What is a call to action? Definition and examples

In selling, advertising, and marketing, a Call to Action or CTA is a phrase, sentence, or even image that tries to encourage the viewer to do something specific, i.e., act. The aim is to boost sales by prompting the consumer to purchase something, ask for a free sample, apply for a two-week trial, subscribe, or request a brochure.

In a non-business context, the term refers to a stimulus or exhortation to do something to address a problem or achieve a goal. If I say: “He concluded his speech with a call to action,” it means he ended by trying to encourage people to do something about a problem.

Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary & Thesaurus defines a call to action as “something such as a speech, piece of writing, or act that asks or encourages people to take action about a problem.”

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Image created by Market Business News.

This article focuses on the term when we use it in a sales, advertising, or marketing context.

A marketing statement

A call to action is a marketing statement designed to get an immediate response from the viewer, listener, or reader. In a sales letter, for example, you will usually find the CTA at the end.

It usually tries to create a sense of urgency by, for example, warning that the product is selling fast, so it is better to act now before it is too late.

A call to action is a useful marketing tool

Many small business owners, especially when they are starting out, are reluctant to use CTAs. Some believe they are not necessary because their target consumers already know what to do.

Others wonder whether such phrases might be too pushy and will discourage prospects. A prospect is a consumer who you believe could turn into a paying customer.

CTAs are fundamental components of your marketing tools. Do not undertestimate their power.

Moreover, tailoring the language of your CTA to match your target audience’s preferences can significantly enhance its impact; for instance, a youthful demographic might respond better to informal or playful phrasing, whereas a professional audience may prefer more direct and formal language


Businesses commonly use CTAs in their:

  • Catalogs
  • Brochures
  • Flyers
  • Sales letters or mailshots
  • Email campaigns
  • TV and radio ads
  • Face-to-face presentations
  • Web pages
  • Podcasts
  • Social media platforms

Call to action in a website

A call to action in web design may be in the form of a text, graphic, button, or banner. The aim is to encourage the online visitor to click it and continue along the conversion funnel. CTAs are important components of permission marketing and inbound marketing in that they try to turn users into leads, and ultimately into paying customers.

Wikipedia says the following regarding calls to action in web design:

“The main goal of a CTA is a click, or a scan in the case of a QR code, and its success can be measured with a click-through rate, a conversion rate formula that calculates the number of clicks over the times the CTA was seen.”

Improves conversion rates

In a bricks and mortar shop or online store, there are visitors and buyers. The aim of every business is to convert as many visitors into buyers as possible.

If 200 people visitor your store, and twenty buy something, your conversion rate is one-in-ten or 10%.

Effective calls to action can improve your conversion rates significantly. Humans really do respond to sales and marketing tactics. If they didn’t, companies would not spend hundreds of billions of dollars every year on marketing campaigns.

CTAs help visitors navigate

Do most of the visitors to your website leave without purchasing anything or asking for more information? If so, it is possible that the path they need to take to buy something is not very clear.

On a webpage, a CTA acts as a signpost that lets the visitor know how to proceed, i.e., what to do next. Without a clear and effective call to action, your website could be missing out on hundreds of sales each month.

If you have not set things up properly on your web pages, you might be boosting consumer desire for your type of products but handing over sales to your rivals whose websites have excellent CTAs.

Some examples

Below are some examples of call to action phrases:

  • Subscribe now!
  • Want more info? Call 890…..
  • Call this number now!
  • Yes, I want a free trial!
  • Seize your free trial now!
  • Activate your free trial today!
  • Do you want to get fit? Yes or No!
  • Get your discount before it’s too late!
  • This is a limited time offer. Act now!
  • Add to cart!
  • Request a demo!
  • Sign up for free!

Your call to action must offer a clear benefit, have actionable text, be short in length, and convey a sense of urgency.

Video – What’s a Call to Action?

This educational video, from our sister channel on YouTube – Marketing Business Network, explains what a ‘Call to Action’ means using simple and easy-to-understand language and examples.