How to Make a Great Email Marketing Funnel

Published: Mar 25, 2020
Last Updated:
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Do you want to generate new leads, engage your target audience, and turn them into loyal customers? If so, you should focus on email marketing funnels.

Despite the growing number of social media platforms, email marketing still offers the highest return on investment, with industries averaging $42 in return for every $1 spent. Additionally, 78 percent of marketers reported an increase in email engagement in the past 12 months.

That said, not every email marketing strategy leads to success. The days of email blasts and one-size-fits-all campaigns are gone. To create an effective email marketing campaign, you need an email marketing funnel.

What is an email marketing funnel?

Ever hear of the sales funnel? Email funnels operate similarly, albeit in the context of email marketing.

Aweber marketing funnel
(Image credit: AWeber)

Simply put, an email funnel is a series of targeted, personalized emails sent to subscribers to convert them from leads into loyal customers. Alternate names for email funnels include:

  • Email sequences
  • Autoresponder series
  • Automated follow-ups

Email funnels work because, unlike social media content, you can control what messages your subscribers receive and when they receive them. Additionally, you own your email list, so you don’t have to worry about your marketing strategy being impacted by the platform and algorithm changes that affect social media marketing.

These benefits allow you to tailor your email funnel and guide your prospect into the buyer’s journey. By sending targeted emails that contain relevant information, you help move subscribers to the next stage. When done well, an email marketing funnel can turn leads into loyal, lifetime customers.

When setting up your email funnel, you should focus on tailoring the sequence to:

8 Steps to Build a Successful Email Marketing Funnel

Building a successful email sequence takes planning. The more you can target information so that your potential customer is in the buyer’s journey, the better your results.

The following steps will focus on setting up an email marketing funnel for converting a new lead into a loyal customer. However, you can set up email marketing funnels for other purposes, such as re-engaging subscribers, offering upsells to existing customers, and more.

1. Identify your target audience.

The more you understand your audience, the easier it will be to provide them with relevant, useful information. If you have established a user persona for your company, you can use that to identify potential customer concerns, problems, and obstacles. Understanding your audience will allow you to write emails that address their issues and keep them engaged.

2. Select an email marketing automation system.

An email automation system will automatically send out the emails in your funnel for you. Email funnels are often sent based on specific triggers, such as immediately sending a welcome email sequence when an opt-in form is filled out.

When shopping for an email automation system, look for a provider that:

  • Can accommodate the size of your business
  • Offers automated scheduling of email sequences
  • Lets you divide your email list into different groups
  • Provides you with analytics and data that you can use to evaluate the performance of your email sequence

Fortunately, there are many providers available. Some popular email marketing automation providers include Mailchimp, ConvertKit, Constant Contact, and Drip.

3. Generate leads by growing your email list.

Even the world’s best email marketing funnel will fail if no one receives it. To build your email list, you need to attract potential leads. One way to do this is to offer a free lead magnet.

A lead magnet is a free incentive that you give to people in exchange for their email address. It can be a PDF download, video, webinar, template, interactive tool, or something else.

The key is to make sure your lead magnet provides value.

You can use opt-in forms or landing pages to advertise your lead magnet. By signing up for your lead magnet, people are giving their permission for you to contact and market to them. These new subscribers are more likely to be a part of your ideal audience, which will make it easier to help move them through the buyer’s journey.

This opt-in form from Just Creative is an example of a lead magnet that targets people interested in design and business resources.

Now that you’ve started building an email list, it’s time to construct the email sequence you’ll use to convert your leads into loyal customers.

4. Welcome email for new subscribers.

When someone signs up for a lead magnet, it’s important to send them a welcome email or welcome email sequence. The first email you send should:

  • Deliver the promised item
  • Welcome and introduce them to your list
  • Inform them of the benefits and content they can expect from your emails

The goal of this email is to begin a relationship. You are showing recipients that you are trustworthy by delivering on the promised lead magnet. Don’t try to sell anything at this point. The primary objective of this stage is to thank them for subscribing to your list.

In this email, you can also let them know how often they will receive emails from you and what the general focus of those emails will be. You may decide to split this information into multiple emails. In this case, the first few emails in your funnel could be:

  • Email 1: Welcome. Provide the promised download or link, thank them for joining, and welcome them.
  • Email 2: Information on using the downloaded item. If the lead magnet was a template, you might provide tips on how other people have successfully used it to show its value.
  • Email 3: Invite them to give feedback on the downloaded item. You could use this email to learn more about your new subscribers and gain feedback on the lead magnet. This information will allow you to send more targeted information to help them in the next part of your funnel.

5. Nurture and educate subscribers.

Think of this stage as the middle of the sales funnel. The goal of this step is to give your subscribers value. Provide tips to overcome the obstacles they face and information that addresses their pain points.

During this phase, include information that increases their interest in your product or service through ebooks, events, reviews, videos, or testimonials. Consider including demos, case studies, or free trial offers to increase the likelihood of a purchase. Be sure to demonstrate how your product works and how it can solve their problem.

The more value and help you provide to your new subscribers, the more they will trust you and look forward to reading your emails. The number of emails you send in this phase can vary depending on your product or service.

6. Convert subscribers into customers.

This next stage is the bottom of the sales funnel, where you attempt to convert subscribers into paying customers.

These emails will provide the nudge a loyal subscriber may need to buy your product or service. In this email, you’ll make your sales pitch by giving a direct offer. Your offer may include details such as a time-limited offer or an exclusive promotion to increase the sense of urgency to act.

To create a strong email, you’ll want to:

  • Highlight your product and show how it benefits the subscriber
  • Provide testimonials or reviews
  • Have one clear call to action
  • Include a link to an FAQ page

7. Retain your email subscribers.

Regardless of whether a subscriber makes a purchase, your email funnel isn’t over. You can use your email funnel to help you retain subscribers and keep them engaged in your business.

This step is essential because you’ve already done the work of building trust and nurturing a relationship. It’s easier to offer future services to someone who already knows you than to someone who’s new to your business.

To help retain subscribers, you can send emails that keep them engaged with your product or service, such as weekly updates or progress reports. This strategy helps maintain awareness of your product or service and reminds them of the value they’re getting.

For instance, Grammarly does this well by providing weekly writing updates to premium level subscribers that include data on their productivity, vocabulary, and more.

Continue to nurture your relationship by providing valuable content such as free templates, videos, or downloads. Be sure to include surveys to help you continue learning what’s important to your customer base. This strategy keeps people engaged with your brand, which makes it easier to offer future products, services, and deals to them.

8. Refine your email marketing funnel. (Study the metrics!)

After your new email funnel has reached a good sample of people, you’ll want to evaluate how well it’s working and determine whether you need to modify your sequence. Fortunately, your email automation provider should have the information you need.

While there are many ways to evaluate your email sequence, there are three key metrics that should be weighted above all others:

1. Open Rates

The open rate is the percentage of individuals who open your email. A low open rate could indicate that the subject lines aren’t grabbing people’s attention or that your lead magnet is not targeting the right audience.

2. Clickthrough Rates

The clickthrough rate is the percentage of recipients who click on at least one link in the email. It can provide a sense of how many subscribers are engaging with your content.

3. Conversion Rates

Your conversion rate is the percentage of recipients who complete the desired action in the email, such as clicking a download link or purchasing a product. If this rate is low, then you may need to rework your call to action.

Grow Your Business With Email Marketing Funnels

Email is a powerful marketing tool that gives you control over what content your subscribers see and when they see it. Email marketing funnels allow you to provide tailored, personalized content that helps you build a relationship with your audience. Ultimately, email marketing funnels can help you take your business to the next level.

This article was written by writer Shannon Whyte.


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