A Short Guide To Marketing Calls To Action (With Examples)

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Imagine you’re taking a family road trip. About halfway to your destination, the kids begin complaining, “We’re hungry!” You remind them you packed an entire cooler filled with snacks, but none of that will do.

You pass a roadside sign decorated with those familiar golden arches and the words next exit. The kids beg, “Please, please, please can we go to McDonald’s?” Not wanting to deal with irritable children for the next 75 miles (~120 km)—and realizing that you, too, could use a break—you take the next exit and enjoy a happy meal with your family.

McDonald's Billboard With "Next Exit" Call To Action
Behold, the power of a well-placed call to action.

What is a call to action?

In marketing, a call to action (CTA) is an instruction to the audience designed to provoke an immediate response” – Wikipedia

This is the part of your marketing where you give customers instructions on what to do next. A simple example would be a “buy now” button on your website.

Buy Now Call To Action (CTA) Button

In our McDonald’s example, the call to action is “next exit,” as in “take the next exit and buy our food.”

But calls to action aren’t just for purchases. You can have a call to action inviting people to attend an event, join your mailing list, make a donation, or leave a review. You can and should use them:

  • on your website,
  • in social media posts,
  • in emails,
  • in your physical store,
  • and even during presentations.

Why your marketing needs a call to action

Some business owners are squeamish about adding CTAs to their marketing. They fear coming across as pushy or rude. But CTAs provide needed clarity and direction. Therefore, you should consider it rude NOT to provide a call to action.

Think of it this way, what if our McDonald’s sign hadn’t provided any direction on how to get there? Instead of immediately taking the next exit, you’d be forced to fumble with your GPS. You might ask Siri ,“Where’s the nearest McDonald’s?” only to have to repeat yourself…twice. By now you’ve missed your exit and in order to stop you’ll have to find a place to turn around in unfamiliar surroundings and head in the wrong direction. Would you bother? Or would you drive on?

That’s how your customers feel when you don’t provide a clear call to action. If you make them work to figure out how to buy from you, they’ll grow frustrated and move on.

How to write your call to action

There should be no ambiguity in your call to action. Take a moment to figure out exactly what it is you want customers to do.

CTAs like click here, learn more, and get in touch are weak because they lack specificity. Why is it that you want people to get in touch or learn more? Do you want them to schedule a consultation? Volunteer? Register for an event? THAT is your CTA.

Since you are asking people to DO something, be sure to use action words. Start your CTA with a verb such as get, buy, shop, download, call, or sign up.

It’s OK to be creative with your CTA so long as your pun, joke, or clever turn of phrase doesn’t obscure what it is you’re asking people to do.


Finally, make sure your call to action is relevant to your audience. If someone is on your website reading about healthy eating, then you wouldn’t want your CTA to be “Come, eat at McDonald’s.” But for the commuter on the highway who might benefit from a quick meal, it makes perfect sense.

Call to action examples

Here are a few examples of calls to action in different settings.

Shop sign that says "Specialty Desserts & Drinks Order Here"

Much like our McDonald’s billboard, this dessert shop’s “order here” sign offers physical directions in addition to a call to action. With just six words it lets customers know what and where to order.

Netflix call to action that says "Watch Free For 30 Days"

This Netflix call to action uses three lines of text, all of which start with an action verb.

  • See what’s next.
  • Watch anywhere.
  • Watch free for 30 days.

By offering a free trial, that last line lowers the level of commitment for the consumer, thereby increasing the likelihood people will take the desired action.

Red Cross CTA that offers a $5 gift card to make an appointment to donate blood

This Red Cross CTA is an excellent example of specificity. Make your appointment is much stronger than, say, find the nearest blood drive or learn how you can help. On top of that, it includes a $5 extra incentive to make and keep that appointment.

Facebook Ad for HubSpot offering "free google SEO tutorial" with a "sign up" CTA button

This ad from HubSpot is a good example of how to use a CTA on social media. Everything from the ad text, to the image, to the CTA button is clear, unambiguous, and to the point.

Feel like you need additional help with your CTAs? Sign up for a free 15 minute marketing consultation. (See what I did there?)

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