8 tips for crafting a killer call-to-action

We humans love stories. It's part of what makes us, us. Our brains are hardwired to interpret the world through narrative and to order things sequentially with a beginning, middle, and end.

Marketers and advertisers know this, and every marketing campaign tells a story with you as a key player. And, just like books, films, and plays, there is always a next stage to a story, another step that needs to be taken for the protagonist to move the narrative forward, one step closer to the end.

A call to action is a bridge that beckons the audience to take the next step and to engage with the product behind the campaign on a whole new level.

We are going to look at eight tips for crafting a killer call to action.

A call to action is a marketing term for the part of a campaign that is designed to provoke a response from the audience, such as an immediate sale, subscription, or click. A call to action usually comes at the end of the content, as it is the point at which the audience should depart from the original content with a clear idea of what to do next.

Wooden scrabble tiles that say Go For It

The call to action (or "CTA," as it is sometimes stylised) is a fundamental element of a webpage or an advertising campaign, as it tells the audience what they should do next. If there is no clear CTA, audiences may be intrigued by the product but not have a direction of where to go next and what to do when they are there.

A call to action should come at the point at which you want the audience to leave your content or page and head somewhere else with a new intention. Therefore, a call to action should normally come at the end of the content.

A call to action can be used in all forms of content. Whether it's a website article, video, social media posts, audio, newsletter, or anything else, a call to action should guide your audience through to the next stage of engaging with your product.

Our top 8 tips for crafting a killer call to action are:

  • Write for your audience
  • Be clear about what you want
  • Tailor your call to action to the platform it is on
  • Use command verbs and power words
  • Grab your audience's attention
  • Keep it snappy
  • Attract curiosity
  • Include the benefits of heeding your call to action

So let's jump in and take a closer look at each of these tips.

Write for your audience

This tip can be applied to every aspect of your content, and the call to action is no different. Don't believe us? Let's look at some examples.

Take the following call to action:

Find what you're looking for today. Come on, you know you want to.

There is a suggestive, coquettishness that is implicit in the writing, which would make it highly inappropriate if your target audience were professionals looking to advance their careers. This call to action might be more suitable for a dating site or phone app.

A more suitable call to action for a professional audience might be:

Join today and keep moving forward.

In both cases, the tone of the call to action is crucial for ensuring it is geared toward the right audience. Keep your audience in mind and make sure every word and phrase is written for them.

Be clear about what you want

A call to action should get the audience to do something or at least make them want to do something. So you need to be very clear about what that something is.

This comes down to knowing what you (or your business) want your audience to do next. Do you want them to simply visit your landing page? Or perhaps you want them to sign up for a mailing list?

Whatever your aims and intentions, you should be very clear about what they are - because if you aren't, no one else will be.

You should also have an idea of what you want your audience to do once they have followed your call to action. What are the next steps? You don't want to overload them with actions, but you should always have something else to offer, especially to keen and loyal customers.

Tailor it to the platform

Your call to action should be different for each platform it appears on.

For example, a call to action on your website should differ from a call to action on a social media page. If you are trying to attract your audience from a social media site, you likely want to bring them to your website to find out more. Whereas, if your audience is already engaging directly with your site, you want to take them to the next step, which is buying your product.

Use command verbs and power words

Command verbs do exactly what they say on the tin. Command verbs such as "start," "stop," "give," and "do" command us to do something.

Power words are a little more nuanced. They are words that draw people in, and they should aim to trigger an emotional response from the audience.

For example, consider these two calls to action:

  • Why not join today? It could change your life.
  • Change your life. Join today.

"Join" and "Change" are the command verbs. "Life" and "Today" are the power words.

So both contain the fundamentals of a good call to action, but which works better for you?

The first is less direct and powerful. It offers a direction or a solution to a problem rather than demanding that you take it.

The second is a direct command - "Join today" - that comes with a guarantee to "Change your life."

It may seem like only a minor difference, but in marketing, a single word can have the power to make or break a campaign.

One of the most famous slogans of the last 100 years is Nike's:

Just Do It.


Why is it so effective?

In just three words, so much is evoked. It is commanding us to get up and go. To put on our trainers and exercise. But also to buy Nike. You watch the advert for the new pair of shoes, and the slogan (which, cleverly, is also a call to action) tells you to "Just Do It" - buy them!

"Do" is both a simple and strong command verb. And the power word "Just" brings a colloquialism to the phrase that also makes the brand voice sound a bit fed up with us for not having done "It" yet.

Though few admit it, people actually like being instructed and told what to do. And what could be simpler than just doing it?

Grab their attention

Amidst the chaos of the digital world, with new content being created every second and audience attention spans gradually dwindling, it can be hard to stand out and distinguish yourself from the crowd.

The one thing any advert should not be is boring. Anything that does not immediately grab the audience's attention is going to be lost and forgotten about.

You don't need million-pound budgets or groundbreaking tech. You just need fresh ideas and innovative ways of connecting with your audience.

We spoke earlier of the simplicity of Nike's call to action/slogan. When you are writing, simple is best.

If your audience has just watched a 30-second video or read a short article, recapture their attention with your call to action.

Keep it snappy

Calls to action should be short, sharp, and to the point. Any unnecessary information or words should be dropped.

Just do it.

Remember the power of that phrase? Three words were all it took to craft one of the most memorable slogans in advertising history.

Great ads and calls to action tap into the part of the brain that is hardwired to remember phrases, names, and faces.

Did you ever hear a song you hated but couldn't stop singing? Well, it works in the same way. Not that we want our audience to hate our content, but that we want to create earworms that will resonate in the minds of those who encounter them.

And one of the key ingredients for doing this effectively is to keep things as short as possible.

Stay positive

Your call to action should be upbeat, rabble-rousing, and pithy. It should inspire the audience to continue forth and push on with their journey.

Therefore, a call to action should be positive. If the audience continues to the next step, they will be met with riches or solutions to their problems.

Negative language is sometimes unavoidable, but it should be combined with a positive message. For example, if you are advertising a service to help people to stop smoking, the call to action could be:

  • Quit today, breathe tomorrow. Start your future with us.

The word "Quit" is undoubtedly negative, but the rest of the message keeps the tone optimistic and positive.

Attract curiosity

Another strategy for crafting your killer call to action is to attract curiosity. This won't work or be necessary for all instances, but it can be a great way to entice your audience to continue their journey with your product or website.

For example, you could say: "Sign up to find out how thousands of subscribers have turned their hobbies into careers."

You have attracted curiosity by telling them that something they do not yet know will be revealed to them if they follow the call to action. You should aim to present the audience with something they really want or need and then get them curious about how you can help them to achieve it.

There should be a sense of anticipation that comes with a payoff. By following your call to action, their curiosity will be rewarded.

Include the benefits

Another great way of sprucing up your call to action is to include the benefits of following it. Again, this won't work in all instances, but it is very effective when used correctly.

Let's look at our earlier example:

  • "Change your life. Join today."

There is a clear benefit included here, which is that your life will be changed by joining today. What could be more beneficial than your life changing for the better?

However, this is a huge promise that could be seen as so big that it becomes vague. A more direct benefit included in the call to action could be something life:

  • "Join today and save £250."

This, again, is enticing the audience to join your organisation, but it comes with a more tangible financial benefit rather than the enormous promise of changing your life.

That is not to say that your product or organisation wouldn't change someone's life (for example, perhaps you run a gym), only that there are different kinds of benefits you can include in your call to action that should be used appropriately depending on the context.

These calls to action usually start with the command verb “save” or “redeem” and read something like “Save 25% by joining today!” or “Redeem your 2-for-1 coupon right now!”

An effective call to action should encourage users to take the next step on their journey with your brand. In just a few words, you need to get as many people as possible to take the desired action and follow your campaign.

Whether your call to action is there to attract customers, encourage newsletter subscriptions, make a donation, or anything else, it needs to be succinct, positive, and attention-grabbing.

Follow our tips, and you can thank us later.