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Email marketing funnel: How to build one [examples & tools]

Reading Time: 11 minutes

An email marketing funnel is a highly effective strategy for increasing conversions and revenue. By sending targeted emails to potential customers, businesses can guide them smoothly from the stage of awareness to purchase.

The most successful companies understand that a one-size-fits-all approach to email funnels is ineffective. Accordingly, personalized emails based on the interests and behaviors of the customer can increase the chances of conversion and customer loyalty.

In 2023, automated emails accounted for only 2% of total email sends but resulted in 41% of all email orders. These emails had an open rate of over 40% and conversion rates nearly four times higher than campaign emails. A well-designed email funnel can thus significantly boost sales and the return on investment from your email marketing efforts.

Create an email marketing funnel to engage prospects at various stages of their buying journey

What is an email marketing funnel?

An email marketing funnel is a series of strategically designed emails to nurture a lead and drive conversions. It’s also useful for turning existing customers into loyal ones.

Effective email marketing funnels are designed with the target audience in mind, so you need to create different emails for customers at various stages of their journey.

The main stages of a buyer’s journey that an email marketing funnel addresses include:

Each company should design its email funnel based on its priorities and needs. Here’s an example of an email marketing funnel to get you started.

Email marketing funnel

We’ve added a ‘planning’ stage at the top. It’s not part of the standard email marketing funnel, but it’s critical nonetheless.

You can modify the email sales funnel on the go. It’s not cast in stone, so you can adjust your email marketing funnel depending on how your audience interacts with your brand. 

Email marketing funnel benefits

An email marketing funnel provides various benefits that can significantly enhance your marketing efforts and drive business growth. Here are some of the most significant advantages:

  • Improved targeting and personalization: An email marketing funnel allows you to deliver highly targeted and personalized messages by segmenting your audience based on their position in the customer journey 
  • Increased conversions: A well-crafted email marketing funnel nurtures leads through strategic stages, guiding them toward a purchase decision and significantly boosting your conversion rates
  • Enhanced customer engagement: An email marketing funnel keeps your audience engaged with your brand by maintaining regular, valuable communication with your subscribers 
  • Efficient resource utilization: Email marketing funnels leverage automation to streamline much of the marketing process. This ensures timely, consistent communication without requiring constant manual effort, saving your marketing team valuable time and resources
  • Measurable results and insights: Email marketing provides comprehensive analytics, allowing you to track key metrics such as open rates, click-through rates, and conversion rates to measure the effectiveness of your funnel
  • Higher return on investment (ROI): The targeted nature of email marketing often yields a higher ROI than other marketing channels. By focusing on leads who have already expressed interest and nurturing them through the funnel, you can maximize the efficiency of your marketing spend
  • Builds trust and credibility: Providing valuable content helps build trust and credibility with potential customers, making them more likely to choose your brand when they purchase
  • Retention and upsell opportunities: Post-purchase follow-up emails in the funnel can enhance customer satisfaction by offering additional support, tips, or related upselling and cross-selling products

Implementing an email marketing funnel empowers you to effectively engage your audience, drive conversions, and cultivate long-lasting customer relationships, ultimately contributing to your business’s overall success and profitability.

Automated email statistics

How to build an email marketing funnel

Building an email marketing funnel involves nurturing subscribers from the initial contact to conversion using these steps:

  • Plan your email funnel
  • Convert visitors into subscribers
  • Nurture your list
  • Convert subscribers into customers
  • Build customer loyalty
  • Retain and re-engage subscribers

1. Plan your email funnel

Stage: Planning

Here are some things you need to take care of before you build your funnel:

  • Conduct customer research: Develop an in-depth understanding of your customers’ needs and pain points. Keep track of their changing preferences, which will help you tailor your messages and offers
  • Create a customer journey map: This is a visual representation of the steps a customer takes from first interaction with your brand to conversion. It helps you understand the customers’ perspectives and needs
  • Design opt-in forms: Create engaging popups to capture leads and build your email list. Opt-in forms provide your prospects’ consent to receive communication from you, and the data you collect will help with segmentation
  • Create landing pages: You’ll need landing pages to provide website visitors with a lead magnet to encourage signups. Links that your recipients click on your emails should drive them to dedicated landing pages where they can engage more with your brand
  • Define your strategy goals: Ensure your email marketing strategy aligns with your business goals. If your goal is to build loyalty, your email marketing funnel should build meaningful connections with customers

You also need an email marketing app with a free plan.

We recommend Omnisend — an email app you can use to build the entire email funnel. You can use it to design opt-in forms and landing pages, and there’s a generous free plan.

💡Use Omnisend for free

💡See all features of Omnisend

2. Convert visitors into subscribers

Stage: Awareness

Tools to use: Opt-in forms (popups, embeds), landing pages, welcome emails, etc.

The goal is to get prospects’ email addresses. This will allow you to directly communicate with and introduce your brand to them.

Use popups or embeds to get their information. You can also use a lead magnet landing page to give a sneak peek into the value they stand to gain from your email communications.

Once the prospects are in, use the welcome email series to introduce your brand and give an overview of your products and services. Provide links to your most valuable blog posts that help them solve a problem, find an answer, or simply learn something.

Here are some B2B email marketing funnel strategies to help you get better results from your email sales funnel:

  • Provide an incentive in your opt-in forms, such as a discount
  • Tell them how your business can solve their problems
  • Share your brand’s mission, values, and vision
  • Take a unique approach with your educational content, like offering a free email course or using captivating storytelling

Let’s look at some practical examples.

Email marketing funnel example — Awareness

This email popup encourages visitors to share their email addresses by offering a 10% discount. It also mentions the value the prospect stands to gain from the brand’s email messages: free recipes.

Here’s an example of a welcome email for new subscribers:

Email marketing funnel example from To'ak Chocolate

Note how it uses images to showcase the brand’s product and a detailed description of what makes it a great solution. It also shares a recipe video, providing the recipient with immediate value.

This email generates $10+ on average; here’s the case study for your reference.

Want to learn by trying it yourself?

💡 Create a welcome email using an Omnisend template.

You can also watch this two-min video on email marketing best practices to create engaging welcome emails:

To'ak Chocolate LogoSales funnel emails from To’ak Chocolate have led to a 460% increase in revenue from email. They ran an automated email series with Omnisend that generated 39.4% of their email revenue.

👉 Here’s the full case study.

3. Nurture your leads

Stage: Consideration

Tools to use: Emails with customer reviews, user-generated content, free resources, case studies, and product demos.

At this stage, the prospect is actively considering your brand as a solution for their problem and comparing it to what your competitors’ offerings. Your goal here should be to show that they can trust your product or service as the ideal choice.

Share customer reviews and user-generated content to build trust. A research study shows that 84% of consumers are more likely to trust reviews from other customers. And only 41% trust product reviews from brands.

Use case studies to show, rather than tell, how your product or service can impact the prospect’s business or life. Use a free trial, a freemium plan, or a free tool to give them a taste of what you have to offer.

How can you make your emails for the consideration stage effective? 

Here’s how:

  • Clearly mention your unique selling point by highlighting the distinctive features of your product or service
  • Use your content to anticipate and address objections the prospect may have
  • Show your commitment to addressing their concerns by always including customer support information in your emails
  • If appropriate, share blog posts with unbiased comparisons between your and your competitors’ products

Email marketing funnel example — Consideration

Check out this email. It includes customer reviews that verify both the reported firmness of the product and its benefits.

Email marketing funnel example from Plank
Image from Plank

4. Convert subscribers into customers

Stage: Conversion

Tools to use: Emails with sales promotions, exclusive offers, discounts, and free shipping.

This is where you provide the recipient with a clear path to conversion. Your content should nudge them to make a purchase, sign up for a service, or do whatever counts as a conversion for your brand.

Woo your subscribers with bulk offers, promotions, special discounts, and any other incentive that’ll motivate them to hit the buy button.

Here are a few ideas to get great results from your email sales funnel:

  • Avoid being too pushy, as this may turn your prospects away
  • Use clear and actionable CTAs, making them easy for a prospect to follow
  • Use time-limited offers and countdown timers to create a sense of urgency

Email marketing funnel example – Conversion

This email example plays on the buyer’s desire to put winter behind them and focus on the warm months of summer.

Email marketing funnel example from Amundsen sports

Amundsen sportsAmundsen Sports’ promotional email campaigns account for 70.6% of its annual sales. Its order confirmation email series has a conversion rate of 31.9% and revenue-per-email (RPE) that’s 856% higher than promotional emails.

👉 You can read the case study here.

5. Build customer loyalty

Stage: Loyalty

Tools to use: Emails with helpful content, emails with loyalty rewards, and exclusive benefits for customer loyalty.

Once you’ve achieved conversion from your subscribers, create email funnel marketing campaigns that will keep them engaged and turn them into loyal brand advocates.

Create content that educates your subscribers on how to solve their biggest problems and get the most out of your products.

You should also include interactive content like polls, contests, and quizzes that encourage active participation. This will create a sense of involvement and foster loyalty.  

Ensure subscribers feel recognized and appreciated for their loyalty using exclusive rewards, discounts, and loyalty points.

Here are a few tips you can apply in your email marketing funnel:

  • Building loyalty and nurturing relationships is an ongoing process, so consistently provide value to achieve that
  • Be proactive with customer support and make sure your support team is responsive
  • Use an email marketing software solution that lets you hyper-personalize your sales funnel emails. You can personalize subject lines, email content, and other elements

Email marketing funnel example – Loyalty

See below how NOTIQ crafts a heartfelt appreciation message for the subscriber’s loyalty and offers a $20 reward. It makes the recipient feel valued.

example of appreciation email for the subscriber’s loyalty

Island Olive Oil combined email automation with lifecycle stages, which led to a 2,710% increase in revenue per email for “at-risk” lifecycle campaigns. Although email automation accounted for only 1.22% of its email sends, it generated 39% of its email marketing revenue.

👉 Here’s the full case study.

6. Retain and re-engage subscribers

Stage: Retention

Tools to use: Emails with personalized deals, extra discounts, gifts, and other limited-time offers.

Your goal here is to keep subscribers interested. Work on optimizing your lifetime customer value and getting the highest ROI on your email funnel marketing investment.

Continually improve your customers’ experience. Provide personalized deals and discounts to cross-sell and upsell.

Here are a few pointers for strengthening your email marketing sales funnel:

  • Segment your subscribers: Leverage data like purchase history for email segmentation to provide personalized product recommendations
  • Ensure the sales funnel emails are relevant: Show that you understand their needs, interests, and preferences
  • Get feedback with survey emails: They’ll encourage your subscribers to engage with your brand and help you better understand their preferences and needs
  • Clean your email list to remove fakes and duplicates: Use email list cleaning best practices to ensure you’re not wasting your re-engagement efforts on invalid email addresses
  • Send re-engagement (win-back) emails to passive subscribers: A re-engagement email marketing campaign can salvage disengaged subscribers and regain their interest

Email marketing funnel example – Retention

Below is an example of a re-engagement email. It seeks to rebuild the subscriber’s interest with a time-sensitive offer to inspire action.

Email marketing funnel: re-engagement email example

💡 Get inspiration for your re-engagement campaigns with these win-back email examples

Tips for creating converting email funnel marketing 

Creating an email funnel that effectively converts requires a strategic approach. You must combine an understanding of your audience with targeted content delivery and then optimize based on results. Here are some practical recommendations for setting up an email marketing funnel that drives conversions:

  • Understand your audience: Before creating your funnel, develop a deep understanding of your audience’s needs and pain points. Use customer data, surveys, and feedback to build detailed buyer personas to guide your content strategy
  • Segment your list: Divide your email list into segments based on demographics, behavior, or buying stage. This allows you to tailor messaging to be more relevant and engaging for each group
  • Craft compelling content: For each funnel stage, create content that addresses your audience’s specific interests and needs. This could include educational resources, product comparisons, or exclusive offers
  • Use a strong call-to-action (CTA): Each email should have a clear, compelling CTA directing subscribers to the next desired action. Make CTAs easy to find and persuasive, whether learning more, signing up, or making a purchase
  • Automate email delivery: Use marketing automation tools to send the right messages at the right times. Automation maintains engagement by responding to user actions, like sending welcome emails upon signup or follow-ups after purchase
  • Test and optimize: Continuously test different email elements, including subject lines, content, layout, and timing. Use A/B testing to determine what works best and refine your approach based on analytics and performance metrics
  • Follow up effectively: Don’t just focus on acquiring new customers. Implement strategies to engage existing customers through follow-up emails, loyalty programs, and personalized recommendations to increase retention and repeat business
  • Ensure mobile optimization: With more people accessing email via mobile, ensure your emails are mobile-friendly using responsive design, quick load times, and optimized layouts for small screens
  • Personalize your emails: Go beyond using the subscriber’s name. Tailor content based on user behavior, past purchases, and other data to make each email feel customized and relevant, significantly improving engagement rates
  • Track and measure success: Set clear metrics for each funnel stage to monitor performance. Look at open rates, click-through rates, conversion rates, and ROI to gauge the effectiveness of your email marketing efforts. Use this data to make informed decisions to improve your strategy

Implementing these tips will help you create a more effective email marketing funnel that engages your audience, drives conversions, and enhances the overall success of your digital marketing efforts.

Email marketing funnel: Summary

You now know what an email funnel is — a series of emails designed to nurture leads and existing customers toward conversion and loyalty.

You understand its powerful potential to build strong customer relationships and facilitate customer retention, leading to a higher ROI from your funnel email marketing.

Use the tips and tools mentioned in this post to do this right.

You can get these tools from Omnisend. And you get extra features like gamification of your signup forms and the ability to add products directly from your ecommerce store to your emails. Sign up today to get access to these business tools at no cost.

Start building your email marketing funnel with Omnisend
Bernard Meyer
Article by
Bernard Meyer

Bernard is the Sr. Director of Communications & Creative at Omnisend, with a passion for good research, helping ecommerce businesses with their marketing automation needs, and beating absolutely everyone in Mario Kart 64.