Picture your most loyal customer. If you own a local cafe, it could be the woman who stops by at 7:15 a.m. sharp every day for her morning coffee. If you’re a fitness instructor, it could be the client who takes your class every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, no matter if you coach at 6 a.m. or after work hours.
Whoever it is, the relationship you share with your most loyal customer(s) didn’t happen overnight. Instead, it started with a warm introduction, perhaps after being referred by their friend or colleague. They did a little research, perhaps swinging by your establishment on their way home from work. Eventually, they popped their head in, and — upon a delightful first impression — made their first purchase and became a repeat customer.
Building a relationship with a customer is a slow burn — it won’t happen immediately. As a business owner, you’re used to welcoming potential customers into your place of work, shaking hands, introducing them to your products or services, and knowing it might take a bit of time before their first transaction.
You need to take that exact same approach when selling things online.
Digital marketing is just like beginning a new customer relationship. You’ll aim for the “slow burn” effect, establishing trust over a series of email messages, social media interactions, or digital ads. Below, we explain how to use an email marketing funnel to build a relationship with a potential customer that ultimately leads to a sale.
What Is an Email Marketing Funnel?
An email marketing funnel is the journey of transforming a subscriber into a customer. This is done through an email sequence, where each message seeks to educate and establish trust with the subscriber. As the subscriber becomes more familiar with your service, they travel down the sales funnel, eventually leading to their first purchase.
The email marketing funnel is built on the same premise as the classic marketing funnel, following these five steps:
- Awareness: An individual is first exposed to your brand.
- Consideration: You stand out amongst the competition.
- Action: You compel the individual to make a purchase.
- Engagement: You stay top-of-mind with the individual, hoping for a repeat purchase.
- Advocacy: Your now-loyal customer transforms into a brand ambassador.
While this model has been criticized for being an over-simplification of the customer journey, it offers a foundation on where to begin your email marketing strategy. At the top of the funnel, you’ll need to capture the attention of your audience. Then, you’ll need to educate them on why your products can address their pain points better than your competitors. Only then, once a qualified lead is well-versed in your offering, will you go for the hard-hitting promo email, converting them to a sale.
How to Create an Email Marketing Funnel in 5 Steps
Now that you understand the basics of the buyer’s journey, it’s time to put it into practice.
An email funnel follows the same premise as a standard marketing funnel, with a few modern twists. And while you, and only you, know your audience best, this basic structure can be used across nearly every industry.
1. Awareness: Capture Their Attention With an Enticing Opt-In
First email, sent immediately after subscribing.
Before we move subscribers down your sales funnel, we need to convince them to join your email list. The CAN-SPAM Act cuts down on spam by preventing you from emailing anyone without their consent. Therefore, within the awareness stage, you’ll create an enticing opt-in to convince readers to hand over their email address, giving you the green light to enter their inbox.
Your opt-in will weigh heavily on your respective industry, but it must be juicy enough to convince readers to give you their personal information. Consider offering the following to new subscribers:
- Analysis: Create first-hand research or reports, offering stats or figures for your industry.
- Freebies: Offer free workouts, recipes, or webinars.
- Exclusive material: Release a preview chapter, early enrollment to a class, or bonus materials from a workshop.
2. Consideration: Educate Subscribers on Your Product or Service
Emails 2-3, sent 4-5 days apart.
Now that you’ve added email subscribers to your list, you’ll need to send them educational content related to your business. Remember, the purpose of the consideration stage isn’t to sell them (at least not yet), but rather to build trust with your potential customers, and explain the benefits of your product or service. Send them email content focused on:
- Top collateral: Send them top-performing content, such as most-shared blog posts, infographics, or white papers.
- Case studies: Share testimonials and case studies from some of your most promising work.
- Third-party research: If you’ve been featured in the press or were included in top industry reports, link to these items in your emails.
3. Action: Lead the Subscriber to Make a Purchase
Email 4, sent 3-4 days after the last email.
Your fourth email is the conversion stage of the funnel, where you’ll guide subscribers to make their first purchase. The CTA (call to action) for this email should be a special discount to current subscribers, promote an upcoming e-commerce sale, or offer a preview of several products they might be interested in. Consider adding the following:
- A one-time discount: Create a special promo for subscribers, and include a deadline (i.e., the promo code will expire in one week).
- A free trial: To ease the uncertainty that often comes with first-time purchases, guide the reader to a landing page where you offer a free 14-day free trial.
- Offer an upsell: Add a free gift, a two-for-one deal, or other promo deals if readers buy now.
4. Engagement: Stay Top of Mind
Now that a reader has made their first purchase, follow up with targeted content they may be interested in (and no, it doesn’t have to be for a repeat purchase). Invite all paying customers to an event at your establishment, share a recent blog post you published, or (if it feels authentic) send related products or services they may be interested in.
- Share a complimentary product/service: If you own a salon and the reader booked a hair appointment, send them a coupon for a manicure or pedicure.
- Send tutorials or webinars: If you’re a website designer and an individual booked a free consultation, send them a three-step action plan on how to prepare for your first meeting.
5. Advocacy: Turn Existing Customers into Brand Advocates
The final step in your email marketing funnel strategy is to transform a customer into a brand advocate for your company. Here, you ask the reader for a testimonial, referral, or review to increase customer retention and bring more business to your establishment.
- Ask for referrals: Ask your loyal customers if they could refer your list of services to a friend, colleague, or family member.
- Ask for a testimonial: Ask your audience for a 1-3 sentence that you can publish on your website or use to create a case study.
- Ask for a review: Invite the reader to review you on Google, Yelp, or other platforms.
Use Gumbamail to Launch Your Next Email Marketing Campaign
Understanding the email marketing funnel is essential to any digital marketing strategy. Rather than bombard potential customers with your sales pitch upon your first interaction, you’ll slowly educate them and build trust through valuable content as they work their way down the funnel.
But to develop a funnel that converts, you need the right marketing tools.
If you’re looking for the easiest way to launch your next email campaign, download the Gumbamail Chrome plugin. Gumbamail works with your existing Gmail account, so you can send relevant content straight from your inbox. Plus, Gumbamail offers 800+ branded templates to help amplify your message.
Ready to see how Gumbamail can help transform your content marketing efforts? Download the Gumbamail plugin to get started.