How to Craft the Perfect Email Call-to-Action (+ Examples)
By Rikke Berg Thomsen Head of Email Marketing
@ Sleeknote

Learn More. Sign Up. Click Here. Shop Now. What do these phrases make you want to do? Nothing, right?

(Except maybe roll your eyes.)

They’re meant to drive readers to action, but because we see them so often, we filter them out when reading online content—especially when it comes to email marketing.

If you want your emails to stand out in your reader’s overcrowded inbox, you need to create email calls-to-action (CTAs) that compel readers to take action immediately—and that’s a difficult thing to do.

So today, I want to show you how to create email CTAs that your readers can’t help but click (with examples), so you can break through the noise and drive higher email engagement and sales.

But before I do…


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Why Are Email Calls-To-Action Different?

Before going into the details of how you create a compelling email CTA for your emails, you need to understand why they’re different.

The most obvious difference is that you have limited space to work with.

Every word in your email is part of your CTA, and there’s no room for getting sidetracked.

Every word in your email is in some way part of your CTA, which is the hard part about email CTAs.

You can start your email off by sharing a story about a recent experience you had at the grocery store, or blabber on about how furious you are with people in oversize t-shirts (or whatever makes you fly off the handle), as long as your story has a point and encourages readers to take action.

When you write a blog post or create a video, for instance, you have plenty of space to make use of different elements to help influence the reader to take action, such as visual cues (images, GIFs, body language, and so on).

Here’s an example from Target, where body language helps encourage viewers to take action:

Cooking Show

Being limited by space isn’t necessarily a bad thing (and that’s coming from me “miss can’t-stop-writing”).

It forces you to consider every single word in your email, which will result in stronger copy and drive people to action. 

With email CTAs, length doesn’t influence SERP rankings, and your reader’s attention is limited, so each word has to earn its way into your email with the purpose of maximizing the time you have with your readers.

Remember that a CTA is not just a simple button or a small sentence at the end of your email.

A good CTA starts with the subject line and follows all the way through the email to your PS.

Many marketers think of a CTA as a single element in their content that can drive people to action with one simple phrase:

Download. Join Now. Read More

It’s not.

Your button or link is only part of the CTA—admittedly an important part—but it doesn’t stand a chance on its own. 

So how do you write an effective email CTA?

That’s what I’ll tell you now.

How to Create a Powerful Email Call-To-Action

There are a few elements to writing a powerful email CTA, and in this section, I’m going to break it down into three parts:

  1. Defining your goal
  2. Writing the copy
  3. Designing your CTA

Let’s have a closer look at each one.

i. Define the Purpose of Your CTA

Before you start writing your CTA, you need to define the purpose of it.

What is the action you want people to take and how do you get them to take it?

Let’s say you run an e-commerce with clothing, and you want to email your list with the purpose of increasing sales on a new line of dresses.

Here’s what most businesses would do:

Create an email with images of the new dresses and finish off with a button that says: “Shop Now.”

Does it work?

Shemar Moore

So here’s what you do instead.

You know what action you want people to take, so now you ask yourself how.

What value is your product giving people that they can’t get elsewhere? 

Here’s an example from Casper:

Casper Email CTA

Casper knows a concern of their buyer persona is keeping bedsheets clean (nothing beats the feeling of new, clean bedsheets—am I right?)

They address this concern in the copy of their email and instead of writing “Shop Now” in their CTA button, they chose to write something that supports the CTA in the copy.

Now we’ve already touched upon it slightly, but let’s go into more detail on how to write the copy for your CTA.

ii. Write Compelling CTA Copy

Your CTA copy is what ultimately convinces your reader to take action—or not.

You must create a killer value proposition if you want people to click-through.

Dale Carnegie, author of the classic How to Win Friends & Influence People, puts it this way: “The only way on earth to influence other people is to talk about what they want and show them how to get it.”

Each of the CTAs in your email should trigger a different emotion in your reader.

For instance, Chubbies taps into people’s fear of missing out to get people to click their CTA button:

Chubbies Email CTA

Curioos, meanwhile, lures readers in with the promise of getting lost in a dream world, tapping into their curiosity:

Curioos Email CTA

Don’t use the same CTA throughout your email. Switch it up and trigger different emotions with your CTAs.

The action is the same, but your approach is different.

Many marketers use the same CTA throughout their email and then reuse that CTA in the next email, and the next, and the next (I could go on, but I’ll spare you).

By adding multiple CTAs that have the same goal but conveyed differently, you increase chances of “hitting your readers’ sweet spots” and get them to click.

Here’s an example from Trunk Club:

Trunk Club

In the first part of the email, they introduce their new feature along with a CTA.

The second part of the email gives a more thorough description of the feature along with a new call-to-action that has the same purpose as the first.

Trunk Scheduling Possibilities

In extension to this, I want to emphasize the importance of NOT writing “sign up” or “click here”.

Whether you’re using buttons or embedded text (more on that later), your CTA should never be generic.

People need to differentiate between the CTAs and know which one to click when they want to take a certain action.

Smashing Magazine CTA

Source: Smashing Magazine

See the difference?

By just writing “click here”, you’re concealing what the user is actually clicking. 

When writing your CTA, keep it short, relevant, and intriguing.

iii. How to Design a Call-To-Action Readers Will Click

Once your CTA copy is on point, there are a few final things you should consider before sending your email.

First, you should never include too many CTAs in your email.

This doesn’t mean you can’t include multiple links and buttons; it just means the purpose of them must be the same in each.

Here’s an example from Green Chef:

Green Chef Email CTA 1

They start out by addressing a common pricing problem: buying organic can be expensive.

Green Chef knows people don’t always read the entire email so they’ve added a call-to-action where people can try their product for free (again addresses the concern over price).

This is the second part of the email:

Green Chef Email CTA 2

They then overcome the price objection and convince the reader their product is more affordable than in regular grocery stores.

Green Chef still addresses the same concern, and even though the button here is different, it still has the same purpose: Get people to try Green Chef.

If you use buttons, be careful not to add too many.

Doing so will create confusion, and readers will refrain from clicking them.

Another option is to use embedded commands in the copy.

Few marketers are doing this, and the only way to see if it works for you is to test it.

Embedded commands are in-text links, meaning you link a part of a sentence instead of adding buttons. 

By adding embedded commands in the copy, you avoid breaking up the flow of the email, and it becomes more readable.

You also appeal to skim readers (and trust me, they’re many). A skim reader is much more likely to click a link that has a command such as “Try the new fragrance now” than a simple “click here”.

Here’s an example from Beardbrand:

Beardbrand Email CTA

There are no buttons to click, but the message is still clear: “try the Sea Salt Spray.”

A good rule of thumb is that if you have a lot of text in your emails, you should use embedded commands, and if you have a lot of visuals (product images, and so on) buttons tend to be more effective.

But, like I always say, you should test it to see which option works best for your emails.


Want More Email CTA Examples?

Download our bonus resource to learn how to craft the perfect email call-to-action, step-by-step.

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Finishing off with a Call-To-Action: Leave a Comment

Writing CTAs for your emails is TOUGH, but not impossible.

Keep your CTAs short, relevant, and unique (probably my favorite word to use), and refrain from using generic phrases that your readers will ignore.

By following the tactics in this article, you’ll be able to create effective CTAs for your emails and increase engagement and sales.

What are your favorite email CTAs? And do you have any advice not mentioned in this post? Leave a comment below (see what I did there?).