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Writing effective calls to action

Most email sent with Direct Mail is sent with a purpose in mind. For example, you may want your subscribers to purchase something, register for an event, or otherwise take action on your email. While an attractive design and eye-catching graphics may help with that goal, writing an effective call to action (CTA) is key to driving interaction. Here are some suggestions for putting together an effective CTA.

Define Your Goals

Before you begin, ask yourself these three questions:

  1. What action do I want my subscribers to take?
  2. What benefit will they get from taking that action?
  3. How will they know what to do?

Getting to the bottom of these questions will help you design a more purposeful and effective CTA.

Explain the Benefits

Most email CTAs take the form of a link to your website. Remember that your subscriber's time is a precious commodity. Try and ensure that the content of your email makes it clear (either explicitly or implicitly) the value that the subscriber will get out of taking the time to click.

Use Effective Language

Jason Rodriguez at Litmus shares some insight on using more powerful language in CTAs:

The biggest mistake that marketers make is using weak, passive language in their CTA. A classic example is the infamous “click here”. While “click here” may seem like a great CTA (in that it tells a subscriber exactly what to do), it really doesn’t give a reader any incentive for taking action. It doesn’t describe the value or what will happen if, in fact, they do click the link.

Instead, you should use language that describes why a user should follow a link. Use verbs to describe what they will do by interacting with the CTA and, if possible, create a sense of urgency or timeliness.

Here are some examples of more descriptive, enticing calls-to-action:

  • Shop Fall collection now
  • Access your account
  • Get 50% off today
  • Start testing
  • Learn more

Some CTAs, like “buy now” infer a greater commitment on behalf of the subscriber—you’re asking them to spend their money by clicking the button. On the contrary, “shop now” represents a much lower commitment.

High commitment propositions, like alluding to spending time or money, can be scary for a medium as casual as email. Instead, focus on low commitment propositions that don’t require a huge investment in money or time from your subscribers.


Just like with web page design, the odds your subscriber will click a link decrease the further it is placed down the page. Try to position your CTA as close to the top as is reasonable. Most email is read on mobile devices these days, which means it's not a bad idea to repeat your CTA as the user scrolls down the message.

If you're using an image or graphic for your CTA link, make sure you've filled in the "Description" field for the image in Direct Mail (clicking on the image will reveal that field). This will ensure that your subscribers still see the CTA even if their email client blocks images from loading.

Follow Through

Congratulations, your subscriber has clicked on your CTA link! Now what? Remember that after clicking your link, the subscribers journey has only just begun. Take the time to make sure your landing page is relevant to the email and reinforces your value proposition. Most email is read on mobile today, so make sure your landing page looks good on a small screen. A good post-click experience will help ensure continued engagement with future email campaigns.

More Resources

Here are some additional resources about crafting high-quality calls to action:

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