Having thousands of Twitter followers or Facebook Likes is nice, but it doesn’t mean anything if you can’t get those followers to take action. Whether we’re talking about a Tweet, blog title or ad, the text needs to inspire people to do something beyond just reading it.
Words are very powerful and learning how to use the right ones in your call to action phrases can dramatically increase your conversions. Crafting a strong call to action is part science and part art. Understanding why certain phrases are more effective than others and learning how to implement them will set you up to become a pro at creating copy that converts.
The Psychology of CTA Phrases
The scientific aspect of CTA phrases has to do with psychology and the way our brains work. We interpret various phrases differently depending on the context.
For instance, if someone told you two puppies crashed into each other, you’d have a much different visualization than if the person said two vehicles crashed into each other. Two puppies crashing into each other sounds cute and playful. Two vehicles crashing into each other sounds like carnage and mayhem. The same wording is used, but the context makes all the difference.
When creating a call to action, you’re trying to tap into the reader’s emotion and get them to complete some action. Whether it’s signing up for something, making a purchase or sharing content, as a marketer, your goal is to influence an action. To get customers to follow through, you need use words that convince and persuade them within the right context.
Here’s where most marketers mess up. They focus on their product or service when creating their call to action instead of the benefit the reader will get for taking the action. Most people don’t drink Coca-Cola just because it’s Coca-Cola. They drink it because they’re thirsty or enjoy the feeling they get after consuming soda.
Don’t focus so much on your product when creating your call to action. Focus on the results the reader will get and the action they should take.
The top call to action is more powerful and effective than the second one because you can see the value and benefit you get right away. Remember, your call to action will already have context surrounding it. Whether it’s the content of your sales page, a blog post or the text within your social media post. Your CTA is all about driving the reader to engage and take action, not to tell them about what product you’re offering.
The Art of CTA Phrases
The other half of the equation is knowing when to use the right call to action. This is something that comes with practice and testing. For instance, choosing to use the word “free” instead of “no-cost.” Or when to use “sign up now” instead of “join us.” These subtle changes can make the biggest impact depending on your audience, what you’re offering and the overall context you use.
In order to get better at understanding of the art of call to action phrases, here are some excellent books on copywriting and language that go in depth on the topic.
- Neuromarketing: Understanding the Buy Buttons in Your Customer’s Brain
- Words that Sell: More than 6,000 Entries to Help You Promote Your Products, Services, and Ideas
Call to Action Phrases That Convert
Simply writing a huge list of CTA phrases might help some of you. But as we alluded to earlier, CTA phrases are most effective when used in the correct setting. So, we’ve organized our list based on the results you’re trying to achieve. Whether you’re trying to persuade people to buy your product over the competition, create a sense of urgency or take any other action, we’ll give you some proven CTA phrases you can use to strengthen your message and get more conversions.
CTA Phrases for Persuasion
If your aim is persuade people to choose your product or service, then try mixing these phrases into your call to action:
The phrases above are among the most persuasive words in the English language. Let’s dive a little deeper into why they’re effective and how you can use them.
Using the word “you” can completely change the tone of your writing. As a general rule of thumb for creating content that’s engaging, you should try to write in the second person (i.e. you and your) whenever possible. It makes your content much more conversational and the reader feels like you’re speaking directly to them. That’s why personalized calls to action convert 42% better than generic ones. The more you can personalize your CTA, the better. Start by using the word “you” more. This simple swap can make a difference.
If you had a choice between two weight loss programs, one that guaranteed results and one that didn’t, which would you be more likely to try out? The words “guarantee” and “results” are effective because they eliminate one of the biggest excuses people have for not pulling out their wallets, which is being unsure of whether or not your product or service is worth it.
Unfortunately these two words have lost some of their impact because of companies making empty promises they couldn’t fulfill. But that doesn’t mean they don’t still work.
Guarantees are effective if you can provide some type of proof to back up your claim. A classic example of the guarantee phrase used in marketing is from Domino’s Pizza. In 1984, Domino’s made a guarantee that you’d get your pizza delivered in 30 minutes or less, or your next pie would be free. That marketing tactic helped Domino’s become the world’s largest pizza chain. Unfortunately the company eventually discontinued the policy after some legal troubles.
Who can resist the word free?” Here is another word that overcomes one of the biggest objections for buyers, which is price. Although some sales people argue that price is never the real issue, it’s definitely something that goes through peoples’ minds when they’re trying to decide whether or not to take action. Letting your audience know right away that you’re offering something for free can give your CTA an instant boost.
The trick is to use the word free, not just hinting that the person doesn’t have to pay anything. Here’s an example:
CTA Phrases to Create a Sense of Urgency/Scarcity
Have you ever contemplated buying something, and then thought to yourself “I’ll think it over.” Waiting until tomorrow is another common buyer objection you’re going to run into with people online. Creating a sense of urgency gets customers to take action immediately instead of holding off on the purchase. More often than not, tomorrow becomes eventually, which ends up being never. The sooner you can get people to take action, the better. Here are some effective call to action phrases that will make people rush to grab what you’re selling:
- Only X days left
- Limited supply
- Closing soon
- While supplies last
- Today only
- Last chance
- Offer ends on “date”
You’ve more than likely seen these phrases or variations of them used on eCommerce sites. Creating a sense of urgency or scarcity makes people take action out of the fear of missing out on a good deal. It boils down to loss aversion. This basically means people are more emotionally drawn to losing things than they are at gaining them. That makes you more likely to jump on a good deal to avoid losing out on the opportunity.
The phrases above imply scarcity. If you want to avoid losing out on the offer, you don’t have time to wait around and think it over. There are few companies that do this better than Amazon. The Amazon Lightning deals are the ultimate example of creating both scarcity and a sense of urgency at the same time.
Scarcity is implied by the 73% claimed note. There’s an added sense of urgency because of the “Ends in” limited time frame and the discounted pricing. Amazon gives you three different reasons to order right now instead of tomorrow.
Another company that does this well, specifically with email marketing, is MyProtein. Here are some examples of email subject lines MyProtein uses for special sales and discounts:
You can use the same principles in your own call to action by imposing some kind of limit on your offer. Whether you’re restricting it to a certain number of people or a specific time frame, you have to let people know the longer they wait, the less likely they will get in on the deal.
Phrases like “hurry,” “immediately” and “now” amplify the sense of urgency created by the limit you imposed. For instance, “Hurry up, only Two Spots Left!” has an even greater impact than “Two spots left!”
CTA Phrases to Imply Exclusivity
Another effective way to make people take action is to imply exclusivity with whatever you’re offering. People want what they can’t have. There’s also a community aspect because you want to be part of a special group. But how do you make something look and feel more exclusive? With a strong call to action of course! Try these phrases out to get people clawing at the chance to be a part of your product or service:
- Request an invitation
- Now closed
- Members Only/Subscribers only
- Only available to ___
- Limited spots
- Exclusive access
All of these phrases imply that if someone doesn’t take action right now, they’re going to be left out of the group. By signing up, making the purchase or filling out a form, they’ll be a part of a closed group that others cannot access. Essentially, they get first dibs.
Google uses exclusivity for several of their products. Google+ was originally available by invitation only. And in order to try out Google’s Project Fi mobile network, you have to use a Nexus device and then request an invite.
Notice the words “Request Invite” used on the call to action button. These call to action phrases work particularly well with product launches, email lists and memberships.
CTA Phrases to Gauge Interest
Sometimes the action you want your audience to take isn’t necessarily to buy a product, sign-up for an email list or use a service. Maybe your goal is to test the water a little bit by gauging the interest in a particular product or service you’re thinking of launching. Ironically, this technique can also help you build even more anticipation around your latest campaigns.
Here are some good call to action phrases that will help you see how interested and engaged your audience is:
- Contact me
Each of the phrases above requires your audience to do something. We’re at a point in the world where there is more content available online that most people know what to do with. So if you can convince a reader, customer or follower to take the time to give you feedback, then you know they’re engaged.
Let’s take a deeper look into how you can use these calls to action in your marketing.
First is “reply.” A popular usage of this tactic is with email marketing. You could send out an email to your subscribers letting them know about a new product you’re thinking of launching. At the end of the email, ask your subscribers to reply back if they’re interested. The people who reply back are potential leads. If you don’t get any responses, then it could be a sign the demand for your product isn’t quite there.
Another place where the reply call to action shows up a lot is social media. Asking your followers to reply to your Tweet or Instagram post will increase the likelihood of an interaction. If you ever want to test whether or not your followers or audience is truly active and engaged, try asking them to reply to your social media posts. The brands that get replies generally have a much stronger following, which is why follower count doesn’t always matter. It’s about how much your followers are engaged.
— vansfoods (@vansfoods) October 7, 2015
One of the biggest mistakes marketers make is not asking people to share their content. Just like with the example we gave with asking people to reply to your posts, you should also ask consumers to share content too.
Some marketers don’t want to come off as too pushy, so they try to avoid asking followers to take action on social media. That’s understandable and you definitely don’t want to cross the line between interacting and spamming. But that’s the reason why asking people to share is the perfect middle ground. You’ll see it used a lot in social media contests.
— York College (@YorkCollegeNeb) October 7, 2015
Last but not least is “contact me.” This is a phrase that sadly gets overlooked. But the brands that do use it, or some variation of it, see a lot of success. Here’s what the phrase “contact me” does–it tells people you’re open to communicating with them.
Transparency and open communication are very big selling points today. Whether it’s communicating through social media, email, live chat or even blog comments, the more open you are to listening and engaging with your audience, the more they’ll appreciate it.
Does your audience know you welcome them to contact you? It’s time to go beyond simply having a contact form buried at the bottom of your website. Mention your open communication within blog posts, email marketing campaigns and social media posts where you want people to reach out to you. It’ll show you how active your following really is and build a strong community.
The Grammy award winning musician St. Vincent asked her Twitter and Instagram followers to contact her if they knew the history behind a vintage coat she bought in Texas. The results? Instant engagement.
Don’t be afraid to reach out and let people know you want them to contact you. You might be pleasantly surprised by the responses you get.
Back to You
There are thousands of call to action phrases you can implement to drive more engagement and interest for your blog posts, sales pages and social media posts. Start experimenting, split testing and find out what works best with your audience.
What are some of your favorite call to action phrases that give you results? Share your story in the comments!
Thanks for the book references for more information on creating call-to-actions. FYI- I tried clicking your link for the "Words That Sell" book but it pulled up a blank page.
@CharityApril thanks for the heads up!
Dominique, this is a great post with top-notch phrases for CTA. I love all of them.
While all these phrases or “power words” that you have mentioned are crucial for any CTA, I’d suggest to keep testing in mind. There are particular words for particular niches and particular type of audience that do the trick. You have to test them all.
Thank you for sharing these books on CTA. I have already read Neuromarketing and Words that Sell. I have learned a lot from these two. Anyone who wants to learn about CTA and copywriting, these are must reads.
Also, the graph you shared from Hubspot about difference between basic and smart CTA is great. Loved it.
I guess, Marketers have to choose CTAs with caution and must avoid mixing them up. For instance, a landing page must have words like exclusive, limited time offer backed by countdown timers. On the other hand, popups must have a different version of CTAs like free, instant access etc.
Once, I was running an exit intent popup by Picreel. I’ve tested different versions of CTAs with different texts. And I have to say, that I was surprised and happy to see a noticeable increase in CTR and conversions when I replaced “free” with “limited time offer”. Then again, for another niche, I tried replacing “free” with “limited time offer” and it didn’t make any difference at all although in both the cases everything else stayed constant.
The thing is, you always have to test different words for CTAs and if something worked for a particular popup, ad, email form or at a landing page, it doesn’t mean that it will work all the times.
It is all about A/B testing and finding out what CTA works best for your audience.
@karlyevan Thanks for the awesome feedback and great additional tips! I 100% agree with you on the importance of A/B testing to find out what works best. It's always interesting to see the difference changing out one word or phrase can have on your conversions.