In this article, we take a look at how email funnels work, explaining each stage and how it works. We'll also cover a few strategies and structures for each of these stages.
Successful email marketers have a lot in common with chess players. They are always thinking three steps ahead. They make scenarios of all the possible outcomes and plan on how they could use them to their advantage.
After all, just like chess, there are so many options in email marketing that you can practically prepare for anything!
Yet, some of us still wonder what they can do to break down the customer‘s journey into smaller stages, in order to send targeted emails that will increase the chances of conversion.
To put it in more perspective, how does a customer go from discovering your brand through a blog post, to actually buying the products you are selling?
This is exactly what we will be discussing in this post. We will take you through the different stages of the sales funnel and explain how you can adjust your email marketing according to the stage a subscriber is currently in.
By the end of this article, you will have a better idea about the types of emails you can send to your potential customers, driving them further down the funnel you created.
Understanding email funnels and their stages
An email funnel is a process of sending strategically organized emails to a subscriber, taking them from discovery, all the way to conversion.
If you‘d rather automate this process, you could also see it as a complex drip campaign with many variables, in order to match the different actions of your readers.
It's a good idea to explain how the widely-used sales funnel is structured and how you should act in each stage. After all, email funnels are practically the same thing, only completely adjusted to fit for marketing purposes.
Awareness stage: Discovering your brand
The awareness stage is the first contact between you and a potential customer. It is the moment they discover your brand through your marketing efforts.
What are these marketing efforts? Well, there are myriads of ways to attract new visitors to your brand:
- You may have created a search-optimized blog post or a targeted landing page that happened to be in the first few results of a readers‘ Google search.
- You could be testing different ads, whether these are on social media or in search engines, like Google.
- Your brand might have been mentioned in a newsletter, a Youtube video, or a viral Twitter post.
There are many examples, but the point is, you are now in the minds of your reader. And the purpose of this stage should be to turn these intrigued visitors into new subscribers of your mailing list.
Awareness stage email marketing
The awareness stage is more focused on grabbing the attention of digital users that share an interest in the topics you talk about. They are not yet aware of your existence and it is thus usually ineffective to start sending emails before this stage.
Some will argue that for certain services and products it may be a good idea to send ‘cold emails‘ to potential prospects who have had no contact with your brand. We strongly advise against this practice, as it does not only go against GDPR regulations but also against moral principles of privacy.
It is best, therefore, to focus your attention on creating content on all the channels your brand is present on, adding web sign-up forms, for readers that would like to join your list.
Interest stage: Establishing authority
The interest stage is the second stage of the email marketing funnels. Now that the reader is aware of your brand and has chosen to become a subscriber, your goal is to establish yourself as an authority within your niche and make them feel like they can trust you.
In other words, you want them to be interested enough to read your emails and take action when you ask them to (through your CTAs).
There are no secrets here. In all honesty, it‘s just hard work.
The first thing you will need to do is segment your new subscribers based on the marketing activity they discovered you from. This should already give you enough information to get a better idea of their needs and create somewhat targeted emails.
From there onwards, it is imperative that you start giving solutions to your readers‘ problems. Here are some ideas to think about:
- Send targeted questions related to your subscribers‘ problems (e.g. Do you have difficulty losing weight), try to relate with them (e.g. I know the feeling) and offer valuable solutions (e.g. here are the 3 things I did to lose 12 pounds). Such emails will make the distance between you and your customer smaller, establishing you as a trustworthy friend that wants to help you out. And this, inherently, should always be your goal.
- Write in-depth guides, educational material and tutorials on topics that are interesting and prevalent to your audience. You can use Ahrefs to explore what your competitors are writing about and write better content on the same topics.
- Host weekly Q&A sessions where you invite your readers to send over their questions so you can answer them. You can also invite them to join a webinar where you can talk to them directly. Of course, the communication, in this case, will be mainly done via email.
- It is very important that you are able to provide case studies of your previous work or experience. Especially when it comes to service providers, case studies and reviews play an important role in adding to your authority in the field.
- You could also provide parts of your paid services or products for free, in order for customers to test your offer and give an honest (and hopefully positive) review.
Overall, this is the stage where, through your efforts, you will try to create demand for your product. Eventually, you should aim to form an emotional connection between the reader of your emails and the services or products you are selling (e.g. I can‘t do without this!).
Interest stage email marketing
When it comes to email marketing, at this stage, you should be looking to nurture your leads, sending them frequent (but not too frequent) emails with valuable information that can solve their problems. Here are some things to consider:
- Make sure you communicate from the get-go how often you will be reaching out. Also, explain to your readers the topics you will be covering in your emails. A great start to this is a welcome email, which you will need to send to all new subscribers. The reason this is important is because you want to ensure no reader will come across unpleasant subscriptions, such as you talking off-topic or sending too many emails. Doing so without preparing your readers could lead to unsubscribes and a higher spam record.
- From there on, it‘s all about setting up calculated nurturing campaigns that are targeted towards your subscribers‘ needs and wishes. Their goal? To lead them further down the funnel in order to send more specific emails. A well-structured nurturing campaign will automatically break your list down into smaller segments, which you can then target with more specific emails to help them convert.
Consideration stage: Diving deeper
The consideration stage is the last wall standing between you and a new paid client. At this point, your subscriber has reached a stage where they have to make a decision between your products/services or those of your competitors.
By now, you should have already sent them an email with case studies, testimonials and free value of all kinds, to gently push them deeper down the funnel. And, at this stage, your strategy will call for a more laser-focused approach on your offer and its specifications.
For example, assume you are selling carpet cleaning services. It may be a good idea to talk about the nanotechnology of your antibacterial soaps and how, through this type of soap, you only need to wash your carpets once per year instead of twice, setting you apart from your competitors.
In this final line, details determine the winner.
Consideration stage email marketing
Once again, at this stage, you need to keep nurturing your leads, establishing your authority in your niche, pointing out what makes you the best choice compared to the alternatives.
One practice we have found to work great is to write a few in-depth articles about the features of our products and mention them in our weekly newsletters, before running a small quiz for those that are up for a challenge.
The winners of the quiz, which could be those with the most correct answers, or simply chosen at random, win a small gift or a large discount. This is a great way to increase subscriber engagement and help your readers learn more about your brand.
What is worth mentioning is that, during the consideration phase, you should have a good amount of data to work with:
- Who opened which emails
- Who clicked through certain blog posts or other CTAs
- How the readers signed up to your list
As a logical follow-up, emails at this stage should look different for each segment you created, based on the above information.
For example, a person that has clicked through, placed an item in but abandoned their cart, will receive a different email (abandoned cart email) than someone who just reads some of your emails (possibly a promotional email).
Conversion stage: Getting paid
The final and most rewarding stage for you is the conversion stage: the point where a subscriber turns into a paid customer. Reaching this final stage is the goal of all email funnels and signals the end of one journey and the start of a new one: the one of aftercare.
What do you do with your customer after they make the purchase? Sure, it‘s nice you got paid, but you‘d like to be paid again in the future, right?
Conversion stage and post-sale emails
The conversion stage and everything following it require different types of emails. You can:
- Structure an automated “Thank you” email, where you show your customers how thankful you are for their purchase. This is a great way to enter a different form of relationship, that of a trustworthy brand with its loyal fans.
- Create VIP emails for customers who have purchased from your brand, offering special discounts, early bird access to new products (promotional emails) and even, in some cases, invitations to events or parties (invitation emails).
- Another thing that makes paid customers, and pretty much everyone, feel appreciated is to ask for an honest opinion. You can ask your readers to review your product or fill in a survey that will help you improve in the future. You can always accompany this with a freebie for their effort, such as a small discount on their next purchase or access to a VIP area of your brand.
Overall, at this point, you want to maintain a good relationship with your client, in order to drive follow-up sales in the future. This is especially important for time-bound services (e.g. coaching of any kind).
All of your marketing efforts need to follow a logical structure. In this case, the best structure you can work with is email funnels, which are essentially well thought of emails that follow the guidelines of the typical sales funnel. Here are its stages:
- Awareness stage: The stage of discovery. Here email marketing efforts are less important and you should focus on capturing email addresses through landing pages and ads.
- Interest stage: The stage where you establish your credibility. Here, you send emails that offer real value and solve your readers‘ problems to increase their trust towards your brand.
- Consideration stage: At this stage, your customer is well aware of your brand but has to make a final choice between you and your competitors. All emails here should be more focused on the details of your service, special features and how you are better than the alternatives.
- Conversion stage and aftercare: After a purchase is completed, the funnel has reached an endpoint. However, now you enter another funnel, that of nurturing emails that result in repeat purchases.
Now that you know all the stages and have a more thorough overview, take a good look at your brand. How do your customers find you? What types of emails could you create to lead them further down the funnel?
Make a list of all the emails you could send based on the different actions of your subscribers. Once your email funnel is structured and you are ready to send your first campaign.
Read our article on sales funnels for more sales and marketing advice.