Email marketing funnels are what turn blogs into lead generating machines that work around the clock, sorting your visitors into different categories, and delivering them the information they need, when they need it.
They can seem fearsomely complicated. And the truth is, email marketing funnels can get very elaborate. But the most effective email marketing funnels are very simple, as I’ll show you in this article
They can also seem slightly manipulative and calculating. After all, a funnel is something that moves people or things towards a certain outcome, often without them knowing exactly what’s happening.
But there’s another way of looking at email marketing funnels: they’re simply ways of finding out the needs of your visitors and providing them with what they need, based on what stage of the journey they’re at.
- 1. What Is An Email Marketing Funnel?
- 2. Eleven Ways To Use an Email Autoresponder Series
- 3. Email Marketing Funnels and Segmentation
- 4. How To Write an Email Autoresponder Sequence
- 5. How To Set Up an Autoresponder Sequence
- 6. Conclusion
1. What Is An Email Marketing Funnel?
They work around the clock, 24/7, providing your audience with a continuous stream of valuable content and related offers.
And that’s why some people call an email marketing funnel "the lazy marketer’s friend".
There are various different terms for an email marketing funnel – it’s also called a ‘warm-up funnel’, an ‘intro funnel’ or an ‘onboarding funnel’.
Whatever you want to call it, a successful email funnel moves the reader from an emotionally neutral state to a point where they are excited enough to buy your product.
It's often said that a potential customer needs to see your message 7 times before they make a purchase.
Of course, the figure 7 is fairly arbitrary.
The point is that most people who buy from you need repeated exposure to your message before they buy. And that’s what email marketing funnels do - they leverage your contact with subscribers so as to make the maximum amount of money from the smallest amount of traffic.
An email marketing funnel takes your potential customer on the psychological or emotional journey that every customer has to make between the moment they first arrive on a website to the moment they make a purchase.
Different people use different models for this emotional journey but it usually involves some variation of these 4 stages:
Your email marketing funnel will have to take your prospects through these four stages, if you are to make a sale.
Because, the fact is: if you’re selling anything on the Internet you somehow need to guide people towards the purchase.
The manner in which you do this is your “funnel.”
Eric Siu makes an interesting analogy that shows why email marketing funnels are so important.
He points out that no one would go into a bar and ask someone to marry them. First you ask them out on a date. And if that goes well there's another date. If everything continues to go well you'll eventually meet their parents. And some time after that, you may get married.
It's basically the same process with an email marketing funnel.
Watch Marketing School #17 with Neil Patel and Eric Siu: How to Create a Marketing Funnel for Best Results (11 mins, 27 secs)
Another way to think of an email marketing funnel is that it’s a process for removing doubts one at a time, as Benyamin Elias points out.
Here are some of the doubts that your email marketing funnel may have to remove:
- “I’m worried this isn’t going to be worth the money”
- “This doesn’t work for people like me”
- “What if I try this and it doesn’t work?”
- “I can always do this later”
So far we’ve looked at sales funnels from the point of view of the psychology of your potential customer.
But the funnel also refers to the stages of interaction between your visitor and your website. In it’s simplest form, this kind of funnel consists of five stages:
Traffic Generation >> Landing Page >> Email Opt-In >> Email Sequence >> Sale
The email sequence (Stage 4 in the above funnel) is typically a seven-part autoresponder that delivers a mini-tutorial for your potential customers. This email sequence:
- Provides overwhelming value for your visitor
- Establishes you as an authority in the field
- Lays the groundwork for you to make a sale
In a minute, I’m going to show you exactly how to put together an autoresponder series, but before I do that, let’s have a quick look at the various ways you can use an autoresponder series.
2. Eleven Ways To Use an Email Autoresponder Series
#1 – Introduce new subscribers to your best blog posts
#2 – Discover what your subscribers want. Ask them what topics they want you to write about. Pat Flynn uses one of his autoresponders for this purpose:
#3 – Run continuous promotional campaigns. Instead of launching your product as a one-time event, promote your product to all your new subscribers and generate a continuous stream of income.
#4 – Use a sequence of emails to provide training: take your new subscribers through an online course.
#5 – Take your most successful previous promotions and run them again, for new subscribers.
#6 – Upsell: identify subscribers who have purchased from you and offer them new products.
#7 – Promote your coaching services: design a sequence of messages on a topic related to your expertise and offer your coaching services at various intervals throughout the sequence.
#8. - Reconnect with subscribers who are no longer opening your emails: ask them what they’ve been up to, what challengers are they facing, and how can you help them?
#9. - Promote affiliate products: create an email course on a particular topic and sprinkle your email sequence with links to affiliate products related to that topic.
#10. - Encourage your readers to access your blog post archives.
#11. - Do themed updates: gather together all your posts on a particular topic and put them in a themed update. This is a way of driving traffic to old posts that nobody sees anymore. For more on this technique see Darren Rowse’s article 8 Ways To Use Autoresponders To Drive Traffic and Increase Your Blogging Income
3. Email Marketing Funnels and Segmentation
What makes email marketing funnels really powerful is email segmentation.
Put simply, email segmentation is a way of customizing your email messages based on the particular interests of your email subscriber and what stage they are in your funnel.
For example, let’s say you have a blog post about choosing a domain name and another blog post about On-Page SEO. These two blog posts are aimed at people at different stages of the blogging journey.
Each blog post has a content upgrade that results in a steady stream of new subscribers to your list. Let’s call the people who joined your list from these two different blog posts ‘Category A’ and ‘Category B’.
Let’s say you send out an email with tips on choosing a domain name, to everyone on your list. People in Category A will be very interested but people in Category B won’t be. They might even unsubscribe.
But what if you had a seven-part autoresponder series packed with valuable tips on choosing a domain name and another one about ‘On-Page SEO’?
And what if you sent the former to people who signed up from your ‘choosing a domain name’ blog post, and the latter to people who joined your list from your ‘On-Page SEO’ blog post?
Suddenly your open rates and your Click Through Rates skyrocket!
That’s the power of email segmentation.
Segmenting your email list brings you a much higher ROI for your email campaigns.
And it’s the secret to converting email subscribers into customers.
Long story short: if you want effective autoresponders, you must segment your list.
Here are some of the factors you can use to segment your list:
- Which blog post a person read before signing up to your list?
- Which people open your messages and which people don’t?
- Which links did they click on in your welcome message?
- Whereabouts in the world do they live?
- Purchase history: which products of yours have they previously bought?
4. How To Write an Email Autoresponder Sequence
4.1 Content of your Autoresponder Email Sequence
In this section I'm going to talk about the structure and strategy of an effective email marketing funnel, but first some general points about the content of your autoresponder sequences.
Firstly, when writing autoresponder emails, always have at the top of your mind the needs of your readers, not yours.
Obviously you want to make a sale, but you’re not going to do that unless you can first convince your reader that you're the answer to their prayers. And the way to do that is to deliver some seriously useful tips.
So instead of talking about your products, you need to talk about their problems and how to overcome them.
Ask yourself these questions:
- What are my subscriber’s pain points, their goals, their interests?
- What is causing them the most frustration right now?
- What’s the single thing that would bring a smile to their face and give them a sense of light at the end of the tunnel?
- Why did they join my list in the first place? What was it they thought you could give them?
- What is it in this email that’s going to make it worth their while reading it?
In each of your autoresponder emails you need to focus on giving your readers at least one ‘quick win’.
By that I mean something they can implement quickly and feel they’ve made progress. It could be a shortcut, it could be a cheaper way of doing something, it could be a free WordPress plugin that saves hours of time.
Finally, make sure that your autoresponder emails contain your best content.
A quick way to identify your best content is to log in to your Google Analytics account.
Go to ‘Behaviour’, ‘Site Content’, and then ‘All Pages’:
On the next screen, click on the date range in the top right corner:
Use the calendar to set the date range to the last 12 months:
The first column of the screen orders your web pages by page view:
Simply take your top 10 web pages (blog posts) and use that content in your autoresponder series.
4.2 Structure and Strategy of your Autoresponder Email Sequence
Email marketing funnels can get quite complex, with ‘closed loops’, ‘loop-backs’, and all sorts of triggers and conditions.
But for a blog site, this is the most commonly used funnel – it’s simple and very effective:
Traffic >> Landing Page >> Email Optin >> Autoresponder Sequence >> Sale
The Autoresponder part of the funnel usually consists of a sequence of 7 to 10 emails and its purpose is to build a relationship between you and your potential customers.
But effective email sequences are not just a bunch of loosely related emails.
To be effective an email sequence has to tell a story or have a central idea that runs through it.
This central message running through your email sequence could be how you struggled to succeed at something until you discovered a set of hidden rules.
Or it could be a narrative that describes how you found success by doing the opposite of what other people are doing.
Alternatively, it could simply be the story of how you overcame tremendous personal challenges but still managed to set up a successful online business using a particular method or technique.
Whatever the exact form your narrative takes, it should incorporate these three elements:
- Present the Problem. If someone came across your website its almost certain they have a problem and are looking for a solution. So the first thing you need to do in your email sequence is show them that you understand their problem. That immediately tells your visitor they found the right resource – they can stop searching and start reading.
- Present the Solution. After painting a graphic picture of the obstacles and frustrations your reader is facing or will face, you now show them there is light at the end of the tunnel. For example: “But what if I told you there’s a simple way of doing this that works every time?”
- Present the Promise. This is where you spell out in some detail exactly what your course/eBook/video is going to show them and why it will solve their problem.
You may already recognise this formula - it's a popular approach used by most successful bloggers in their blog post Introductions.
I call it ‘The Pain and the Pleasure”.
Pain and pleasure are the two things that motivate 90% of human behaviour – we spend most of our time avoiding pain and seeking pleasure.
The formula works because it triggers an emotional response in your reader - the fear of something and the promise of something else.
Once you've got a rough idea of the content of your email sequence and the structure and strategy of your email sequence, it's a good idea to map out the entire email marketing funnel.
Your email sequence is supposed to move your reader along an emotional journey that culminates in the decision to buy your product or service. So you need to be very clear as to exactly how each of your emails is moving your reader along that journey.
Next, you’ll have to decide on the intervals between your emails. This will really depend on what kind of audience you have.
In deciding on frequency, there are two extremes you want to avoid. One the one hand you don't want your intervals so short that people get irritated and unsubscribe.
But on the other hand, you don't want them spaced so far part that your readers lose momentum or even forget who you are and why they signed up for your emails.
One last tip: try to follow the 80/20 rule: 80% of your emails give value, while no more than 20% of your emails promote a product or service.
5. How To Set Up an Autoresponder Sequence
In this section I’m going to show you how to set up autoresponder sequences with segmentation in MailerLite, which is the email service provider I use.
MailerLite is free to use - with full functionality - until you reach 1000 subscribers. So it’s a great option if you’re just starting out with your blog.
5.1 Creating the Opt-in Form
First we’re going to create a form, which is the first point of interaction with your subscribers.
Log into your MailerLite account and in the top menu click on ‘Forms’ and then ‘Create Popup’ (in MailerLite a slide-in is a type of popup):
Give your opt-in form a name and click ‘Save and Continue’:
You’ll now be asked to link your opt-in form with a Group.
Click on ‘Add new group’:
I’m going to create a new Group called ‘Main List’:
Make sure that you’ve checked the box next to your new Group:
Then click ‘Save and Continue’:
You’ll now be prompted to choose one of three opt-in form templates.
Let’s take the first of the three opt-in templates and customize it:
The first thing we need to do is change the ‘Form type’ to a bottom right corner slide-in:
Next, let’s change the headline and the sub-header.
Mouse-over the headline until the edit icon appears.
Then click on the edit icon:
In the right panel you can now change the text of the headline and sub-header.
I’m going to offer my new subscribers a checklist of SEO factors to optimize for every new blog post:
These days very few visitors will join your list without some kind of incentive. That incentive is called a ‘lead magnet’ and in this case it’s my free SEO checklist:
Next, mouse-over the ‘subscribe’ button until the edit icon appears:
Click on the edit icon and change the button label from ‘Subscribe’ to ‘Join’ (much more inviting!).
Then click on ‘Add new field’:
On the next screen a ‘name’ field will appear.
Mouse-over the 5 grey horizontal bars and drag the ‘name’ field above the ‘email’ field.
Then click ‘Save’:
And then click ‘Done Editing’.
Now click on ‘Settings’ in the right panel and add a user consent checkbox (so as to be GDPR compliant):
Click ‘Save’ and then click ‘Done Editing’:
You now need to set the ‘Behavior’ of your slide-in:
Set the ‘Mode’ so that the slide-in appears when your visitor has scrolled to 50% of the page content.
Set the frequency to 1 month – this is the interval before someone who didn’t subscribe will see the slide-in form again.
Set the ‘Visibility’ to always (unless there are specific pages you don’t want the slide-in to appear on).
Click ‘Save and Continue’:
Finally, you need to customize the message that your subscribers will see once they submit the form.
Toggle the top button from ‘Popup’ to ‘Success’:
You’ll then see the default success message:
Mouse over the success message until the edit icon appears and then click on the edit icon:
In the right-side panel customize the message so it fits your style and click ‘Save’:
Then click ‘Done Editing’ in the top right corner:
Next, click on ‘Forms’ in the top menu, find the optin form you just created and click on it:
You’ll now be taken to the page with all the settings for your new optin.
But if you’re using WordPress, simply download the ‘MailerLite Sign Up Forms’ plugin and the script will be added to your site automatically!
The last thing you need to do is make sure your new optin form is active.
Scroll back up to the top of the page and toggle the ‘Paused’ button to the ‘On’ position.
If you want single optin instead of double optin, toggle the ‘double optin’ button to the ‘Off’ position:
5.2 Setting up an Email Sequence and Segmentation
Next, we’re going to set up the email sequences and the segmentation.
To set up any kind of email sequence in MailerLite, you need to click on ‘Automation’ in the top menu:
In MailerLite an automated sequence of emails or actions is called a ‘workflow’ so the first thing you need to do is click on ‘Create a new workflow’:
Name your new workflow ‘Welcome Email’ or something similar and click ‘Save’:
For the ‘Trigger’, select ‘When subscriber joins a group’ and for ‘Group’, select ‘Main List’.
Anyone who joins your list from the optin form we just created is automatically placed in ‘Main List’.
Check the ‘reactivate workflow’ checkbox because you want this workflow to reactivate if a person joins your list, then leaves, and then joins again.
Then click ‘Save’.
MailerLite Pro Tip #1 – any time you choose a setting in the right panel, click ‘Save’. If you change two consecutive settings and then click ‘Save’ you’ll find that your first setting hasn’t been saved.
You’ll now see a mainly blank screen in the left panel. This is where you create your workflow:
Click on the plus sign and you’ll see 4 types of events:
All we want to do at this stage is create an email that welcomes the new subscriber and contains a link to the lead magnet (my SEO checklist).
So click on ‘Email’.
On the next screen type in a header for your welcome email and then click on ‘Design email’:
Choose the ‘Drag & drop editor’:
On the next screen, drag the Text Block onto the left editing panel:
A new field will appear on the right panel where you can compose your welcome email:
Click ‘Save’ and then click ‘Done Editing’:
On the next screen set your automation (or workflow) to the ‘On’ position:
MailerLite Pro Tip #2 – if you ever find that one of your workflows (i.e. automations) is not working, always check that the workflow has been turned on.
Congratulations - you’ve just set up your first email sequence!
Now we’re going to set up three more email sequences.
These three sequences will be activated depending on which of those three links your reader clicks.
You’ll need to write a sequence of 7 to 10 emails for each of the three links. Each email sequence will be full of valuable tips that correspond to the stage your reader is at.
Now go back to the main screen of MailerLite and click again on ‘Automation’ and then ‘Create a new workflow’:
Name your new workflow ‘Group A automation’ or something similar. This sequence is going to target the people who click on the first link (Link A) in your welcome email.
For the Trigger, this time we’re going to select ‘When a subscriber clicks a link’:
You’ll now be asked to enter the link:
Then click ‘Save’.
The next screen displays the editing window for your new workflow:
Click on the plus sign and choose the ‘Action’ block:
In the right panel, select the action ‘Copy to a group’:
You’ll now be asked to select an existing group or create a new group.
Click on ‘create a new group’:
Name your new Group ‘Group A’ and click ‘Create’:
Then click ‘Save’.
You’ll now see in the left panel that your new workflow contains one step: every subscriber who clicks on Link A gets copied over from ‘Main List’ to Group A:
In other words, they have been segmented (or rather, they have ‘self-segmented’) as ‘beginners’.
Next, click on the plus sign again but this time choose ‘Email’:
We’re now going to add email #1 of our 7-email sequence.
On the next screen, type in a header for your first email:
Then click ‘Design email’.
On the next screen you’ll be given the option to use a template or design your own email from scratch using one of these three options:
- Drag & Drop Editor
- Rich Text Editor
- Your Own HTML
I normally use the ‘Drag & Drop Editor’, but for this demo I’m just going to select a template from the ‘Template Gallery’:
In the left panel of the workflow editor you’ll now see that a new step – your first email has been added to your automation:
Obviously, the email in my example (Free 3 Day Shipping) doesn’t match the header (Day 1 of your Blogging Basics course) but I’m just using that email template for convenience.
Now click on the plus sign, choose the email block, and add your next email:
You now have two automated emails in your sequence:
At this point you may have noticed that we have a problem: there’s no time interval between the 1st email and the 2nd email.
We need to add a delay between the two emails.
Click on the plus sign immediately beneath the 1st email and choose the ‘delay block’:
In the right panel set the time interval between your 1st and 2nd emails. You’ll normally want a delay of anywhere from 1 to 3 days between each email.
I’ve set the time interval to 2 days:
Click ‘Save’ and in the right-side panel you’ll now see that you have a 2-day interval between your 1st and 2nd emails:
Repeat these steps until you have all 7 of your emails in a sequence.
When your automation is complete, remember to turn the workflow on by toggling the button at the top of the left-side panel:
You now need to repeat these same steps for ‘Link B’ and ‘Link C’.
To recap: for each of your 2 remaining links, you’re going to create a workflow that segments those clickers to a new group (Group B or Group C) and you’re then going to add a sequence of emails, separated by time intervals of 1 to 3 days.
But what about the people who didn’t click any of the three links?
Let’s give them one last opportunity to click on one of those links.
In this last workflow we’re going to do send the ‘non-clickers’ an email giving them another opportunity to click one of the three links.
Actually, this isn’t a new workflow; it’s an extension of a workflow we already created.
Within your MailerLite account click on ‘Automation’ in the top menu and then find the workflow that we named ‘Welcome Email’ and click on ‘Edit’:
The first thing you need to do is toggle the workflow to the ‘Off’ position, because you can’t edit an active workflow:
Next, click on the lower-most plus sign in the left panel and add a ‘condition' block:
In the right panel, make the following settings for your condition and then click ‘Save’:
Next, click on the plus sign above your new condition, and add a ‘delay’ block. We need to give our readers time to click the links in the email:
Set the delay to 3 days (that should be enough time for your readers to click on a link in your welcome email):
Your workflow should now look like this:
The process so far is as follows:
- Your new subscriber receives a welcome message
- After 3 days MailerLite checks for the condition: no links were clicked in the welcome email
Next click on the plus sign beneath the positive branch (green). We want the next action to happen when the condition is met.
This time add an ‘email block’:
In the right panel make the following settings:
Then click on ‘Edit email content’ and compose an email along these lines:
Click ‘Save’ and then click ‘Done Editing’.
We now want to set another ‘condition’.
The condition this time is ‘if any link was clicked’.
If your subscriber clicked any link in this latest email, you’re going to send them an email with a copy of your eBook.
Click on the lower-most plus sign and add a ‘condition block’:
In the right panel choose the following settings and click ‘Save’:
The lower part of your workflow will now look like this:
Click on the plus sign beneath the positive branch of the condition (green) and choose an ‘email block’.
Customize your settings in the right panel and click ‘Save’:
Then compose your email along these lines and click ‘Save’:
And that’s it!
You’ve now added a re-engagement sequence to your welcome email for those subscribers who didn’t click on any of the links in the original welcome message.
If you’re looking for the missing piece in the puzzle of how to run a successful online business, it’s almost certainly Email Marketing Funnels. They’re the powerhouse of any profitable blog.
An Email Marketing Funnel is like having a full time employee working for you around the clock 24/7, reaching out to potential customers, sending them the information they requested, and following up with them when they don’t respond.
If you’re serious about making your living online, this should be one of your highest priorities: setting up an email marketing funnel.
I hope you found this article useful. Let me know in the comments!
Latest posts by Rob Powell (see all)
- How To Create Email Marketing Funnels and Automated Email Sequences - July 18, 2018
- How To Write Blog Posts That Rank In Google In 10 Key Steps - June 16, 2018
- 7 Quick Tips For Getting More Traffic From Your SERP Snippet - May 31, 2018