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Marketing - 7 min READ

5 tips for using your email marketing funnel strategy to increase sales

From the stages of the email funnel to best practices for email marketing success

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Copper Staff

Contributors from members of the Copper team

You’ve gone all-in on email marketing for sales. Way to go!

At this point, you’re getting your sea legs with email marketing and using it to promote your biz.

But if you’ve seen the wide range of features in your email marketing platform, you may be overwhelmed by how complex email marketing can be.

It can be a bit of a rabbit hole.

Don’t get us wrong; email marketing can be an incredibly valuable tactic to promote your business, but at a certain point, you need to optimize and refine your efforts. Instead of blasting out emails willy-nilly, defining a strategy will help focus your efforts on email campaigns that will make more of an impact.

To ace email marketing for your small business, creating email marketing funnels is a must. This will help you write and schedule email content that connects with the right customer or prospect at the right time.

Let’s dive into what the email marketing funnel is and what you should do in every stage of the funnel to win your prospects’ hearts.

What is an email marketing funnel?

Let’s be honest: people are sick of receiving generic, templated emails from brands. If leads aren’t engaging with your emails, your messages aren’t hitting the mark.

Fortunately, using an email marketing funnel can go a long way to refine your prospect and customer outreach.

The email marketing funnel or email sales funnel is a five-stage process that every lead goes through to become a loyal customer. It starts with a lead becoming aware of your brand and subscribing to your email list, becoming a new subscriber, and then goes all the way down to that person becoming a brand advocate.

Yes, there are a lot of steps between awareness and advocacy, and that’s where email comes in: with the right content, you can get leads from point A to point Z, automatically.

Most brands like to visualize their funnel and customize it as they see fit, but generally speaking, this is what an email funnel looks like (image source):

There are 5 stages in the email marketing funnel

If an email marketing strategy sounds complicated, unnecessary, or messy, it isn’t! Every small business needs an email marketing funnel because:

  • It helps you meet prospects’ expectations: Every lead has different expectations of what they want to see from you. After all, you wouldn’t ask a new email subscriber to join your loyalty program, right? (Hopefully not, because that would be kind of jarring.)
  • It deepens relationships at scale: An email sales funnel uses content and sales tactics to warm up your relationship with a customer — whether you have two leads or two thousand leads in your queue. An email marketing funnel allows for personalization at scale, so you can give customers an enterprise experience even as a small business. Nice, right?
  • It increases response rates: Are you sick of writing emails that no one reads? Fear not! A solid email sales funnel will bolster your engagement rates, which means you never have to send random emails out into the abyss again.

But here’s the thing about this strategy: you will lose customers as they go through each stage. It’s natural for subscribers to fall off, as it might not be the right time, your offering might not fit their budget, or they might have found a solution that solves their problem more effectively — it happens. This is why the email funnel gets narrower and narrower at every stage, just like the sales funnel.

Sure, it’s frustrating to lose leads, but that’s life. The good news is that, as long as you invest in an email funnel, you can keep more of the leads that enter it.

You won’t keep everyone on your email list, but if you can improve your odds with a better email strategy, isn’t it worth a shot?

The 5 stages of an email marketing funnel, plus best practices

You don’t have to manage your email marketing campaigns alone, either. With a CRM like Copper backing you up, you’ll automatically know which leads are in which stage of the funnel — making it possible to hyper-customize your emails even with a small sales team.

Of course, it still helps to know the different funnel stages and what customers expect in each step. Let’s dig into the five stages of the email marketing funnel and what they mean for your small business.

Stage 1: Awareness

The first stage of the email funnel is Awareness. This is where a person first becomes interested in your brand and subscribes to your list.

In the Awareness stage, you need to focus on building your list. That might mean:

  • Adding a few popups to your website (as long as they aren’t distracting or annoying)
  • Placing a newsletter signup in your website’s footer or sidebar
  • Promoting your list during eCommerce checkout
  • Running a contest on social media
  • Offering a valuable freebie in exchange for a lead’s email

You get the idea.

While many brands go in for the kill at this stage, Awareness is waaaaay too early to ask someone to buy. Don’t send product specs, case studies or links to buy anything just yet — that’s akin to proposing on the first date.

It feels like a little much for someone who just learned about your brand’s existence.

Instead, you can master the Awareness stage with these tips:

  • Stay in touch frequently: If you contact leads once and then never get in touch again, they’ll easily forget about you. You want to strike the right balance of sharing valuable information through educational emails regularly without pestering subscribers too frequently. Stay in touch with Awareness-stage leads at least once every two weeks or so, so they’re used to hearing from you.
  • Send valuable content: Connect with prospects by sending information that they might be searching for on Google. For example, if you’re a social media consultant, send subscribers tips on managing their social media. Positioning yourself as a trusted authority helps build rapport with prospects, and good content will do just that.
  • Keep people around: Awareness-stage leads are flighty, and that’s to be expected. Your job is to give them a compelling reason to stay on your email list. Insider content like videos, interviews and how-tos can make a big difference here.

Stage 2: Consideration

The second stage of the email marketing funnel is Consideration. This is when a lead realizes their pain points match up with your products or services and they start considering your services as a solution to their problems. At this point, a lead is at the point in the customer journey where they’re just interested enough to learn more about your offerings.

To appeal to Consideration-stage leads, your emails need to:

  • Use segmentation: Not to rain on your parade, but did you know that not all Consideration-stage leads are the same? You likely have several buyer personas, so it’s a good idea to segment your Consideration leads by persona. This means you’ll need to create separate email drips for each persona, and for every stage. If you manage to do that, you’ll give customers exactly what they need to see, which is exactly how you make more sales.
  • Include personalization: Speaking of sales, did you know that you can see a 20% lift in sales when you personalize your emails? With a CRM like Copper, it’s easy to see your history with each customer, including their touch points and communications. Personalize your emails by adding the individual’s name, engagement history, purchase history or other helpful data.
  • Lean into the benefits: At this stage, leads are still weighing your solution against everyone else. Send them links to case studies, FAQs, webinars and other content that shows how awesome you are. Keep it humble, but the information you share at this point should subtly convey why your offering meets their needs and is better than others they might be considering.

Stage 3: Decision

In the Decision stage, you need to go in for the “hard sell.” The lead is now seriously considering converting, so don’t hold back.

The Decision stage in the email sales funnel is every salesperson’s favorite stage because it means your email marketing campaigns are working! But some prospects will still drop out at the Decision stage, so it’s critical that you keep interested leads on board with email content developed specifically for this stage.

To master the Decision stage, use these marketing strategies to increase sales:

  • Use urgency: Time-sensitive emails convert at 2X the rate of a non-urgent email. If you need folks to make a decision fast, add a time limit to your Decision-stage messaging.
  • Offer promotions: Now is the time to unleash promotions and coupon codes. Overusing these can cheapen your brand, but sometimes a strategic discount can convert a prospect who’s on the fence.
  • Demonstrate why you’re better: Don’t hold back here! Share your pricing, comparison guides, features, testimonials and case studies to show leads why you’re the best option.

Stage 4: Loyalty

The fourth stage of the email marketing funnel is Loyalty. While it might seem like winning a customer is the end goal, it’s just the beginning.

After all, does your business really win if you get a one-time purchase?

No! You need repeat business, which means your biz needs to keep as many people on your customer roster as possible. You’ve invested a lot of time into gaining this new customer, so there’s a lot of value in keeping them around.

Efforts at this stage of the email marketing funnel help you invest in the relationship, deepening your connection and (hopefully) fostering customer retention.

To achieve this goal, your emails need to:

  • Upsell or cross-sell: It’s much easier selling something to a customer who already knows you than it is to sell to a stranger. Create an upsell sequence to upgrade existing customers or a cross-sell email sequence to expand a customers’ business with you.
  • Offer more value: Why should customers stick around? Give them a reason! This might mean fun surprises like discounts, free expert content or occasional rewards.
  • Give loyalty perks: When you thank people for their loyalty, they’re more likely to remain loyal. Offer perks in exchange for their business, like discounted rates for customers who sign up for a year-long contract.

Stage 5: Advocacy

Loyalty is great, but the final (and best!) stage of the email marketing funnel is Advocacy. This is when a customer not only buys from you regularly, but they also encourage the people in their network to buy from you, too.

In other words, Advocacy-stage customers become a readymade salesforce for your brand, which is critical if you’re running a small business.

Use these Advocacy marketing strategies to increase sales:

  • Rewards: Send coupons and freebies to customers who refer business to you. Be sure to give them a unique referral code so you know exactly who’s bringing home the bacon.
  • Insider access: Create a free, exclusive newsletter just for your advocates. You can give them sneak peeks into new products, early access to sales and more.

Community: Advocates want to share their experience with your brand. Create an email list just for your advocates, inviting them to share in a community around your brand. Sephora Beauty Insiders is a great example of this.

The CRM: your secret weapon for email marketing for sales

The email marketing funnel might sound intimidating, but with the right tools, it makes it possible for small businesses to build more sophisticated — and effective — email campaigns.

The goal is to support the entire customer journey with emails that deepen your relationship with each individual. With a CRM like Copper in your corner, it’s possible to automate every touchpoint to save time (and sanity) without sacrificing the customer experience.

Want to see the difference for yourself? Try Copper free for 14 days, no credit card needed.

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