This is a screenshot showing increase in open rates when personalization was used. Consider adding personalization to your call to action.

5 Powerful Tips to Create an Amazing Call to Action

It’s hard to motivate someone to engage with you, but a brilliant call to action can make it much, much easier and more effective. Learn 5 tips to help you win.
Article Outline

No matter how wonderful your campaign is, nothing will happen until your prospect actually does something.

Marketers know they need a powerful call to action to make this happen. But many are missing small details that have the ability to transform results from mediocre to amazing. And in most cases, these changes aren’t the big stuff; they mean swapping out a few words, changing the color or simply rearranging placement.

For example, scaling back to a single, unified call to action (from a landing page with two) boosted email click rates for one company by 371 percent and sales by 1,617 percent. So here’s the question: What single change could you make that would generate serious results? Here are a few powerful strategies to start using now.

1. Select Proven Words

An effective call to action must generate excitement and compel the reader to act right away. But how can you make this happen more often, more effectively? One answer is simple: Use words that are proven to generate results. Here are five words to use in your next call to action.

  • You. Using the word “You” feels more personal and engages the reader with greater impact. It’s warmer, and you get away from having to choose between “him,” “her,” and “their.”

When possible, take engagement one step further by using the reader’s name. In a 2015 Experian study, personalizing the subject line with the recipient’s name increased open rates by as much as 42 percent.

  • Free. In his book Predictably Irrational, Dan Ariely set out to test the power of the word “free” in relation to value. His first study asked people to select between a 15-cent Lindt truffle and a 1-cent Hershey’s Kiss. Only 27 percent selected the 1-cent Hershey’s Kiss, even though it was priced much lower than the Lindt truffle. In the next study, Ariely did something interesting. He made the Hershey’s Kiss free and dropped the price on the Lindt truffle to 14 cents. When using the word “free,” 69 percent selected the Hershey’s Kiss. Test using the word “free” in your call to action to generate more conversions.
  • Because. This word helps you answer the customer’s critical (if unvoiced) question of “What’s in it for me?” It makes your CTA compelling because you are giving the customer specific reasons your product is the solution to their pain point.
  • Instantly. Customers today demand instant gratification. For example, Kissmetrics found that 47 percent of consumers expect a website to load in two seconds or less. MRI studies have also shown that our brains get fired up when we envision instant rewards. So when you use the word “instant” in your call to action, you are generating excitement and delivering precisely what the customer demands.
  • New. Along with instant gratification, customers also get excited about brand-new offerings and innovation from their favorite brands. They love new solutions to old problems and new features added to their favorite products.

2. Strategically Place Your Call to Action

Along with using powerful words strategically, it’s important to also consider the placement of your CTA. Where is that sweet spot? Top of the page, bottom of the page or somewhere in between?” Previously marketers usually opted for the top of the page. They wanted to capture attention before the reader got lost in the content. But marketers today are finding that at the top of the page, the reader simply isn’t engaged enough yet. It’s like giving someone a marriage proposal prior to a first date.

For example, landing page builder Unbounce found that placing less content at the top of the page keeps readers scrolling down farther.

Check out this heat map. It shows how attention shifts when you put less at the top and more at the bottom (including that critical call to action). Readers move much more easily through your entire page of content.

3. Provide Urgency or a Special Offer

Popular conversion optimization blog ConversionXL set out to understand conversion rates between CTAs that provided a sense of urgency.

They tested two different CTAs. One communicates urgency and how many packages have been bought, where the other does not.

Blog author Marcus Taylor noted: “This is one of the most impactful A/B test I’ve ever run. The conversion rate of variation B was almost 3x that of variation A.”

Another powerful tool marketers can use to create a sense of urgency is color. For example, red and orange are both proven choices. The Content Marketing Institute uses orange text in their “Handpicked Related Content” to drive readers to more of its blog posts.

And finally, you can use powerful phrases that create a sense of urgency. For example, Expedia states there are “only two seats left,” which compels the shopper to act quickly. Airlines commonly advertise limited-time offers, which are only good for a set period of time.

A couple of examples of powerful phrases include:

  1. Only X days left.
  2. Available today only.
  3. Offer ends on X date.
  4. Act now while supplies last.

All of these phrases create a sense of urgency. Customers are afraid that there is a limited quantity available, and the scarcity mindset comes into play. They are driven to take action now. And the funny thing is, on some level readers know why these words are there – but they still respond.

4. Make Your Offer Feel Exclusive

Have you ever read an offer and felt like it was of higher quality, and only few could take advantage of it? If so, you’ve likely viewed a call to action that deployed the “exclusive” tactic. People want what they can’t have, so they are more likely to act quickly if they view an offer that is available for a limited time and where membership is exclusive.

For example, MarketingProfs offers a “Content Marketing Crash Course.” If they wanted to deploy this tactic and ramp up results, they could add a sense of exclusiveness to the offer: “We’re accepting only 10 students to this intensive course.”

Another tactic that could work under certain circumstances: Make your contest (or whatever) by application only. After receiving all applications, review and hand-select only a few. It’s like creating a red carpet and only a few are beckoned to walk it. Caveat: This would be risky for most organizations; you can alienate the people you don’t choose.

You can amp up the urgency by integrating a few key phases into your call to action, such as “Limited spots available” or “Seating is limited –preregistration required.” By doing so, you elevate the perceived value and the perceived attractiveness level of the product or service.

5. Show the Benefit in the Call to Action

As Kayla Matthews notes on Convince & Convert, 70 percent of people are shopping for something in order to solve a problem. If you can show that your product or service is the solution to their specific problem, you can generate much higher conversion rates.

For example, QuickSprout helps companies drive more traffic. So they already know that readers desire more traffic, higher conversion rates, and greater revenue.

The company puts a clear benefits statement that targets the reader’s pain points in the call to action box on the right. They offer a free course with signup that will “Double Your Traffic in 30 Days.” Plus, they offer a secret bonus, which creates mystery, and is valued at $300. You’ll also notice that they use one of those power words listed above when they say, “Fill out the form below to start your FREE Course.”

And finally, pay careful attention to their signup button. It doesn’t say, “Sign Up.” Again, it’s focused on value by saying, “Yes, Let’s Start the Free Course.”

Quick Guide — Dos and Don’ts

Creating stronger calls to action is important for marketers, opening the door to greater results and revenue. Yet many aren’t sure where to start. In addition to the above tips, here are a few quick dos and don’ts to guide you along the way.


  • A/B test your CTA. This is the only way that you’ll truly understand what works for your audience. And you may be surprised that a tiny change can make a serious impact. Change a power word to all caps. Change the button color. Change the text color.
  • Use multiple CTAs on a really long page to break up the content and engage readers along the way. A good example of this is The Content Market Institute, which includes a few different calls to action for each of its lengthy blog posts. For example, after reading a few paragraphs they place a “Handpicked Related Content” box which drives you to related content on their website. For most marketing, it’s wise to use only one call to action. But for blog posts, integrating several throughout the page can help readers stay at your site longer and drive deeper engagement. You can also run the same CTA in several places, so your readers don’t have to scroll back up (or down) to find the CTA. 
  • Integrate classic design principles. Use white space to make your CTAs stand out and capture attention.


  • Focus too heavily on your company. For example, the CTA should focus on the benefit to the reader, instead of on the features of your product.
  • Use the word “submit” on a call to action button. Instead, use benefit-focused phrases, such as “Claim your XXX to start driving more traffic today.” 
  • Create a call to action that is too strong in some way. For example, a pop-up box that won’t go away fast enough actually detracts from the user’s experience and negatively affects your conversion rate.

Moving Forward with Success

The call to action is too often a “set it and forget it” task. The unexamined approach can produce lackluster and unimpressive results. Review some of your most popular content marketing pieces. What would happen if you experimented with the calls to action? You already know the piece is popular — would changing the CTA generate more results, drive more leads and create more revenue? Implementing a few changes could generate surprising results. Don’t forget to test, and test, and test again.

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