You’ve heard it all before. If you want to build a great email sales funnel you’ve got to:
- foster a strong relationship with your reader,
- tell a compelling story,
- engage your audience and make them fall in love with you,
And do about a million other vague-sounding things that look good as ‘influencer wisdom’ on LinkedIn, but are hard to execute on in real life.
You wouldn’t go through all this trouble unless email marketing is as lucrative as they say, so let’s see how true that is.
According to Statista, email marketing is the most effective marketing channel in the UK. eMarketer states that 73% of marketers attribute their increased conversions to email marketing. Hubspot places its ROI at $36 for every $1 spent. I use Snovio for my CRM and their statistics show that in the U.S, email marketing is the most widely used technology for customer engagement at 77.6%, with 29% of marketers rating it as their most effective communication channel.
And these figures present one problem:
Everyone wants a piece of the pie and the humble inbox is getting pumped with emails faster than a flat tire gets pumped with air.
So how do you stand out?
Back when I was a marketing major at Liverpool Hope, we did a marketing project. (Obviously…) We were divided into groups: some to write sales pitches and others to test it. The pitch that won internally was then tested in the market.
Here’s the crux: all the best performing pitches had one thing in common — they were all about the customer.
When I later started working for a German company, I got to test this ‘customer centric’ theory out into the real world. I managed to increase signups by over 30% by optimizing the homepage messaging and making it about the customer. This has greatly influenced how I think about sales funnels and marketing in general.
Your email sales funnel can provide the right combination of customer-centric content and sales conversions. The six-part email sequence I explain in this article sheds light on how you can create this ideal combination. But first, I am going to answer one of the most common questions I hear about email sales funnels.
So, how do you make your email sales funnel all about the customer while standing out?
You can use what I use. 🙂
I’ve used this base sequence for a client selling a project management course — by making a few tweaks to fit our goals, we generated over $20,000 in sales. I got the inspiration for it by studying what companies like Clickfunnels and Growth tools do, and adjusting it to fit the needs of my clients and market.
While the results from your funnel will depend on your product-market fit and how well you understand your customers’ needs, this funnel framework is a barebones approach that you can tweak and use in any industry.
Your funnel doesn’t always have to have 6 emails, but at a bare minimum, it needs to tell your story, expound on what you do and how you got there, then show how you’ve helped others and how you can specifically help your subscriber.
For you to do this properly, you need about 5 or 6 emails. More than that and you’ll be stretching it too far; less than that and the emails won’t smoothly transition from one to another, or you won’t have provided enough information for your subscriber to know, like and trust you.
Now, let’s go through each email step by step.
The six-step email sales funnel sequence
The six steps in this email sales funnel sequence will help you connect with your audience and increase conversions. The examples help you clearly understand exactly what you should do at each step.
Before we begin, I want to remind you that it’s important to have a sales funnel traffic plan to help you attract people to your email sales funnel sequence. Want to learn more about getting sales funnel traffic? Check out 10 Powerful Ways To Drive Traffic To Your Sales Funnel.
Here’s a breakdown of each email in this six-step sequence.
Email 1: The introduction
The first email of any sequence sets the tone for what’s to come.Think of it as setting the scene. Begin by introducing yourself to your new subscribers. Show them who you are and what they can expect. That’s exactly what Brian Massey does in this email from Conversion Sciences.
He understands that even though I have opted into his funnel, I’m still on high alert and not completely convinced this relationship will work out. That’s why he makes me want to read his next email by promising value — and by convincing me that he’s as much into this topic as I am:
Eddie Shleyner — the founder of VeryGoodCopy and the guy who practically taught me how to create instant engagement through emails — follows a similar structure, but with his own unique twist. He introduces himself, promises value and then asks you to say something about yourself:
Whether on the internet or in real life, people want to feel valued. So, when you (genuinely) ask questions — and show that you care — you set your future emails up for success.
Email 2: The story
Everything — and everyone — has an origin story. This is the part where you tell your prospects how you came to do what you are doing now.
This email doesn’t have to be complicated. The point is to tell a story from your life and experiences that is relevant to your customer and where they are at that time. Let’s break this down:
In this email, I introduced my client’s story simply. Then, to deepen the connection, we used a video. The video in this email was the client talking about how they struggled to meet project deadlines — this was the greatest challenge faced by project managers. (Project managers being our main audience.)
Videos are a very effective way to tell your story. But, if you don’t want to get on camera, use the written word and describe an experience your subscriber can relate to — show them that you’ve been where they’re right now. Remember: people generally move towards people they deem to be like them so you want your one reader to see themselves in you when they read your email.
A few years back when my team was invited to a World Bank forum in India to talk about developing international markets, I developed many connections by talking about mutual challenges between Sub-saharan Africa and India and how we could create partnerships to solve them. While I was not an expert by any means, by just identifying certain challenges that were common in both places, I was able to open up more avenues of relationships by using the ‘I’ve been there too’ approach.
You don’t always have to talk about a struggle though. You can talk about what got you interested in what you’re doing, your highlights, or what you believe in. Asket takes that approach:
Email 3: The ‘what’
It’s time to go deeper and show your new subscriber what you really do. Talk about the problems you are solving, the solutions you are offering, or what differentiates your solution from others.
This is how Copyblogger shows readers what sets them apart:
The structure of this email moves the reader down the funnel in 3 ways.
Firstly, Tim reminds the reader what the business is about. By saying he’s been teaching marketers for the last decade, he oozes credibility and makes you want to learn from his experience.
Secondly, while mentioning what the business is built upon, he specifically targets areas that any marketer would be interested in. While a business could also be built around areas like equality, flat hierarchies and work-life balance, he chooses what no marketer can ignore:
- Great writing
- Great stories
- Great headlines
- Great emails
Lastly, he creates an emotional connection by admitting to face emerging issues that marketers face daily (the ‘I’ve been there too’ approach). This makes the reader more inclined to read his emails in the future, since he feels like they share a common challenge and wants to know how he can help them.
Email 4: The journey
It’s time to tell your subscribers how you became an expert at what you do. Since you are aiming at getting the subscriber to see a better version of themselves in you, start by talking about your initial achievements. Then, show them how you went from where you were to where you are today.
In the above example, Eman explains how taking a course with Copyhackers propelled her to become the expert she is today.
I find this email to be very effective because Eman mentions 3 things that every beginner marketer goes through:
- The frustration of working with low budget clients
- The lowly feeling of being an order-taker who does everything the client requests
- The stellar aspiration of working with noteworthy bucket list clients
She then contrasts these statements to outcomes that are every beginner marketer’s seventh heaven…and knocks you out with some implied bonuses.
Here’s a table showing the comparison.
While this email is targeting people who are trying to build their careers, you can use the same structure to write to your ideal client by talking about your own journey and how your experiences elevated you to a position where you can help them.
Here’s an example from Russel Brunson, founder of ClickFunnels, who tells his story in a very similar way:
Our brains are wired to expect small beginnings initially, as that is how everything develops naturally, so if you start talking about your greatest achievements without acknowledging simpler beginnings, you create a disconnection with your subscribers. That’s why great stories connect the ‘before’ to the ‘after’.
Email 5: The problem-solver
Do you have a case study that demonstrates your expertise? This is where you flaunt it by explaining who your ideal customer is and using the case study to show how you helped that person achieve the results they wanted.
In the above email, Bryan from Growth Tools starts by describing a specific client’s situation and then explains the consequences of the client remaining in that situation. He then shows what they did to save her business and the results she got.
The entire email is a bit too long to fit here, so i’ll just share a couple more sections from it:
This approach is super effective because the reader is going through something similar — and this kind of email helps them connect.
If you are starting out and do not have a case study, leverage the human elements of being honest and skip to email #6. (The only way to screw this up is to talk of achievements that you haven’t earned and trying to say things that you think your customer wants to hear.)
Email 6: The helper
Whether you had a case study to highlight in email #5 or not, now is the time to give an overview of what you are going to offer your reader.
Here is an example from a business growth coach. I find it very effective because he uses the problem-agitate-solve technique as well as addressing the underlying objections to close his customers.
He then leverages contrast to show his customers how different working with him would be. This helps in ‘creating a mental image’ as well as ‘repeating the key benefits’.
He finishes the email with a CTA, but before that he stirs interest by floating the idea of ‘having a plan’ as opposed to ‘doing guesswork’. Then, as a reminder, he reiterates that his clients have made $2M using a plan like what he’s going to offer you.
A few final writing tips that keep your emails interactive
The sequence logic we just went through will help you structure an effective email sequence. And these final tips can be the proverbial cherry on top.
#1. Ask your subscriber a question at the end of every email and encourage them to reply.
You don’t have to do this if you don’t have the bandwidth to reply to your subscribers, but this is very effective in creating a rapport. It’s an easy, effective way to build engagement with your audience.
It also helps that your subscribers reply to your emails because Google marks them as important, reducing the chances of them ending up as spam.
#2. Follow the rule of one
While it may be tempting to talk about multiple things, you should remember the rule of one and only talk about one thing per email. When you talk about everything, you are talking about nothing.
#3. Don’t focus too much on the sale
Many business owners and copywriters make the mistake of glossing over the ‘connection’ steps and focusing too much on email #6 because they think that’s where the sale is made. That’s simply not true.
Unless your customers are ‘most aware’, the sale is actually made somewhere along the entire sequence, only that they haven’t bought yet. (Think of it is as laying out the breadcrumbs that your customer can follow ‘home’.)
Since most of my examples have been on service businesses, you could be wondering if this works for product businesses too. The answer is yes. All you have to do is link to your products at the end of email #6. If you have only one product, then focus on that product. If you have multiple products, then provide links to a select few and let your customers choose what they want.
If you have a single product which is a front-door product, meaning that it allows one to get in ‘your shop’ and try your services while at the same time you have other higher value products, display all the products and let them choose what they want.
This way, those who want to play it safe can test the waters with the front-door product and those who are more convinced can dive in much more deeply at a level that they are comfortable with.
Send something imperfect today
I’m going to leave you with one final thought: it’s better to send an email — or set up a sequence — than to wait for perfection. Your audience, and your business, are constantly changing. There will never be a perfect moment, or a perfect email.
So start with this basic outline, try out some templates, or use all of this as inspiration to build your own thing. Whatever you do though, make sure you start. Because once you have something in place, you can optimize from there.
Martin is a copywriter who specializes in email conversions and launch sequences. He also creates content on various topics around marketing for both SaaS and B2C companies. You will find him hunting for trails and reviewing mountain bikes in his free time.
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