How to Create Your Own Powerful Email Marketing Funnel

How to Create Your Own Powerful Email Marketing Funnel

Whether you’re experienced with email marketing or just starting out, one of the tougher tasks is building an email marketing funnel. After all, most of us are used to writing creative emails and then hoping they work out. However, this isn’t an efficient way to do email marketing. Learning how to maximize your marketing efforts is key to growing any business.

Think about it this way: if you’re like 58% of consumers, the first thing you check in the morning is your email. In fact, many of us tap that icon on our smartphones before our feet even touch the floor. Having your marketing messages reach customers early in the morning is a great way to get that sale. If nothing else, you get an awesome chance to beat your competition.

Of course, even emails which arrive later in the day can be highly effective. One survey of marketers found that 73% of them attributed email marketing to better customer conversions. Considering that experts expect more than 347 billion emails a day worldwide this year, it isn’t surprising that email marketing works. At the same time, this figure should alert us that competition is fierce. Building an effective email marketing funnel is critical to future success.

What is an email marketing funnel?

what is a _____?

An email marketing funnel is similar to any other sales-related funnel. In a nutshell, it is a series of emails that you send to subscribers. Your goal is to turn a subscriber into a customer, if they aren’t already. Then, you want to turn this person into a repeat customer and, eventually, a brand advocate. Brand advocates help to bring in more customers or sales leads, meaning that they are highly valuable to most brands.

Of course, as a series of emails these funnels are aimed at nurturing your brand’s relationship with leads and customers. And since you need to send many of these emails out each day, the use of automation is critical. If you don’t use automation, then you’ll miss out on many of the benefits your email marketing funnel has to offer. For instance, it’ll require many man hours to send emails at the right times. If you can do it at all due to time zones.

Besides this, your email marketing funnel must cover many steps along a customer’s brand journey. If someone has subscribed to your emails, then they have developed a minimal level of brand awareness. People don’t subscribe to emails unless they have some reason for it. Your other marketing techniques must get you that far.

Further Reading: What is Email Marketing Automation and How Much Can You Actually Automate?

Why do you need an email marketing funnel?

While most marketers won’t dispute the need for a marketing funnel in other mediums, some think that email marketing is different. One reason for this is that email is sent into a customer’s environment much more than other forms of advertising. For most people these days, email is in their pocket in the form of a smartphone. However, an email marketing funnel is as important as any other.

They help you be more efficient with your marketing

They help you be more efficient with your marketing

As I mentioned before, simply blasting out emails about the latest promotion is relatively ineffective. While this is an important part of email marketing, many customers love to learn about your products and services. To that end, many companies send out newsletters or blog digests. Here, the idea is to draw your customers onto your website where they can learn more. You don’t have to write a book in each email.

At the same time, an email marketing funnel allows you to employ marketing automation tools. Depending on the tools you use, emails can be scheduled quite a bit in advance. You can even set up triggered emails that let you respond to customer behavior. If you’ve ever gotten an email about that item you left in your e-commerce cart, this technique is familiar.

Finally, having a predetermined funnel lets you save staff time. You can write the core emails, and their variants, once and then program them into your email client. Then, as changes are made to your funnel the original emails can be updated. Of course, you’ll plan on doing this to some degree because seasons and promotions change.

Further Reading: The 16 Best Email Marketing Tools to Consider Investing in Today

It helps encourage more product sales from your email list

As I’ve often said, it takes more than one marketing message to earn a sale. In fact, it typically takes several. Without an email marketing funnel, it will be much harder to get enough sales messages out to your mailing list.

Similarly, not every customer is interested in the same types of products or promotions. This is especially obvious in some sectors such as e-commerce. One example is clothing retailers. If a retailer sells clothes for men, women, and children then not every product line will appeal to a given customer. An adult with no kids will likely only pay attention to the children’s products if someone close to them is having a baby shower, or something similar.

On the other hand, an effective email marketing funnel will help your customers find the right products and services for them. For instance, most computer companies make a range of laptops, desktops, and other computing equipment. Some are designed for home users, others for gaming enthusiasts, and a few for business customers. Email marketing can be used to help the customer choose the right machine. By being helpful this way, each company increases their chance of getting the sale.

It helps you stay in touch

It helps you stay in touch

Relationships are an important part of life, and customer relations are no exception. The easiest way to nurture relationships in business is by staying in touch with people who are interested in your products and services. Keeping in touch can involve emails, social media engagement, and even snail mail. Whatever keeps your brand at the forefront of their mind can be effective.

Over time, staying in touch with your email list increases sales. This sales increase includes both new customers and old ones. In addition, customers might purchase a more expensive or profitable product because they understand its value. For instance, the computer company might use email to demonstrate that while a certain specification is adequate for someone’s needs, a different choice will improve user experience or save money long-term.

Finally, staying in touch helps boost customer loyalty and encourages advocacy. Many types of products sell more easily when customers come back multiple times. And in other situations, a good experience with one product encourages customers to try something else. Over time, happy customers will refer their friends, relatives, and colleagues. Especially in a time where customer service seems to be scarce, this is extra valuable.

Further Reading: 15 Amazing Benefits of Email Marketing No One Ever Taught You

How to capture leads for your email marketing funnel

Before you can use an email marketing funnel, you need sales leads on your list. In this case, leads should be added in a manner that complies with applicable laws. For instance, in the United States we need to differentiate between transactional and promotional emails. We also have to allow customers to opt out. Here are some ideas for gathering email marketing leads the right way.

Opt-in forms often found on a website page or blog post

Most e-commerce websites have an opt-in checkbox on their order page. Here, when you place the order you can also ask for emails, and this is an efficient method of lead gathering. However, this isn’t your only option. There are many kinds of opt-in forms, including lead generation freebies and coupons. One popular choice for consultants and other professionals is to offer a piece of content in exchange for email permission. For instance, you’ll see that I’m doing this on my website.

Landing pages

Another option for lead generation is the use of landing pages. You’ll often see these used in conjunction with a social media post. Here, you might advertise a freebie on social media, and then ask for an email in return for access. Alternatively, you can use a popup that solicits emails for something even more special. For instance, you might offer a marketing checklist. This approach is relatively common with news organizations and B2B brands.

Further Reading: 11 Best Practices for Successful B2B Email Marketing in 2024

Webinars or other events

Webinars or other events

Finally, many people use webinars and other events to get email leads. This is especially effective in an age of social distancing, where seeing people in person is much more difficult. However, even in normal times webinars and virtual events are a great way to present information and meat people economically. It helps minimize the impact of long distances, too.

Of course, it’s easy to require that people give their emails to attend a virtual event. While you might not require an opt-in for paid events, that permission could easily be the “payment” for otherwise free webinars. Many companies have found this lead generation technique to be highly effective.

What are the different stages in an email marketing funnel?

Once you’ve gotten a nice email list together, what comes next? In short, it’s the hard work of turning those leads into customers and advocates that drive your sales machine. For this, you need a high-quality email marketing funnel. These funnels have five basic steps: awareness, interest, conversion, loyalty, and advocacy. Let’s take a look at each of them.

Awareness: Your top of the funnel to generate leads from a potential customer

People get a ton of marketing messages every day, ant many of them are from companies they don’t work with. So how are you going to convince people to listen? Through brand awareness. Your first step is always to let people know who you are, what you’re about, and what you have to offer. If you can get past their initial skepticism or ignorance, you’ve already come a long way.

Interest: The middle of the funnel to nurture leads

Getting people to listen to your brand message is only the beginning, however. Many people will say, “that’s nice but is this for me?” Especially in highly competitive industries it’s a challenge to get past this point. This is why you need to nurture leads. As you send messages to people, they’ll get to know your company better. Knowing you better helps when it’s time to make a purchase decision.

Conversion: A bottom of the funnel to convert leads

Here’s where things go from lead nurturing to more sale-directed action. Although most of us value those customer relationships on a personal and professional level (you do, right?), eventually you need to generate sales. The conversion phase of an email marketing funnel is intended to get people to spend money. However, getting to that point requires that the customer see value in your products and services. It also means that they are confident about what they need to buy.

Loyalty: Repeat your funnel to retain customers

As the saying goes, it’s cheaper to keep customers than get new ones. To that end, your email marketing funnel should include customer loyalty emails. In some ways, this is a repeat of your original funnel, except that you can write them to reflect prior purchases. For instance, you can offer a coupon based on what a certain person bought the last time. Or, it could be a “customer loyalty” sale for existing customers only. This allows for both tailoring and exclusivity.

Advocacy: Activate a loyal customer as an influencer

Finally, your email marketing funnel should encourage customer advocacy or influencer accolades. One way to do this is by encouraging customers to review something they’ve purchased. Another option is to ask customers for referrals and to “pass the word” about your awesome products. Remember, referrals from family and friends is one of the oldest forms of influencer marketing.

How do you create your own email marketing funnel?

How do you create your own email marketing funnel?

Of course, as important as it is to have an email marketing funnel, every company and brand must make one for themselves. Just as each company is unique, their products and customers are different from others. At the same time, sales funnels work on the same principles regardless of product.

Drip campaigns

Drip campaigns have been a staple of email marketing from the beginning. They are made of a series of emails beginning with a welcome message when a customer subscribes. The overall purpose is to build trust and encourage people to develop a deeper relationship with you. Drip campaigns can include sale announcements, product launches, and even newsletters. However, they are a predetermined set of emails which either your entire audience or a subset of them gets regardless of their actions.

Triggered emails based on customer activity or behavior

Besides drip emails, the typical email marketing funnel includes triggered emails. These are sent to customers based on their activity on a website or social media pages. For instance, most e-commerce sites send “abandoned cart” emails when someone fails to complete a transaction. Another example of triggered emails is the product suggestion. Here, you’ll recommend products based on a customer’s browsing or buying history. You can deploy this technique regardless of what your company sells.

No matter what kind of business you run, having an email marketing funnel is one of the best ways to increase sales. Fortunately, this is relatively easy to implement. With quality email marketing tools and some creativity, you can save time and money, while also increasing impact.

Photo by Campaign Creators on Unsplash

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Neal Schaffer
Neal Schaffer

Neal Schaffer is a leading authority on helping businesses through their digital transformation of sales and marketing through consulting, training, and helping enterprises large and small develop and execute on social media marketing strategy, influencer marketing, and social selling initiatives. President of the social media agency PDCA Social, Neal also teaches digital media to executives at Rutgers University, the Irish Management Institute (Ireland), and the University of Jyvaskyla (Finland). Fluent in Japanese and Mandarin Chinese, Neal is a popular keynote speaker and has been invited to speak about digital media on four continents in a dozen countries. He is also the author of 3 books on social media, including Maximize Your Social (Wiley), and in late 2019 will publish his 4th book, The Business of Influence (HarperCollins), on educating the market on the why and how every business should leverage the potential of influencer marketing. Neal resides in Irvine, California but also frequently travels to Japan.

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