The Most Important Part of Any Marketing Email

Marketing emails have a lot of moving parts: 

Subject line, previous text, body copy, graphics, signature, buttons, opt-out text and disclaimers, P.S., “from” text, banners. . . 

You get the idea.

But which of these pieces is the most important? Which one part of the email do all the other parts serve?

Keep reading to find out.

CTA Buttons: The MVP of Email Marketing

When it comes to email marketing, few elements come close to pulling as much weight as a good CTA button.

CTA buttons, or Call-to-Action buttons, are the clickable buttons in your emails that direct the reader to a different page. They’re visually distinct with bold phrases like “BUY NOW” or “Yes, I Want In!” They give your reader a clear plan of action with just a few words and minimal design. 

Marketing is all about telling a story. You position your reader as the protagonist, someone who has a problem that they need help solving. Fortunately, your business is the helpful guide presenting a solution: your products or services. 

All the protagonist has to do is take a step forward with your business (create an account, make a purchase, schedule a call, etc.), and they’ll start to see their problems solved.

Imagine the CTA button as the moment when the wise and supportive guide holds out their hand to the hero, beckoning them to follow. 

In a great marketing email, all the other elements serve to push the reader to the CTA. The copy, imagery, header, signature, and other pieces come together to tell a story about your customer, and the CTA is the deciding moment. Will the hero go on the adventure, or will they continue living in the status quo? 

But not all CTA buttons are created equal. A small, bland button that reads “Start” won’t perform as well as a large, orange button with the text, “Download My Free Book!” At the same time, be careful not to make your buttons so big they crowd out the email. 

Make your CTA button impossible to miss, with clear language that describes what will happen when someone clicks. The last thing you want to do is get your readers interested in accepting your offer, only to confuse them with a too-small button or complicated wording. 

Finding the line between “obvious” and “obnoxious” may take a bit of trial and error and A/B testing, but once you discover what works for your audience, you’ll see more clicks, and ultimately, more conversions.  

What About Subject Lines? Why CTA Buttons?

“But Sigl,” you might be saying, “what about subject lines? None of the other pieces of an email matter if your audience doesn’t open the email!” 

There’s some truth to that. Subject lines are critical to your emails’ success, and you should put in the time and experimentation to find what kinds of subject lines work best for your audience.

But what good is a high open rate if you don’t turn those opens into clicks? 

Clicks = conversions. You won’t get conversions through email marketing if people aren’t clicking through to your website. And you’re more likely to get clicks when you use CTA buttons.

You can get clicks without CTA buttons through hyperlinks in your copy or links attached to imagery. But CTA buttons increase your clicks and make it abundantly obvious where your reader should click and why.

According to a study by Campaign Monitor, using button-based CTAs instead of link-based CTAs increases click-through rate by 28%

Of course, open rate is important. Subject lines, compelling copy, and eye-catching visuals are all important parts of your email marketing strategy. But all those other components should support  the CTA, where your reader takes action toward becoming a customer. 

11 Ways to Optimize Your CTA Buttons

Ready to make your CTA buttons the best they can be? Here are 11 variables you can play with and A/B test. For the best results, focus on one variable at a time, until you can determine which version works best for your audience.

1. Size.

The button should be large and eye-catching, with text that fills most of the button space. 99designs recommends using a font size of at least 16, and a minimum button size of 44×44 to ensure mobile users can easily click through. 

2. Whitespace.

Make the space around the button empty, so there’s nothing that can visually distract your reader from the button.

3. Color.

Your CTA button should be visually distinct from the space around it. Use contrasting colors that still fit within your brand’s visual palette. 

4. Font.

There are lots of variables to consider when it comes to your button’s font. The font itself, size, weight, color, spacing, and capitalization can all have an impact on click-through rate. Make your buttons visually distinct without sacrificing legibility for maximum success.

5. Shape.

Rounded buttons tend to work better than rectangles, but both can be effective. Decide which shape fits your visual style, or A/B test to find what your audience prefers.

6. Location.

Most CTA buttons fit naturally toward the bottom of the email—after you’ve used copy and visuals to tell a story. However, some brands include a CTA near the top, often in addition to one lower down. The higher your CTA, the less chance that a reader has to scroll in order to click.  

7. First-person language.

First-person language helps your reader visualize themself taking an action. According to Unbounce, using words like “my” instead of “your” can increase click-through rate by up to 90%! 

8. Strong verbs.

Pique your reader’s interest with action language. CTAs like “Snag My Seat” and “Download My Guide” have more excitement and oomph than “Register” and “Get Started.” 

9. Results-oriented language.

If you have the space, try to demonstrate the specific results of clicking. “Yes! I Want 50% Off My Purchase” paints a more vivid picture than “Shop Now.” However, you won’t always have room for that much copy in your buttons.

10. Links.

Make sure your CTA button directs readers to the appropriate page. If you ask them to sign up, send them straight to the sign-up page. If you’re promoting a product, link to that product page. Bonus points if you can maintain visual consistency from your email to the linked page.

11. Number of CTAs.

Generally speaking, the fewer CTAs, the better. Don’t let your audience get worn out by decision fatigue. It’s one thing if you have multiple buttons for the same CTA in different locations (see #6), but try not to include competing CTAs. You might end up with fewer conversions overall.

If you hadn’t noticed, there are a
lot of variables that go into creating successful emails—and we only covered one component of marketing emails in this post! The good news is that you don’t have to tackle email marketing alone. The next time you find yourself swamped with writing and designing your emails, A/B tests, and analytics, give us a call. We’d be happy to be your digital marketing guides, so you can focus on growing your business. 


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