CTA’s: A Beginner’s Guide on How to Sell More With the Right Call To Action

Your call to action (CTA) elements are among the most powerful tools in your marketing arsenal. CTAs play a massive part in achieving your marketing goals, whether they be to increase conversions, subscriptions to your newsletter, or get more traffic to your site.

For today’s marketer, creating irresistible call-to-actions is part art, part science, and all skill. Let’s explore how.

Alex Macura

Quick Takeaways

  • Know your customer
  • Identify the stages in your sales cycle
  • Map stages to pages on your website
  • Outline your own business goals
  • Use action words, keep your CTAs short, and test various styles
  • Make it personal
  • Use buttons
  • Back up your CTA’s offer with delivery.
  • Test, analyze, test, analyze, ad infinitum.

How you – and any brand – can increase sales and marketing KPIs with the right CTA

Your marketing team has key performance indicators (KPIs) that it needs to measure, meet, and report back on.

These data points are what you use to understand how marketing campaigns perform, and therefore how they can improve.

Your overarching marketing goals might be X million in sales, but your marketing KPIs to achieve this could be client retention percentage, the number of leads generated per campaign, organic traffic, landing page conversion rates, visitor-to-lead percentage, cost per lead, cost per acquisition, engagement rate, and so on.

What we will show you is how the right CTA will help you increase your current KPIs.

But first, what exactly is a call to action?

Calls to action are words or phrases that encourage prospects to take a desired action.

“A CTA is like you waving to your prospect as they enter the room, and then pointing to the next door that you want them to go through.”

In the online sphere, that “door” is a clickable or interactive element.

What’s the value of a call to action?

When done properly (and not just for the sake of click metrics), your CTA acts as a guide to help users navigate their way through your marketing funnel.

It gives them crystal clear directions on what they need to do next. It brings them one step closer to securing your services or buying your products. CTAs are essentially what converts mildly-interested visitors into loyal, profitable conversions.

So, without further ado, here is how to create a call to action that helps you seal the deal.

1. Zero-in on your target customers

This is super important, and for this reason it is the first step.

As with all things digital marketing, if you don’t know how your target audience is, you are just making noise.

You know to answer a few important questions about your ideal audience if you hope to guide them with your CTA.

Here are a few important questions you must answer

  • Why do your existing customers buy your services and products?
  • What emotional drivers made them choose you? What is the issue you can solve?
  • What made them decide on you and not your competitors? Is it price, quality, or service?
  • What is the best way to show that you can solve the problem? Is it an e-book, a webinar, case studies, a freebie, or something else?
  • What if you could simply ask them, in a fun and engaging way, to act instead of entice them with an offer?

Once you know how your customers think, their emotions, and what makes them choose you, you are able to effectively tailor your CTAs to their needs.

2. Match your sales cycle stages with your offers and web pages

Now that you know who you are targeting, their points of pain, their emotional drivers, and why they need your services and products, you can do an audit of all the marketing offers you have at your disposal.

Mapping marketing offers to sales

Just to have a record of all your offers and their URLs in one place, create a spreadsheet with all of your offers in column A and their landing pages in column B.

Then, add the stages each of these corresponds to in column C.

The sales cycle

There are three universally understood stages of the sales cycle: awareness, consideration, and purchase .

  • Awareness: Your target audience is aware that you exist, and that you could potentially meet their needs.
  • Consideration: Prospective clients are now narrowing down who they might choose to solve their problem – you, or your competitors.
  • Purchase: When your prospect becomes your customer.

It is pretty clear from this that you cannot have the same message, offer, and CTA for each stage of the sales cycle if you want to have a good customer experience and garner more sales. Your sales strategy needs to be more sophisticated than that.

For example, an SEO-optimized blog will catch more unaware and awareness cycle visitors who want to find help themselves. Gated e-books and paid search campaigns will also bring more top of funnel (TOFU) website visitors to grow brand awareness.

Consideration phase audiences will benefit from case studies, feature-rich posts, and possibly an offer for a discovery call.

The purchase stage of the sales cycle can have promotional offers, free trials, and follow-up calls to seal the deal and lock in new customers.

3. Define your own goals

Map out what your goals are for each piece of marketing collateral. Some examples:

  • Do you want your consideration customer to view your services page? Then, your call to action will be a blog page centered on “Grow your business with these services.”
  • Do you want awareness visitors to subscribe to your mailer? Then, your primary CTA button will draw attention to the benefits of your site newsletter.
  • Do you want to turn visitors into customers? Then your call to action will be an invitation to fill out a contact form, or email directly for a discovery call.

4. Use strong action words

Now that you know who you’re targeting, what stage of the cycle they are, and what the corresponding offer and action is, you can start writing.

CTAs should be incisive: tell the visitor what they must do. Experiment with length, but typically a concise CTA on a clickable button is more compelling.

strong action words

Here are some examples of the most common call to action verbs used to encourage visitors to take action, broken down by intention.

Simply pair them with the offering of your business.

call to action verbs

You will do well to keep the LIFT Model in mind when writing your calls to action.

LIFT model

Image courtesy of conversion.com

So, for example, if the call to action button is Subscribe to our mailer today, the LIFT model can be applied as follows:

  • Relevance = Subscribe
  • Clarity = Our mailer
  • Urgency = Today
  • Value proposition = Subscribe to our mailer
  • Reduce distractions = Craft the CTA to be clean, clear, and straightforward by removing unnecessary links and navigation, images, etc)
  • Ease anxiety = You can add some of your existing clients’ logos, reviews, and testimonials as trust queues

5. Experiment with various CTA writing styles

First off, keep the CTA copy simple.

It must be easy to understand, but you can still play around with emotions, questions, urgency, humor, and personalization on your CTA buttons.

Here are some call to action examples

  • Emotion: “For just $5, you could sponsor food for a child.”
  • Questions: “How can this be free? Learn more!”
  • Urgency / FOMO: “Today only!” “Limited-time offer.”
  • Humor: Comical figures, self-deprecating humor, etc.
  • Solutions: “Stop worrying about retirement. Get confidence today.”
  • Personalization in copy (first person), or in a drip email campaign: “Send me the guide”, “Tell me more”, or “Ready to try it out, Chad? Claim your free session.”

6. Make it stand out

Now that we’ve made the message and instruction clear, it needs to be abundantly clear how they can access it (click!).

For this reason, most business CTA’s are a button design.

A successful CTA button will have a bold, easy-to-read typeface and a color that draws the eye. Buttons that highlight upon hovering (for web design) or flash / change color during scrolling (mobile design) will draw readers’ attention.

Most CTAs tend towards the red spectrum, likely to attract people’s attention and build excitement. Red can also instill a sense of urgency.

CTA color distribution

Most marketers know the color / emotion chart pretty well, but I’ve added it here for your convenience, and to help you match the color with the corresponding emotion you’d like to evoke.

Color emotion guide

Consider using a contrasting color for the button to your normal brand CI.

While this might go against every fiber of your hard-coded brand championing, it does its job at making the button stand out from the other colors and collateral on your landing page.

Contrasting colors

7. Create urgency

It is a well-known tactic in marketing, because it works.

If something is scarce, urgent, or there’s a fear of missing out (FOMO), it often feels more desirable.

You can use language like “limited” or “last chance,” show the number left in stock, add a countdown, or list a date when the offer will expire.


8. Sweeten the deal

Adding an extra incentive to your CTA button, such as a 10% discount, a free resource download, or an offer for free delivery can persuade on-the-fence readers to click. It doesn’t have to be anything dramatic, but it can give unsure customers the right push.

9. Experiment with reverse psychology

This type of CTA is becoming more popular, probably because it works pretty well.

Reverse psychology

Instead of just an X to close the pop-up, or only a button with the desired, positive response, many marketers show what could happen if the visitor opts to forego the offer.

Instead of just clicking “no,” the user is faced with the opportunity they are passing up. Essentially, it is step six in the Storybrand framework, where you reveal the potential for failure that could happen if you choose to continue on your own, without the brand as your guide to success.

Some reverse psychology pop-ups use humor in their clickables, which can give prospects a positive connection, even if they decline.

It is effective in many cases, but I encourage you to test efficacy in your campaigns – it’s possibly been over-used.

10. Personalize your CTAs

When you make your CTAs all about the person, it can boost your conversion rate by more than 200%.

Does this mean you put their name everywhere? Not necessarily.

But, if you have the data, then use it to your advantage – their location, their buying habits, their purchasing recency and frequency, or any other pertinent information.

An easier way to do this is to write the CTAs in the first person. Instead of “You can win today”, try something like, “I want to save today!”, “I want to work with you”, or “I’m curious! Tell me more.”

Personalize your CTAs

11. Test, improve, again and again

Crafting a winning call to action to gain new business is just that: crafting.

Just like whittling wood, knitting, or any carefully created thing, it takes time, attention, feedback, and iterative adjustments.

Creating CTAs that sell more and grow your business are an ongoing process that involves continuous tests, adjustments, improvements, and analyses.

Your data, conversion rates, CPA, and ROI will tell you if your target audience resonates with your offer at their stage of the sales cycle.

As with most things in digital marketing, we use A/B testing to do this. Don’t change several things; just change the CTA on two mirrored pages, and split the audience in half.

The CTA button with the most desired responses wins.

Experiment with one thing at a time over time: button color, placement, copy, emotive image, etc.

Some examples of great CTAs

example of great CTAs
example of great CTAs
example of great CTAs

Final thoughts

Well done! You’ve worked through the why and the how of adding a call to action that will help you sell more.

From short, action-oriented copy, to color choice and audience selection, your CTA is the gatekeeper of your marketing success.

Remember: not all your CTAs will result in a conversion, nor are they meant to.

So first, set expectations of what success looks like, even if sales and leads are typically all that business stakeholders are concerned about.

Your CTA has one job: move your prospective customer through the sales cycle.

What does that look like?

Success in the awareness stage is a website click, a download, a subscribe, a follow.

The win metric in the consideration stage is a read email, a case study read, a webinar attendee.

And finally, success in the purchase stage is a bought product, a signed contract, a paid subscription.

Happy creating!

Don’t miss out on prospective customers. Get help with your CTAs today! Click here. #JK #IMadeYouClick

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (1 votes, average: 5.00 out of 5)

Sign up for Latest Marketing Tips

If you have any questions, connect with me on my LinkedIn or Twitter