Every email has a goal and 99 out of a hundred times that involves the subscriber taking an action. So the call to action is one of the most important parts of any email. But what if you can’t find them? While it could have been a Call to Action hero, you can imagine that an email that doesn’t include a CTA that spells out exactly what is it the subscriber should be doing, is doomed to fail. Fail. Fail.
Begin with the action in mind
Before you start writing and designing your email, know what you are working up to. The email should be in function of the Action, not the other way around. Or as a famous email marketing quote says: The email is the invite, but the party is on the landing page.
Examples of Actions that you want them to take can be:
- Buy a product,
- Register for an event,
- Renew your subscription,
- Request a quote,
- Do a demo, take a trial,
- Requesting a call back, they are all working up to a sales.
Sometimes it is very specific actions to your industry or product, like request a test drive for automotive.
It isn’t all about the sale (just yet)
But not all actions are the same as goals or even outcomes. Your (end) goal might be to increase sales or increase customer loyalty. But there can be a couple of steps before that happens, like the action to view a video or read an article. Especially in B2B there are long sales cycles and complex products, that require some extra steps. Examples of these are:
- Read an article or a blog post,
- Watch a video,
- Take part in a prize draw,
- Update their preferences,
- Download a whitepaper.
See the example by Secret escapes, they use an extra step “visit sale” instead of “Buy now”. The outcome is actually exactly the same, it takes you to the product page. But “visit sale” is a smaller ask. There is also a second CTA, “Set reminder” this sets an email alert that is sent just before the offer ends.
These intermediate CTAs are definitely allowed and can boost the end results quite a bit. So think about what the steps leading up to a sale are. Or are you having an email disconnection - asking too much, too soon? What you can’t do, however is to hide in the valley and not include a clear CTA.
The cosy valley of low conversion
Sometimes you might be tempted to not include a (clear) call to action. Don’t give in. Or your colleagues might not see why the CTA and whole email isn’t strong. Don’t give in.
You can definitely rationalise any type of email and any misuse or leaving out a CTA in your email. The key word is “rationalise”, because we all feel it when we see it; it could be clearer, cleaner and more obvious. Every email should be caveman-proof, totally clear without any additional explanation.
I have heard many, many, many different excuses over the years. Including beauties like;
- this email is purely informative,
- we feel it wouldn’t be appropriate,
- they will surely understand,
- the CEO wants it this way,
- it is meant to drive offline sales,
- it is perfectly clear to me,
- we already had an approval on this version and continuing…
They will share it by themselves, we don’t want to come over as pushy, it is lead nurturing, we want it to be extra classy, the product isn’t available yet, the offer isn’t that good, we don’t want everybody to buy, etc, etc. No kidding, people say these type of things and mean it. On top of those excuses, a new instant classic of for not adding a clear(er) CTA: it was meant to be content marketing.
An example I ran into recently was with a pre-announcement / teaser mail. Even if the product isn’t finished yet, you can still ask for an action; let them pre-register, add comments, share or save-the-date.
Reasoning like this is like staying in the cosy (and costly) valley of low conversion. Not that every email should be a hard sell, but it does need a perspective for action. So don’t stay in the valley, go find yourself some action!
If you can really find no action, you are probably best off not sending that email. So before anything else, always start with an action and outcome in mind.