Nurturing Customers Along the Sales Funnel with Email

Franco Varriano — June 30, 2016

Our digital world is transforming the traditional sales funnel. In times past, marketing was all about brand awareness and lead generation. Once prospects were identified and qualified, the sales team would take over by encouraging the prospect to buy and building a relationship for further sales down the road. The effectiveness of a particular company’s sales funnel was dependant on the efficiency of its marketing efforts, and the quality of its sales team.

Today, the lines between these functions have blurred, as much of the entire sales funnel is contained online. Email marketers can interact with individuals at different stages in the funnel, enticing them towards a purchase and brand loyalty, all without having personal contact. Different types of email are required at different stages of the funnel, and prospects need to be nurtured all along to become customers and repeat customer-evangelists. Companies who understand this breakdown are reaping significant rewards.

The Digital Sales Funnel for Ecommerce

The digital sales funnel (as depicted below) is a great way to visualize and compartmentalize the online sales process from initial awareness and lead generation, to evaluation where prospects start to convert, to sales and post-sales retention efforts:

The online marketing “sales funnel” works by attracting potential customers using online activities and enticing them to sign up to your mailing list to receive information or to visit your website. Once you have their contact details you can start building a long-term relationship so when they are ready to purchase they will simply ask you for the sale or you can ask them! Market Elements

Digital Marketing Sales Funnel for Ecommerce

Lead Generation Through Email Marketing

The email list has been a foundational marketing asset for decades; however, with the evolution of anti-spam filters and opt-in/opt-out legislation, much greater care must be used to cultivate email lists that actually bear fruit in the form conversions and sales. Sign-up opportunities on your site, newsletter offers, contests and free give-a-ways are different methods for attracting initial email addresses, but simply having a list of relatively random sign-ups only brings you part way to transforming prospects into customers:

85% of marketers cite email as the most effective lead-generation tactic. In turn, businesses that use marketing automation to nurture prospects experience 451% increase in qualified leads. InTouch

Nurturing Your Subscriber List

Email lists need to be nurtured if leads are going to progress along the sales funnel. Providing company updates, timely product information such as anticipated features of a new product, or even an unexpected gift for new subscribers, with no strings attached, are examples of nurturing email campaigns that are starting to outnumber traditional lead generation email campaigns:

While conventional wisdom is to focus lead generation on, well, generating leads, as we see from this data, more marketers are using nurturing email campaigns (64%) than simply prospecting and qualifying leads (53%). Marketing Sherpa

Popular Email Marketing Segments

Converting Prospects Through Email

Making that first sale with a new prospect is a momentous occasion. The individual is transformed from someone who mere considers your offering, against everything else out there, to a paying customer, forking over their hard earned cash in exchange for your amazing product. This is where the right email offer, served up at the right time might just seal the deal.

If you were in the business of selling winter tires, in a cold climate for example, you might generate your initial email list through a contest to win a new set of winter tires. The leads from the contest are likely people who are at least somewhat interested in your product. If they also signed up to receive “occasional promotion material,” sending them an offer on new winter tires, such as 20% off, close to the winter driving season, might just be the enticement they need to convert into a paying customer.

Even if the prospect didn’t convert, but they made it to the sales cart of your store and for some reasoned bailed at that point, they are still worth following up:

According to SaleCycle, nearly half of all abandoned cart emails are opened and over a third of clicks lead to purchases back on site. You have to understand that customers often abandon their carts without meaning to do so, for example because the website crashed, because the process was complicated, or because the site timed out. Shopify

Retaining and Growing Customers through Email Automation

Typically, when a consumer makes an online purchase, they usually need to provide some additional information to the retailer. This information, once in your database can then be cross-referenced and associated with their purchasing history, allowing savvy online store owners, who deploy the latest customer-centric email marketing automation software, to identify and retain their most profitable customers.

VIP customers, whose life-time value with your brand far exceeds most other customers or one-time purchasers, deserve special attention. Email campaigns for this valuable segment can include exclusive deals, useful gifts that would nurture VIP customer relationships, reminders for service, access to a product or service before it becomes generally available, or any other kind of creative campaign that makes the recipient feel truly special and re-engages them with your brand.

Email campaigns in the post-sales segment of the funnel can go along way to help with any post-purchase dissatisfaction. Such campaigns can also foster the growth of new leads, by encouraging current customers to evangelize your brand, word-of-mouth, through social media. Referral contests, especially those with significant or interesting prizes are common examples of this type of campaign in action.