Building an Email Marketing Funnel for Sales

There’s a fundamental truth that you need to accept or your email marketing initiatives will never deliver the results your business wants and needs - Not every recipient is poised to purchase upon receiving your message. It’s also why creating email marketing funnels designed to move prospects from being unaware of your brand to being ready to buy is critical to your success.

Bottom-line, one-off, ad-hoc email marketing messages aren’t strategic. They’re the equivalent of throwing darts at a dartboard and hoping something sticks. Not only will your results show you the spray and pray strategy doesn’t work, but you could end up doing more harm than you realize.

In the realm of email marketing, understanding the buyer journey is paramount. To truly harness the power of email marketing, businesses must craft strategic funnels that guide prospects from initial awareness to eventual conversion.

Fortunately, you can do it – and improve your email marketing and sales results – by sending strategic sequences of messages (i.e., email marketing funnels), tracking the results, and using the data to inform your future email marketing campaigns and sales outreach efforts.

Redefining Email Marketing Strategy

Gone are the days of sporadic, one-off email blasts. Today, success hinges on the implementation of targeted email marketing funnels. Unlike aimless approaches, these funnels are precision tools, tailored to engage prospects at every stage of their journey.

Fostering Relevance and Personalization

Irrelevant, impersonal emails do more harm than good. Tailoring content to match each recipient's position in the buyer journey is key to fostering engagement and avoiding the dreaded spam folder. By demonstrating a genuine understanding of your audience, you lay the groundwork for meaningful interactions.

Mapping the Buyer Journey

To effectively engage prospects, it's crucial to align email content with the five stages of the consumer buying cycle:

  • Not in the Market Yet: The consumer hasn’t identified a problem that creates a want or need. They’re not in the market for your product or service at all yet.
  • Problem Identified: The consumer has identified a problem that created a want or need. They’re about to enter the market to find a solution.
  • Research and Evaluation: The consumer has started their research to find a solution and is evaluating different products or services.
  • Preferences Established: The consumer has narrowed down the choice of products or services to solve the problem and is doing a final evaluation to pick one to purchase.
  • Final Decision: The consumer has chosen which product or service to purchase and solve the problem. They’re about to make a purchase, or they may decide to buy nothing.

By strategically crafting messages for each stage, businesses can deliver content that resonates and compels action.

Crafting Targeted Email Funnels to Qualify, Nurture, and Convert

There are three core types of email marketing funnels designed to shepherd leads through the buyer journey: acquisition, nurturing, and conversion. Let’s take a look at each in more detail.

Lead Acquisition: Generate new leads and assess viability through targeted campaigns.

Lead acquisition email marketing funnels are designed to generate new leads and determine if leads are viable or not. These are campaigns sent to people you haven’t communicated with yet or have communicated with minimally.

For B2B businesses, particularly businesses selling products or services with a high price and/or long sales cycle, it’s safest to start by communicating with these leads as if they’re in the top of the funnel and early stages of the buyer journey. You don’t want to annoy them early in your relationship by sending sales-oriented messages they may not want.

With that in mind, the messages in your lead acquisition email marketing funnels should include simple calls-to-action to reach goals that make sense early in the relationship. I recommend creating lead acquisition email marketing funnels that include four weekly messages. The first three messages should have a small mini goal with a corresponding call-to-action that matches where the prospect is in the buyer journey. The final message should include the big goal of the entire sequence.

Effective mini goals and corresponding calls-to-action to raise brand awareness and show your audience that your email messages are useful and add value (so they won’t unsubscribe or mark your messages as spam) should drive people to your website where they can look around and get to know your company better. Goals should not require a big time or effort investment. Some examples include:

  • Visit one of your blog posts
  • Visit an FAQ page on your website
  • View a video on your website
  • View an infographic or research data on your website

If you’re conducting cold email outreach through a platform like the Cannabiz Media Market Intelligence Platform and don’t have access to your audience’s email addresses, the final goal of an acquisition email marketing funnel can be to obtain their email addresses. Offer something of value (referred to as a lead magnet) in exchange for their email address. Some effective lead magnets you can offer as a final goal in a lead acquisition funnel include:

  • Download a checklist
  • Download a template
  • Download a cheat sheet or worksheet
  • Try a free calculator or tool

Finally, track the results of each campaign to determine what to send the audience in your next sequence. For example, leads who open and click your messages consistently are probably in later stages of the buyer journey than those who open or click very infrequently. You can move highly engaged leads to nurturing or conversion email marketing funnels in an effort to push them through the buyer journey. Leads who aren’t engaged with your content may need to be tagged as unviable or they may need to be put into additional acquisition funnels to determine whether or not they’re viable.

RELATED READING: How to Use Lead Scoring to Increase Sales

Lead Nurturing: Keep your brand top-of-mind and guide prospects toward conversion.

Lead nurturing message sequences should be sent to viable leads only – those you’ve qualified as having shown some interest in your acquisition messages by opening them and clicking links inside the messages. Lead nurturing email marketing funnels serve multiple purposes. Lead nurturing messages keep your brand and business top-of-mind, so when a recipient is ready to buy, your business is the one they think of. Nurturing messages also helps to push people through the buyer journey by reminding them that you have a solution to their problems.

Lead nurturing email marketing messages are typically not sales-oriented, but you can include a 100% promotional message as the final goal of a sequence from time to time. Remember, based on engagement tracking data, this audience is engaged but not highly engaged with your messages. Therefore, they’re probably not in the final stages of the buyer journey. Occasional sales-oriented messages will be tolerated but repeated promotional messages will annoy them. You don’t want your warm leads to unsubscribe or mark your messages as spam!

The process for creating lead-nurturing email marketing funnels works the same as lead acquisition funnels discussed above. If you’ve been scoring your leads from previous campaign sequences, you’ll know which leads are marketing-qualified and should receive nurturing messages from you.

Effective mini goals for lead nurturing email marketing funnels include:

  • Read one of your blog posts
  • Read a report on your website
  • Read or view a video case study on your website
  • Listen to your recent podcast episode on a topic of interest to the audience

To turn marketing-qualified leads into sales-qualified leads (so you can move them to lead conversion email marketing funnels), you can use calls-to-action such as:

  • Download an ebook
  • Download a white paper
  • Watch a how-to video
  • Register for a webinar or watch a webinar replay
  • Register for an online mini course

Notice that each of the goals and actions in lead nurturing messages takes a bit more time and involvement than those used in lead acquisition messages. You know leads in your nurturing funnels are marketing qualified – they’re interested in your content. Therefore, you can ask them to take actions that require a bigger investment of time and effort than you would in acquisition messages.

Track the results of each campaign just like you do for acquisition campaigns, and score your leads to determine which leads you can move to conversion email marketing funnels (or pass onto the sales team for one-to-one outreach), which leads should stay in nurturing funnels, and which are no longer engaged. Use the data to inform your next steps for every prospect.

GET YOUR CERTIFICATION: Become a Certified Email Marketing Data and Lead Scoring Specialist

Lead Conversion: Seal the deal by delivering compelling content and persuasive calls to action.

Lead conversion email marketing funnels are used to move sales-qualified leads to a final buying decision (or as close as possible so the sales team can close the deal through one-to-one outreach). Only prospects who are highly engaged with your email marketing messages should receive lead conversion messages.

Just like lead acquisition and nurturing funnels, you’ll set up sequences of messages in your conversion email marketing funnels based on mini goals and a final big goal. However, it’s important to note that lead conversion funnels are not just sequences of 100% promotional messages. They’re a combination of sales-oriented messages and useful content that helps recipients make a final buying decision.

For example, effective mini-goals and calls-to-action for lead conversion messages include:

  • Watch a demo overview video
  • Read or watch videos of customer testimonials
  • Read product or service reviews
  • Review competitor comparison tables and information
  • Review special promotions, discounts, or offers

The final message goal in a lead conversion sequence is the big ask. It’s where you try to convince the most engaged recipients to buy or to contact you for product or service information. Some effective goals and calls-to-action for the final message in a conversion sequence include:

  • Schedule a full demo
  • Sign up for a free trial
  • Request a sample
  • Schedule a free review, audit, coaching session, consulting session, etc.
  • Contact you
  • Buy

Again, track your leads just like you do for acquisition and nurturing messages. The same content and calls-to-action may not work for every recipient, so you may need to try multiple offers to drive conversions. Importantly, track results very closely, so you can turn the most engaged leads over to your sales team for direct outreach in a timely manner.

RELATED READING: How to Find and Sell to Your Hottest Leads with Email Marketing

In summary, strategic email marketing funnels are the cornerstone of effective sales initiatives. By understanding the buyer journey, tailoring content accordingly, and leveraging data-driven insights, businesses can unlock the full potential of their email marketing efforts.

Key Takeaways

There are many types of content and calls-to-action that you can test in your email marketing funnels to drive sales. The key to success is understanding that not all leads are ready to buy at the moment they receive your email message. It’s your job as an email marketer to track engagement, understand your audience, and follow the four rights of marketing by sending the right messages to the right people at the right times.

Ready to build an email marketing funnel for sales, so you can acquire, nurture, and convert cannabis and hemp license holders in the United States and international territories? Schedule a demo of the Cannabiz Media Market Intelligence Platform to see how you can do it!

Originally published 2/21/23. Updated 3/15/24.

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