How To Build An Email Marketing Funnel: The Ultimate Guide

There are three purposes for email marketing programs: to acquire, nurture, and convert leads into customers by making a sale.

To create programs for acquiring, nurturing, and converting leads, email marketers often set up individual email marketing conversion funnels.

The terminology can get a bit confusing, so think of it this way. Any type of email funnel you create helps move prospects through your overall marketing funnel from the top where prospects aren’t close to being ready to buy from you all the way to the bottom where they just need a little nudge to make a purchase. 

Similarly, many of the email funnels you create will be built for a specific conversion. That conversion doesn’t have to be a purchase. In other words, email funnels created to acquire or nurture prospects are built to motivate those prospects to take some kind of action. When they take that action, the conversion has been completed. These email funnels are referred to as email conversion funnels.

What is an Email Marketing Funnel?

Email conversion funnels can be thought of as any automated sequence of messages (i.e., automations) created to motivate prospects to complete an action that moves them further through the overall marketing funnel. 

In other words, you have lots of little email conversion funnels inside your overall marketing funnel, and each one is used to push people to the bottom of that overall marketing funnel. They’re also used to keep people from falling out of the overall marketing funnel.

Below are some ideas for email conversion funnels:

  • Low-risk lead magnet opt-in funnel (checklist, cheat sheet, template, etc.) 
  • Contest or giveaway funnel 
  • Content upgrade funnel 
  • Deep-dive lead magnet opt-in funnel (ebook, mini course, guide, etc.) 
  • Webinar funnel 
  • New product launch funnel 
  • Free trial or demonstration funnel 
  • Free call for coaching or consulting funnel 
  • Post-purchase upsell funnel

5 Key Considerations When Building an Email Marketing Funnel

During the development process, if you want your email marketing conversion funnels to be as successful as possible, consider these five key email marketing best practices. 

Whether you’re marketing to consumers or other businesses, and regardless of the industry you’re in, these five considerations have a direct effect on the success rates of your email marketing efforts.

1. Timing

Email marketing funnels include a sequence of messages that are automatically sent out (or “dripped”) at specific times. You set this timing up when you create the automation in your email marketing tool. Since the power of email conversion funnels is in their ability to remind, engage, and persuade contacts to take specific actions, the timing of when people receive your messages matters a lot. 

If you were speaking with someone, would you tell them something and then continue to remind them every five minutes? If you needed to call a prospect to close a sale, would you call them twice a day, every day, or every other day? How often is too often?

Most email recipients act on a message within 24 hours. Therefore, an automated sequence of messages should be configured to send messages every two days unless there is a deadline or other urgent reason that requires messages in your funnel to be sent more frequently. You can extend the number of days between messages when you reach the third message in a sequence so it doesn’t seem like you’re spamming people with too many messages.

The timing has no strict rules. Your goal is to find the right balance that your audience will accept between staying in front of your contacts and looking like a spammer. Keep in mind, email marketing funnels that are built to move recipients to take a specific action aren’t like other types of email marketing campaigns. 

First, they last for a limited time. Second, they usually offer something of value for recipients. This is very different from an informational newsletter filled with links to your most recent blog posts. 

If recipients received your newsletter every day or every other day, that would likely be too much, and many would unsubscribe or request less frequent delivery. They’re far more tolerant of receiving the content in email funnels if the offer is highly relevant to them. 

2. Offer

The heart of every email conversion funnel is the offer to your target audience—what they’ll get in exchange for taking the action you want. Your offer must be extremely relevant to the target audience and highly desirable, or they won’t be motivated to act. In other words, your email conversion funnel won’t convert. 

Therefore, spend time researching what your audience wants and needs. Search Google, online forums, question sites like, and your competitors’ content to find the problems and pain points that your target audience is seeking solutions for, and then offer those solutions in your email conversion funnels.

For example, you could create an email conversion funnel to motivate people to read your new case study, join your upcoming webinar, watch your latest video, or buy your product or service. 

The trick is matching the offer to the audience depending on where they are in the buyer journey and where you want to move them to in your overall marketing funnel. Email conversion funnels are very flexible, and you can customize them to match your goals. 

But you must remember that your target audience’s wants and needs are always the top priority, or your conversion rates will suffer. Audience segmentation can help significantly in terms of improving your conversion rates.

3. Subject Line

It could be argued that the subject line of each message in your email conversion funnels is the most important element. The reason is simple. If your subject line isn’t powerful enough to convince people to click and open your messages, you have no way of converting those people. 

Your subject lines should be short enough to fully display in most email inboxes without being truncated. With that in mind, keep your subject lines shorter than 50 characters. The best subject lines are interesting and pique the recipient’s curiosity. Address the audience’s pain point and the solution you’re offering, but keep your subject line clear.

It’s also very important that the content of your messages matches the expectations created by your subject lines. Not only will recipients be unhappy when they click through a subject line to discover the content of the message is unrelated, but doing so can also destroy your chance of creating brand trust. 

Ultimately, you could lose conversions because of it and increase unsubscribes. Testing different subject lines through A/B split testing and creating different subject lines for unique segments of your audience can also help increase the open rate. The more people who open, the more potential conversions.

4. Design and Messages

Make sure your messages are well designed and look professional to create the perception of quality and build trust with recipients. Furthermore, they should be optimized for all devices. This is particularly important since more than half of email messages are opened on mobile devices today.

When it comes to writing your messages, unless your product or service is complex, shorter messages are almost always better in email marketing. That doesn’t mean long messages don’t work. Many email marketers have great success with long-form messages, but if those messages aren’t written well, they won’t help to boost your conversions. The truth is, most people don’t want to spend a lot of time reading email messages, so keeping your messages succinct is a good rule of thumb. Just make sure your messages are compelling, action-oriented, and tap into recipients’ emotions. 

Explain what recipients get when they follow your call to action and how that action benefits them by addressing their pain point or solving their problem. In addition, be sure to use a real reply-to email address and your real name in your messages and signature to improve the authenticity and trust factor.

Segmenting your list and writing copy specific to each niche audience can significantly increase your conversions as can using personalization and dynamic content. 

5. Follow-Up

What happens when your email conversion funnel sequence is done? Don’t abandon people in the funnel when it’s over. Instead, make sure you continue to nurture and engage them with future email campaigns and automations based on the behaviors they display on your website and when interacting with your future email messages. This is essential even if the conversion funnel ended in a sale. 

The relationship isn’t over when someone makes a purchase. In fact, the relationship is even more important because it costs less to keep an existing customer and turn them into repeat customers and loyal brand advocates than to attract new customers.

For people who purchased products at the end of a conversion funnel, you should continue to send them your email newsletter as well as renurturing and re-engagement messages. Renurturing email funnels are used like any kind of nurturing sequence of messages. 

They simply continue to build a stronger relationship with subscribers who are in the middle of the marketing funnel (either because they haven’t made a purchase from you, or they’ve already completed a purchase and aren’t ready to make another one). You can create email funnels for this audience that either lead to conversions or don’t. The choice is yours.

Similarly, re-engagement funnels are used to reactivate dormant customers. As such, they include a conversion. This type of email conversion funnel includes a message asking if the dormant contact still wants to be on your list. 

It could include a call to action that simply asks the recipient to click a button to stay on your list, or it could include a promotional offer, such as a discount on a specific product or service. If the recipient acts, they have obviously re-engaged with your brand and stay on your email marketing list.

How To Build an Email Marketing Funnel in 5 Steps

Most email marketing conversion funnels follow a proven pattern to motivate recipients to act. You can adjust the timing and order of these steps. If your offer is extremely simple, you could even eliminate some of these steps. The truth is it’s easier to persuade people to take some actions than others. 

Therefore, people might need more persuading to do something like make a purchase or sign up for a free product demonstration than they would to download a free checklist or ebook. 

Following are the five primary steps in an email conversion funnel:

  1. Make recipients aware of the action you want them to take. 
  2. Build interest in the offer by describing it and its benefits to recipients. 
  3. Give proof that the offer can solve recipients’ problems or address their pain points.  
  4. Provide additional help and resources related to the offer. 
  5. Follow up after the action has been taken by recipients.

As mentioned previously, you can use all these steps or just some in your email conversion funnels. It’s also important to note that these steps don’t correlate with the number of messages you include in your sequences. 

Depending on the offer and audience, you could address all these steps in two, three, five, seven, or more messages. Furthermore, not everyone moves through an email funnel perfectly. Many won’t complete your call to action after receiving the first message in your sequence. 

Those people need a different set of messages to persuade them to act than people who act immediately. Just as there are holes in your overall marketing funnel, there are holes in your email conversion funnels, too, so try to seal up as many as possible with additional messages.

How To Build Email Marketing Funnels For Different Stages

Stage 1: Acquiring 

The most effective email conversion type for acquisition is the lead magnet opt-in funnel. This is the sequence of messages sent after someone submits your opt-in form requesting your lead magnet.

Notice if the recipient doesn’t download the lead magnet after receiving the Day 1 message, there are three different messages in the sequence that address this hole in the funnel. On Days three, six, and ten, the sequence attempts to recapture recipients who have yet to act. 

With these special reminder messages, you have a chance to convert more people overall.

However, it’s important to understand that by the end of the message sequence, recipients should have taken your desired action and gotten more information from you that builds their relationship with your brand and sets their expectations for what kind of content they’ll get from you in the future. 

Even if your conversion funnel wasn’t built to lead to a sale, you can include sales-oriented language in the final message of the sequence. This is the perfect place to mention your product or service that is directly related to the problem or pain point addressed by your lead magnet or your sequence so far. 

By this point in the automation, recipients understand who you are and what your brand promises. If they’ve stayed with you this far, they’re interested in your brand and are usually willing to learn about your highly relevant products and services without feeling like they’re being spammed or subjected to an unwelcome, hard sales technique. 

Just be careful. You don’t want to ruin all the hard work you’ve done so far in building recipients’ trust in your brand with an over-the-top, irrelevant sales message at the end.

Stage 2: Nurturing

At this stage, the conversion was downloading a lead magnet. Nurturing email marketing funnels can be designed for conversions as well. For example, you could send a link to sign up for a free online course related to a topic that could move people in the middle of the funnel to the bottom where you can then create a separate email conversion funnel that promotes that related product or service as the natural next step after completing your free online course. 

You need to begin by explaining the course and how it will benefit your audience. You also need to include the call to action in your messages, which invites them to take the course. You can deliver the course using an online course delivery tool like Teachable, SkyPrep , DigitalChalk , or Thinkific. 

If you use WordPress, there are a variety of free and premium plug-ins available that make creating online courses and offering lessons directly on your website, such as WP Courseware, LearnDash, LearnPress, and Sensei. 

In addition, your messages should provide proof that the course will deliver what you promise in the form of testimonials and a sneak peek into what the course includes. Of course, every message should include the call to action making it easy for recipients to sign up at any time.

Note that once someone signs up for the course, a separate email autoresponder should be sent that confirms they’ve joined the course, provides any important instructions, and offers sources for help if they have questions. Autoresponders are one-time automated messages rather than automated sequences of messages. 

In addition, a follow-up email sequence should begin automatically when a person completes the course. Depending on your goals, that sequence could be information for relationship-building purposes, or it could be a new sales conversion funnel created to promote your service as the natural next step after the course is completed.

The same concept applies if you’re building a nurturing conversion funnel to move subscribers from the middle of the funnel to the bottom by offering a free product demonstration.For recipients who convert and schedule free demonstrations, they should automatically be placed into a separate sales conversion email marketing funnel where they receive a sequence of messages after their demonstrations, motivating them to purchase the product.

Stage 3: Selling

Email conversion funnels for sales are created to motivate recipients to make a purchase. Continuing the example from the previous section that used a free product demonstration to move prospects closer to the bottom of the overall marketing funnel, you could follow up after the completion of that nurturing conversion funnel with a separate sales conversion funnel offering your service as the natural next step to solve the recipient’s problem. 

Depending on the type of services you offer, you might want to extend this sales funnel to two weeks. You could also include one more follow-up message a week after the last message is sent to people who didn’t convert. 

Keep in mind, just because someone doesn’t buy your service at the end of this conversion sequence doesn’t mean you should give up. Create a follow-up conversion funnel and try to sell the service to people who didn’t buy, offering different benefit messages and promotional offers, such as a new discount. 

By segmenting your audience between people who opened your messages the first time you sent them and those who didn’t, you’ll be able to target people who showed some interest in your service based on their interactions with the messages in your first sales conversion funnel. 

These are people who are further down your overall marketing funnel based on their actions and assumed interests, so focus on them in your follow-up email marketing efforts.Continuing the free product demonstration example from the previous section, once someone completes a product demonstration, you can follow up with a sales conversion funnel to motivate them to purchase the product they saw in action during the demonstration. 

This sequence should start with a reminder of the useful features discussed during the demonstration and how those features benefit prospects. If recipients don’t purchase the product, subsequent messages should be sent as reminders, and a discount can be offered to boost conversions. It’s up to you if and when you decide to offer a discount based on your financial goals

You can modify the length of this sales conversion funnel to make it shorter or longer depending on your goals. You can also introduce the special offer on your product later in the sequence or not at all. 

Again, the choice is yours. The important thing is to try to incent people in this conversion funnel to make a final purchase decision. At this point, you’ve moved them to the bottom of your overall marketing funnel, so it’s important to provide just enough incentive that they’ll be motivated to make that final purchase decision. However, you don’t want to give up too many profits by offering discounts too early to people who would buy without them.

Stage 4:Re-nurturing

As mentioned earlier, you shouldn’t stop creating email funnels for the people on your email marketing list after they buy from you. Instead, you should continue to nurture and engage with them so they buy from you again. 

Re-nurturing conversion funnels are part of your regular nurturing conversion funnels, but you can also create unique re-nurturing conversion funnels for targeted segments of your audience who have purchased specific items or taken specific actions. 

For example, rather than simply sending an autoresponder message that confirms a customer’s purchase, you can send a re-nurture campaign. These are particularly successful immediately following a purchase when people feel good about the items they just bought. Such a campaign could include useful tips about how to use the product or a personal story. 

The desired conversion could encourage people to follow your brand on social media, take a survey, write a review, or share what they bought from you on their own social media profiles. None of these actions ask people to make another purchase, so they’re not sales conversion funnels. 

Instead, each asks them to take another action that will benefit your brand by building a relationship that could lead to word-of-mouth marketing, brand loyalty, and future sales. Therefore, they are examples of a special type of nurturing conversion funnel used to re-nurture customers after a purchase has been made.

In addition, don’t forget the people who fall out of your email marketing process. It’s important to try to re-engage these inactive subscribers. Not only can inactive subscribers hurt the deliverability of your future messages overall, but they are also not helpful to you in terms of boosting sales and building your business over time. 

You need to try to re-engage dormant subscribers to cleanse your email list and maximize your email marketing results as well as the return on your email marketing investments. 

To do this, you can send re-engagement conversion funnels at all stages of the email marketing process: acquisition, nurturing, and sales conversion.A re-engagement conversion funnel is a sequence of messages that asks recipients to take some kind of action to stay on your email list

That action might be as simple as clicking on a link to stay subscribed, or it could be to download a piece of free content or take a survey. While you don’t want the action to be difficult or time-consuming, it’s up to you to determine what level of engagement you need for you to invest time and money into continuing to market to them via email.

How To Increase Conversion Rate in Email Marketing

How To Build Email Marketing Funnels For Different Stages

The goal of any email conversion funnel is to convert recipients by motivating them to take an action.

There are three key ways to improve your email conversions. If you focus on each of these methods for boosting the performance of your email marketing funnels, your results will go up.

First, track your conversion rates.

Second, make sure you’re offering quality lead magnets.

Third, segment your audience so you can deliver highly targeted, personalized content.

In addition, invest in professional copywriting and design services to instantly improve prospect’s perceptions of your offers, and you’ll be on your way to watching your email marketing return on investment climb. 

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