The Five W’s of Calls-to-Action: Who, What, When… You Know the Deal

You’ve probably seen the beautiful abbreviation CTA somewhere in your marketing endeavors. So what exactly does this ‘CTA’ mean? What does it do? What’s the point?

To answer these pressing questions, we’re going to use the wonderfully helpful method of the five W’s: who, what, when, where, why, but just a smidge out of order.

We’ll start with ‘what’ and work our way to ‘why.’

So without further adieu…


CTA is short for call-to-action.

A call-to-action is a phrase or image that urges people to take immediate action. That action can be anything from buying something to signing up for a newsletter. It’s something that will ultimately move business forward.

Examples: Call now! Click here! Download now!


Aim your CTA at your target audience: your website visitors, listeners, readers, and so on. CTAs convert these people to subscribers, customers, and returning customers. Create your CTAs with your audience and goal in mind.


A call-to-action should provoke action instantly when someone sees it. You want them to take immediate action. To see your ad and do something about it.

The key is conveying urgency. So when? NOW, NOW, NOW.


CTAs can go a variety of places:

  • Landing pages: Lead gen landing pages use a form with a CTA that asks visitors to submit information. CTAs on click-through landing pages urge visitors to click through to buy something.
  • Commercials: This is the most common place for a ‘Call now!’ CTA
  • PPC ads: Use CTAs in your ad copy to urge people to click!
  • Website: Remember, CTAs aren’t restricted to ads. Put them on any page of your website! If you have an action that you’d like your visitors to complete, CTAs are the way to do it.
  • Email marketing: You want the people who receive your emails to do something after reading. That’s what your CTA is for.
  • Social media: Any campaign you run on social will need a strong CTA to get people to stop scrolling through their feed.


‘Why,’ the most important question of all, has two components:

1. Why would anyone want to complete your call-to-action?

Simple: incentives.

You need to give your visitors a reason to complete this action. Use the ‘this for that’ method to tell visitors what they’re getting. Show visitors that your CTA can help fulfill a need they have.

You can also convey urgency with phrases such as ‘for a limited time only.’ This makes visitors feel like they need to act quickly.

2. Why should you use a call-to-action?

This is pretty simple, too. Use a CTA to make visitors do something that you want them to. This action should move business forward.

An ad is incomplete and ineffective without a CTA. Why? Because viewers see your ad… and then what? You need to give them something to do. Guide your viewers toward your desired action.

CTAs can convert visitors to subscribers, subscribers to customers, and customers to returning customers. They can take visitors to a product page or to get information from visitors that you can use for future marketing campaigns.

And, maybe most importantly, they get visitors to do what you want them to do.

The result of a successful CTA is always beneficial to both parties. The desired action is carried out! You get what you want! And at the end of the day, we all just want to prove the Rolling Stones wrong.

You can always get what you want with a strong CTA.