February 22, 2021
Case Study

The Call to Action: 5 before-and-after examples of effective CTAs (with the results to prove it)


SEO…marketing automation…newspaper advertising…your brand name on a blimp…all marketing and advertising leads customers to an ultimate moment of truth – the call to action

Does your CTA inspire them to act? Or do they skip over it and find a competitor?

Read on to get ideas for optimizing your CTAs based on what worked for your peers at Visit Santa Barbara, software companies, a life insurance agency, and a content site.

by Daniel Burstein, Senior Director, Content & Marketing, MarketingSherpa and MECLABS Institute

The Call to Action: 5 before-and-after examples of effective CTAs (with the results to prove it)

This article was originally published in the MarketingSherpa email newsletter.

The call-to-action (CTA) is the culmination of all your marketing efforts. And as such, it deserves more effort than simply going with the de facto “Submit” button from your template.

Really, why should customers act? What’s in it for them? And how can you communicate that convincingly in so few words?

To help you better understand your customers’ thought process as they weigh whether to act on your CTAs, you can watch Effective CTAs: How the thought sequence of a call-to-action affects landing page performance from MarketingExperiments (MarketingSherpa’s sister publication).

Once you’ve gotten into the mind of the customer, take a look at these before-and-after examples from your peers to spark your own ideas for optimizing your company’s CTAs.


Example #1: Changing from proactive outreach to “Apply Now” CTA garners 400,000+ video views for Visit Santa Barbara

Minor copy tweaks can have a huge impact on conversion. And we’ll get to many of those examples in just a moment.

But before you tweak the wording, make sure you have the right strategy behind your call to action. Here’s a great example.

Influencer partnerships had been a successful tactic for Visit Santa Barbara, but required upfront investment in researching, vetting and selecting the right influencers to work with.

“Santa Barbara is a destination that many influencers enjoy visiting, or reach out to about partnerships, and with such an Instagrammable destination to offer, we decided to try to flip the script and offer unbeatable sponsored trips to select influencers that applied,” said JessyLynn Perkins, Director of Digital Marketing and Content Development, Visit Santa Barbara.

The team essentially changed the call-to-action strategy from a one-on-one outreach pitch to a marketing campaign offering the opportunity for influencers to “apply now.”

Here is a look at a pitch email using the previous approach…


It’s been a while! You might remember me – I had reached out in 2018 to set up a partnership with Visit Santa Barbara, which was a trip our client really loved working with you on! The images you shared with us are some of the best performing from all our influencers, and we had great results from your trip. We’re planning another round of influencer visits and would love to have you both back, if you’re interested!

If you two are interested, we’d love to connect on your availability in January, recent rates, and audience demographics! Let us know and we’d be happy to set up a call.

Talk soon,

The new approach featured sneak peeks of the sponsored trips the influencers could apply for to generate buzz and excitement for the opportunity (please note, it was pre-Covid).

“Visit Santa Barbara and Sparkloft Media worked with local partners to develop three over-the-top itineraries – luxury adventures and accommodations: private sailing excursions, dreamy picnic setups and a private Tesla wine tour – to attract influencers and create buzz within the creator community,” said Seth Buchwalter, PR Manager, Sparkloft Media. “To increase interest in potential partners, the message was clearly laid out to our targets: ‘Santa Barbara is the picturesque destination you—and your Instagram—have been waiting for!’”


Creative Sample #1: Ad to attract influencers for destination marketing organization

Creative Sample #1: Ad to attract influencers for destination marketing organization

Creative Sample #2: Ad to attract influencers for destination marketing organization

Creative Sample #2: Ad to attract influencers for destination marketing organization


“With the offer of exclusive, Instagram-worthy itineraries, influencers would come knocking, rather than the DMO (destination marketing organization) shelling out large influencer paydays and spending time actually interviewing candidates,” Buchwalter said.

Visit Santa Barbara received more than 500 applicants for just three spots on the trips.

“Clear, concise and direct CTAs worked well for us for this program – as with other programs and campaigns we've run. To make these direct CTAs even more effective, pair with reasons to believe and give your audience all the information to back up why they should take this action,” Perkins said.

The team didn’t choose the influencers based on popularity. Rather, they chose content creators over traditional influencers to generate lasting visual assets. The new approach also allowed them to find content creators they wouldn’t normally have considered with their traditional vetting process.

The program got nearly six million combined impressions and earned more than 350,000 engagements across social. Recap videos from footage shot while the influencers enjoyed their trips garnered 400,000 video views, while the Santa Barbara website got more than 11,000 visitors directly from the program.


Example #2: Software company increases CTA CTR from 2% to 5% by focusing on visitor intent

“I think the best thing you can do to implement a good CTA is to understand the intent of the user when landing on the page/screen where you want to add the CTA,” said Borja Prieto, Head of Growth, FROGED.

The software company had a product page with an above-the-fold CTA of “Learn More” that scrolled visitors to the pricing section upon click. When analyzing the performance of this page the team discovered that 10% of users who viewed the pricing information converted into paying customers. They also learned that the CTA had a two percent clickthrough rate (CTR).

So they wanted to test to see if they could increase the CTA’s clickthrough rate. When deciding what to change in the CTA they focused on the visitor’s intent when landing on this page and concluded that visitors wanted to see pricing as soon as possible.

The team changed the CTA copy to “View pricing.” Not only did this change increase the clickthrough rate from two percent to five percent, this small change also increased the conversion rate to paying customers by 20%. The increase in the second metric may be due to the fact that many visitors landing on the original page did not know they could see pricing info by clicking the “Learn More” button and therefore were never getting to the key point of information that would ultimately lead to their conversion to paying customer.


Example #3: Software company garners 3x improvement in banner clickthrough from testing

Dynamicweb had a banner with a hero placement at the top of its website. The banner promoted a brochure and the original CTA of “Get our Brochure” had a clickthrough rate of 1.5%.

When the team updated the CTA to “Check all our features” the clickthrough rate increased to 2.5%.

For a third iteration, they tried a CTA of “View our Feature List” which garnered a clickthrough rate of 4.5%.

“What it comes down to is that you should always be testing. We have the ABCs for sales (Always Be Closing). Let’s have the ABTs for marketing – Always Be Testing!” said Eric Jan C. van Putten, VP Marketing, Dyanmicweb.


Example #4: Life insurance agency gets 17% increase in leads by changing CTA to customer benefit

The call to action on the Funeral Funds homepage used to say, “Get Quote Now!” The team changed the CTA to “Get The Best Rate Now” and realized a 17% increase in leads.

“More website visitors are now providing their contact information since they want to get the best life insurance rates rather than getting a quote,” said Randy VanderVaate, President and Owner, Funeral Funds. “Using a compelling call to action will improve your lead generation quantity and increase your conversions and sales.”


Example #5: Content site increases CTA response sixfold by creating more relevant content

While the previous examples focused on CTA wording, this example shows the power of understanding user intent to help you pick the best place to show your calls to action.

Pest Control Hacks is a DIY pest control website that helps people get rid of small pest infestations on their own. Most of the target search queries are along the lines of “how to get rid of [pest name here].”

In June, the site partnered with several pest control companies to sell them leads for potential customers who cannot handle an infestation on their own. So, the site added CTA blocks to existing content offering professional pest control services.

After one month, the results were not as good as the team expected. Clickthrough rates were lower than one percent. The team tried changing the CTAs and layout, but those changes did not have a significant impact on results.

“Only when we had put ourselves in our users’ shoes and completed our users’ journey from the very beginning (search query) a dozen times [did we realize] that we are probably not serving the real intent of our users. Because our users are mostly searching for DIY ways to get rid of pest problems, they aren’t interested in professional help (yet). Thus, showing our CTA blocks inside DIY content wasn’t hitting the spot,” said Nicholas Martin, Founder & Editor-in-Chief, Pest Control Hacks.

This new insight inspired the team to add content explaining why and when someone should hire a professional pest control company to the old DIY content. They placed the original CTA blocks near this new content.

The new strategy was effective. The clickthrough rate increased to six percent – six times more than the previous results – with the exact same CTA wording and design.


Related Resources

CRO for CTAs: There is no perfect call-to-action, but these 6 checklists will help get your CTA pretty close

Call-to-Action Optimization: 132% increase in clickthrough from changing four simple words

The Call-To-Action: Should it be placed above or below the fold on a webpage?

Improve Your Marketing

Join our thousands of weekly case study readers.

Enter your email below to receive MarketingSherpa news, updates, and promotions:

Note: Already a subscriber? Want to add a subscription?
Click Here to Manage Subscriptions