Lead generation is vital to your online business. Without those leads, you do not have anyone to sell to.
While most of the articles you read on the internet focus on how to generate email leads, many marketers often forget that lead generation is only the tip of the iceberg.
As you dig into email marketing further, you realize that the real challenge is to keep those leads “active” once they are on your list.
Picture it like this: You’ve managed to get a big audience inside an auditorium, perhaps luring them in with free corn dogs and french fries. However, you face a peculiar predicament. Your so-called audience is busy eating and chatting among themselves, or simply catching some shuteye, instead of listening to what you have to say.
So – now what?
Yes, while lead generation is vital, so is the nurturing process. Many marketers struggle more with the nurturing process than the lead generation process. The easiest way to tackle this aspect of marketing? With a properly set up email funnel.
What is email funnel?
Let’s start by talking about marketing funnels.
As per Unbounce, a marketing funnel can be defined as a model that describes the various stages of the customer’s journey.
Let’s break it down even further: a marketing funnel is how you help a prospect reach from point A to point B, ultimately evolving into a loyal customer.
Source: Campaign Monitor
For example, a particular Google surfer visits your site and reads a well-crafted article that left him wanting more information. So, he signs up for that lead magnet present at the end of the article. Once he is signed up, he can now be considered a new lead.
That lead magnet was the start of your marketing funnel.
Remember, a marketing funnel exists to convert. That could mean converting a reader into a lead or a lead into a customer. Once you’ve gotten them to opt-into your emailing list, that lead now needs to be nurtured further through the use of a well-crafted email funnel.
Source: Campaign Monitor
Purposes of email funnels
Whether you call it an autoresponder, a nurture sequence or a follow-up series, an email funnel does one basic task: It takes the lead from the top of the funnel and tries to convert it into a loyal brand ambassador.
Let’s look at the various purposes of email funnels.
To nurture leads
Once a lead gets added to the list, the first job of the email funnel is always to nurture it. What it means is, it qualifies them as potential customers and directs them down a particular path.
This is the stage where you try to figure out the buyer persona and align them with the right products and services in your catalog. You don’t want to sell a course priced at $999 to someone whose purchases never went above ten bucks, right?
Keep providing free value. Share customer stories and case studies. Keep on priming your leads. Continue qualifying them again and again.
To convert into sales
Okay, so now you have gauged buyer personas in the list and segmented them accordingly, the next job of the email funnel is to start dishing out irresistible offers, one after another.
Remember, this is only possible since you demonstrated your value and built a relationship with your subscribers.
Use scarcity tactics like FOMO, countdown timers, or limited seat offers. Share testimonials. Send FAQs inside emails.
At this stage, you know that your subscribers literally want to be pushed into making that purchase. They are aware of the problem. They recognize the uniqueness of your solution. Almost all their objections have been answered. What’s next? Give them an offer they can’t say no to―with a devilish Marlon Brando wink.
And voila, you got a sale.
To retain customers
After the sale is done and you have yourself a new customer, the email funnel needs to do one final task, and perhaps, a hard one at that: keep them coming back for more while also encouraging them to advocate for your brand.
How? You need to improve their product experience, stack in further value for their money and make it sticky so that they keep on renewing their subscription or repurchase future versions and updates.
This is the stage where you need to start leading them toward another conversion. In fact, email marketing basically works on this simple motto: keep buying no matter what.
It’s about maximizing the customer’s lifetime value, however, not at the cost of sacrificing the relationship. You don’t need a customer, remember? Instead, you need a “brand ambassador” who is loyal to your brand and refers you to others.
Building an email funnel for marketing your business
The technical side of building an email funnel differs from one email service provider to another. No one is the best, and choosing one is just a matter of preference.
The theoretical side of an email funnel can be easily built. However, you have to have a full understanding as to who your targeted audience is. When you combine the explosive power of your deep market understanding and the simple 3-step formula below, the results can be, well, outstanding.
A 3-step formula to building an email funnel
Building an email funnel doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact, we’ve broken it down to three simple steps, and it goes a little something like this.
1. Provide value
This is the most essential rule to sell anything, whether it is an idea to a venture capitalist, a house to a prospective buyer or a pen to the “Wolf of Wall Street”.
To convert, you need to lead with value.
It kickstarts the relationship and serves as a first step toward the conversion goal. This is where you want to make your prospect understand that you are the real deal in whatever niche you are dealing in.
People don’t buy products; they buy value. So, show them what you have to offer.
Zoom does just that by providing their subscribers with plenty of “how-to” webinars.
Source: Really Good Emails
2. Establish authority
As you have already built sufficient value and started a relationship, now is the time to position yourself as an authority figure.
A quick point of note, “value” does not equal “authority.” When you provide value, you are giving something to the reader that they want. But who are you, exactly?
This is established in this stage. You are an entity other business’ in your niche look up to. Whether through a case study, a white paper or editorials, you need to show that not only can you provide value but that you are the one that can provide the best quality product or service for your targeted audience’s needs.
In this example from Google, they are proving their authority and knowledge by explaining how to use Google Ads while also providing readers with industry stats.
Source: Really Good Emails
For startups, if you have limited content worth sharing, talk about what’s going on in the market. White papers are your best bet in this case.
Provided value? Good. Built authority? Great. Now, get out your copywriting toolkit and go for the hard-sell.
Loads of product, testimonials, FAQs, discounts, free trials . . . the whole gamut that whispers one sentence into your reader’s ears, “Buy it now, or it will be gone forever.”
These emails aim to generate conversions, mostly in the form of a sale. However, it’s essential to keep in mind that your readers aren’t looking to be sold to. Instead, they want to be informed.
So, instead of bombarding them with sales pitches and promotional advertisements, use your emails as ways to share the content you’ve already created. Use this content to gently guide your reader to make their own informed decision on whether or not your product or service is the right one for them.
Take this example from Sketch. In this newsletter, they are informing their readers about their latest and greatest update to their product. Instead of saying, “Hey, go update/buy now,” they are giving their readers information on the update and using their call-to-action to give their reader’s the opportunity to “learn more.”
Source: Really Good Emails
From that point on, the user not only gets some valuable information, but they get to decide if the update is worth their time and effort. No sales pressure, only information.
Using email funnels in email marketing campaigns
There are five different types of drip campaigns in an email marketing strategy that should utilize an email funnel, including:
- New sign-ups. When a new subscriber signs up for your email list, it’s time to onboard them into a particular funnel that welcomes and informs them of what is to come shortly.
- Re-engagement. When your engagement rate goes too low, and your list seems to be rather inactive, fire it up with a re-engagement email funnel. You start providing free value with opt-ins or plainly ask them to confirm whether they want to receive emails from you or not. Once they respond, they are taken through the sequence.
- Cart abandonment. This applies mostly to e-commerce businesses. During the ordering process, a prospective customer might leave all of a sudden. You have to re-engage these would-be customers and turn them into sales through a cart-abandonment funnel.
- Subscriber exit. Did a subscriber click on the “unsubscribe” button? What do you do? Email marketing rules and regulations state that you must respect your reader’s choice to unsubscribe. However, you can always send them a confirmation email message stating that you’ll, “miss them,” and offer up a link that allows them to re-subscribe at a later date or ask them to confirm if they genuinely wanted to unsubscribe from your list. You never know, sometimes a reader may have simply miss-clicked a link, so don’t count them out just yet.
- Lead development. We have already talked about this before. Once a new subscriber joins the list and gets added to the email sign-up funnel, he reaches the lead development stage where he is nurtured and directed toward conversion.
To sum up, an email funnel is essentially a series of steps that takes a lead from one point to another, most commonly toward a sale.
The most basic structure to accomplish this is by giving added value to the reader, establishing yourself as an authority figure and then leading your prospects towards a conversion.
Email funnels are used mostly in the following cases:
- when a new user signs up
- when a lead goes inactive
- when a prospect does not complete the ordering process
- when a lead needs to be nurtured
- when a subscriber exits the list
If you’re ready to take your email funnels to the next level, then we encourage you to check out these 5 email drip campaign ideas that are sure to nurture your leads through the sales cycle.