59% of B2B marketers say that their email list is the most effective funnel for generating revenue. But for most businesses, more often than not, their email funnel is to some degree broken.

Their broken email funnel leads them to unknowingly hemorrhage sales opportunities due to a bad email marketing customer journey, that is riddled with needless friction.

Learn to capture visitors and turn them into leads

In this guide, we will cover how to implement effective email marketing funnels stage by stage – for making the most of your most profitable marketing channel.

You’ll learn how to capture visitors and turn them into leads, as well as nurture your current clients to retain them for longer. All this by firing up your email automation tool.

How email sales funnels work

The traditional definition of the sales funnel defines it as a journey that a potential customer goes through from the first time they hear about your product to when they actually buy something from you. 

When you know the structure of your marketing funnel, you will have an easier time understanding how to optimize each step and convert more leads into buying customers.

The traditional sales funnel contains the following stages:

  1. Awareness
  2. Interest
  3. Decision (often called Consideration)
  4. Action 


Awareness is the first stage of the email marketing funnel. At this stage, people who have a particular problem are looking for available solutions. This is where they meet your brand for the first time.


Once your potential clients know about your business, you need to keep them interested and engaged to make them come back. This is what you focus on during the Interest stage of the email marketing funnel.


The next stage is called consideration or Decision. At this point, prospects know exactly what they need and they are evaluating different solutions. In this phase, they want to know more about your brand, product/service, and how well it worked out for other people that used it. 


The last stage is the action or conversion itself. This is where leads finally become your clients/customers.

This is, of course, a simplified overview of the whole process. There are a lot of great guides on sales funnels out there that explain it in more detail.

We have a different focus in this article, and that is to show you different ways in which email marketing can be utilized at each step of the email sales funnel.

1. Awareness stage: Generating your leads

Any business that is not an industry leader in its niche and a recognizable brand in general needs to put a lot of effort into increasing its brand awareness. That is the only way to reach qualified leads.

Without investing in the awareness stage no one will ever enter your email marketing customer journey, since they will never see a sign pointing them to your solution on their search to solve their problem.

In most cases, businesses rely on organic traffic and a vast array of paid advertising options to build awareness and create that initial connection with their potential customers. However, email marketing can be used at this stage too – with cold outreach.

Use cold outreach to start people on your email marketing customer journey

Cold outreach is an email sent to a person who presumably hasn’t had any contact with your brand yet. It is used by some companies to attract people who could be potentially interested in their product or service.

It is also a viable method for spreading awareness about an innovative solution that people don’t even know exists (so they won’t search for it themselves). 

The problem with cold emailing is that you are reaching out to people who might not be ready to engage with your brand in that particular moment – and if you are persistent or pushy – you risk that your emails get marked as spam. 

Email signatures

Besides reaching out to the right person and not being too pushy, a good way to increase the chances of getting an answer is to create an email signature. A proper email signature makes your email look more professional and increases trust in the legitimacy of your offer so you do not end up looking like a scammer. You can get much more out of adding an email signature by leveraging email signature marketing.

In general, cold outreach works better for B2B rather than B2C. As you can imagine, sending an email to the right person (like the one used in the example above), has way more chance to garner real interest than if you send a blast email to random people in their twenties telling them you’re selling a new type of smartwatch.

One thing you should keep in mind is that this email outreach technique requires a lot of repetitive work. So if you are going to use cold emailing for your business, make sure to find a great sales automation tool and learn the art of cold emailing.

2. Interest stage: Warming up your leads

When people come to your website or blog for the first time, it is very unlikely that they are ready to buy. However, they may enjoy the content and have a great first impression.

To bank on that positive experience, you can use a vast array of different lead magnets to encourage them to subscribe to your email list. 

This is a small step for the prospect, but a big step for the business because now you have a way to nurture your prospects through email marketing and lead them on a path to conversion. 

If you take a closer look at your emails in which you send over lead magnets to people who opted-in for one of your checklists/guides/white papers/etc., you will notice that not every email is opened.

It is not that rare that people never actually open or download the lead magnet you’ve sent over and just stop their engagement with your brand. Sometimes it is a technical issue, sometimes they just forget and lose interest.

Things you can do to keep users engaged right from the get-go:

  • send them a welcome email (you have probably got one if you ever subscribed to any kind of newsletter)
  • set up an email sequence where a follow-up is sent 2 or 3 days after the initial email to every subscriber who hasn’t opened your initial email
  • set up an email sequence where you follow up with people who did open the email and download your lead magnet, asking if it was helpful and possibly send another related content which they might find useful

Here is an example of a welcome email campaign from Naturally Curly:

If someone opts in for a lead magnet, the only thing you know for sure at this point is that they know you exist. However, if they didn’t really open the email and engage with your brand in any other way since then, it means they probably are not that interested in what you have to offer.

This is why many brands use welcome emails that invite people to take certain action like completing their profile, verifying their information, giving feedback, etc. The idea is to make people have another contact with the brand and invest a little more of their time to engage with you.

Lastly, it is important to note that sometimes, technical difficulties could be the sole reason why someone forgot about your brand.

If the email confirming their subscription/containing the desired lead magnet ended up in their spam folder or if it was delivered with a long delay, you can’t blame them for losing interest.

To ensure that doesn’t happen, make sure you are using a reliable email marketing service that has all of the automation and tracking options you need.

3. Decision stage: Nurturing your leads

Once you found a lead generation strategy that works for you and when you can have a couple of interactions with them, it is time to guide them into the next stage of your email customer journey.

You can select subscribers who engaged with your emails on multiple occasions (which shows they have some interest in your brand and what you offer) and try to move them further down the sales funnel.

During the decision/consideration stage of the sales funnel you need to build trust, provide value, and develop a relationship with your leads. And you can do all of that through email marketing.

What you can send your subscribers: 

  • testimonials
  • reviews
  • success stories
  • subtly promote your notable achievements 
  • case studies
  • positive news about your business
  • etc.

Everything mentioned above works as strong social proof because people really value real-life stories and trust recommendations from their peers. It is the best way to explain to your subscribers why should they buy from YOU.

If you see that some subscribers stop engaging at this stage, you can craft a re-engagement email marketing campaign to get them back on track. A good example is this email from Paul Mitchell that starts with emotional words “We hate Goodbyes”.

Notice how the email uses the FOMO principle (fear of missing out) and encourages subscribers who are still interested in the brand to reconfirm it.

4. Action stage: Creating (loyal) Customers

When you succeed in lead generation and nurturing your clients, it’s time to convert your leads into paying customers. At this point in your email marketing customer journey, you have hopefully built enough brand trust and shown enough value that your subscribers are ready to commit.

There are a lot of different email marketing strategies you can use at this stage to try and trigger a conversion.

In the B2C space, brands like to send limited-time offers to create a sense of emergency. You can create emergency-based offers. For example, here is the last-day offers from Express:

limited time offer example

This is literally the last chance to get a product with a discount, and usually, it urges leads to act fast. 

If you think that your subscribers need more convincing, alongside your purchase offers, you can include things like a customer review or a notification that this is a top-selling product.

When you’re trying to close a sale with another business, however, email marketing tends to be used a little bit differently. For example, if you are selling a product or an app, the emails you send over do not necessarily have to urge you to purchase, but instead, invite the prospect to “start a trial”.

In addition, especially if we are talking about expensive products and services, email marketing often takes a supporting role. Instead of being your main salesman, you use email marketing to invite your leads to jump on a call with you so you can close the sale in person.

Using email marketing funnels to improve client journeys and solidify retention rates

Now that your subscribers have been consistently converting, you may think that your job is over, but that’s far from true. Now you have to work on the last stage of your email marketing customer journey – turning customers into loyal customers.

Done right this will drastically increase your revenue by improving your customer retention, which in turn brings up your customer LTV (lifetime value).

Email is one of the most successful ways to keep in touch with your existing clients, improve their experience, and make them fans of your brand. It’s similar to nurturing prospects, but you have more freedom to talk about your service or product directly.

According to LiveClicker, 57% of all email subscribers are inactive. In other words, out of every 1000 subscribers, 570 of them are passive. What an untapped potential! You can send them re-engagement emails with eye-catching subject lines or a discount.

Grammarly, for instance, keeps customers engaged with the product and reminds them about their achievements in a weekly email newsletter:

Their emails give their users visible statistics and compliments (“You were more productive than 82% of Grammarly users.”) along with CTA buttons encouraging them to visit their website.

Using a surprise birthday email with a freebie is also a viable client retention strategy, admittedly more so in the B2C environment. People love birthdays! It’s all about them on this day and about presents. See this example from Linoto:

Would you not rather spend money on the brand that acknowledges your birthday and offers a great suggestion on what to spend money on? Let your customers know you appreciate their special day.

Those are just some of how you can keep your clients and customers interested in your brand through timely and carefully crafted email campaigns.

With a lot of work and a little bit of luck, loyal customers will turn into brand advocates – and all that time you’ve invested into crafting perfect emails and providing additional value will be well worth it.

To Sum Up

While email marketing might not be the most effective technique at generating brand awareness, it is pretty obvious that guiding leads through your email marketing sales funnel would be an extremely hard thing to do if email marketing didn’t exist. 

While paid advertising alone could get the job done, email marketing is often a much cheaper and more sustainable alternative. 

Robert Brandl’s passion has always been web tools that make your life easier. That’s why he founded the WebsiteToolTester, where you can find reviews and tutorials for the world’s best website builders and e-commerce platforms.