How to Write an Email Funnel (a nerd’s guide)

I never had much regard for automated email funnels back when I was just a customer. That all changed when I began to build one.

Crafting a good email funnel is very similar to writing a “Choose Your Own Adventure” book.

It all begins with one message- the message that will send our hero (the customer) off on a journey! Each hero who encounters the start of our tale is at a different point in their own personal journey. Like Bilbo Baggins, it depends upon when you catch them as to what they might do. Catch them early on and they may put up a good fight, saying “no” and not following any of your leading. Catch them later in life and they may jump at the adventure with such enthusiasm that those around them assume they’ve gone bonkers.

You must write your story to facilitate people on each end of the readiness spectrum.

But how can I craft an email series that is relevant to both the homebody and the adventurous one, you ask? This, my friend, is where things get interesting! Do you time travel? Because you’re about to. In fact, you’re going to be running through two parallel timelines at once!

Timeline 1: The ready hero.

This person is motivated, curious, and ready to take on whatever you throw their way! In fact, they have already agreed to speak to a representative from your company after email #1. Woohoo! So, if they’ve made it this far, why do we even need to bother? Because they haven’t fully committed to the buy yet. We need to gently remind them we exist, just in case they forget (heroes have busy lives, you know). Not only that, but we need to prove we are worthy to be the guide they pick to help them on their journey. How better to do that than checking in on them occasionally, sending them relevant tips and freebies, and making sure they have all their questions answered?

Timeline 2: The reluctant hero.

This person was curious enough to open the door to you but they aren’t making any further moves to join your crazy escapade. They may have opened your first email and then forgotten to take any of your calls to action. Or, perhaps they just weren’t totally impressed with your invitation and are taking a step back. What to do now? Not only do we need to prove ourselves to be worthy guides, we need to help our hero realize all the good they can do if they just step outside the door with us! Just don’t be too pushy about it, however. That may frighten them. Instead, follow up at a later time with little offerings of help and the reminder that they are always welcome to come on the journey with you.

How do I speak to two separate timelines?

You’re going to hate me for this, but I’m about to double your writing assignment. Yeah, you’re not simply writing one string of emails. You’re going to write two! I mean really, what did you expect? You can’t mail a letter to two alternate universes at the same time and expect it to be equally well-received. I am so, so sorry.

At this point, I suggest you start a flow chart over on Draw two lines from your original message, one for the ready hero and one for the reluctant individual. I also suggest you number each message, just to help keep things in order (I’ll link a flow chart that I crafted at the end of this post so you can have a visual). From henceforth, you are going to be coming up with separate messages: one set of emails will speak to the person who is clearly interested and taking steps towards your company/product. The other set of emails will speak to the person who still has yet to give you a response. If at any point along the way your reluctant hero clicks the magic link to show they are truly interested, however, be sure they are switched over to receive the messages designated to the ready heroes.

I’m speechless… now what?

Yeah, I know. Coming up with what to say to these two audiences is tricky. Honestly, I am still working on what exactly to say to mine. What I can tell you, though, is that this is where you will finally use those outlining skills you were forced to learn in grade school!

1. Think about the buyer’s journey. Where are your people at?

Awareness, Consideration, Decision. Don’t know what that looks like? Check out this helpful article on Hubspot!

2. Discover your customer’s pain points.

If you are able to, talk to the people who are in your target audience. If you can’t, try researching the types of questions they are asking and problems they are facing online (especially on websites dedicated to their interest or on chat rooms/facebook groups).

4. Consider what they know (and need to learn!) about your company/product.

Say your first email is being sent to someone who JUST heard about your company and wants a little more info. Before writing it, break down what you do for your customers into 6 or fewer simple steps (and if it has to be more, try making sub-steps, rather than going above 6 main steps. This will make it seem less overwhelming and be easier to summarize later). Which of these things do your customers already know about? Which of them are things that would help alleviate their pain points that you’ve discovered? Are there any points that are non-essential for prospective customers to know up front that should be eliminated?

5. Make bullet lists for each set of emails.

Using the information that you’ve gathered, figure out a good flow that is empathetic to your customer and tells about the right aspect of your company at the right time. Note: not all of your emails HAVE to talk about you! In fact, largely, that shouldn’t be the point. You need to talk about them. They are the hero of their story. You’re simply here to offer them helpful guidance and encourage them to make the next move in their story. Do, however, make sure that your emails all have a single and clear call to action (such as clicking a link to a piece of web content or setting up an appointment with a representative).

What do I do with all these notes?

Now that you’ve taken notes and made your bullet lists of how-to-help-your-hero info, it’s time to break it down into bite size chunks! As you go down your flow chart, insert the bullets that you intend to include with each email along the way. Be sure and mark which timeline it is for and number your emails! Also, it helps to draw different colored lines for each timeline, just to make the flow easier to pick out when looking at it. When you’re done, you’ll probably have something that looks a little like this: Sarah’s Marketing E-Mail Flow Chart.

From there, take what you’ve learned and outlined and write some email copy!

I know, I know, I’m turning you over to the wolves now. I have no instructions for you on how to write the perfect email copy. Perhaps another day, eh? For now, though, I can recommend two absolutely fantastic books that will help you get your head in the game and come up with some great messages.

Books to help you guide your heroes:


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