twitter is not the same as Discover How Twitter Can Help You Generate More Sales.

Carry your Call to Action language through to your landing page to ensure visitors don’t think they’ve taken a wrong turn in cyberspace. Research shows that the most successful landing pages repeat the email headlines and text almost verbatim.

Make your Call to Action actionable by starting with a verb.

Remember when your 4th grade teacher taught you about action words?

Me neither. But verbs work well for Calls To Action. The Calls to Action below all caught my attention recently—and in some cases, I even clicked through:

  • Start Your FREE Trial Now!
  • Claim Your Complimentary Website Evaluation
  • Download the Only Guide You’ll Ever Need on How Men Think

Assuming you’ve already explained the benefit your prospects will achieve, you don’t need to repeat it in your Call to Action. But definitely go for bold and memorable here.

Create urgency by giving your readers a reason to click through NOW.

Why shouldn’t they wait until tomorrow? Because your offer may not be good tomorrow. In the examples above, the Aperion holiday tune lost its charm around 26 December. And the entry into the Electro Rent drawing lasted only a few months.

You’ll probably always offer white papers and Webinars and consultations. So you’ll need to create urgency in another way. You don’t need to imitate the Ginsu-knife salesman on late-night TV, but a little lagniappe (N’Awlins-speak for a little something extra) will go a long way toward getting action now. To keep your Call to Action fresh—and make it relevant to a wider audience—change up the lagniappe regularly.

Give your audience every chance to click through.

You want a Call to Action on-screen at all times. You’re not writing a who-dun-it, so you don’t need to make the mystery last. Your prospects should see a Call to Action as soon as they open your email. One of my clients includes a Call to Action immediately after the headline—and often it’s the link with the highest click-through rate.

If you want to make your case before inserting a Call to Action, do it fast. Your first one or two sentences should definitely contain a link to your landing page.

If you choose to use straight-up text, make a note: Click here and Learn more are NOT compelling. Your prospects may read nothing else in your email, but they’re likely to see the text link. Be sure to highlight the part that inspires action:

  • Watch our short video to see how you can cut test time by 40%.
  • Get a chance to win a Kindle Fire when you tell us what you think.
  • Sign up for our Webinar to learn how to speak so your 14-year-old listens.

Also include Calls to Action in the middle of your email and at the end. You want to make sure your reader has a chance to respond no matter where they end up on your email page. Because only a 30%-plus click-through rate will look good to you.

PS—So which encore won the Smackdown? Let’s just say the Symphony, the audience and Handel were all winners.

(If you found this blog post valuable, be first to find out when I’ve written others. That usually happens every other Friday. Sign up to receive the How-To and So-What Blog in your inbox.)