The best calls-to-action in email from 2018

Email is the most used tactic in the marketing toolbox. Experts say each email should accomplish the following:

  • Arrest attention

  • Build connection

  • Build problem

  • Build interest

  • Build suspense

  • Transfer momentum

The call to action (CTA) is your vehicle for momentum transfer—driving your subscriber to take the next step you’ve laid out for them. No email message is complete without a strong CTA.

The most important part of crafting a killer email is making sure that readers know what you’d like them to do next. In fact, 8 out of 10 of B2B marketers report that leads and sales are the most important measure of success.

In addition to inciting action, the CTA is also vital in generating actionable analytics.

Having a properly tagged CTA drives more granular marketing attribution. This allows you to better understand what messages convert and which ones need improvement.

For example, a user may have visited your product page after reading your email, but without clicking the link (tagged for analytics) in the email, you won’t know it.

Elements of a great email call-to-action

The CTA includes three main elements: the words, the design, and the placement.

If you’re looking to learn more on how to write a call to action, be sure to include these vital components into your CTA creation process:

The words

The words you use within your CTA is significant to its success. Here’s a list of some tips and call to action phrase examples to help get you started:

  • Avoid the generic “download,” “buy now,” and “learn more.” They not only offer no value but also give little indication of what’s expected. And because they’re so overused, they contribute to button blindness.

  • Use strong, action-oriented verbs that demand action combined with descriptive copy. Instead of generic copy, opt for short phrases and strong verbs that indicate the result of the click.

  • Focus on the low-risk ask. Instead of “buy now,” which is asking a recipient to pull out their credit card and spend money, try some of these call-to-action phrases examples like “View products” or “Find a deal.” Recipients are more likely to comply with a low-risk activity like viewing products or browsing options.

Though there are various schools of thought between long and short CTAs, the data below shows that short is the sweet spot. Neil Patel’s advice is that if your CTA takes more than six seconds to read, it’s too long. That six-second read equates to about 4-5 words.

Blue Apron could have used a generic “Learn More” in this ad, but opted for the action-oriented, outcome-focused “Get $30 Off.” The CTA includes a strong action verb that communicates the value of clicking.

Blue Apron action CTA

Image Source: Campaign Monitor


Once you get the words right, it’s important to put them into a visually stunning design. Take advantage of your email automation tool. Most have pre-designed, compliant buttons ready to use.

Follow these guidelines when designing your email CTA button:

  • The font should be bold, legible, and complementary to the fonts used in the rest of the email.

  • Use contrasting colors so that the element stands out and grabs attention. Use an online color wheel to select the colors that pair well.

  • If your email design has a lot of color and imagery, consider placing a thick white box around your button to make it stand out even more.

In the email below, 22 Days Nutrition takes advantage of their colorful design by implementing a white CTA button. Using this technique will draw your user’s eye and drive them closer to conversion.

22 Days Nutrition colorful CTAs
Image Source: Campaign Monitor


Now that you have the words right and have laid out an engaging design, you’re ready to drop it into your email message.

When placing your CTA in the email message, consider the following:

  • Ideally, you want a CTA element above the fold, the visible, preview portion of a message, and one further down in the page below the copy.

  • You want to focus your readers' attention on your main offer, but also offer options to maintain engagement. For example, you’re sending out an email blast to promote a webinar. Offer the webinar registration as the primary action. At the bottom, add a supporting CTA to a whitepaper.

This email from Suiteness places two different CTAs in the same email. One call to action is placed early in the copy, the other one is placed further down and narrows the message to only two avenues for action.

Suiteness CTA examples
Image Source: Really Good Emails

Best calls-to-action in email from 2018

Let’s see these principles in action! We’ve compiled of some of the best call-to-action button examples from emails sent in 2018 into the list below.

Use these call to action email examples to inspire your 2019 email campaign planning:

1. Kidly

In addition to their artful use of animated gifs, this promotional email from Kidly features a perfectly paired color palette—which makes it one of the effective call to action examples for sales out there—as it easily flows from the headline down to the deal they have to offer.

Kidly animated GIF example

Image Source: Really Good Emails

2. Alit

This wine producer uses animated text to get the reader’s attention and then pairs the CTA with the same font and color palette for visual unity. The copy leads with a strong action verb that tells the reader exactly what the next step will be.

Alit animated text example
Image Source: Really Good Emails

3. Apple Music

In this email, Apple focuses on a specific action: registering to win tickets. If you’re not interested in winning tickets, you’re still invited to join the conversation with a secondary CTA to follow the brand on social media.

Apple CTA example
Image Source: Really Good Emails

4. Magnolia

In addition to making vibrant use of images, Magnolia’s holiday email campaign constrains the call-to-action to just two requests: shop or read the blog. This provides an alternate vehicle for those who aren’t in the market for their products.

Also worth noting is the use of color swapping to make the calls-to-action stand out.

Magnolia color CTA examples
Image Source: MyEmma

5. Charity Water

In their “Clean Water at Every Table” email campaign, Charity Water pairs sparse, direct, outcome-focused copy with a traditional funnel layout to lead the eye to the call-to-action button. And the button itself leverages a bold color to stand out from the rest of the message.

Charity Water sparse design example
Image Source: Really Good Emails

6. Chick-fil-A

This simple email CTA stands out because it’s so simple. The three-word CTA copy, “Get a Taste” meshes well with both the goal of the email and the surrounding imagery, while adhering to branding and best practices for layout and design.

This also goes to show that you don’t have to abide by standard call-to-action phrase examples. Sometimes, creating a CTA that caters to your specific company will help you get the clicks you’re looking for.

Chick fil a CTA example

Image Source: Send in Blue

7. Joyus

This email request for feedback seems to break the maximum CTA word count limit, right?

Keep in mind that the navigation and social links are considered secondary CTAs. The primary CTA is the dominant button. This works because the secondary links do not overshadow or create confusion with the primary CTA.

Joyous CTA example

Image Source: Really Good Emails

8. Forever 21

The apparel retailer’s welcome email campaign strategy uses this design as the second message in the messaging stream. Notable because it does an excellent job of attracting the reader’s eye with color and uses whitespace to set off the clickable, button element. The short text that speaks directly to the value of clicking increases the overall effectiveness of the message.

Forever 21 messaging example
Image Source: Send in Blue

9. Fiji Airlines

This deal roundup from Fiji Airlines is a great demonstration of keeping a CTA above and below the fold. Instead of forcing a user to search to the bottom to click, this message offers an option for those who already know that they’re ready to buy a ticket. In some email platforms, an above the fold link can even be clicked without even opening up the message.

FIJI Airlines CTA example
Image Source: Campaign Monitor

10. Grammarly

This upgrade request for the Grammarly online platform uses the same approach as Fiji Airlines above, with a twist. Instead of using buttons for both CTAs, they use a text CTA above the fold. The email is then laid out to draw the eye to second, graphic CTA at the bottom.

Grammarly text CTA example
Image Source: Really Good Emails

11. Leesa

Though they could’ve gone with generic “Shop Now” CTA copy, this button combines action-oriented copy with reinforcement of the email’s main goal.

Also, note the use of complementary colors. Even though there’s no green in the ad or logo, the green works with the blue to highlight the button element without overpowering the eye.

Image Source: Really Good Emails

Wrap up

A properly designed and placed CTA can be the key to pushing your recipient over the fence to action.

Using the tips in this article is the first step.

To continuously optimize the effectiveness of your CTAs, test often.

Employ tactics like A/B testing, heat maps, and scroll maps to see what users are doing when they read your email and how they interact with your CTA button.

Over time, you’ll see these techniques combined with insights you’ll get from testing will increase your conversion rates and the ROI on your email campaigns.

Creating a well-crafted call to action is vital to your next email campaign, and we know the benefits it can provide. Don’t stop here, learn more about CTAs and we’ll help you create the best one for your business.

About the Author

Emma Email

Emma is an email marketing platform that gives you all the tools you need to send campaigns that really connect with your subscribers. With our​​ powerful automation and personalization features, you can create and send email campaigns that reach the right customer at just the right time. It's email marketing that works for you.

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