Email Marketing: 6 Tips for Strong Calls to Action

Calls to Action

I’m baffled. We live in a world where we launched a spaceman… in a sports car… on a rocket… TO OUTER SPACE, but we (B2B marketers) haven’t figured out the importance of the almighty call to action (CTA). But I can help.

Email marketing is the cornerstone for digital marketers, and it has been around for decades. Yet, many emails I receive lack a strong call to action, or don’t include one at all. In my world, where emails reign, I try to encourage clients and colleagues to first start with the “why”. Why are you sending this email? What is the main goal or action you wish your recipients do? Although there are always exceptions, business emails have and always have been a tool with the primary purpose to drive action. So, if you can’t answer the “why” or “what”, then you should consider a different marketing tool to communicate your message. 

In today’s modern marketing world, the average office worker receives 121 emails per day (Read more on the shocking truth). I don’t know who these “average officer workers are”, but I am willing to bet that you probably receive a lot more messages on any given day than that. I know I do. The point being, that is a lot of competition in getting your email opened let alone read. So let’s talk about calls to action and where a modern marketer such as yourself has the first chance for success (opens) – the subject line. 

Tip #1: Don’t ignore subject lines

If a great email is written, but never read, did it ever exist at all? Ok, that is my crummy attempt at humor or philosophy (probably neither), but let’s think about it. You probably spend a considerable amount of time, money, and energy with your email marketing team to develop beautiful copy and content. I get to witness firsthand the blood, sweat, and tears that go into often one little email. It is all for naught if the message falls into the common inbox abyss. But surely, you can have a fighting chance, right? Absolutely. It all begins with the subject line and secondary subject line, or preview text. This is our first chance as marketers to entice our recipients “open me first!”. When you think about email content, don’t ignore subject lines. Making your subject line relevant, action-oriented, and descriptive is the most effective way to encourage your email gets opened and read. Try asking a question or using action trigger words like “Check out these tips for back to school savings” or “Learn how you can save big on your car insurance”, or “Would you like to learn about your recent bank statement savings?”. Don’t underestimate the preview text as well. This is especially relevant for mobile devices. Your secondary subject line allows you to preview just enough of the goods inside to motivate your readers to take action and open your email. 

Tip #2: Don’t forget your ABCs

The second most important thing to think about when creating your email message is to think like a salesperson. Always be closing. Emails and what you are communicating should always have some tangible action associated with them. They are transactional by nature. If I send you this email, I am hoping you will do this, buy this, share this, etc. 

Before you send that email you should always be asking “Why is this important to my readers?” What do you want them to do? Are you clearly outlining and asking for that action? So, don’t assume your recipients know what to do. Be direct and ask for the sale or action. You must ask for them to “Click the link to learn more” or “Make an appointment today” or “Download our app”. Don’t assume your readers will come to logical conclusions and read all your beautiful marketing text. 

Tip #3: Make it easy

You can do this by keeping your message succinct and identifying the path you want the readers to follow. Include your call to action in a button or in a hyperlink and please, don’t bury it. Put it in a place that is easy to find/see and indicate that the content is clickable (if you are driving them to a web page or elsewhere outside of the email).

While we are on the subject, be sure you don’t offer too much content to interact with. Consider the philosophy of less is more – like in retail, the less items you have to choose from in a store, the more (and more likely) you are to buy. Too many links can be distracting and take away from why you are sending the email in the first place. Again, ask yourself, what is the call to action and primary purpose of your email? What is the most important thing you want your readers to do when they open your email?

Tip #4: Don’t hide the goods

This one is simple and straightforward. Lead with your best content first and ask for the “sale” right away. Want readers to head over to your website and signup for a membership? Ask them right there in the top of the email in the first paragraph. Tease with great copy and then BAM, give them a chance to get to the goods and clickthrough or take other actions like responding to your email. “Email me back and I’ll respond right away” or “Visit our online showroom to pick out your car color now”.  Please don’t make your readers search in the email for where to click, especially when you have something really awesome to offer that you will know they want but only if they get through the first three paragraphs to learn about how awesome you are and how awesome they will be and oh my gosh, this is the most awesome thing ever, wait until I tell you more about how you can get it….ah! I hope I’ve made my point. If I haven’t lost you, yeah…don’t bury the thing you want them to do or make it so obscure that they get confused and close your email before taking action. 

Tip #5: Cut to the chase

I should probably heed my own advice here. Hey! It is only okay if I say it…I digress. When it comes to emails, consider text length. Often times shorter, direct text inspires quicker action. Make the action you desire available right away so you don’t lose your viewers after they open the email. Create a sense of urgency by cutting to the chase and making it simple to know where to go and what to do. Don’t assume your readers are going to hang on more than a few seconds and do a ton of reading. Make the path an easy one to follow and tease your offer by giving them just enough information that they want to learn more and click through to learn more, buy now, or get in touch. 

Tip #6: Test, test, test

There’s no one secret sauce or cookie cutter template for creating flawless emails. There are so many variables and it is dangerous to look at industry benchmarks or standards as the definitive answer for how, what, and when you communicate to your audience. Industry best practices are anecdotal at best these days. My recommendation is to constantly test and try new things when it comes to your email strategy. Test using buttons vs. links, button color, clickable images, language (how you ask, not just what), CTA placement, subject line length, numbers in subject lines…the list goes on and on. All of these things and more can be tested and optimized, especially when leveraging the power of Oracle Eloqua. Additionally, there are some great tools such as Motiva, which can help take the guess work out of what’s working for your business and your email automation program through the power of AI and ML. Shoot me an email if you’d like to learn more. 

In closing…

Email marketing is getting better and better. New tools and services (and buzzwords) crop up daily to aid marketers in creating compelling messages that deliver results. Yet, the most basic proven practices are forgotten during creation and altogether lost at execution. I hope this article helps you get back to the basics and remember that email marketing can be easy, and hopefully fun. So, let’s get in touch!

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Lori Steele

Sr. Marketing Strategy Lead at Tegrita
Lori Steele is a marketing "Jill of all trades" with a diverse background in traditional and digital marketing. During her 13-year career, she has worked with a variety of B2B and B2C clients, ranging from startups to eCommerce mega-corps. Her expertise and passion is in all things Marcom strategy with an emphasis in web content strategy.

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