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Email funnels: Align your emails to the customer journey and start converting

Email sales funnels
Mapping your email funnel to each stage of the customer journey
5 tips for a high-converting email marketing funnel
Final thoughts

Email marketing is enticing to marketers because it’s a (relatively) free channel that’s all yours. You can reach your audience with personalized content that isn’t controlled by algorithms and you’ll typically see a healthy ROI.

To leverage your list in the best way possible, tailor your email funnel content to where your customers are on the buying journey.

In this piece, we’ll go over the key phases of the customer journey and how to map your email funnel to them. Then we’ll cover five actionable tips on leveraging email marketing to drive revenue.

Mapping your email funnel to each stage of the customer journey

The customer journey is a behavioral map that sales and marketing teams use to keep their focus on the customer. Breaking down the buying process this way helps teams understand motivations as they change throughout the decision-making process.

Knowing how your customer typically makes a decision also creates an excellent model for email sales funnels.

What is an email funnel?

Your email funnel is a strategically designed series of email campaigns that nurtures leads and existing customers toward conversions. By tailoring your email messaging to each stage of the customer journey, you can meet your customers where they are, making your emails more likely to resonate.

Let’s explore the customer journey stages and look at how you can map your email funnel to each stage.

Awareness: Discovering your brand

The first phase of any buying journey is the awareness stage. This is when a new lead or potential customer becomes aware your brand exists as a solution to their problem.

For example, a busy student might wish they could read more of their schoolwork between extracurricular activities. They’re also struggling with lugging paperwork around and they haven’t yet heard of your read-aloud app (this is sometimes called pre-awareness).

The student starts to search for solutions and someone recommends your app that will help them listen to their texts as they commute between home, school and clubs. On your blog, they discover a lead magnet checklist of top study tips and enter their email to download it.

The student has now entered the awareness stage and becomes aware of your brand, but they are not yet ready to buy.

How to tailor your emails to the awareness stage

The content of your emails in this first stage of the funnel should clearly outline the issues that your product or service addresses. Depending on your product, your customer is not likely to be ready to buy just yet. Your best bet is to nurture them into the next stage.

In the awareness stage, send emails offering free tips and advice like:

  • Educational content (e.g., videos or featured articles from your blog)

  • Checklists

  • Templates

  • Free samples

Trello’s email features several blogs to establish themselves as an authority in business productivity:

Trello Email Sales Funnel

By showing customers you truly understand their pain points and struggles in a way that makes them feel seen and heard, as Trello has, you’ll build trust with your email subscribers.

Consideration: Explaining why your brand provides the best solution

The consideration stage is where you present your case for why your solution is the best. At this point, your customer is vetting you against their personal objections (such as budget or lack of trust) and the competition.

Continuing with our example above, the student now knows about your brand and they’ve started looking at your company’s presence online. They might take a look at your social media profile and click through to your website where they sign up for a free trial.

They are considering whether to invest in your app, so it’s important to counter objections and hype up your product’s benefits in your emails to help them off the fence.

How to tailor your emails to the consideration stage

The consideration stage is an ideal time to start introducing social proof, if you haven’t already.

Case studies showing how you solved specific problems for existing customers and the results you provided are a great way to do this. Testimonials are another way to demonstrate how your product has worked for others.

You can also reduce friction by directly countering common objections in an email sequence. If your customers are worried about the price, let them know about your annual plan discount or student pricing.

Help your trial users and other customers in the consideration phase by sending emails including:

  • Product demo videos and webinars

  • Case studies (ideally personalizing each to their segment)

  • Product features and their direct benefits

  • Special offers

For example, transcription service Otter.ai sends this email to their free plan subscribers in hopes they’ll convert to a paid Pro user:

Otter Pro Email Sales Funnels

Highlight the benefits of your product or service, and help potential customers see how they might benefit while reducing risk.

Conversion: Turning subscribers into new customers

In the conversion stage, customers have decided on your product as the best solution. They now need a clear call to action (CTA) that tells them exactly what to do to get access (e.g. a “Buy now” button).

In our previous example, the student has now been through the free trial. They’ve engaged with the articles in your email and the case study about a student just like them has convinced them the app is just what they need.

Now, they need a slight nudge to take the leap and hand over payment details.

How to tailor your emails to the conversion stage

In this stage, your email content is likely to be short, direct and CTA-focused. You’ll creatively emphasize the benefits and counter final objections before asking for the sale.

If you’re running a deal for a select amount of time, this is a great time to play up the urgency of the decision-making. Include any limited-time offers in your subject line as well as in your email body copy.

To drive conversions and turn your list into paying customers, use the following tools and tactics:

  • Promotional offers

  • Product images

  • Urgency

  • How to get in touch with questions

Website design tool Platforma does this with their offer email:

Plataforma Offer Email

Retention and advocacy: Keeping customers coming back

The conversion stage is where your lead finally buys your product for the first time, but that’s not the end of the buyer journey. You’ll want to keep strengthening your relationship to keep them coming back and recommend your brand to others.

Let’s return to our example.

Say the student has now been a customer of your text-to-speech app for several months. Every month they run out of their allowance of words read included in your plan. They’re now wondering if your premium plan, which offers unlimited words per month, is ideal or if they should jump ship to a competitor.

The emails you send at this stage will have an impact on whether that student stays with your brand, whether they upgrade and whether they’ll share their experience with friends, family and followers.

To keep your customers happy after the initial purchase and boost retention, you’ll want to continue sending helpful emails.

How to tailor your emails to the retention and advocacy stage

Send a thank-you email expressing your excitement and reiterating all the benefits they’ll get from your product to keep up momentum.

Send an onboarding email sequence with easy-to-digest tutorials and guides highlighting best practices to get the most out of your products and services.

Eventually, you can nurture your upsell products if your brand offers premium products or plans. You won’t want to do this until you’ve stabilized your relationship with your new customer.

Here are some email ideas to turn new customers into loyal customers:

  • Personalized welcome emails

  • Onboarding using your product

  • Introduction to a loyalty program

  • Feedback requests

  • Exclusive offers on premium products

Lumina encourages its ecommerce customers to spread the word by offering a free gift when they pass along discounts to two friends:

Lumina Email Sales Funnels

Organic customer advocacy is ideal. However, sometimes offering a referral incentive (e.g. a gift card or discount code) can be effective for helping spread the word about your product or service.

5 tips for a high-converting email marketing funnel

Mapping your emails to your customer’s buying journey is a great start to creating a high-converting email marketing funnel. Here are five additional tips to help you get the most out of your email marketing.

1. Segment your email list

Personalization is an important component of any email marketing strategy and these days subscribers expect more than just using their first name. The best way to personalize your emails is with relevant, targeted content that addresses specific problems your customers and audience are facing.

Segmentation and targeted email lists can help you achieve this. Segment your list into categories, such as subscriber behavior, which channels they came from and past purchases. This can remove some of the guesswork when coming up with ideas for valuable content.

For example, you might have a group of subscribers who joined your email list after reading a top-of-funnel blog post. Another group of subscribers joined your list from social media after engaging with an ad offering a discount but failing to fully convert on the landing page.

Your emails to each group should be different. You’ll spend your resources more wisely by sending the first group more blog content to nurture them into the consideration or conversion phase. The second group would appreciate conversion-focused content aimed at helping them get across the line.

You should also keep track of who’s engaged with your emails and segment your most engaged subscribers into a separate list. These may be the customers most willing to advocate your brand and share with their audience.

2. Optimize your email sending frequency

Consistency is key when it comes to successful marketing campaigns, including email marketing. It helps you stay top of mind with subscribers, but you shouldn’t send emails too often or you risk annoying your email list.

There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to email campaign frequency. The best frequency for your business depends on several factors, such as type of email campaign and buyer persona.

A daily series of emails might be extreme in most cases, but if your subscribers have signed up for a 10-day online course delivered via email, they’ll be expecting this frequency.

Set expectations with new subscribers about what type of content they’ll get and how often they’ll be hearing from you. Ideally, place this at sign-up or on the opt-in form.

Reiterate the benefits and frequency in the first email you send them. People are often subscribed to numerous email lists, so reminding them who you are and why they signed up for yours can help improve future open rates.

3. Dedicate yourself to high-quality content

Your content should speak to your subscribers’ specific pain points and offer actionable solutions (sometimes including your product, but not always). Aim to position yourself as an expert in your industry so that you’re the brand they think of when they’re ready to buy, repurchase or recommend to a friend.

The most effective way to create email content that resonates with your customers is to ask them.

Survey your audience when they buy your product and ask them what struggles they were dealing with that brought them to purchase today. Mine your product feedback and your competitor’s reviews for pain points that you can alleviate. You can also ask your subscribers to simply respond to your emails with questions (if you have the capacity to monitor this).

Armed with this information, you can craft a relevant content strategy.

For example, online calendar company Calendly understood from their customers that getting a Calendly link can sometimes feel impersonal. They created a blog article discussing best practices for sharing Calendly links respectfully.

Lastly, don’t stress too much over the design of your email. The content will be the most important part. Once you’ve run a few campaigns, you can start to measure things like open rate, click-through rate and conversion rate to see what types of content works best.

4. Choose the right marketing automation software

Due diligence is important when researching the best email marketing tools. With many to choose from, here are a few things to consider so you end up with the best fit for your business.

Find a tool with:

  • CRM data integrations. Help sales and marketing teams work together by putting all of your key information in one place. Sales teams should be able to see what email sequences customers have seen.

  • Templates. Email templates will save you countless hours building the perfect email to send to your subscribers.

  • Segmentation. Your email marketing platform should let you segment your list so you can offer personalized content.

  • Analytics. To know what’s working, you need data. Find an email marketing platform that gives you insights on open rates, engagement, unique clicks and more.

For example, Pipedrive’s Campaigns feature lets you do all of the above right from your CRM.

Pipedrive Campaigns Feature

5. Practice good list hygiene

Email list hygiene helps keep your list full of active subscribers, helping your email marketing metrics across the board. This is important to ensure you can keep sending emails that land in inboxes instead of spam folders.

Implementing a double opt-in (where subscribers must check a box confirming their subscription, sometimes on another landing page or pop up) ensures the email addresses on your email list are happy to be there.

Finally, include an unsubscribe link in all of your emails to comply with both the CAN-SPAM Act and GDPR.

Final thoughts

Successful email marketing strategies help you build relationships and educate potential buyers. To reach your customers in the best way possible, map your email funnel to the customer journey.

Driving business growth