Email Funnel Basics

What Is an Email Funnel?

At the most basic level, an email funnel can consist of a simple email capture form, an email list and an automated email responder.

Prospects “opt in” to your email list by entering their email address into an opt-in form on your website, social media page, ebook, etc.  They typically sign up in exchange for something of value like a newsletter, educational video, coupon, event invitation, product sample or free PDF guide. These “lead magnets” or “ethical bribes” provide something of value to your prospect in exchange for their contact information.

The Main Functions of an Email Funnel

An email funnel has three main functions:

1) It automatically builds a list of targeted leads or subscribers.

2) It allows you to engage subscribers, prospects and existing customers repeatedly with email. You can email valuable information, how-to education, product offers and more.

3) It helps segment your leads or subscriber list so you can deliver information and offers that match their needs.

Designing Effective Email Funnels

Gone are the days of being able to simply add a “Sign Up for Our Newsletter” form on your website and building a large list of eager customers.

Social media and an overwhelming mountain of online marketing has made prospects wary of joining email lists.  More than 50% of online time is spent on social media sites, not traditional websites or reading emails.  Many of these people never use a desktop email program.  You must now consider where your subscribers might come from, what offers make sense for them and what actions are feasible for them to take.

Prospects will research and check your credibility before they join your email list.  It is not enough to have a free PDF guide lead magnet — you must also have strong mobile-responsive design, offers that reflect how your customers like to receive information and (ideally) social media and SMS integration within your email funnel.

This does not mean existing methods no longer work.  It simply means you must spend more time ensuring your messaging is valuable, and integrating your email funnel with other digital channels.

Doing this will dramatically increase the effectiveness of your marketing.  This will give your business a distinct competitive advantage.

Why Are Email Funnels So Important?

An email funnel is the foundational digital marketing funnel for your business. It’s purpose is to build your brand and increase sales by engaging and interacting with your prospects and customers by email.

Email helps you build lists of qualified leads and subscribers, engage them with useful information and convert them into buyers of your product or service.

Email can also be used to convert one-time buyers into repeat customers.

You can grow your revenues using email without spending money to acquire new customers.

These things can dramatically increase their lifetime value of your business.  

Once you have somebody on your email list, you own their contact information unless they opt out of your list.  Your email list can become a major asset of your company.  You do not own your social media accounts or followers, visitors to your website (unless they are subscribers), people who walk into your business, or prospects that see your advertisements. Only email lists and physical mailing lists are true assets that belong to you.

Converting Your Emails Into Sales

A large email list of qualified leads and buyers can have a strong impact on your business by increasing the number of customer touch points over time.

Most businesses neglect (or even abuse) their email subscriber list.  After the initial signup, they immediately send subscribers a short sequence of sales pitches.  These campaigns are rarely effective, and often cause subscribers to unsubscribe or flag your emails as SPAM.

So how to ensure your emails are “conversion-worthy?”

Deliver Value in Every Email

It’s critically important to deliver true value in your emails — otherwise why would subscribers open them?  If you only send a large number of sales offers, SPAM or senseless low-quality information, your subscribers will just opt out or push your email into the SPAM box.  This not only loses a prospect or customer, but significantly reduces your email deliverability to the rest of your subscriber list.

Driving sales from an email funnel only works if you create well-designed email campaigns.  Emails should assist your prospect or customer to move to a “higher state of value” in their lives or businesses.  For example:

  • Learn something new and useful
  • Offer something valuable to them
  • Obtain their opinion
  • Remind them of a benefit or event they might be missing
  • Save money, time or hassle
  • Solve a problem they have

Once your campaigns are in place, you can then optimize your email subject lines, frequency, time of day, links, design, etc. Email conversion rate optimization can increase your open, click-through and conversion rates by 50-300% or more.

The Bottom Line

Email isn’t dead.  It is still the most popular digital marketing tool.  It can be combined with social media, video and direct sales campaigns to form an integrated and automated marketing machine.

With a properly designed and managed email funnel you will acquire many new highly qualified sales leads at a low cost. You will convert a large portion of them into passionate and profitable clients. It is even possible to double or even triple your business in a short time with a properly designed email marketing funnel.