Types of CTAs: How to Craft Your Brand Message

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Building a Storybrand" by Donald Miller. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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What are the different types of CTAs? How do you know when to use the different CTAs?

There are two distinct types of CTAs: direct and transitional. You may use the different CTAs at different times during your marketing campaigns.

Read more about the types of CTAs and how they work.

Two Types of CTAs

There are two types of calls to action: direct and transitional. Here’s what you need to know about the two types of CTAs.


Direct calls to action prompt a customer to take the first step towards buying a product. 

  • Example #1: A button on your website that says “Get a quote” is a direct call to action.
  • Example #2: The phrase “Call XXX-XXXX to buy today” on a print ad is a direct call to action.

Transitional calls to action don’t ask your customers for a sale right away; instead, they interest a customer in your brand. When your customer does eventually need your product, ideally, she’ll remember your brand and go to you rather than a competitor.

  • For example, StoryBrand shared a free PDF about things a website should include and put an ad for their marketing workshop as the last page. Thousands of people viewed the PDF and over the next year, StoryBrand’s revenue doubled.

Transitional calls can do three things:

  • Create expert status. Designing a free PDF or webinar with information about your field shows that your brand is an industry expert. 
  • Encourage reciprocity. Giving out free information makes your brand look generous. If you give someone something for free, customers will be more inclined to give you something (an order) later.
  • Cast your brand as a guide. The guide’s role is to help the hero (customer) solve problems. If your call to action helps a customer solve a problem, you’re establishing your authority and competence, and the next time a problem comes up, the customer will be likely to turn to you again.

For more ideas on what to use as a transitional call, see Steps 2 and 3 in Chapter 11.

Use Both

Always include both types of calls in your marketing material. For those who aren’t ready to buy yet, the transitional call will strengthen their relationship with your brand. Imagine a direct call to action as asking someone to marry you and a transitional call as asking them out. It’s easier to get someone to marry you if you date them for a while first.

Place your call to action not only on your website but also on signs, radio ads, TV commercials, and email blasts. You can even put it in email signatures and business cards.

Types of CTAs: How to Craft Your Brand Message

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Carrie Cabral

Carrie has been reading and writing for as long as she can remember, and has always been open to reading anything put in front of her. She wrote her first short story at the age of six, about a lost dog who meets animal friends on his journey home. Surprisingly, it was never picked up by any major publishers, but did spark her passion for books. Carrie worked in book publishing for several years before getting an MFA in Creative Writing. She especially loves literary fiction, historical fiction, and social, cultural, and historical nonfiction that gets into the weeds of daily life.

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