As a business owner, you’ve worked hard to get up and running, you’ve built a great team and an amazing product, now all you need is a customer.
There is a lot of time between when someone first sees a product, and when they decide to buy it.
With email communication, you have a special opportunity to speak to your customers on a one-to-one basis. You can tailor your emails to appeal to each customer through email marketing in ways that you can’t do through other forms of marketing.
While at the end of the day, the customer has the final say whether or not they want to make the purchase, as a business owner there are ways you can guide them into making the choice to buy from you.
This is why you should be using a sales funnel.
What is a sales funnel?
A funnel is wide at the top, and narrow at the bottom, it’s used to guide something through to a specific place.
A sales funnel works in the same way.
A sales funnel is used to catch a wide audience at the top, and slowly guide that audience through the sales process until they become customers.
A sales funnel refers to the actions a person makes before they become a customer, and it helps business owners understand how to meet them where they are.
Sales funnels help you to map out your customer’s journey, and helps you position your business in the best place possible to meet their needs.
Email communication can play a huge role in guiding your customers through the sales funnel if you use it correctly. Having a chance to speak to your customers one-on-one can help you build trust with them, and make them feel like they are understood by you.
What are the different stages of the sales funnel?
We can understand the sales funnel with the acronym AIDA, which stands for Awareness, Interest, Desire, Action and Retention.
This is the moment when you first grab a potential customer’s attention. Your opportunities for email marketing at this stage will be quite limited.
The goal is to wow customers enough from the first time they come across your business that they decide to give you their email address so they can stay in contact with you.
This is when a potential customer wants to learn more about what you have to offer.
At this stage, if you’re successful at showing customers why they should be interested in what your business is doing, your email list will start to grow.
Your first few emails with your customers should be focused on introducing them to your business. The very first email that you send to your customers should be a welcome email that thanks them for subscribing to your email list.
This is when a potential customer’s shifts into wanting what you’re selling.
At this point, you should start building trust with your customers. You want to give them a reason to choose your business by showing them how you can help them.
You can start sending your customers emails to let them know about new products you have in stock that might interest them, or to offer them special deals and promotions.
This is when a potential customer finally converts into a paying customer after they decide to buy your product.
Your marketing efforts pay off in this stage, the emails that you have sent to your customers have helped them build trust in your business and your products. Ideally, you want to leade your customers to the action stage again and again over time, until they become a loyal, returning customer.
How to build a sales funnel
Now that we know what the different levels of a sales funnel are, let’s look at an example.
Let’s imagine that there is an author named Harry Smith who just wrote a book about gardening and how he could use a sales funnel to sell it.
Harry could start building Awareness about his book in a few different ways:
- Run a blog
Harry could run a gardening blog. Having a blog on your website is a good idea for any business because it drives traffic to your website.
For Harry, he could create blog posts about different gardening techniques, about the best seasonal vegetables or recommendations about what the best gardening gloves to buy.
If someone is researching one of these topics, they might come across his blog and decide to follow him.
The Washington Post sends out email newsletters to their subscribers to let them know about new articles they have up on their website. They also add a short description of what the article is about to get people interested.
- Post tips and tricks on his social media
Posting helpful tips and tricks on his social media platforms can help him build trust with potential customers. Someone might come across his Instagram page when looking for some advice about gardening and decide to follow him.
Building up a following on social media can also give him credibility, because of the idea of Social Proof. This is a theory by Robert Cialdini which says that people look to the actions of others to decide whether or not to do it themselves.
So if a potential customer sees that Harry has a large following, they might trust him more.
- Run ads
Advertising is one of the more traditional ways to spread awareness about your business to potential customers, but there are many more options today because of the internet and social media than there were a few years ago.
For Harry, he could choose to run targeted ads on platforms like Facebook. With targeted ads, Harry can choose who Facebook shows the ads to based on his own criteria. For example, he can choose things like the age range, gender, location and interests.
He can also choose to run ads in traditional media like newspapers and magazines.
Harry can start getting people interested in his book by showing his value and giving them a reason to read his book.
- Sign people up to email newsletters
Harry could encourage people to sign up to an email newsletter when they visit his website, this will give him the opportunity to stay in contact with potential and existing customers. In these newsletters, Harry can update customers about new blog or social media posts, and can also offer them promotions and discounts that might interest them.
- Offer more free content
Investing more time into his blog and social media will help customers build interest in his expertise.
He could also consider starting a YouTube channel, where he could make videos of gardening techniques and tutorials. This could help him prove his knowledge and worth to potential customers.
This stage is about getting people to want to buy the book, he could:
- Share reviews of the book
Sharing positive reviews about the book will help his customers feel like they can find a lot of value in it. 88% of customers trust online reviews as much as they trust personal recommendations.
- Emphasize the point of difference in his book
Harry should think about what makes his book special, and share that with potential customers. Showing his customers what they can get from his book that they can’t get from anywhere else will give them a reason to buy and read it.
- Offer a free sample
Almost every industry offers their customers some version of a free sample or trial that gives their customers a chance to try out the product for themselves. Clothing stores let you try on clothes, Car dealerships give you an opportunity to test drive a car before buying it, even Netflix gives you a free month to try out the service before making the commitment.
For Harry, he can offer to send customers the first chapter of his book for free online before they buy it. This gives customers a chance to get a sense of what the book is about and can decide whether or not they like Harry’s writing style. This gives customers an opportunity to build trust with the product and decide if it is truly right for them or not.
This stage is what he’s been leading up to – finally getting people to buy his book.
To do this he could:
- Give clear CTAs to potential customers
CTA stands for Call to Action. A CTA is a short and clear instruction that you give to your customers in the hopes that they will follow it.
Harry can add a CTA like “Buy Now” to email newsletters, at the end of a blog post and on his social media accounts. This makes it clear to his customers what he wants them to do.
The CTA on this email from UberEats is the button “See deals”
They are making it very clear exactly what they want their customers to do.
- Add limited time offers
Limited offers that have a clear end date can create a sense of excitement from your customers because they will feel like they don’t want to miss out on a deal.
Harry could send out an email to his customers telling them that they can get 50% off his book for a limited time only.
Here’s an email from Nasty Gal that is using a limited time deal to entice customers into making a purchase.
Sales funnels leads your customers where they should be.
Every customer is unique in some way, will find your business in different ways and have different needs and choices.
Every customer’s journey will be different, but you do have the opportunity to help guide them to a sale if you use a sales funnel. As you learn more about each customer, you can build up email marketing strategies that best appeal to them.
People don’t want their inboxes to be full of emails that don’t interest or move them, so using a sales funnel will help you make sure that the emails you do send them are relevant to exactly where they are in their buying journey.
How To Build An Email Marketing Funnel
306.4 billion emails are sent every day and people don’t have the time, or the desire, to read every single email they receive. This is why so many people click on the dreaded ‘unsubscribe’ button to rid their inboxes of unwanted emails.
So when it comes to email marketing, you should always be thinking about what value your emails have for your customers. You want to give them a reason to keep opening your emails and engaging with your business.
In this guide, we’ll look at how to use an email marketing funnel to improve sales for your business.
What is an email marketing funnel?
An email marketing funnel is a representation of how a customer goes from someone who doesn’t know about your business at all, to a valued and returning customer.
An email marketing funnel has these 5 stages:
- Brand awareness
This refers to people knowing about your business and what you do.
This is about how you can help a customer solve a problem they have in their lives.
This is when your marketing pays off and a customer purchases something from your business.
This is when you create a good relationship with your customers and they keep coming back to buy more from you.
This is when you have customers recommend your business to their friends, family and colleagues. In other words, word of mouth marketing.
Email Marketing Funnel Example
We will explore this by looking at how a fictional business would use the email marketing funnel to improve their sales.
Business name: Butterfly Jewelry
What they sell: High-end jewelry and accessories
Target ages: 16 – 35
Persona: Fashionable, trendy women
Stage 1: Brand Awareness
Customers need to know who you are and how you can help them, but there are likely hundreds of businesses out there trying to sell the same thing as you, so how can you stand out?
Create a social media presence.
For Butterfly Jewelry, having a strong social media presence is how they are able to connect with their target market.
As they sell physical products that are based around fashion, they use social media that focuses on photography, like Instagram and Pinterest.
On Instagram, they post high-quality images that show off their products, as well as pictures of models wearing their products so that their customers can get inspired.
Pinterest is an amazing platform for them to use as people browse it for ideas about style and fashion.
When creating social media accounts for your business, keep these things in mind:
- Use the same profile picture on all accounts.
- Post consistently, whether it’s daily or weekly, keep up the same schedule.
- Try to have the same brand voice across all your social media platforms.
Offer free content
You don’t have to always be selling something to offer your customers value.
You can create free content that solves a problem that they have, which will help them see your business as something that helps them.
You can offer these freebies in exchange for a prospect’s email and build your email list.
Some examples of free content you can offer:
- Blog posts
- YouTube videos
- Audio Books
Doing these things will increase your brand awareness significantly.
You can grow your relationship with your customers over time, turning them into loyal customers down the road once they have a good sense of what your business is about and what it means to them.
Step 2: Consideration
So you’ve spent all this time and energy building up your brand awareness, and you’re starting to see a boost in traffic to your website. Now what?
The last thing you want is to have potential customers spending a few minutes browsing around your site, only for them to leave and never come back.
This is why getting them to subscribe to your email list will help you keep the lines of communications open with them, even after they’ve left your site.
Here are a few things you can do:
Ask your customers to subscribe.
For Butterfly Jewelry, they have set up a light-box on their website asking for customers to subscribe to their mailing list.
A light-box is a pop-up window that you can install on your website. It will appear whenever someone visits your site for the first time.
As an added incentive, Butterfly Jewelry has offered their customers a discount on their first purchase if they subscribe.
In case they choose not to subscribe through this light-box, you can add a few subscription boxes in other places on your website.
Common places to put it is in the footer of your site and on the contact page.
Send a welcome email.
As soon as a customer subscribes, the first thing that you should do is send them a welcome email.
The open rate for welcome emails is 91.43%. This is significantly higher than the open rate for other types of emails, so you should definitely take advantage of it.
Butterfly Jewelry has an automated welcome email, which means that the email is sent automatically as soon as someone subscribes. This is done via an email marketing platform.
In their welcome email, they thank their customer for subscribing and offer them a discount code for their first purchase.
This is effective because their customers would have an incentive to make a purchase because they will feel like they’re saving money.
Alternatively, you can use your welcome email to just tell your customers a little bit more about your business and what they can expect from your emails to come.
Still, it is always better if all emails you send will have some sort of incentive. Remember that your audience is always out to see “what’s in it for them.”
Step 3: Conversion
Having people sign up to your mailing list does not guarantee that they will ever become customers. You have to convince them that you can solve a problem they have.
Here are some things you can do to improve your conversion rates:
Personalise your email subject lines.
Using customers’ names in email subjects can boost open-rates. Open-rates are the amount of times people open and read your emails.
Emails with personalized subject lines are 26% more likely to be opened.
Individualise the emails you send to your customers.
Your customers will be way more likely to engage with your emails if they are relevant.
Butterfly Jewelry sends product recommendations to customers based on what they have purchased before. This will be much more enticing for the customer because it is likely to be something that would interest them.
Let your customers know about sales and promotions
Whenever you’re running a sale or promotion, send your customers an email to let them know about it.
Sometimes a customer might be mulling over wether or not to buy something from you. Letting them know about a sale might just push them over the line and make them decide to make a purchase.
Let your customers know about new launches
Butterfly Jewelry sends out an email whenever they have new products in stock. This is called a replenishment campaign.
Step 4: Loyalty
44% of businesses focus on getting new customers, while only 18% focus on building up a loyal returning customer base. This is a wasted opportunity.
How can you use email marketing to build up your relationships with your customers?
Ask your customers for feedback
As you grow, you should be constantly adjusting your business strategy to better serve your customers.
One of the best ways to find out what your customers want is just to ask them.
Butterfly Jewelry sends their customers an email after every purchase asking them to review the products they bought.
Create a loyalty program
Offering your customers rewards for the purchases that they make will give them a reason to keep coming back to buy more from you. 75% of customers will favor a brand if there is a loyalty program.
Butterfly Jewelry offers their customers points for every purchase they make, the points can be used to buy more things.
Step 5: Advocacy
Sometimes the best marketing in the world comes from your customers themselves.
You trust your friends and family, so when they recommend a product or service, you’ll probably be more willing to give it a try than you would be if you just saw traditional marketing.
How can you get your customers to advocate for your business and recommend it to their friends and family?
Ask them to post about their purchase on social media
Asking them to post about your business on their social media platforms can expose your business to a whole new audience.
Offer rewards for referrals
You can offer your customers rewards if they refer people to your business.
You can do this by offering them special access to products or discounts on future purchases.
Include Email Marketing Funnel in your business strategy
The way you choose to create your email marketing funnel will be unique. There isn’t a one size fits all approach to this.
At the core, you should be focusing on what will benefit your customers the most.
Centering them will pay off for you as they will see your business as the thing that can solve a problem they have.