Why Every Email Needs a Powerful Call to Action (CTA)

Are your customers receiving your emails? Great! Are they taking action after they read them? Only if you have a powerful call to action in every message you send. The thing is, even if your customers want to take the next step, they often don’t know what that next step is unless you tell them.

An email call action ensures your customers know exactly what to do in order to keep interacting with your brand. Including CTAs in your emails can be the difference between a recipient converting into a paying customer or eventually choosing to hit “unsubscribe.”

In this article, we’ll cover how you can increase the ROI on your email calls to action and give you five examples to inspire you.

Quick Takeaways

  • Emails with a single, prominent call to action earn 300+ times more clicks than those with either multiple or no CTAs.
  • Compelling action words that play into specific customer motivations make email CTAs more effective.
  • Companies can use the scarcity principle to create urgency around their email calls to action, prompting users to act sooner.

What is an email call to action and why do you need them?

An email call to action (CTA) is a prompt that asks recipients to take a specific action. That action is usually the next step in their buyer journey. Common examples include:

  • Signing up for a free trial
  • Subscribing to a newsletter
  • Scheduling a consultation
  • Making a purchase

Calls to action make it clear to your email recipients what the next logical action step is to engage further with your brand. It’s an important way that companies guide prospective buyers through the sales process and ensure they keep moving to the next phase.

Email CTAs ensure that your email marketing efforts are yielding larger results for your overall marketing and sales strategies. Without them, you risk prospects getting stuck in the funnel and not moving forward as consistently or quickly as they could otherwise.

Research has found that emails with a single, effective CTA earn 371% more clicks than those with multiple CTAs or no CTA at all. That means if you’re failing to include them or failing to do them right, you’re leaving revenue on the table.

In the next section, we’ll walk through 5 tips you can use to be sure your email calls to action never fail.

How to write email CTAs that deliver

Use compelling action words

Action words are just what they sound like: words that describe an action. This might sound like an obvious tip — after all, could you really write an email call to action without an action word? But believe it or not, not all action words are created equally. Some are just more exciting than others, and others are used so often that including them in your emails is almost like not including one at all (we’re looking at you, “click here” people!).

Your action words should be compelling, and they should be directly related to what you want your recipients to do next. Below are some great email call to action examples for a few different CTA categories, including making a purchase, signing up for something, visiting a store, and downloading content.

Email call to action examples.

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What you don’t see: a boring old “click here” CTA.

What you do see: Motivating, welcoming CTAs that demonstrate potential value (ex: Discover the benefits of joining) and/or invite recipients to be part of something (ex: Try it yourself).

Create customized CTAs

The good news about email marketing in 2022 is that it comes with tons of automation tools that make personalization and customization super easy — and CTAs are no exception. When you include the same CTA for every customer across all stages of the buyer journey, you’re selling yourself short.


Because email customization is simple, and by taking on a little extra list segmentation, you can craft CTAs that are closely aligned with the specific next step that makes the most sense for the specific customers on that list.

For example: imagine a prospect who perfectly fits your ICP and buyer personas who is just at the awareness stage of their journey. They see your content, they sign up for your emails, and you start sending them an email with a call to action to “Buy today!”

What will that early-stage prospect do with your CTA? If you said ignore it, you’re probably right. Now imagine you sent a customized welcome email with a CTA to “Learn more about ways to solve XYZ problem,” with a link to download a helpful ebook or webinar that demonstrates your company’s expertise.

Bingo. Now you’ve got a CTA aligned with your customer’s needs, and they’re much more likely to click it.

Make them prominent

Many marketers have a bad habit of putting their email call to action below the fold (so to speak) so that recipients have to read most or all of the email message before they see it. While the logic behind it makes sense (you want people to read your whole message) the reality says otherwise.

Research from Nielson recently found that people only read about 19% of email newsletters they receive (AKA, they’re only scanning them) and the average time spent reading them was 51 seconds total.

What that tells us is that if we want our CTAs to get notice, we’ve got to make them prominent. The image below is from that same Nielson research; it’s an eye tracking heat map that shows where users looked the most when they opened email newsletters.

Eye tracking heatmap from Nielson research shows where people look when they read email newsletters.

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As you can see, most people are looking at headlines and images. What does this tell us about our email calls to action? First, they need to be above the fold. Second, they are probably most effective when they come in image form (usually a CTA button).

Create urgency

People are much more likely to act if they feel a sense of urgency behind your email call to action. This approach follows the scarcity principle, by which you make something more valuable by making it rare or difficult to attain. 

Nearly half of consumers (45%) even admit that scarcity affects their likelihood of making a purchase.

Most consumers want to buy products when they are hard to find.

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You can apply the scarcity principle to an email call to action in a few ways:

  • Limited supply/availability – Emphasize the limited availability of your offer, whether it’s due to low supply or an intentionally limited supply.
  • Limited timeframe – Emphasize that an offer is only available for a specific amount of time, and not again after that.
  • Social proof – Demonstrate high demand by including testimonials or reviews.

While you may not always be able to capture all of this sentiment on one quick CTA button, you can in some cases (example: Get your [X product] while they last!) and when you can’t, the text and images around your CTA can do the job.

5 examples of killer email calls to action


We love this EdX email call to action for its hit-the-nail-on-the-head assessment of their customer’s pain point and personalization to boot. This email is for customers who have already engaged with EdX but aren’t signing up for courses.

To encourage them to do it, EdX is sending them a list of personalized recommendations (way to make a customer feel appreciated) headlined by a callout of their pain point (can’t find a course) and culminating in a prominent CTA button encouraging them to enroll in a course now.

EdX email call to action example.

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This email call to action example from Airtable is a perfect example of aligning a CTA with the beginning of the buyer journey. Rather than push for a purchase or even a signup, Airtable showcases multiple use cases for their product (both through the linked gallery and the in-email visuals) and invites users to browse for options they might like.

Airtable email call to action example.

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De Beers Jewelers

Perhaps there is no more eager customer than a newly-engaged future bride. De Beers uses an inviting call to action for customers to “Discover Your Bridal Style,” playing right into the excitement brides feel as they prepare for their big day:

De Beers email call to action example.

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Lyft does a good job here of creating an email call to action that evokes emotion and makes recipients want to be part of something. In their Giving Tuesday campaign, they include a prominent CTA button above the fold and encourage customers to use their service in a way that also gives back to the community.

Lyft email CTA example.

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Like EdX, Asana does an excellent job hitting on customer pain points with their headline. What do you need to get done today? It’s a question every professional asks themselves daily. Asana catches their customers’ attention with this apt question, then follows up with a super approachable CTA (just add one task) and helps users accomplish something important.

Asana email call to action example.

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Our outbound email software and lead generation services are custom-built for startups, consultancies, marketing agencies, and other B2B organizations. Schedule a quick call with us and find out how we can help you win more clients.