The Art of the CTA

Inbound Marketing

We know the artistic greats—Picasso, Van Gogh, Degas, and Pollock. But, a new artist rises to fame—the marketer. Carefully crafting creative and compelling calls-to-actions (say that 5-times fast) that convert prospects into qualified leads is no small task. Much like painting a masterpiece, the marketer does plenty of research on the subject, decides which medium to use, tests out different colors, experiments and attempts it more than once.

Artists and marketers both want to ooh and ahh their audience, convey a message and convert the viewer into a believer, fan or in the case of marketing, a prospect. The call-to-action (CTA) is the pièce de résistance—it’s your end-all, be-all. CTA’s are not an arbitrary part of your marketing strategy, either. Sure, they may be small in size, but a great CTA can pack a mean punch in your marketing plan.

There’s nothing worse than a boring, pointless CTA, so if you’re ready to take your CTAs from plain buttered toast boring to bomb diggity bacon, keep on reading. And, our sincerest apologies to toast.

Call to Action IllustrationWhat is a CTA?

First, let’s take a step back and start with defining what the heck a CTA is. A CTA is an image or a line of text that calls your visitors, prospects, readers or customers to action. It prompts them to do exactly what you want them to do.

The desired action on your CTA could be anything. Maybe it’s downloading an ebook, or signing up for a webinar, printing a voucher, visiting your website, checking out a sale, etc. CTAs can be found anywhere in your marketing materials—from the bottom of your blog to the top of your email. The possibilities are endless.

What Makes a Bomb Diggity CTA?


Designing a CTA that is eye-catching and noticeable to the visitor or reader is crucial to its capability to convert. Veering off course of your branding is ok, and make sure that your colors contrast with your website design, so they stick out. Make sure your CTA is also designed with large enough dimensions. All of these elements combined are what makes a CTA work.

When designing a CTA, be sure to test only one piece at a time. Things you should test: size, the shape of the CTA, color and design elements like rounded or pointed edges and hover effects.  


Copy that moves someone to click on a button not only has to be concise but has to entice them to want to take the next steps. In today’s marketing world, a button that says “submit” no longer cuts it. Being able to clearly articulate your idea is key to snagging the prospects you desire. Clunky, crappy and unengaging copy can hurt your click-through and conversion rate and unfortunately, your bottom line.

If you’re looking for your customers and prospects to glean the right information from your CTA (and why wouldn’t you), then start your CTAs with subjects and verbs. Verbs are known to get the most attention, especially on social media.

Make sure to pepper in numbers to let your visitors know exactly what they are getting, but don’t force it. Maybe you’re telling them what they’re getting (5 Ways to Groom a Mini Horse), or how much of something they are getting (Get 6 Tacos for Free) or how long they are getting it for (Pet Cute Puppies for 24 Hours Straight!). And if these seem like feasible blog titles, headlines or subject lines—they can be. The same rules apply when writing most marketing materials.

And a few quick tips to remember when writing CTA copy—keep it short (between 90-150 characters), keep the language practical and uncomplicated and limit your use of adverbs. Stick to that, and you’re golden.

A Crystal Clear Value Proposition

You know that saying, try the milk before you buy the cow? Think of the CTA as your visitors trying the milk. Confused? We’re talking about having a clear value proposition or having your visitors knowing exactly what is going to happen when they click your CTA.

There are no rules to what you are offering, so long as it provides the prospect with value in some way. Maybe it’s downloading an ebook or a case study template. Maybe it’s a voucher for discounted services or a simple sign up to subscribe to your weekly newsletter. Whatever it is, make sure that the CTA tells them exactly what they’re going to get when they click.

Landing Page

While this is technically not part of the actual CTA, it matters where the visitor is taken once they do decide to click.

Leading your visitors to a page specifically dedicated to your campaign, offer, or value proposition can significantly increase your conversion rate and drive leads. While a CTA would still be effective if it pointed to a page on your website, it would be much less effective than creating a page specific to your value proposition. Include a way to collect visitor information on your landing page (i.e., a form) and a brief description of what you’re offering and what to expect.

So, What’s the Secret Sauce?

You’re probably wondering if there’s a top-secret formula for creating kick ass CTAs. The answer is—kind of. Creating a CTA isn’t a scientific matter, but there are some rules of thumb to follow if you want to craft one that begs to be clicked. Follow these general formulas:

  • Get started + now/right away/today
  • Learn more
  • Sign up + for a free + (whatever the benefit or service is)
  • Start your + free trial (or whatever the benefit or service is) + now/right away/today
  • Subscribe + what they are subscribing to + now/today
  • See how + it (or the actual benefit or service) works
  • Only + number (as in the actual number) of spots available
  • Talk to us
  • Experience + benefit of product or service

Final Thoughts

These are just a few examples. Play with the language and design for the right fit. Remember, change only one element at a time when testing. Stay away from non-specific jargon and understand that crafting a powerhouse of a CTA takes time, effort and is much like art. So, get those paint brushes out and start creating.

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Topics:   Inbound Marketing

Jenna Enright

Jenna is a content writer at Stratus Interactive and is currently a graduate student studying for her M.A. in professional writing at Chatham University. She started blogging as an angsty high schooler and wrote and developed a blog as her capstone project for her undergraduate degree in English. Now she gets to do it as a job! See all Jenna Enright's posts.