How to Write a Compelling Call-to-Action

Building a relationship can be tricky business. Too much attention and you’ve smothered them. Too little attention and they lose interest. The wrong kind of attention and…well, we’ve all seen the headlines.

Imagine your target audience as someone you’d like to ask on a date. You’ve seen the person around and have (um, hopefully) communicated with them – either through a friend or directly. You’ve discovered that there could be some compatibility between the two of you. You’re ready to take the next step of actually asking them to commit to accompanying you to a place of mutual interest.

In the advertising world, that next step is the “call-to-action.” Just like in the dating world, you want your call-to-action (or CTA) to make your intentions known, without coming across as desperate or creepy. Here are some tips from to help you avoid being desperate or creepy.

Make It Clear

Your CTA needs to be obvious because no one wants to spend a lot of time and energy trying to decipher exactly what you want them to do and how. In the immortal words of Kimberly “Sweet Brown” Wilkins, “Ain’t nobody got time for that!” A well-timed, “Let’s Get Started!” CTA makes your intentions known, as opposed to, “I think maybe we should take the next step when you feel like it, but it’s really up to you, OK? So just let me know whenever you get a second. Or not. Either way is cool.”

Do This: “Click Here for 7 Free Marketing Tips”

Don’t Do This: “Click Here for More Information”

Make It Simple

Don’t let someone get lost in the details once your CTA is out there. You want them to have an enjoyable experience throughout the process. If you make it too complicated, it’s easy for them to get turned off, distracted, or wonder if it’s really worth their time and effort. Say you’ve got someone hooked. Make sure they know “I think you’re awesome” will lead to “Let’s hang out” and then to “I know a great place for dinner” and keep it honest and interesting along the way. Now is not the time for guessing games.

Do This: Ebay’s ‘Buy It Now’ button

Don’t Do This: Craigslist’s ‘No phone calls, text only between 6pm-8pm, no emails before noon and after 4pm.’

Don’t Make It Too Easy

This sounds counter-intuitive, but think about it. When you want to have a meaningful interaction with someone, questions that can be answered with “yes” or “no” can put an immediate end to the conversation. If you want to convince and convert, try to make sure your CTA doesn’t shut down the relationship before it even gets off the ground.

Do This: “Tell me about the kind of cheese you like!”

Don’t Do This: “Do you like cheese?”

Make It Personal

One size does not fit all when it comes to a CTA. You may be interested in different types of people (lucky you!). Chances are, they won’t all respond positively to the same CTA. “How YOU doin’?” might work well on one person, but it might get you shut down immediately with someone else. Being genuine and showing you’ve taken the time to discover what they might enjoy or respond positively to goes a long way. Oh, and get their name right. Everyone appreciates that.

Do This: “Hi Jessica! Click here to call us for a free health insurance quote!“

Don’t Do This: “Dear Sir/Madam, Click here if you are interested in a health insurance quote.”

Try, Try Again

Not every approach works right off the bat. If you’re not getting the results you hoped for, don’t give up! Try something different…another audience, rephrasing your CTA or changing a few words around. It might take some trial-and-error, but eventually, you’ll find out what gets you the results you want.

Jessica Tang | Copywriter


How to Write a Compelling Call-to-Action
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