Email & More's Calls to Action That Convert

Calls to Action that Convert

By Jonathan Pay

Email Marketing Calls to Action that Convert

Calls to Action that Convert

Getting the call to action wrong is like tripping at the last hurdle in a leg race. You were doing so well! The subject line drew in the recipient to open it. The content engaged them enough to read it. And then… nothing. The email sits there, the call to action forever unclicked.

Now to be fair, this is simply another day in the life of an email marketer and not something we should ever take to heart. Even so, giving up isn’t in our natures and if there’s a way to nudge more conversions we’re going to want to know. The question is, how?

That was the core of the discussion for the first episode of Email & More’s fifth season “Email Marketing Call to Actions that Convert”.  This time, forming our panel was moderator Skip Fidura and Holistic’s own CEO Kath Pay and guests Stefanie Mainstone, Head of CRM at Exclaimer, and Anna Levitin, email and marketing automation lead for Powtoon.

RPE Origin, platinum sponsor of Email & More Season 5The Power of a Call to Action

The role of the call to action is a simple one – to advise clearly what the recipient should do next. Still, the way the message is given and designed has a huge impact on its effectiveness. “Click me” on a button does the job but poorly, neither enticing the reader to follow the instructions nor informing what they stand to gain when they do so.

It’s far better instead to use calls to action that are interesting to the recipient and set clear expectations on what will happen next. Discussing early days in email Kath explained “When e-commerce platforms were new, there used to be a buy now call to action. Some people decided to test it and found that a better CTA was “add to basket”. Because you weren’t going to buy right now, you were going to add to your basket and that’s what customers want to know”.

Presently, however, we have more options to earn that important conversion click. Most of all, as Stefanie points out, we have an abundance of data to work with that wasn’t available back then. “We’re all sitting on a gold mine of data” she said, “but I think we often don’t really have the tools and processes in place to make the most of it.”

Data can be anything you know about the customer – names, purchase histories and so on. This makes it invaluable for building a picture of who the customer is and what they’re likely to respond to.  “It’s worth starting small and figuring out what you can do to harness that data” Stefanie advises. “Because if you’re not making decisions about your email programme that are backed by data, then any improvement will be due to luck.  And you can’t replicate luck.”

Seino, Silver sponsor of Email & More Season 5

So what should you do with the data? Anna suggested one simple tip to personalise emails. “What we’ve done is to add the first name to our (call to action) button” she recommended. “So instead of our basic CTA “Learn More” it would be “Anna, Learn More”.   Powtoon found that basic personalisation improved performance though the panel was quick to caution that this required some email list hygiene. As Skip warned, if somebody signs up under a rude name, it’s a social media meme mess waiting to happen.

A Holistic Approach

Asked about her own testing strategies, Kath Pay replied that it wasn’t so much the calls to action that were tested in Holistic’s own methodology, but rather that the holistic testing approach called for a motivationally led hypothesis towards the entirety of the email.

“It could be emotion versus curiosity. Loss aversion versus benefits driven.” She said by way of examples. “And in that, we’ll be changing the subject line, the opening paragraph, the influential copy and the call to action. Even the landing page if you’ve got access”.

As for what to try Kath recommends two things. “Verbs”, She advises. “People love to be told what to do, or what’s in the next section”. The second recommendation is education: “Try motivational things, psychology, behavioural science, political science. Really learn about those and try it”.

Using AI to Iterate on CTA’s.

Looking to the future, the panel was near unanimous in their agreement that AI will have a major role to play in shaping calls to action. “We all know that AI is really influencing everything we do in our lives. But our email tools are lagging behind in how they’re incorporating AI” Stefanie commented.

Many email tools now include some form of AI widget to help with suggesting subject lines, CTA’s and so on.  And of course, it’s a trivial thing to ask the likes of ChatGPT to suggest ten subject lines for your emails.  But where AI has a real opportunity to change the game is if it could be used to build on the data and results held by a company.

“We’re just using ideas that are recommended by an AI basically when we could be learning from that and putting the data back in” Stefanie explains. “The AI can then make recommendations and predictions that become the foundation of our entire email program and takes into account which CTA’s are converting best”.

Anna meanwhile had her own vision for how she’d like to see AI develop as a tool. “In my ideal AI world, I will have a label for each kind of email. Whether it’s a product update, promo, or maybe a webinar. And based on the label, the system, the ESP we use will tell me, okay, based on the last three, six months, this is the kind of CTA that will convert better.”

Bouncer, Silver sponsor of Email & More Season 5

Finally Kath shared some insight into some experimentation that Holistic is already working on with AI large language models internally, two of which she named Chad and John.  “We’ve set up a host of different, let’s say, personas” she explains. “One’s a marketer, one’s a persuasive copywriter, one’s a subject line specialist and so on. We’re testing all of these personas to see what brings in the better results. Currently, John is winning, but we haven’t tried calls to action yet”.

However, despite the fanfare, AI is not the silver bullet some want it to be and a great deal of work remains as Kath goes on to caution. “There’s so much knowledge that we have as specialists in our field. We at Holistic need to do a lot of teaching just to bring Chad up to our level. Then we’re going to give him all the data. But obviously, this has to be our own private instance of it. So we’re going to have to become prompt experts”.

It was up to Skip to be the lone voice of dissent to the panel on the wonders of AI. In this bright new age of shiny AI taking our data and crafting wonderful emails he mused, where would the space be for new marketers to make the cataclysmically embarrassing mistakes needed to learn and grow?   But that’s a question for a future episode of Email & More!

Don’t miss out on all the insights, questions and answers from the full episode of Email & More: Call to Actions That Convert, available to watch on demand both from our site and Youtube!

Many thanks to our special guests Stefanie Mainstone and Anna Levitin for joining our panel and lending their expertise as well as to our live audience for their valued participation and questions.

Finally a big thanks to our platinum sponsor RPE Origin and silver sponsor SEINō  for their generous support of this series.

Hungry for more? Email and More will be back to talk “Lead with Strategy” on 23 April  2024.  Follow us on social media to stay informed!