Learn Why and How to Build an Efficient Email Marketing Funnel
Building efficient email marketing funnels is similar to arranging artwork inside a gallery. When the journey is fluid and consistent, it lures the visitors into discovering the whole gallery and may render highly lucrative returns. In this process, the artist knows how indispensable it is to design an experience that holds the attention of the visitors, helps them understand the works, and ultimately encourages them to become avid supporters.
Keeping in mind that the visitors have unique preferences and lives happening outside of the gallery, the artist recognizes that their response to this experience is essentially unpredictable but can be influenced. So to prevent the visitors from getting distracted during the visit and maximize the likelihood of the gallery being recommended to a wider audience, the artist, being a good online marketer, employs an email marketing funnel as a gentle and timely guide.
What exactly is an email marketing funnel?
Before we go ahead and develop an email marketing funnel for our art galleries, let’s understand what it is.
Similar to what we know as a marketing funnel, which outlines the set of steps our visitors take to gain interest in our brand and support it, the email marketing funnel depicts the same journey for subscribers on our email list. Because our email list is one of the few marketing resources we actually control, the email marketing funnel becomes an indispensable tool to nurture our audience of potential customers.
Essentially, the email marketing funnel helps illustrate how our subscribers move from being aware of our online presence and learning more about our brand, to trying out one of our products and recommending it to friends. For this illustration to be helpful, we must use it to anticipate the expectations and needs of the subscribers and send the right incentives at the right place and time.
The email marketing funnel makes this process simpler to comprehend by outlining the email subscriber’s journey as a four-stage cycle.
Why is an email marketing funnel necessary?
In short, we should implement an email marketing funnel because our email subscribers rarely buy from our brand just because we have their email address.
Like any relationship, the one with our email subscribers demands nurturing their trust and guiding them towards our solution. For this reason, the email marketing funnel is essential for shaping how an online relationship with our brand starts, and how it is preserved. Due to the unique nature of our brand, and the behavior of our target audience, the email marketing funnel helps us minimize waste by defining the ideal approach for our needs.
Here are three simple reasons why we need an email marketing funnel to succeed online:
The email marketing funnel simplifies the creation of our marketing strategies by providing a clear picture of the email subscriber journey. With access to a map of their decision-making process at each stage of the funnel, we can target our audience with more relevant and timely email communications.
Because the audience in our email list needs incentives to interact with our brand, the email marketing funnel helps us make our messages worth their time and consideration. Based on the stages of the email marketing funnel, we are able to decide whether promotional or educational content is more appropriate for each subscriber.
The email marketing funnel allows us to measure the impact of our email marketing communications on our ROI, and make adjustments where necessary. Since we’re able to identify what stage of the funnel loses the highest percentage of our audience, it is easier to suspend it and rethink our strategy.
How do we build an efficient email marketing funnel?
Before jumping into the stages of building an email marketing funnel, we must look at our business plan, define who we’re selling to, and plan the journey accordingly. This is the very first step toward creating an efficient email marketing funnel because it helps us understand what our target audience expects and what our marketing communications should be at each stage of the funnel.
The work of defining our target audience, or the people who might be interested in buying from us, is greatly simplified by keeping the value of our product or service in mind. For example, if we run a pet food e-commerce site and target local pet owners, we might want to create segments such as “dog owners” and “cat owners” as a way of improving the relevance of our marketing communications to each audience.
In case we want to target a more specific audience, there are plenty of data online to build concise customer profiles. By looking at our business plan and identifying the segments that will buy from us, a bit of research can help us discover their online habits and preferred channels for interaction with brands.
Understanding where our target audience interacts the most, what their daily routines look like, and what their interests or problems are, is essential for building a seamless email marketing funnel experience capable of converting email subscribers into loyal buyers.
Step 1: Grow awareness and generate leads.
This step represents the top of the email marketing funnel and is essentially where the audience of our email list originates from.
It is also safe to say that the performance of the whole email marketing funnel strategy is impacted by how well we accomplish this step since it determines our total audience. Growing the email list should be a focus for building an efficient email marketing funnel because we own it, and through it, we have control over our relationship with the target audience.
Since we’ve already mapped out the profile of our target audience and understand what is of value to them, it is now easier to decide which marketing channel is ideal for our brand to reach them. Here are two great channels to generate leads for our email marketing funnel:
With high-value incentives such as access to our weekly newsletter or a generous discount, leveraging opt-in forms throughout our website or blog helps generate leads from visitors.
In case we have an ebook, cheatsheet, or free trial to promote, launching a dedicated landing page can help generate leads that are naturally interested in our value offering.
Source: Really Good Emails
The example above from MailNinja, the London-based email marketing agency, demonstrates a good understanding of what is valuable to their target audience. By helping email marketers save time with a free resource, MailNinja is set to win their hearts and introduce them to their email marketing funnel journey.
Step 2: Welcome and nurture subscribers.
This step represents the middle of the email marketing funnel and is essentially where we focus on initiating the relationship with our subscribers and keeping them engaged.
Remember that the new subscribers have just become aware of our brand, so we don’t want to put them off by starting the relationship with annoying sales pitches. At this stage, we’re primarily giving them the opportunity to get to know our brand and build a sense of closeness. We may introduce them to our mission and values using drip campaigns or an automated sequence of welcome emails.
By starting our communications with introductory emails, we help our subscribers become more receptive to the communications at the following stages of the funnel. It’s important to realize that each of our emails at this stage is a new opportunity to reaffirm our brand as authentic and credible. Since we’re almost certain that the new subscribers fall into our target audience, we can then segment our email list to deliver the most relevant value proposition to each of them.
This job can be hugely simplified by choosing the right email marketing platform, which can automatically divide our email subscribers into smaller groups, based on a set criterion or the channel they came from. This is called segmentation, and it is key at this stage because it helps personalize the nurturing communications independently and deliver more consistent experiences to subscribers.
Here are two great ways to nurture subscribers entering our email marketing funnel:
When a new lead first signs up, we can allow them the opportunity to pick what sort of content is more relevant for them, so our messages will be personalized to their liking. This way, we also facilitate the segmentation of new subscribers based on the different offerings of our brand.
Customer success stories
Highlighting the great experiences of other people using our product or service encourages new leads to visualize their success as our customers. By including user-generated content such as reviews or stories in our introductory emails, we showcase our brand as authentic and trustworthy.
Source: Really Good Emails
The example above from Fullscript, the Ottawa-based online supplement dispensary, illustrates how to encourage new subscribers to get acquainted with the essence of a brand. By recommending valuable apps to promote self-care, Fullscript proves they care for the well-being of subscribers during hard times and creates the opportunity to segment subscribers based on the option they choose to read more about.
Step 3: Convert subscribers into customers.
This step represents the bottom of the email marketing funnel, and here we’ve demonstrated a commitment to adding value to our relationship with the subscribers. If the prior steps were structured in a fluid and consistent manner, similar to the art gallery, we’re certain that our subscribers get to this stage emotionally ready to buy from our brand.
To convert subscribers, it’s imperative that we maintain an equal or higher level of engagement while integrating relevant offers to our brand’s product or service. With the aid of segmentation throughout our email marketing funnel, we ensure that our conversion campaigns, being automated sequences or part of a seasonal marketing calendar, are aligned with the journey of each subscriber.
Here are two popular conversion strategies to ensure our email marketing funnel pays off:
Limited time offers
By communicating authentic deadlines to redeem offers such as an expiring discount, we urge our nurtured subscribers to take action and convert today, rather than in a month. This strategy can lead to high conversion rates when our offers are based on the interaction of the subscribers with our brand.
Free trial onboarding
If we chose to generate leads with a free trial offer, encouraging subscribers to choose a subscription when their trial is about to end, helps convert them into paying customers. We can also integrate tutorials and use cases into our conversion reminders, to avoid sounding pushy and create a smooth transition to the final purchase point.
Source: Really Good Emails
The example above from Netflix, the California-based streaming service, demonstrates an appealing and genuine tactic to convert free-trial customers. In the format of a letter, Netflix expresses that they care about entertaining the potential customer, and through a simple proposition of releasing new movies and TV shows every week, they encourage him/her to get on board.
Step 4: Retain customers forever.
This step represents the bottom tip of our email marketing funnel, but certainly not the end of our customers’ journey.
Here we want to focus on retaining and extending our relationship with freshly converted customers. This is essential to increasing our marketing ROI and the customers’ lifetime value.
Without hurrying, we need to encourage their next purchase. So, after giving them a brief break, we go back to our nurturing strategies, but this time we communicate our value proposition at a deeper level. They’re our good buddies on this journey now.
To retain our customers, we need to continually prove and increase our brand’s value. Doing so allows them to improve their experience as they see fit while motivating them to share this pleasant experience with friends.
Here are two efficient ideas to retain customers exiting our email marketing funnel:
Organic upsell campaigns
Once we manage to get our customers coming back to our emails for extra value, we take this as an opportunity to send them upgrades or other relevant offers. To do this, it is essential to find ways to recommend offers that match the value our customers already enjoy.
The value of the relationship with our customers doesn’t have to be limited by their buying habits. Their friends, coworkers, and neighbors could also fit into our target audience. While ensuring our customers are happy, we can create rewarded referral campaigns and motivate them to help us find people just like them.
Source: Really Good Emails
The example above from Glitch, the New York-based coding community, demonstrates how to effectively upsell customers, by proposing them additional magic. Glitch chooses to be transparent and authentic in the way they communicate the advantages that come from upgrading the membership, making it especially attractive to customers, without sounding too pushy.
The keys to an efficient email marketing funnel
In essence, these are the key aspects that ensure our email marketing funnel maintains optimal performance:
- Understanding the habits and preferences of our target audience before generating lead magnets or offering free value
- Segmenting our leads based on the channels they originate from or giving them options for self-segmentation
- Nurturing subscribers with personalized emails about our brand’s identity and value proposition
- Converting subscribers into customers by keeping them engaged and using time-bound offers
- Retaining customers by increasing our value offering and encouraging them to help us build a community
The good news is that even if we miss out on some of these key aspects, there’s always the chance to look back at our funnel and recreate our email campaign for the stage that’s causing us to underperform.
Building an efficient email marketing funnel is not only the first step toward succeeding in email marketing, but it’s also how we ensure that our campaigns create meaningful experiences for our audience.
In essence, the key to succeeding in online business through email marketing is staying in the minds of our subscribers and customers by inspiring positive emotions and seamless cycles. Similar to how an art gallery makes us feel immersed in the artwork and curious to take a look at the souvenir shop before leaving, our email marketing funnel must captivate visitors and provide them with chances to demonstrate gratitude for having initiated their journey.