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Say “No!” to Wimpy Calls to Action

It’s called a call to action. Not a hint to action. Not a suggestion. A call.

So why is the world full of wimpy ones? You know, the wishy washy hints and suggestions that are definitely not calls to act.

Maybe as a society, we are simply too polite. When I’m a customer in a restaurant, I say “please” and “thank you” for the smallest service, when I’m ordering or having my water glass refilled or the bread basket restocked…any little service gets good manners. I’m polite.

If I were more direct and less polite, I wouldn’t order with please and thank you. I’d just say something like “bring me the rib eye steak with mashed potatoes.” I’d be direct. I’d be using a strong call to action. And I’d be considered a bossy jerk by the employees…and probably my wife too, if she were dining with me.

But maybe being a bossy jerk is the way we need to be if we want our calls to action to bring about an action. Or at least we need to be more specific.

Wimpy calls to action are vaguely worded like:

  • Click here
  • Read more
  • Click here to…
  • Get started

Strong calls to action are more direct and clearly stated like:

  • Start improving your response rates
  • Start saving money now
  • Download now
  • Be the first of your friends to …
  • Give me my free …

Companies will see an improved click through rate when they change things like the design or color of a button, or place the call to action somewhere else on the page. Or use more than one, or more than two.

But they should always also try to improve their click through rate by changing the words.

As email marketers, we don’t have a set of email marketing best practices for calls to action. There’s no perfect formula. We are told to include them, yes. But we don’t have any tried-and-true best practices that say use a button or use text, orange works better than green, include it X number of times, make it three words long, or make sure the first word is a verb. No, we don’t have any such set email marketing best practices. That means you must figure out your own: What works best with your audience?

You figure out the call to action that works for you and your audience and even particular campaign by testing. Test everything test the color, the button vs. text, the number of words, the placement…and definitely test the wimpiness.

Marco Marini
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