Call to Action: Emails that drive Action

writing tip wednesdays Jan 27, 2021

Why are you writing an email?

Earlier in this series, we talked about telling a story and two different types of email formats: the CTA (call to action) and the CYA (cover your assets). Today, let's dive more deeply into the Call to Action emails. The CTA emails exist to connect with your reader so that they take an immediate action.

In marketing literature, the copy is intended to drive you take a specific action, "Click Here!," "Let's get started," "Lose 10 lbs. Start today!" In each of these buttons, it is the clear which action the user should take. Unfortunately, work emails are seldom written so clearly.

As a servant leader, it is our duty to write with clarity and connection. To help our reader quickly come to the conclusion we want them to find, we must be precise in our writing. Precision, in this case, means stating the desired outcome explicitly.

 Hot tip: if you have a deadline, include it in your call to action.  

~Angela Buckley

In a CTA email, ideally, you place your call to action in two places within the email: immediately at the top or at the last line before your signature. In marketing, placing your CTA at the top is called, "Above the fold." This placement is for people who already trust you, know the topic, and expect an email from you asking them to complete a task. In contrast, the email with the CTA located at the bottom spends the length of the email explaining the situation, context, and building trust with the reader. 

Readers generally require two or more CTAs before they take action. Plan on this in your writing. Research has shown that individuals who say "no" when asked for help are 74% more likely to respond yes the second time they are asked. Ask, and ask again!

The CTA email can follow a simplified formula of the SMART goals:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Reasonable and
  • Timely.

In the case of the CTA, specific, achievable, and timely are important. Provide the parameters necessary for the individual to complete the desired task. I once had a boss who send emails asking us to complete things, but he never included a timeline. Then, the next afternoon, he would ask for the work! Seldom did he understand the workload associated with the task. Seldom did I respond to his requests that did included dates or deadlines with any sort of priority. Hot tip: if you have a deadline, include it in your call to action.  

The CTA in an email

The CTA might look like something like this:

  • Sign up for the training on the attached document by close of business Wednesday.
  • Set up the workshop for next Friday afternoon and include the following individuals:
  • Complete the audit by the end of the month and document your findings using the following link:

Notice that these CTA give a specific task and date? The CTA does not have to be complicated; in fact, it should be very simple. What CTA emails have you sent recently? How did you word your CTA? Did your email achieve your targets?


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