Issue #10

How (and why) to build your first email marketing funnel

Email Marketing
9 min read
In this Article

The first time I heard the term “email funnel”, I thought I needed an MBA to understand it.

When I started blogging in 2013, I didn’t know it would turn into the full-time business it’s become today. I just wanted a fun, creative outlet that didn’t involve math. That’s all I was looking for at the time.

Knowing I had always been a self-starter, I naturally thought about turning my blog into a business. There was only one problem. The idea of selling anything, much less something I poured my heart and soul into, felt impossible as a sensitive creative type.

Now just two years later, I have multiple email marketing funnels running on autopilot with ConvertKit for several offerings like freelance services, pre-recorded workshops, and online courses. Those same email funnels create passive income that pays for all of my business expenses (what?!) and have introduced me to some of my favorite clients.

And honestly, I feel like I’m just scratching the surface of all I can do with email marketing funnels.

If you feel like running for the hills when you hear the term “marketing funnels”, don’t. I promise it’s a lot easier to grasp than you may think. If a hobby blogger like me with no background in business could create a full-time business, I’m confident anyone can do it.

You just need the right knowledge and tools. Let’s tackle knowledge first.

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What is an email marketing funnel?

An email funnel refers to how your customer moves through a sales pitch. This is often crafted by business owners to sell a product or service through educational content and persuasive selling.

email funnel

Why create an email marketing funnel, you ask? Well, your email list is one of the few marketing platforms you own. While social media is great, you don’t have any control over their platforms. Just look at how quickly social media platforms have changed their algorithms over the last few years.

If you built your entire audience on Facebook or Twitter, you wouldn’t have a way of reaching your followers if the platform disappeared. Not only that, but Nathan Barry found that email subscribers are 15x more likely to buy than Twitter followers. That’s a difference worth noticing.

One of the best ways to invest in growing your email list (and profits) is by creating email funnels for all your products, services, events, webinars, and more. Before we dig into exactly how to use an email marketing funnel, let’s talk about how to even get subscribers on your email list to begin with.

Two ways to capture leads for your email marketing funnels

While website traffic can be driven by a number of sources, there are typically two ways leads are captured for your funnel. Each format can be easily implemented into your own email marketing strategy.

Opt-in forms

If you’ve poked around our blog before, you’ve probably heard us talk about opt-in forms, also referred to as lead capture forms. When you see a “first name” and “email address” field with a submit button, you’ve come across an opt-in form.

Opt-in forms are a fantastic way to lead traffic to your email marketing funnels because you can embed them just about anywhere on your website. They can be sprinkled throughout your blog posts, placed on your Home page above-the-fold, or even at the end of your About page.

You can also create different opt-in copy for each lead capture form. This helps you test what copy and position performs the best. ConvertKit automatically calculates these conversion rate stats so you can quickly determine what elements are clear winners.

Lastly, you may have current email subscribers who are interested in your email funnel. Although they are already on your email list, you have the opportunity to send them tailored content through the funnel.

This increases your chances of converting audience members who have already bought into your brand and trust you, helping you increase the customer’s lifetime value. You can do this simply by adding a link for interested subscribers to click on with an automated Link Trigger in ConvertKit, tagging them for your email marketing funnel. Easy, right?

Landing pages

Think of landing pages as opt-in forms on steroids. Instead of embedding a small opt-in form onto your website, you can create a dedicated landing page (also sometimes referred to as a sales page) that leads to your email marketing funnel. You’ll have room there to include additional copy and a preview of your offer.

How do you choose your landing page offering? There are multiple pieces of content you can choose from, but we highly recommend creating an email course because it naturally educates your audience before leading to your pitch. Other options include eBooks, digital workbooks, printables, and more.

It’s important to keep ONE call-to-action for each landing page you create to increase your conversion rate. Since your email funnel is your number one priority here, your call-to-action is already chosen for you.

Landing pages are also a great place to highlight the benefits of your product without having to mention the actual product. Again, we want to focus on the call-to-action of signing up for your email funnel, not selling the product quite yet.

For example, if you were creating an email marketing funnel to sell calligraphy workshop tickets, you could create an email challenge called “Better Handlettering in 5 Days”. The benefits shared by your email challenge and calligraphy workshop might be an improvement in your handwriting for future projects and creating art without the distraction of technology.

By using the same benefits of the email challenge and product, you’re able to tailor your landing page to attract more of your ideal buyers or clients. Once the visitor is on your email list, you’ll be able to nurture them throughout your email funnel.

How to use email funnels to create lifetime customers

Attracting new subscribers who are interested in your product topic is one thing, but retaining them? That requires an email list nurturing strategy.

The last thing a brand new subscriber wants to see when they check their inbox is BUY NOW! LIMITED TIME OFFER! CLOSING SOON! DON’T DELAY! This marketing language has become a big turn-off for email subscribers, especially those who are new to your list.

It’s not that limited time offers or persuading subscribers to buy is a bad thing– it’s just often presented too soon. When you begin crafting the content for your email marketing funnel, you don’t want to jump right into the sale.

It’s best to begin your funnel with educational emails to build trust with your subscriber. This is why email courses or email challenges are great for email funnels. After you educate your audience on your product topic, then and only then will you start to weave your sales pitch into the copy.

After a subscriber becomes a customer, you’ll have the chance to use other marketing funnels to convert them for additional products. Hopefully the next time you introduce a product, it will be an even easier sell because they already trust you and love the quality content you produce.

This is how you create lifetime customers, which is the holy grail of all sales marketing. It’s typically more affordable to retain current customers than acquire new ones, meaning lifetime customers will save you money while helping you earn money. #swoon

Here are some additional tips to help you nurture subscribers into lifetime customers:

  • Don’t go radio silent. If your subscriber is used to seeing you in their inbox a few times a week during a launch but then don’t hear from you for a few months, your relationship will grow stale. The best time to truly nurture your subscribers is in between launches because you have the opportunity to educate them without having to make the sale. People don’t like feeling like just a dollar sign to you.
  • Read and answer newsletter replies. Emails perform best when they operate like a conversation rather than a monologue. While you may not have the time to answer every newsletter reply, you can repurpose them into questions for a Q&A video or an FAQs newsletter.
  • Create an automated email sequence of old content. Not sure if you can commit to writing a weekly newsletter when you’re already producing blog content? You can still grow and nurture your list after the email marketing funnel by adding subscribers to an email sequence of repurposed content. Not everyone has read every piece of content you’ve ever created, so make it last longer with an automated email sequence.

As you’re building loyalty with your email subscribers, it’s also smart to create tiered offerings to hit subscribers on every level. Then you’re able to meet your customer where they currently are in their own journey without leaving money on the table.

You could create different packages based on the customer’s level of experience (entry level to advanced) or on the amount of bonus offers included (other courses, eBooks, or one-on-one services). By upselling customers who have already bought from you, you’re able to continue nurturing them for future products through the quality of your current offering.

Email funnels made easier with Visual Automations

Now that you have a good foundation for building your funnel strategy, it’s time to layout the content. If you feel stuck with how to get started, we recommend outlining each funnel email. Outlines are made easier with ConvertKit’s Visual Automations tool.

With our Visual Automation builder, you can send timely, targeted content to your subscribers that build your relationship and make the sale. Each action triggers a reaction, making sure your subscriber is seamlessly taken through the email marketing funnel based on the content they desire most.

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If you're ready to see how email marketing can help you grow your business by connecting with your audience, you can try ConvertKit for free! Our Free plan lets you manage up to 1,000 email subscribers and includes unlimited email broadcast sending, landing pages, forms, and more.

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Kayla Hollatz

Kayla Hollatz is a copywriter and content creator for creative entrepreneurs who want their words to connect and convert. Few things make her happier than ghostwriting for clients in her studio, aka her four-season porch with a lake view. She can frequently be found fighting Minnesota winters with a mug of hot chocolate in hand.

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