featured image: how to build a high-converting email marketing funnel in 5 Steps

How to Build a High-Converting Email Marketing Funnel in 5 Steps

There’s nothing like having an email marketing funnel generating high revenue. Your marketing campaigns work like well-oiled machines. Your audience segments receive tailored messages. And you have systems to track everything. That includes subscriber engagement, new conversions, and key audience preferences. 

But why doesn’t every business get to experience this level of success?

Plain and simple: A standard email marketing funnel isn’t going to cut it.

To build a successful email funnel, you have to be very intentional about personalization. From lead magnets to landing pages to email content and beyond.

The problem? You can’t tailor your funnel without clarity on your target customer and business goals. And for that, you’ll need to take a few steps. If you’re ready to turn your email marketing success fantasy into a reality, stick around.

What is a Marketing Funnel?

A marketing funnel is a framework that maps out the customer journey to the desired action. Desired actions may include buying something or becoming a loyal customer.

Most marketing funnels consist of 4 different stages, including:

  • Awareness stage
  • Consideration stage
  • Conversion stage
  • Retention stage
4 different stages of marketing funnel

The goal of the funnel is to guide and nurture potential customers through each stage. The intent is to gradually build trust and convert them into paying customers. 

What is an email marketing funnel?

Email marketing funnels nurture potential customers through the customer journey to a sale via email. 

Other terms for email marketing funnels include:

  • Email sales funnels
  • Email funnels 
  • Email marketing sales funnels

With an email marketing funnel, you’ll capture leads through opt-in forms. Then, you’ll nudge them to conversion using targeted emails.

For example, when someone fills out a form similar to this, they’ve entered an email marketing funnel:

leads signup form for email marketing funnels

By effectively using this email marketing strategy, businesses: 

  • Engage with their audiences
  • Personalize email campaigns 
  • Build trust
  • Drive conversions 

The 5 Stages of an Email Marketing Funnel

The stages of an email marketing funnel include:

  • Attracting subscribers
  • Building relationships
  • Promoting products or services
  • Converting leads
  • And retaining loyal customers through ongoing email communication. 

Let’s take a quick look at each.

Stage 1: Attracting subscribers

Use irresistible lead magnets to generate leads and collect email addresses. Think free guides, exclusive content, or special discounts.

Here’s an example from House of Joppa, a Catholic home decor store. When visitors land on its site, they’re greeted with a pop-up offering a 10% discount if they sign up.

House of Joppa popup form for email marketing funnel

This tactic allows House of Joppa to grow and nurture its email list and nudge prospects to buy. 

Stage 2: Building relationships

Focus on fostering trust, credibility, and a strong connection with your audience. 

Send interactive quizzes and welcome emails. Introduce your brand values. And share the benefits of being a part of your community. 

Here’s an example of an interactive quiz from Karmen Kendrick Creative: 

Karmen Kendrick Creative interactive game for building customer relationship

Quizzes help recipients feel guided and provide invaluable insights for audience segmentation.

Audience segmentation is key to providing valuable and engaging content.

This may include: 

  • Educational newsletters
  • Industry insights
  • Personal stories

 More on this in a bit.

Pro-Tip: Encourage two-way communication by inviting email subscribers to reply or ask questions.

Stage 3: Promoting products or services

After building relationships with your subscribers, promote your products or services. This stage involves strategically integrating promotional emails into your email marketing funnel. 

Here, you’ll showcase the value, the benefits, and the unique selling point of your offer. You’ll need to use compelling storytelling, persuasive language, and attractive visuals.   

Here’s a beautiful example from Outdoorplay, an online camping and hiking gear store:

Outdoorplay promoting product in email marketing funnel

Tailor your promotional email campaigns by audience segment to increase relevance and conversions. The above promo targets solo backpackers who need strong, lightweight tents.

Depending on your business goals, you’ll likely segment your audience based on their:

  • Preferences
  • Buying history
  • Or engagement levels

Stage 4: Converting leads

Work to convert interested subscribers into customers using targeted content, personalized offers, and timely follow-ups that resonate with their unique needs and preferences.

Here’s a great example by selfmade, a clean, sustainable skincare brand that uses fear-of-missing-out (FOMO) language:

selfmade email converting leads in the email marketing funnel

In this example, selfmade uses FOMO language like “Last Chance” and “Busy yesterday? We’re giving you one last shot to get…” to create a sense of urgency and motivate  subscribers to take action.

But that’s not the only way to convert readers into buyers. Here are some other simple tactics:

  • Use targeted email campaigns with clear calls to action (CTAs). Stick with compelling offers to incentivize conversions.
Zendesk targeted email campaigns to convert leads
  • Offer exclusive deals or extra value-adds. Make the recipient feel special and encourage them to make a purchase.  
Hubspot offering exclusive deals to leads in the email marketing funnel
  • Leverage persuasive copy, customer testimonials, and user-generated content. This helps build trust and overcome objections.
Judy leveraging customer testimonials to convert leads
Source: drip.com
  • Make it easy for leads to buy something. Include intuitive links or buttons directing them to your sales pages.
Etsy including intuitive buttons in emails to leads in the email marketing funnel

Stage 5: Retaining loyal customers

Show appreciation for new customers by sending thank-you emails, discounts, or loyalty rewards. 

Here’s an example of a loyalty rewards email from Taco Bell:

loyalty rewards email from Taco Bell to customers

Taco Bell keeps its message short and sweet. It recaps its recipient’s loyalty points and offers a link to review their account. This helps its customers feel seen and encourages them to cash in their points. 

Keeping your audience engaged with relevant and valuable content is also important. This includes tips, tutorials, or insider knowledge you know recipients will care about. 

Encourage customers to stay connected and refer your brand to others. Invite them to join referral programs, leave reviews, or share your educational content. Nurturing existing relationships is key to creating brand advocates and boosting customer retention.

Building an Email Marketing Funnel in 5 Steps

Now that you’re clear on the basics, let’s look at how to build an email marketing funnel step-by-step.

Step 1: Create buyer personas representing your target audience 

Start by outlining your target audience in detail by creating buyer personas. 

In your personas, be sure to include:

  • Core needs and pain points — and how your brand solves them better than your competitors 
  • Potential buying history
  • Ideal messaging preferences, including style, tone, and language 
  • Customer journey map predictions
  • Captivating lead magnet templates and ideas 

Step 2: Outline specific goals and choose an email marketing tool

Get clear on your short-term and long-term vision for your email marketing funnel. 

Describe your objectives, and be sure to include:

  1. Why they’re important to your business growth
  2. How to track progress
  3. How you’ll know when you’ve achieved them

Then, choose email marketing software in line with your needs and preferences. 

Most email marketing tools have automation features to automate email sending, tagging, and segmentation.

Still, there are some key differences, including:

  1. How advanced the automation builder is
  2. How many channels you can automate: email, SMS, chat, WhatsApp, etc.
  3. How many integrations they have — and how advanced those integrations are

Find out more about the differences between email marketing vs. marketing automation to make an informed decision.

For instance, if you need simple email marketing automation features, try:

Or, if you need advanced marketing automation features, get started with:

Many of these come with free-forever plans or free trials so you can test them before investing. Trial users often get access to extra bonuses, too, such as discounts on premium plans. 

Step 3: Create, test, and complete lead magnets, opt-in forms, and dedicated landing pages

To capture leads, use compelling and targeted lead magnets and opt-in forms on your: 

  • Website
  • Landing pages
  • Social media pages

Choose lead magnets you know prospects will love. Consider their interests and the interactions you’ve had with them.

It’s also crucial to keep each opt-in form as simple as possible so leads can sign up without any friction. Stick to one to three fields max.

If your lead magnet requires signing up with login credentials, use the OAuth protocol. With OAuth, prospects use Google or their social media accounts to sign up with one click.

OAuth protocol for one click signing up

Make sure to also optimize your landing pages with captivating copy. Describe exactly how your lead magnet will solve the prospect’s pain point.

Add engaging visuals, CTA buttons, and opt-in opportunities. Also, check to make sure your pages load without bugs, lags, or glitches.

Finally, use your email marketing tool to A/B test your lead magnets, opt-in forms, and landing pages. Choose the ones with the highest conversion rates before going live to your entire audience. Some email tools will auto-send the best version after receiving the test results.

Step 4: Segment your email list and send relevant, automated content to each group

Send relevant emails by segmenting your email list based on:

  • Past purchases
  • Preferences
  • Behavior
  • Or other relevant characteristics

Use interactive emails to dig deep into your new subscribers’ needs. Quizzes, polls, and feedback surveys are great examples of interactive content.

Use the following template to determine your segments:

“Business goal + insight + segmentation characteristic”

Here’s an example:

▶️ Business aim: Increase skincare product sales by 25% 

▶️ Insight: Quiz results show that prospects need the following for their skincare goals:

  • Aloe Sensitive Set
  • Rose Oil Anti-Aging Line
  • Citrus Acne Prevention Kit

▶️ Segmentation characteristic: We’ll segment based on audience skincare goals and needs 

This includes: 

  • Segment 1: Sensitive skin audience 
    • Core offer: Aloe Sensitive Set
  • Segment 2: Anti-aging audience 
    • Core offer: Rose Oil Anti-Aging Line
  • Segment 3: Acne prevention segment
    • Core offer: Citrus Acne Prevention Kit 

You can also add existing customers to one of the above segments if relevant. Or, add them to their own segment. Then, use your email marketing software to set up automated and segmented campaigns.

If the email editor in your email marketing tool doesn’t have enough flexibility, try the best drag-and-drop email template builders.

Here are some important tips to apply before going live:

  • Review and clean up your list.
  • Don’t send emails from a no-reply email address.
  • A/B test your lead nurturing emails, subject lines

Step 5: Track and improve your funnel using rich data insights

Once your funnel is set up, be sure to keep an eye on it to understand what’s working well and what’s not. Monitor the data to uncover how to improve your funnel.

Be sure to check:

  • Click through rates 
  • Bounce rates
  • Open rates
  • Subscribe rates
  • Unsubscribe rates
  • Conversions
  • Call-to-action conversions 

Concluding Email Marketing Funnels  

In this piece, we discussed what an email marketing funnel is. We also reviewed its stages, and how to create your own in 5 simple steps. 

And if you’re on the hunt for email marketing software, remember to check out these options:

FAQs About Email Marketing Funnels 

Yes, email marketing works at the top of the funnel. But make sure you create irresistible lead magnets to draw them in. 

If you’re struggling to get opt-ins from content marketing and lead magnets, you can try ads. If you don’t know where to start, an ad specialist can help set up targeted ads to get more eyes on opt-in forms.

A good email funnel is personalized to the target customer. To increase conversions, test your campaigns, apply insights, and use irresistible lead magnets. 

It’s also crucial to segment your audience by characteristics in line with your goals and data. This is key to automating personalized lead nurturing campaigns.

To create an email sales funnel, you need to: 

  • Create buyer personas representing your target audience.
  • Outline specific goals.
  • Choose an email marketing tool.
  • Create, test, and launch your lead magnets, opt-in forms, and landing pages.
  • Segment your email list based on data.
  • Send relevant, automated content to each group.
  • Track and improve your funnel.

An automated email funnel is a series of conversion steps, pages, and emails you set up. With an automated funnel, segments receive targeted content in line with their preferences. 

Digital marketers draw in potential customers using engaging lead magnets. To grab these, prospects must exchange their email addresses. 

Marketers then segment their audiences and send automated personalized content to each segment.

Sara Amin

Sara Amin is a seasoned marketing and outreach strategist with a passion for fashion and a keen eye for digital marketing trends. As the Marketing and Outreach Manager at StudioSuits, Sara brings a wealth of experience and creativity to the forefront of the brand's online presence.