Multiple or Single Calls to Action? Conventional Wisdom Might Be Wrong

Calls to Action for DummiesDigital (and especially email) Marketing 101 teaches us to use one single, solitary call to action (CTA) in almost any imaginable situation. The general wisdom was to “cater to a short attention span, and drive only one behavior or you’ll lose conversion.” Want to increase downloads of your new white paper? Link ONLY to that paper. Need to get the word out on that fancy new product you just spent six months building? Links should ONLY go to that product page. Want to get the word out on some recent press? (I think you get the point.)

I accepted that general wisdom for years – dutifully creating and deploying email after email – whether it was B2B or B2C, keeping the “single call to action” dictate in mind. “Don’t lose conversion! Don’t miss out on revenue!” I’d think to myself. In retrospect, I was doing what any young marketer does… accepting what my company had always done as the One Right Way. Plus – I was monitoring dozens of competitor, and they were doing the same. Best to just let this assumption guide me.

The problem with this assumption? You shouldn’t expect your prospects to jump through specific marketing hoops unless you have a good behavioral data pattern that suggests they like that hoop.

So I tested the assumption, and…

About four or five years ago, I made the switch to marketing automation, which put in my hands the power to figure this out on my own. I started A/B testing the you-know-what out of emails and landing pages. I was using a head-to-head method pitting single calls to action with versions that had up to 17+ different links to various content pieces. Dozens of tests and hundreds of thousands of email sends later – I had convinced myself (and my EVP) that this general wisdom was completely false.

Using multiple CTAs routinely lifted engagement by a MINIMUM of 20%. I didn’t know it at the time, but what I was testing was how much lift “Self-Nurturing” can give campaigns. We made a wholesale switch to multiple CTAs and didn’t look back.

What is “Self Nurturing?” It’s like a buffet of links your prospect could be interested in. It gives them control over what content they want to consume. Click here for an example of a landing page Act-On uses in a Top of Funnel Lead Nurture program. (Many thanks to @shellkillebrew from IBM for giving this concept of “self-nurturing” a proper name.)

It’s important to note, there will invariably be times when you should use a single CTA. If your core objective is to increase page hits/downloads or form submission – continue to focus all links and calls to action on that specific activity. Here are some tips for when using multiple CTAs should be a part of your strategy:

Why and When to Use Multiple Calls to Action

Test it yourself and share the results

Don’t believe me? Test it yourself, then drop me a line at @aaron_bolshaw to share the results! Don’t have a way to test? Sign up for 5 free A/B landing page tests at You can also join an upcoming webinar and check out a weekly demo here.

For those of you counting, there are four separate “self-nurturing” calls to action for you to pick from in this blog post.