Email marketing funnels: What they are and how to leverage them

The sales funnel is a staple marketing model used to demonstrate a customer’s journey from their introduction to a brand to the time they purchase a product or service. This process is a great foundation to use when coming up with a marketing plan.

But when it comes to marketing for your company, you already know there are many moving parts that contribute to your strategy. The sales funnel foundation should be utilized in every aspect of your marketing plan, and it will help you to target your audience based on where they fall within the funnel.

Today, we’ll discuss how to apply the sales funnel process to your email marketing strategy to increase your email engagement and audience reach. 

What are email marketing funnels?

So, what are email marketing funnels?

An email marketing funnel is a content strategy in which you follow the sales funnel structure to inspire the content within your emails. 

Basing your email content on your user’s location within the funnel allows you to address specific pain points at the right time.

We’ve all come to realize the importance of timing in email marketing campaigns and using an email marketing funnel helps to send emails that users need at that time. 

Everyone within your specific email list resides in a different part of the marketing funnel, and you must be sure that you’re forwarding them targeted content to encourage them further down the funnel towards conversion.

But the best part about using the marketing funnel is that you’re able to clearly identify the specific pain points your users will face when they move onto the next step of the sales process. 

But what is the best way to target each step of the email marketing funnel to increase your user engagement?

We’ll dive into the different steps within the marketing funnel and explain how to leverage them for your email marketing success. You’ll even learn the best (and worst) content strategies when creating marketing-funnel-specific emails – trust me, you want to know the worst so you can avoid using them.

The goal is to ensure that your emails grab your users’ attention within the vital eight seconds you have before they send your message to the trash folder.

So, let’s get to it.

Step 1: Awareness

How would you react if a new business came to your town, and bombarded your doorstep with a cheesy sales pitch regarding their amazing product? If you’re anything like me, you'd probably shut the door. 

The same idea goes for your email marketing strategy. When a prospect first becomes aware of your company, you are basically a stranger. And as the polite stranger that you are, it’s important that you take the time to introduce your brand to your new prospects before trying to sell what you have to offer.

Examples of awareness stage content:

The awareness stage is where you take advantage of that opportunity. This is your chance to let your prospects get to know the business behind the brand. Some great examples of content that fit this stage of the marketing funnel include:

  • Informational and educational content
  • Company mission and values explanation
  • Proof of experience within your industry

When you’re creating your awareness content, this is the time where you can really show your users what your company is all about. Don’t be afraid to use some humor or personal tidbits within your content. 

Prospects want to work with companies that they trust, and if you let them in on who you are – you’ll have those prospects within the palm of your hand (not in a scheme-y way). 

Use blogs and videos to tell your user who you are. A video will put a face to the name, and a blog provides a better platform to explain who you are within written content. Consider a company culture video, or a blog that explains why your company was started and where your inspiration comes from. 

Some types of content you want to stay away from within the awareness stage is anything that sounds too sales-y. Just like my previous example, you don’t want your first impression to be an attempt to sell a product. If our purchasing society relies on trust within a company before conversion, then you need to take the necessary steps to earn that trust.

Creating content that sells your product/service will come later on, but for now, place it on hold.

Image: Really Good Emails

Step 2: Interest

Depending on your industry and the product/service you provide, your prospect will most likely look into other companies that offer the same thing before choosing which company that want to pursue. 

In other cases, they may not even have to buy from a company, but there may be other solutions to their specific problem. When your prospects reach the Interest stage, they have opted out from your competitors and other resources and chosen to “lean” on you. 

While you still want to hold back on selling within your email content, you can start bringing your product/service into the picture. This is your opportunity to introduce what you have to offer and explain how it works.

Examples of interest stage content: 

The types of content that would work best for those within the Interest stage include:

  • Proof of your product/service success
  • How-to content

When you’re creating your Interest content, you want to inform your users what to expect.

Creating blog content that has statistical proof of the success of your product will encourage your prospects to buy. Including links to these blogs within your emails will bring your interested prospects to the targeted content and bring them further down the funnel. Woo-hoo!

How-to content is also a great way to target those within the Interest stage. Create a video or a blog that clearly explains how to handle your product or interact with your brand. Sometimes scheduling an appointment, or learning how to work a product can be tricky. Providing the information your users need before diving in themselves will provide the comfort they need to move forward. 

Again, what you don’t want to do is sell. We’re just not there yet, but patience is a virtue in the world of email marketing. You have to nurture your users and provide the information that they need in order for them to proceed further down the funnel. Do your best to not sell the product, but explain what to expect from your products/services and prepare them for what’s ahead. 

Image: Really Good Emails

Step 3: Conversion

Once your prospects move down into the conversion stage of the marketing funnel, they will be deciding whether they want to purchase your product/service. This is where you want to sell, sell, sell. Finally.

Examples of conversion stage content:

The types of content that would work best for the conversion stage include:

  • Customer reviews and testimonials
  • Cart abandonment
  • Benefits of your product/service

Now the tricky part with the conversion stage is that there could be a number of different reasons why your prospect hasn’t purchased yet. Maybe they’re unsure between you and another company, or maybe they got all the way to checkout and shipping was just too high. 

Whatever the situation may be, you need to have the correct email structure to cater to these different scenarios. Let’s take a cart abandonment email situation into consideration first.

If your prospect ditched their cart at the end due to a high shipping cost, they may need some extra encouragement that your product is worth it. A humorous email that reminds them that they left their cart high and dry can be a great tactic.

Providing a funny moment can convince prospects to complete their purchase more often than not. Who knows – maybe they got distracted and just simply forgot. A reminder email about their unfinished purchase will increase your chances of a completed order.

Other emails that lay out the benefits of your product or customer reviews will provide the extra support other users need when juggling a couple of options. Customers rely on reviews so much nowadays, they can be the make or break of your order. Be sure to create emails that show customer success with your product and allow your prospects to put themselves in their shoes. 

The conversion stage is all about encouragement and that extra push they may need to take the plunge. Trust me – I’m definitely that consumer myself. I doubt my purchase all the way up until I submit my order, and I abandon my cart for days at a time. 

Emails that provide that encouragement will increase your sales and email engagement with no problem at all. But sending out these emails when your customer is experiencing that specific pain point is what makes the difference between a completed order and an abandoned cart. 

Image: Really Good Emails

Step 4: Loyalty

This one is a pretty simple concept. Your prospects are now customers—Congratulations!

Examples of conversion stage content:

But this is where you have to nurture them with relevant content to bring them back to buy again and again. The type of content you want to focus on includes:

  • Thank you
  • Updated products/services
  • New benefits and discounts

You need to understand that just because they purchased from you, that doesn’t mean your relationship is over. 

Sending out emails after a purchase will help maintain the relationship and boost your chances for a returning customer. Providing the best deals and benefits will also show that you value them as a customer. 

Clearly, the keyword is value, and that’s what your loyalty stage should focus on. 

Image: Really Good Emails

Wrap up

The lesson here is that you need to be sure that you’re sending out specific email content when the user needs it. If a prospect notices that you are answering their questions and addressing their concerns when they come about, they’ll be more inclined to buy from you.

When creating blog content and articles to cater to our users’ location within a sales funnel, don’t neglect to use it as a foundation with your email marketing strategy. 

Now that you understand what email marketing funnels are and how you can leverage them to increase your marketing strategy, you can also use them to inspire great content that addresses the pain points your users’ encounter. 

If you’re looking to improve your email engagement, it’s time to research those specific pain points and use these tips to create the best email strategy. You won’t regret it. 

About the Author

Lane Harbin is a senior content marketing manager at Emma. When she’s not geeking out over email marketing, she enjoys binge-listening to podcasts, catching up on the latest tech news, and constantly rearranging her living room.

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