Every website, every email newsletter, every app and every software has it – a Call To Action (CTA). A Call To Action is a request for visitors to perform a specific action. This might be to download a free trail, to click on a specific link, share your content, create a user account or pay for your service. A Call To Action is here to move visitors further down the sales funnel and help them reach their goal. Calls To Action play one of the most important part of every successful service and can cost your business millions of dollars when you leave them out or not use them correctly. At the same time, they can be a tremendous opportunity and the lever you want to push when you are not happy with your conversion rate or your sales funnel.
This article will show you what a Call To Action is, why it is important to use a Call To Action, when and where you should use it, the typical mistakes to avoid and what best practices you should use to improve your conversion rate and your sales funnel.
Let's get started.
What is a Call To Action and what does a Call To Action do?
A Call To Action is a request for visitors to perform a specific action. Every customer journey
comprises distinct phases and touch points. These phases are called awareness-, consideration-, conversion-, retention- and advocacy- phase. Typical Call To Action elements are buttons, because of their high visibility. However, a Call To Action can be anything that motivates users to move further down the funnel.
The goal of every Call To Action is to take the user by the hand and help them reach their goal. The better you understand what your customers want to achieve
, the better you can craft your Call To Action and the better your conversion rate will be.
What is the goal of a Call To Action?
The primary goal of every Call To Action is to keep people engaged and encourage them to do a certain action. A typical Call To Action requests the visitor to sign up for a newsletter, download a free trial or buy your service. Since different target audiences
have different goals, it is crucial to understand which target audience you are designing your offering for. For example, when you offer a high priced service for B2B customers (Business to Business) on your website, a Call To Action button that leads to your newsletter might be off. It is much more likely that those potential customers want to test a free trial or talk to your sales team.
Calls To Action are relevant in all parts or your business. Whether it is on your website, within your app, in your email marketing, via social media marketing, or even on flyers when you use offline marketing. It is about showing the user what's next and how they should proceed to reach their goal.
To make this more tangible, let's use an example.
Let's say you are providing a SaaS solution and you are offering a free demo on your website. Since your target audience is using social media
, you use social media marketing to gain traffic to your website. So, for example, the Call To Action button on your social media post could say “Check out our free demo”. Users who click on your post then visit your website and see the button “Test the free demo now”. This user-flow clearly shows the user what steps to take next. The clearer the goal, the better your conversion rate.
A website can be very beautifully designed but if there’s no clear path to follow, your visitors are going to bounce off resulting in low conversion and high bounce rate. So adding a strong CTA will clear that out.
Dev Prakash Sahoo
Flowset | Webflow Professional Partners
Why is a Call To Action important?
Let's face it. If you have a business, you need paying customers to be successful. Therefore, you need your potential customers to do certain things (buy your service, book a demo session, etc.). From a business perspective, a CTA grabs the attention of potential customers and helps you guide your users towards buying your service. From a customer perspective, people who are already interested in your service have a much easier time to reach their goal. Imagine you have a potential customer who has heard of your offering and is interested in buying. He visits your website just to see several links and buttons that lead him anywhere but his goal. This potential customer will leave your website and might never come back or go to your competitor. The reason for that is, that people nowadays are not willing to take much time to understand a website. If there is no straightforward way of moving forward, they just drop off. Even though this example might be exaggerated, in reality, having no clear way of helping potential customers to reach their goal is one of the prime mistakes businesses make. A Call To Action is important because it shows the users what to do next.
When we think about the important business metrics
, a Call To Action is often the main lever you can push. For example, if you are unhappy with your conversion rate, rethink your Call To Action. If you are unhappy with your Click Through Rate, rethink your Call To Action. The reason for that is that the CTA is the most prominent action. Therefore, improving the Call To Action with a more fitting wording or design can bring immediate results.
We use call-to-action strategically when we create content for our clients. An effective CTA can capture the audience right at that moment. Because once you lose them when they are most interested in your offers, it's much harder to convert them into leads later on.
Co-Founder of Promote and Scale
When and where should you use a Call To Action?
You can find Calls To Action everywhere where people are expected to do a certain action. For example, on websites, within apps, in email newsletters, flyers, on social media, Instagram reels, or in presentations. I have been working in the marketing & design industry for over than 7 years and I cannot think of any case where a meaningful Call To Action would not make sense. A Call To Action is here to help your users reach their goal. For example, by getting more information about your product, downloading your demo, talking to your sales team or buying your service.
When you have a business, you will have different target audience and potential customers will be in different “buying” stages. Using marketing slang, potential customers are separated into MQL (Marketing qualified leads) and SQL (Sales qualified leads).
All leads who have shown interest in your brand are marketing qualified leads. For example, they signed up for the newsletter, used your online chat, created an account on your website, or downloaded your lead magnet. It is important to understand that these leads are interested in what you are doing but have not yet decided to buy from you. Looking at the user journey
, marketing qualified leads turn into sales qualified leads, turning then into customers. The major difference between MQL and SQL is their commitment to buy from you. While MQLs might just have found out about your service but still want to shop around, SQLs already have decided.
Your Call To Action cannot satisfy all of your potential customers. While customer A might want to learn more about your business and wants to read your blog, customer B might already want to buy from you.
In this case, there are 2 interesting ways to handle this:
1. Using a separate page for a specific target audience or buying stage
Your website is a place where people can get more information about your service. However, trying to satisfy every target audience and support every buying stage can overwhelm users and they might get lost.
The solution to this is to use a separate landing page which only targets people who are already ready to buy. On this landing page, there is no link to the blog, no link to more resources, but just a full focus on selling the product. This way, people who are ready to buy will not get distracted by information that is unnecessary to them right now.
At the same time, people who want to read more about your service or want to read the blog can visit your main website, where they find all the information they need. Later on, they can visit the landing page and then buy the service.
The major benefit of having 2 separate sites for different target audiences or, in our example, for different buying stages is that potential customers can better focus. If they want to learn more about your service, they can read your blog with no distractions or pop-ups that push them to buying your service. Having a separate site means a clear goal, means people can focus, means potential customers can faster reach their goal.
2. Using a secondary Call To Action on your website
The second option to solve the problem of having multiple target audience or multiple buying stages is to use a primary and secondary Call To Action on your website.
By showing two different buttons, you can address both of your target audiences (or the different buying stages). The advantage is that you always lead potential customers to your website and that you do not have a separate landing page. The disadvantage is that people might get lost since they are overwhelmed by all the information.
When having a primary and a secondary Call To Action on a website, the question arises, what Call To Action should be primary and what CTA should be secondary. The simple answer is that depending on what has most impact to your business success has to be the main call to action. For example, if you want people to buy your service, your main Call To Action should be “Buy the product”. If you are selling B2B and you found out that potential customers are not immediately ready to buy (which is most often the case), a secondary button “Test the free demo” could be valuable. This way you include people who are not ready to buy yet.
To summarize this, depending on which target audience and which buying stage has the most business impact, should be reflected in the primary Call To Action button.
Which Call To Action works best and what are the best practices?
Before we have a look at the best practices, the most important thing you need to be aware of is to always understand your target audience. If you do not know who your target group is and if you do not understand what their goals are and how success looks like to them, no pro tip regarding Call To Action design can help you. So, in order to create an effective Call To Action, it is mandatory to understand what your customers want to achieve. Always ask yourself
• What keeps my customers up at night?
• What motivates my customers to solve their problem?
• What's the desired future state for my customers?
Remember, you can only start creating your CTA once you have a clear idea of your customers and their end goal. In the next chapter, we are going to talk about the best practices of an efficient Call To Action. Even though a Call To Action could be anything that leads users towards their goal or further down the sales funnel
, we are going to focus on buttons, for the sake of simplicity.
What are the pro tips and best practices regarding Call To Action design – 13 pro tips
Use compelling, action words / trigger words
As the name shows, action words are simply here to motivate users to do a specific action. There are many statistics that prove that certain words can immediately increase the conversion rate of a button. That's why these words are often called “trigger words” or “keywords”. Examples of those trigger words are “Learn, Start, Get, Contact, Read, Request, Demo, Free”. Keep in mind that the wording of your Call To Action can be focused specifically on the action you want your users to take. Of course, it is not about stuffing those words or arbitrarily using them even though they would not fit, but I recommend to try using those to start off.
Use instant gratification words and time oriented wording
Instant gratification words show the users that they will immediately benefit from taking the action. Examples are “Now”, “Today”, “Instantly” or “In seconds”. The goal of these words is to show users they do not have to wait long to benefit from your solution, but profit from it right away. At the same time, time oriented words create a sense of urgency. “Only 2 left in stock”, “Stay ahead of your competition”, “Do not miss out on this opportunity” all address the fear of missing out and can work well as a conversion boost.
Avoid generic words
Beside generic words like “Click here”, “Submit” or “Download”, “Learn more” is one of the most used phrases for buttons. The problem is that those generic words neither show the user what will happen next, nor they show the benefit they will get when they click the button. So, instead of using generic words that do not help your users, always show the benefit and what is going to happen next, once a user clicks on it.
Show the value
Customers do not click buttons just out of fun. In fact, they always want to gain some kind of benefit. Therefore, always keep in mind the importance of showing customers the value they will get. Ask yourself: "What's in it for them?” “How does your solution solve the customers' problem and improve their lives?”, “Why should customers take the action?" If you already know what goal your customers want to achieve, this should be much easier.
Here I want to stress the important difference between features and benefits. Customers buy benefits, not features. A good example for this is: “More legroom in an airplane”, which is a feature vs. “A more relaxed travel experience”, which shows the benefit. So, always show the value your customers get when they click the button (and eventually buy your service).
Describe what is going to happen
One of the worst user experiences is when users do not know what is going to happen when they take the action. This applies not only to crucial experiences, for example, when users would have to enter their credit card information, but also to seemingly small actions, for example, when they want to click a button to create an account.
One fitting example is when you want to buy something in an online store and have a discount code which you want to apply before buying the product. However, if it is not clear to users when they can do this, they might get lost and abandon their shopping tour altogether. A simple hint below the Call To Action like “You can apply your discount code in the next step” solves this problem and creates a smooth user experience. So always keep in mind to show the user the next steps right away.
Address your users' fears and objections
When you want your users to take a certain action, it is always a fight between what they want to achieve and their fears, objections, and second thoughts. On the one hand, there is a force pulling them to take the action to get the benefits you are promising. On the other hand, the fear of unknown and their objections are holding them back. So, besides telling users what is going to happen next, it is important to address your users’ fears and objections right away. Those fears could range from anything like “Do I need a business address to test this demo?” or “Do I get an invoice when I buy this service?” to “What is going to happen to my data?”.
Again, one of the best ways to solve this problem is to use a helper text right beneath the Call To Action that answers the users' question and takes the fear away. So, for example, if you have a Call To Action button beneath a form field where users enter their credit card information, state that the data is save and encrypted. Bonus text and details like “no credit card needed”, testimonials, quotes or results from case studies all can give people the push they need to continue.
Use your Call To Action multiple times
Having a Call To Action is great, but especially on a website where people can scroll or in apps where screen estate is valuable, you do not want your users to go all the way back to the top if they have decided to buy from you. You want them to buy anywhere they feel like it. The questions that arise are, what is the perfect amount of Calls To Action on a website and how often should you repeat a Call To Action? There is a lot of debate about this topic and there has been some research that showed that the average SaaS website uses 6 Call To Action buttons on their website. This, of course, is no strict rule and might not have to apply to your website as well. A great rule of thumb is to use a Call To Action anywhere where a user might get a “mindset shift”. For example, when a user is interested in your service but does not trust you yet, he continues scrolling. As soon as he sees the testimonial section with trust signs, a mindset shift could happen. A grand chance to use a Call To Action. Another example is if the user still has some questions about your service and scrolls to the FAQ section. After his questions have been answered, a CTA again could be valuable.
Focus on one main Call To Action
We already talked about having a primary and a secondary Call To Action within one website. Keep in mind that you cannot satisfy all of your potential customers and if you try to, you are going to lose all of them. Therefore, I recommend focusing on the primary target audience respective on the buying stage, which has the most business impact. You can still address your secondary target audience or a different buying stage with a secondary Call To Action, but make sure to focus on the action that brings you success.
Use prominent colors
If people do not see your Call To Action, they will not click it. Therefore, one of the most important levers to improve the conversion rate is color. I am sure you have already noticed that there are certain colors that are used more regularly than others (Yes, I am looking at you - ocean blue). The reason for this is that studies have shown that specific colors perform better - than others. We will talk about testing your Call To Action in a later section, but in general, using saturated colors work better than less saturated colors. Of course, your colors should fit your corporate identity, but make sure that they are well saturated, can be easily separated from the background and motivate users to take action. A great way to find out if your buttons have enough contrast is the squint-test. The idea is to take a step back, squint at the website and find out if you can still notice the button. Ultimately, only testing different colors will help you figure out which colors work well with your audience.
Design for color blindness
This pro tip is probably one of the most neglected one, even though it still can have a massive impact on your conversion rate. When designing a Call To Action, using a prominent color is one of the most important aspects of it. On many websites, you can find orange, yellow or bright red buttons that should lead users to take the action.
However, a recent study has shown that 8% of men and 2% of woman are color blind, so they do not see your button as you would expect them to. Worst case, they do not find your button and leave the page, or try the website of your competitor.
One viable solution to this problem is to use a color-blindness tool to see if the contrast is high enough and people who have a certain color blindness can still see the button. There are many types of color blindness besides red-green color blindness, so using this kind of accessibility tool can show you what color works and which one does not work.
There is a specific list of colors that perform well, since they are not affected in their presentation when you have a color blindness. Even though these colors can work well, keep one thing in mind: Never show important information just with color. Often it is not possible to cover all kinds of color blindness, so make sure that people who do not see the action can still understand it - for example, via a helper text.
Put your Call To Action in prominent spots
A Call To Action is here to show people what to do next and to help them reach their goal. If people cannot find the Call To Action at first sight, your conversion rate will drop. Therefore, putting them in the most prominent spots is only logical. On a website, this is the “above-the-fold” section, the area that is visible without the need of scrolling.
Another example of great Call To Action placement is within the header area of a website. When users scroll down, the Call To Action could be sticky and stays always within the area of view. This way, users can take action when they feel ready for it. On mobile devices, things can get more tricky because of the limited screen estate. Therefore, you have to be even more sensitive about where to put your Call To Action to make sure that people – even with smaller devices – can still reach their goal. Similar to website-design, a sticky Call To Action button can help you here as well.
Use whitespace to your advantage & remove distractions
Whitespace in design describes the space between design elements. The biggest advantage of whitespace is that it helps users focus on what is important. Whitespace goes hand in hand with removing distractions and therefore can help you steer your users' focus to the Call To Action. In design, it is about making people successful. Ergo, adding “random” design elements (floral patterns etc.) to make things look more appealing is counterproductive. Rather, use whitespace to your advantage and remove any unnecessary elements to make your Call To Action stick out. This will help you draw users’ attention to the CTA and make them more likely to click.
Use additional elements to steer the focus toward the Call To Action
Besides whitespace and prominent colors, there are additional tricks to further steer the focus of customers to the Call To Action. One is to use graphical elements like arrows or signs that hint at the specific button. In addition, what also works well is to use imagery of people who look or point toward your Call To Action. People follow the direction of other people’s eyes. Therefore, always try to match your imagery where you want people to look at on your page.
Which Call To Action works best & how do you measure the effectiveness of a Call To Action?
We talked about the different pro tips & best practices on how to design an effective Call To Action. The goal of every Call To Action is to request the visitor to perform a certain action. When you have just started with your business and, for example, just released your website, it is perfectly fine to start with the best practices. However, since every company is different and every target audience responds differently, using best practices only will get you this far. If you want to push your conversion rate, it is mandatory to test and experiment with the wording, design, amount or placement of your Call To Action. Only with testing you can truly find out what works and what changes to your Call To Action had the biggest impact on the conversion rate.
The two most common testing models are A/B testing and Multivariate testing. Both have their advantages and disadvantages which we will discuss now, so you can find the best testing mode for your use case.
A/B testing – also known as split testing - means to test two or more versions of a variable to see which one performs better. These variables are often the button color, the button wording, or the button placement. But you can not only A/B test buttons. You can also test the headline on your website, the general layout, images, forms, navigation, or graphical elements. We already talked about the importance of using best practices to design effective Calls To Action. However, only experimenting and measuring the results will take away the guesswork and will show you which version performs best. In A/B testing, version A refers to the original state, while version B refers to the new version of the testing variable. Ideas for testing are often a result of analyzing heat-maps, website analytics, session recordings, user tests or direct user feedback. Based on these, hypothesis are built and then tested.
To find out which version performs better, both variations are shown to website visitors for a specific period. After this period, you can make a data driven decision which version to keep and which version to back off. The goal is to regularly improve your business metrics with minor changes, instead of redesigning the entire website at once.
All websites can benefit from A/B testing, because all sites have at least one measurable goal. Most A/B tests try to improve the conversion rate for the primary Call To Action, because the conversion rate is one of the most important business metrics that directly affect your success. However, with A/B testing, you can try to improve any business metric that you wish. This could be the bounce rate on your website, the click through rate or open rate within your email newsletter or the dwell time on your website.
However, this leads to one of the biggest challenges in A/B testing - the amount of people your A/B test is exposed to. For example, if you just released your website and have very few visitors, your test results might be off because too little people tested it. If you have 10 people in your email newsletter, and you want to test the effectiveness of two different subject lines, there is little sense in sending one email to the first 5 people, and the second email to the second 5 people. The user group is just too little. With only a small user group, it makes more sense to do user research and talk to people to improve your website, instead of A/B testing.
When you have enough traffic, A/B testing is one of the most powerful methods to improve your business metrics and to make thought out, data-driven decisions.
Multivariate testing (MVT)
Multivariate testings is a form of testing where - unlike to A/B testing - multiple elements of a website are changed at the same time to find out which combination has the biggest impact on the metric you wish to improve. So, for example, when you want to test the font and the button color to improve the conversion rate, you would have to create 4 pages to test all the variations (Font1 + Color1, Font1 + Color2, Font2 + Color1, Font2 + Color2). The far biggest advantage of multivariate testing is that it helps you identify the elements of your page where you can achieve the greatest effect with a redesign.
Here is the downside: For A/B testing, you already need a lot of traffic to get significant results, but for multivariate testing, you would need even more, since the traffic is always split between the different variations. You should go for multivariate testing when you want to test over one element at the same time and when you have a lot of traffic on your website.
A Call To Action (CTA) is a request for visitors to perform a specific action, for example downloading a free trail, creating a user account or buying your service. Therefore, a strong Call To Action is crucial for your business success. The goal of every Call To Action is to move visitors further down the sales funnel and help them reach their goal. Need help in improving your CTA?
In the beginning, you cannot know which Call To Action performs best. Even though there are best practices, you can only know what truly works if you test it. However, before designing a Call To Action, the most important thing is to fully understand your target audience. If you do not know who your target group is and if you do not understand what their goals are and how success looks like to them, no pro tip regarding Call To Action design can help you. So, in order to create an effective Call To Action, it is mandatory to understand what your customers want to achieve.
The best practices when designing effective Calls To Action is to use compelling action words, to use instant gratification words like “in seconds” or “now”, to avoid generic words, to show the value & benefit what the customer will get and to address your users fears and objections right away. In addition, use your Call To Action multiple times on your website, focus on the primary action (the one which has business impact), use prominent colors and keep in mind to design for color blindness.
After you have implemented the best practices, start testing different variations to constantly improve your conversion rate. If you have enough traffic on your website and want to test one element at a time – for example, the color or the wording of your action button - go for A/B tests. If you want to test multiple elements simultaneously, go for multivariate testing. If you do not have enough traffic on your website however, rather try to find improvements with user interviews.
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