Automation 101 – How to Create a Basic Email Sales Funnel

First of all, do you need an email sales funnel?

Yes! You need an email sales funnel if you:

  • Sell a product (physical or digital)
  • Offer a service, online or in person
  • Market a hybrid of product + service
  • Want to be an authority or influencer in your market
  • Started your business today
  • Began your business years ago
  • Want to find out if your business idea has legs

There is no business situation in which an email sales funnel will not help you attract more of your ideal customers, nurture them along the buyer’s journey, and close more sales.

And here’s why: We call the road from awareness of a problem to the purchase of the solution the “buyer’s journey”, as if it’s some sort of map with a definite beginning and end.

However, in reality this journey can be a looping adventure with so many side roads and distractions the buyer never makes it to your destination—if you leave the navigation up to them.

Because your toughest adversary in landing a sale is not your competition—it’s buyer indecision.

Decision-making is stressful, and when you leave it up to the buyer to figure it out for herself, she’ll often choose not to. (Who wants to add more stress to life?)

An email sales funnel takes away the stress for buyers by automatically guiding them to a decision with almost no effort on their part. And low stress leads to higher sales!

Are you ready to create a more predictable income stream from your email list with email automation?

Keep reading to discover step-by-step instructions to:

  • Set up your sales funnel within Sendlane (so simple you can do it right after you read this post)
  • Craft emails for each stage of the buying process (yes, we’ll tell you what kind of content to put in each email)
  • Avoid the most common mistakes with email automations (these are lessons you definitely don’t want to learn through trial and error)

This 3-part overview of the technical, marketing, and “what the pros know” aspects of creating an automated email sales funnel means you can create a basic funnel one in less than one day.

How to Set Up an Email Sales Funnel (aka The Technical Part)

1. Set up the primary automation funnel

First, you have to tell your email automation what to do once when someone enters.

This is called an automation funnel in Sendlane.

To create an automation funnel in Sendlane, first navigate to the Automations tab inside the left navigation bar of your dashboard. Then click the “Add Automation” button in the upper right-hand corner.

At the start of your automation, you’ll need to select the appropriate trigger, or what tells this automation to start. We will set up an automation for the delivery of a digital product, in this case a PDF with pro tips for Snowboarding.

In this example, we’ve picked “Subscribes to a List.

Here, we’ve chosen the list associated with the PDF download.

Next you’ll want to tag your new contact so you can laser-focus your marketing efforts. The magic of automations is that you can keep adding them as long as you have variations within your target market.

To add a tag action to your automation, select the plus icon and navigate to “Update Contact Property” > “Add Tag” in the Automation navigation bar on the right hand side.

In this example, we’ll tag our contact with the term “Snowboarding” since they’ve just downloaded a PDF on pro tips for snowboarding.

From now on, we’ll know that these contacts have an interest in snowboards and can create marketing messages specifically targeted to that interest.

Sometimes you’ll want to use Event Tracking to better understand your contacts. In the above example, we may choose to add a link to a specific landing page on our website in our first email.

(We’ll get to that first email’s content in the next section.)

To create an event to track, go to the left menu bar and navigate to the “Events” > “New Event.”

A pop-up window will appear where you can label your new event and add a description. For this example, we’ve chosen Site Tracking because we’ll be sending our new contact to a landing page in the first email.

Once saved, click the “Get Code” button to easily cut and paste into your landing page. (We recommend pasting into the header or footer.)

Now that you have a structure in place, it’s time to add emails.

Navigate back to your main automation funnel.

Once you’ve opened your automation funnel, select the plus icon and navigate to “Send Message” > “Email” in the Automation navigation bar on the right hand side.

You’ll be taken to a new screen where you can create the first email in your automation and deliver your lead magnet, if you offered one.

You can add emails at any stage of the automation funnel by clicking the big plus sign. You can also add Wait periods in between emails (highly recommended) by using the plus sign.

Now let’s talk about what to put in those emails.

How to Craft Emails for Each Stage of the Buying Process (The Marketing Piece)

Build excitement for your offer with a landing page

Before you write your emails, you’ll want to create a compelling offer for contacts describing the value so they’ll opt in. This is done through a landing page.

A good landing page has:

  • A main headline and a supporting headline
  • Your unique selling proposition
  • The benefits of your offer (why should they download it?)
  • Images or video of you or your offer
  • Social proof, like a great testimonial or icons of past clients
  • A call to action inviting them to sign up for your offer

You’ll use this landing page for your ads, social media posts to support your campaign, and even in calls to action on block posts or popups on your website.

Deliver value with education content in the first email

You promised a lead magnet to your potential subscriber on the landing page, and now is your opportunity to deliver it. Simply check the box next to Attachment in the email setup box before you write your content and upload your lead magnet.

The content of your email should include:

  • Thanks for requesting your lead magnet
  • A quick tip(s) on how to implement the lead magnet in a fast or effective way
  • A teaser about how this information fits into the bigger problem the reader might be experiencing
  • A reminder to look for the next email for the solution to the bigger problem

It might look something like this:

Promote your authority in the second email

This is where you show you’re more than your lead magnet. You got the lead in the door, and now it’s time to show why it’s worth sticking around.

The content of your second email should include:

  • A check-in on how helpful they found the lead magnet
  • A description of the bigger problem the lead magnet does not address
  • How you’ve helped someone solve this problem
  • What most people do wrong
  • Where to check out your solution

The email looks something like this:

Promote benefits along with a strong call to action in the third email

Now that you’ve laid the groundwork by expanding the problem and addressing a successful solution now it’s time to make a clear and compelling offer.

The content of your third email should contain:

  • An explanation of the problem
  • What happens when you don’t fix it
  • The solution you offer
  • The benefits to your solution (what your feature delivers)
  • A clear call to action
  • A testimonial

The third email could look something like this:

Boost your results with email retargeting

Another option at this point is to add a secondary automation funnel referred to as a “retargeting.”

Retargeting allows you to send emails to contacts who click on your landing page but do not take further action. (You set this up before you start your original automation funnel so it works to recapture lost or disengaged leads.)

By inserting a special code on your website, (one you can easily cut and paste from your Sendlane dashboard) you can trigger a second set of emails to contacts who fail to make a purchase or act on your offer.

You can remind them of a special offer, encourage them to come back to the website, or finish placing an order.

Here’s what that first retargeting email might look like:

Best Practices for Email Sales Funnels (The “Do it Like a Pro” Section)

Knowing how to create an email sales funnel is only half the battle. The other half is uncovering the top tips and tricks of seasoned email marketers to get the best results.

Below are 5 tips to help you see the same type of success as industry veterans—without the messy trial and error.

  1. Know your goal before you start. What is the one specific end result you’re looking for in your emails sales funnel? Never forget that goal and you’ll stay focused throughout your campaign. If you have more than one goal, go back to the drawing board and keep whittling it down.
  2. Limit yourself to one call to action (CTA) per email. Don’t confuse contacts with multiple choices. Your job is to make it easy to say yes, and easy means one action.
  3. Test the full automation before activating! Better to find those mistakes before your new lead does.
  4. When writing your emails, think about one ideal customer as the focus. If you write to an audience, it shows. And subscribers have a harder time connecting with your offer if it doesn’t feel personal.
  5. Don’t be scared to sell to your list. Remember, your contacts signed up to your list because they’re interested in what you have to offer! And people who unsubscribe when you make offers are not your ideal prospects anyway.

Are you Ready to Create an Email Sales Funnel?

Sendlane makes it easy with the step-by-step instructions in this post. You’ll never stress out over how to set it up or what to write ever again.

And if you haven’t signed up with Sendlane yet, you can set up your entire automation today for free!

Click here to sign up for the Sendlane 14-day free trial.

Start a brand-new automation with a brand-new list, or import your existing list with just a few clicks. (Already a Sendlane user? Then you’re ready to go.)

By this time tomorrow, you could be attracting and nurturing leads and closing more sales with no extra effort. Does that sound like a good ROI for your efforts?

We think so!

Kristen Dahlberg

Content Manager at Sendlane
As a member of the Sendlane content marketing team, Kristen focuses on everything from organization to content curation and process improvement. She enjoys variety and the challenge of learning the best way to accomplish each new goal.

Outside of work, Kristen spends as much time as possible at the beach, soaking up the San Diego sunshine!
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