Writing an effective call-to-action

June 11, 2017

Writing an effective call-to-action

Unless you are organising a brand campaign, most other types of agency campaigns will contain a call-to-action (CTA) of some description. 

The CTA is the part of the copy that lets readers know what you want them to do, and what they'll get for doing it. It is quite literally a 'call to' take 'action'. The CTA needs to be dynamic enough to inspire the reader to do something and have the motivational power to convert readers into buyers. 

The copy leading up to the CTA lays the groundwork and explains why the reader needs your client's product or service; but it's the CTA that will instruct them on exactly what they have to do to take advantage of the offer. 

Where many sales pieces fail is that they either (1) do not have any CTA at all; (2) the CTA isn't strong enough; (3) the CTA is too strong; or (4) the CTA isn't clear enough to clinch the sale. This means your client could be wasting a lot of money and missing out on important sales opportunities. 

On digital platforms (websites, apps, social media), CTAs are often very short, direct, and clear, and they help to guide visitors through the viewing and buying journey. Some examples of digital CTAs are: 

  • Sign up. 
  • Sign up for free. 
  • Download the app. 
  • Subscribe. 
  • Join free for a month. 
  • Get started. 
  • Give XYZ a try. 
  • Join the club now. 
  • Send me specials now! 
  • Log in with Google. 
  • Continue with Facebook. 
  • Discover an experience tailored to you. 
  • Claim your free trial. 
  • Continue. 
  • Click here to get started. 
  • Follow the magic. 
  • Play free. 
  • Give a gift. 
  • Give by Paypal. 
  • View products. 
  • Search. 
  • Grab the template. 
  • Find out more. 
  • Talk to us. 

For print, TV and radio you have the luxury to include more words in your CTA. Some examples of non-digital CTAs are: 

  • Are you interested in changing your future? Phone 0800 555 555 for more details. 
  • Buy now, while stocks last. 
  • Make a difference! Cast your vote before 25 May 20XX. 
  • Order now for your free in-home consultation. Phone 0800 123 4567. 
  • Act now! This offer will self-destruct on 1 April 20XX. 
  • Call now. Free gift for the first 50 callers. 
  • Hurry in for your free oil change with every vehicle inspection. Offer available until 14 November 20XX. 
  • Discover the exciting world of XYZ. Subscribe today.  
  • Get a taste of success. Send us the form at the bottom of this letter and we'll send you the next issue of ABC Magazine...absolutely free! 
  • Got some free time? Come volunteer with us! 
  • Would you like to know the secret sauce to instant success? Send your conference registration in today.

If you have an in-house copywriter to write a CTA for you, great! If not, do try writing the CTA yourself. As long as you understand your offering, it shouldn't be difficult, and here are some tips that will help: 

  • Make sure you actually have a CTA. Just telling people about the offer isn't enough. 
  • Make it stand out. For someone to respond to a CTA they first have to notice it exists.  
  • Write copy that makes people want to act. A CTA is a direct instruction – don't be afraid to tell someone what to do. 
  • Give clear instructions with limited options. Unless you are telling someone to "phone, fax or email", then most CTAs should offer only one course of action. 
  • Have a clear value proposition. People should know exactly what they will get in exchange for clicking on a CTA, or doing what the CTA asks. 
  • Present a time limit. This helps to curb the 'I'll do it later' mindset. Adding a sense of urgency to your CTA will get a better response. 
  • Offer a bonus. A bonus tied to a time limit can be especially effective. 



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