Marketing Channels, Marketing Planning & Reporting

What Are Call-to-Actions and Why Do I Need Them?


Call-to-actions, also known as CTAs, are something you hear a lot about in the marketing world. But do you know exactly what they are, what they can be used for, and why you need them?

Put simply, call-to-actions are devices designed to prompt an immediate response or sale. Call-to-actions make sure your content converts into sales or sign-ups, encouraging passive viewers to take action.

Ensuring you get your call-to-actions just right will help you grow your small business, by encouraging the people who are viewing your marketing output to take the next step and become customers.

If you’re not sure where to start, here’s my simple guide to understanding call-to-actions and implementing them as part of your marketing plan.

What are call-to-actions?

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Call-to-actions are a way to encourage people to do something. That could mean buying your latest product, signing up for your newsletter, starting a free trial, following you on social media… the list is endless!

Because there are so many ‘actions’ that a CTA can be used for, what they look like and where they’re used can vary a lot.

Call-to-actions tend to use very direct, specific language, making it clear what action should be taken. They also tend to include a direct web link (or phone number), so the customer is taken straight to wherever the action is pointing them.

Some common types of call-to-actions include:

  • ‘Check it out’ at the end of a social media post linking to your blog
  • ‘Sign up now’ button on a newsletter landing page
  • ‘Book now’ button on your services page
  • ‘Call us now’ on a flyer about your business
  • ‘Shop now’ button in a newsletter about your new products
  • ‘Follow us on Instagram for more tips’ in a blog post

Want to improve your marketing’s conversion rate? Check out my post about actionable marketing copy – how to generate more leads for your small business.

The call-to-action formula

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Some call-to-actions can be a couple of sentences long, whilst others are simply two words on a button. Either way, almost all call-to-actions follow a basic formula: verb + time.

The verb is the action word, indicating what the viewer should do. And the time word indicates when they should do it. For example:

  • Sign up + now
  • Register + today
  • Book + this weekend
  • Follow us + now
  • Order + before supplies run out
  • Call us + right away

You can mix and match verbs and time words or phrases to create call-to-actions suitable for your small business. Adding a sense of urgency helps to encourage people to click through, so be clever with your use of language – don’t just write ‘book’!

The call-to-action itself should follow something informative, which lets people know exactly what they would be getting out of it. No one will click that button if it’s unclear what it’s for.

Will they get a free gift, access to exclusive materials, a special discount? Or will they learn something new, solve a problem they have or receive an upgrade? Is there a time limit (e.g. does the offer expire on a certain date)?

I’d recommend using call-to-actions on all your marketing material. From newsletters and social media posts to flyers and, of course, your website. Tailor each CTA so it suits the platform you’re using, and the product or service you’re trying to promote.

Why do you need to use call-to-actions?

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I think it’s clear to see that call-to-actions should, in theory, result in more click-throughs, sales and sign-ups. But does this work in practice? Well, yes!

Research by Wishpond found that by including an optimised call-to-action button, you can increase your conversion rate by over 470%. And Sixth City Marketing found that “including CTAs as Anchor Text in your blogs increase conversion by 121%”.

Even the placement of your call-to-action and the colour of the button you use can make a big difference to your click-through and conversion rates. Do a little experimentation and find out what works best for you.

Essentially, you want to make the ‘journey’ as easy as possible for potential customers. Quickly draw their attention to the call-to-action, make it clear what it’s all about, and make it simple to complete the process, whether that’s viewing a blog post, signing up for a newsletter or purchasing a product.

I have an entire post on making your customer journey as simple as possible – check it out here!

Over to you: Next steps

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To make sure your marketing is as effective as it can be and helps you reach your goals, start with an audit: Check all your marketing material, from leaflets to your website and social media content and look out for call-to-actions.

Are there any? Do they make clear what you want people to do and what they gain from it? Do you make it easy for people to take action or are they confronted with long forms to fill out or pop-up banners?


To read more about this topic, have a look at these:
Landing Pages for Small Businesses
Actionable Marketing Copy: How to Convert More Leads for Your Small Business
How to Create a Powerful Customer Flow that Gets People Clicking Through
Want to Get Better Results from Your Small Business Marketing?

Denise Strohsahl brand and marketing consultant for small businesses

Hello, I’m Denise from sandstonecastles, a brand & marketing consultancy based in Edinburgh, Scotland.

I help small business owners like yourself to find the right marketing that’s in line with your brand and values.