Day 27: Lead users through your funnel with better CTAs

What is a Call To Action? The term most commonly refers to “any device designed to prompt an immediate response or encourage an immediate sale”. You see how the immediacy is the center of the definition.

That’s because CTAs back in the days of brochures, flyers, catalogs and direct mail, were strategically devised to have readers act as quickly as possible after having gone through the sales material. Things have changed noticeably for the web.

Especially after recent news of companies sharing their customers’ data in shady ways, people are more and more skeptical and careful when it comes to buying or engaging online in any way. In a 2019 survey, 68% of people said that “online privacy is impossible” for them.

That’s why using CTAs on your site has become more than just a way to go for the quick sale.

CTAs are the gateways between stages of your conversion funnel.

One door after the other, along the customer journey. For this purpose we use two types of doors/CTAs, primary and secondary.

A primary CTA leads users towards your main business goal (their primary need)

In an ecommerce site for example, it can change based on the stage the visitor is at. It can start from a generic “Shop now”, then turn into an “Add to cart” on a product page and ultimately into a “Checkout” button.

For a Software As A Service company like Mailchimp, the primary CTA is much more straightforward, leading to their pricing plans and then to signing up with the one you prefer.



For Backlinko it’s even simpler, one CTA leading to his newsletter sign up.

As you can see it depends on your business and its goal, but primary CTAs usually have a very siloed function.

A secondary CTA on the other hand, is a tool you can use to indirectly assist in the conversion.

You’re helping the user find what he needs, where is at, to convince him to click on your primary call to action later. Secondary CTAs can save a ton of potentially lost conversion opportunities.

They can play a few useful roles:

  • Counter objections
  • Provide further information to people who are not ready to buy
  • Progress leads to the next stage by keeping in line with their need
  • Complement the primary CTA by providing an alternative action
  • Contrast the primary CTA by providing an opposite action

The most important thing to keep in mind when it comes to secondary CTAs, is context. Not only page-wise, but section-wise too.

Simply put, whenever you use a secondary CTA, make sure the copy and design match the page and section you’re using it in, and that you don’t overshadow the primary CTA.

Let’s look at a few examples from Mailchimp since we’re familiar with their primary CTA already:

In their homepage’s above-the-fold section the secondary CTA is a “Learn more” text link. Pretty simple, but click on it and you’ll see that they send visitors to a dedicated page, specifically for small businesses or startups who are at the beginning of their venture. This might be because their data indicates small businesses are one of the audiences that most often finds out about them and just need a gentle push to buy (just guessing here).

Here, the secondary CTA “More emails, less effort”, hints directly at the copy above it (context!) and sends users to a page talking specifically about that feature. Good way to move prospects forward in the funnel, one (micro) conversion after the other.

In this interesting secondary CTA that follows a testimonial, Mailchimp sends users to a page that’s all about mobile usage. Guess what the testimonial above talks about? Yep, using the platform on mobile and how great it is. Again, all about context, even around testimonials.

Here they link to a Review site where users can see first person, how others have ranked their platform (like the headline says). This is a good example of how you can counter objections using secondary CTAs. Instead of merely saying they are ranked #4 and let users find the G2 Crowd review site, why not link directly to the site and help them find that information? Instant credibility and trust boost, even for the skeptics.

Here’s an example of using copy to not only describe an action (like “Learn more” or “See features”), but to actually point out the value in the service. And in doing so, matching the context around the secondary CTA.

As you’ve seen, using both primary and secondary CTAs can help you prioritize and balance your goals. And also create a seamless and gradual flow for the user to follow along.

In order to determine how you’re gonna go about this, here’s a few tricks of the trade you should keep in mind:

  • Determine your goal(s) upfront (what we’ve been doing in our posts)
  • Take the customer journey into consideration on your pages. A user on the Pricing page will likely be further down the funnel than someone on your About page. Use primary and secondary CTAs accordingly
  • Don’t compete with your primary CTA. Let it stand out. Worry first about visibility and accessibility (i.e. button size and contrast against the background), and second about what emotion its color can elicit.
  • Don’t overdo it. People need guidance but also crave direction. Use too many different calls to action and you risk overwhelming them (learn more about “cognitive overload”)
  • Reduce friction as much as possible on landing pages by avoiding the use of secondary CTAs if possible. People who land there have already expressed their interest in what that page offers.
  • Make the button text as self explanatory as possible. Clarity trumps cleverness.
  • Make sure images don’t distract from your CTAs. Around buttons, try using an image that automatically leads attention to that button (i.e. a person looking towards the button).
  • For contrasting CTAs (“Submit” and “Cancel” on a form for example), reduce the prominence of the secondary CTA with a less prominent color or using text only links, to minimize the risk of potential accidental clicks. You wouldn’t want to fill out a huge form and then accidentally lose all data by exiting.
  • Keep your primary and secondary CTAs’ design consistent. If you’re using blue buttons for your primary and outlined buttons for your secondary, keep them the same throughout the site.

These are just a few guidelines, but in the end what you do on your pages, always depends on your business goals first.

Your homework:

Go through the page you’ve chosen as most important and think about how you can plan and optimize your CTAs (primary and secondary). Can you reduce clutter in a section to make the primary action stand out? Can you add an alternate path for users to dig deeper if they are not ready using a secondary action? Can you differentiate your primary and secondary CTAs with color to make them clear and effective (a secondary CTA can simply be a text link or an outlined button too).