Email marketing can be one of the most effective ways to nurture your potential clients and retain your existing ones. Persistent, yet friendly, nudges from your company in the form of high-quality, helpful content can create brand awareness, build trust, and encourage a sense of obligation or gratitude (a principle known as reciprocity).

Knowing all these great potential outcomes, you’ll likely take hours crafting the perfect pitch and creating a masterpiece of a marketing email. But before you hit send, make sure you’ve spent some time concentrating on what is arguably the most important part of your message.

We’re talking about the call to action or CTA.

Ultimately, the goal of these communications should be to elicit a response. That response is usually the beginning of your sales cycle. And whether your sales cycle begins with a phone consultation, a click to your product or services page, or filling out a form for more information, you’ll want to guide your reader to the next step in their purchasing journey.

A good or bad CTA can have a huge impact on whether your prospects and customers will want to keep interacting with you. So before you hit send, consider these potential conversion killers and make sure your next email CTA is helping (not hurting) your marketing efforts.

1. You’re not using them at all.

Think about it, if the only clickable portion of your email is the legally mandated ‘unsubscribe’ link, there’s very little chance your emails are going to result in increased website visits, signups and ultimately, sales. People are generally action oriented, so give them an opportunity to positively interact with you.

2. You’re making them too generic.

Shop Now. Submit. Sign Up. Remember that most people won’t actually read every word you so painstakingly include in your message. So it’s important to be specific in your email about where your CTA is taking them.

Here are some great examples of highly specific CTAs:

  • Get my free proposal
  • Request a demo
  • Sign up for a free month
  • Get my moving quote
  • Schedule a maintenance check
  • Schedule my next appointment

3. Your CTAs are dull (in both words and colors).

A call to action should be enticing both visually and emotionally. Most email CTAs are found in the form of colorful buttons and contain language suggesting a sense of urgency. In fact, email CTA buttons (rather than just text/link) increase conversions by 28 percent.

Here are a few great CTA copy examples we’ve found in our inboxes.

  • Memorial Day Blowout: 50% off!
  • Reserve now (Limited Seating Available)
  • Today Only: #treatyoself to 15% off.

4. You’re burying the lead.

Always remember users have short attention spans and are probably quickly scanning through their emails deciding what to discard and what to actually read. Keep your CTA toward the top of your email or ‘above the fold’ to increase the likelihood your reader will see it and hopefully click it.

5. You’re being too pushy.

No one likes a pushy salesman. Unless you’re testing some outrageous verbiage to a largely jaded audience (like a group of digital marketers), CTAs that are outlandish, assumptive, or even downright rude can be a huge turnoff to your audience. While negative phrasing can be effective, use it with great caution.

Examples of bad email CTAs:

  • Show me how to stop screwing up my email conversions.
  • Don’t be the fluffy guy at your next reunion. Start working out now.
  • No, I’m not an idiot. Give me the free trial.

The best rule of thumb is to keep things positive and speak to your audience the way you would like to be spoken to.

6. There are too many of them.

This one goes hand-in-hand with being too pushy. Emails should be short and to the point. So having more than one CTA can not only come off as desperate or pushy, it may make it hard for your reader to focus. Keep each email clear and focused with one CTA to make your content much easier to digest and allow the reader to easily find it later.

7. Your CTA is too small and gets lost in the crowd.

A CTA that is easily missed might as well not be in your email at all. Make your CTA stand out by adding white space around it and using a bold color.

8. Your CTA is TOO BIG.

Interestingly, worse than a CTA that is too small can be one that is too big. Users often find threateningly large lettering unappealing either consciously or subconsciously. It can also come off as pushy or desperate too.

9. You’re not making it personal.

Studies have shown that personalized email messages improve click-through rates by an average of 14% and conversions by 10%. Take this concept even a step further by framing the CTA in first person. Instead of “Get your free quote,” try “Get my free quote.” This slight change forces the reader to visualize themselves performing the prescribed action.

10. You’re using the wrong colors.

There have been many email marketers who have tried to crack the code of which color is most appealing to users. By and large, however, most have come to the following conclusion: It all depends. Each audience’s likes and dislikes are different and in context with your branding, industry, and a slew of other factors. The only way you’ll know which colors resonate best with your audience is to test them.

As a general rule, make sure your colors are dark or saturated enough to make your CTA stand out and that there is enough contrast in the text to make it legible. Beyond that, good design rules should come into play. Exploring color schemes like complementary, analogous and monochromatic combinations are an excellent way to ensure your emails are aesthetically pleasing.

11. You’re not A/B testing.

This is huge. What works well for one audience doesn’t always work well for another, so take any recommendation with a grain of salt — even those that are backed up by studies and data. The only sure way to determine if your CTAs are effective for your audience is to test them.

A couple things to remember when testing your CTAs:

  1. Don’t test more than one thing at a time. Whether it’s color, font size or copy, you want to get specific data on what is working and what isn’t.
  2. Understand that a slight preference may not be statistically significant. Let’s say you send out 500 emails, 50% with a blue CTA button and a green CTA button for the other 50%. You notice you get a 28% click-through rate with the the blue CTA button (70 users) and a 32% clickthrough rate with the green CTA button (80 users). While click-throughs from 10 extra users may seem like a great improvement, it’s still only 2% of the of the entire sample. This small percentage could fall in the margin of error and not actually show a true preference from your audience. If you were to conduct the test again and found the same result, you might have a good case to support the preference for the green button.

Make emails work for you.

Avoiding these common mistakes when crafting your CTAs can boost your email marketing efforts and help you have better interactions with your existing and prospective customers. Take some of the friction away from these important interactions with Thryv’s Text and Email functionality to help you manage large-scale campaigns and make it easier to have meaningful conversations with your users.

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