How to build an email funnel that closes sales quickly

11 min

Don’t let the term “email funnel” scare you.

It’s much easier than you think. It’s true that if you’re new to building funnels, you might feel slow as molasses at first.

But once you get the hang of it, it’s pretty easy. Don’t believe me?

Just keep reading. By the end of this post, you’ll be fully capable of building effective email funnels that generate sales.

What is an email funnel?

Simply put, an email funnel is a path or route you build over email for potential customers to travel from their first interaction with your business to the last step on the journey where they convert.

That route could look something like this:

From social media > blog post > email newsletter > autoresponders > conversions.

But “conversions,” when it comes to email funnels, doesn’t always mean sales. You can create your email funnel to either convert subscribers into customers (sales), convert them into attendees for an event, or convert them for something else that’s not sales related.

Essentially, this means there are two major types of email funnels:

  1. Email sales funnels
  2. Email marketing funnels

When you’re building an email funnel to ultimately convert subscribers into sales, you’re essentially building an email sales funnel

But if you’re building it to convert your email contacts into event attendees or any other non-sales results, then — for the most part — you’re building an email marketing funnel.

However, since most business owners and marketers build funnels for sales, that’s what we’ll be focusing on in this guide.

Visual representation of the GetResponse Conversion Funnel.
Visual representation of an extended email funnel that ends with a sale.

Do email funnels actually work?

“Email funnels,” as a term, has become an everyday word for business owners, marketers, and salespeople. 

And when anything becomes part of common language this way, it is tempting to start to think that it’s just hype and not a genuinely valuable tool.

But that’s not the case with email funnels; they actually work.

GetResponse customers are a living-proof of this.

Take Alex Terrier, jazz musician and a music teacher offering online music courses who gets 19% email signup rate with his content.

Or Landcafe, an online store created out of the love of travel and coffee, offering artisanal coffee beans, who get 54% of their sales from their educational email campaign.

If that’s not enough, just do a quick Google search for “email sales funnel case study” and see how many businesses have gotten their entire success from sales funnels they built over email.

Image showing the organic search results from Google for the term email sales funnel case study.

Now, let’s dive right in and create your own email funnel success story.

Author’s note: You can build your email funnel from scratch using GetResponse’s Conversion Funnel.

How to create an email sales funnel that actually sells

You automatically create an email sales funnel when you:

  1. Start a campaign or create a content piece to collect the emails of your potential customers.
  2. Build relationships with people on your list by emailing them helpful content consistently — without being annoying, of course.
  3. Send prospects a series of emails to sell them on an offer.
  4. Close sales, making it easy for customers to buy.

String these four things together and you have a working email sales funnel (sometimes called more broadly as marketing funnel).

But let’s explore these four funnel elements more deeply so you can learn how to best use each of them to build high-converting funnels.

1. Collect the emails of actual potential customers

The emails you collect will determine the success of your email funnel.

It’s possible to collect 100,000 emails and get few to zero sales when you eventually try to sell them your product or service. Know why this can happen? There are several reasons, but a major one is that those 100k emails you got came from people who weren’t your potential customers.

Lead Quality - MQL and SQL alignment

No wonder a study once revealed that businesses lose up to $32,000 per sales rep from using bad customer data (which, in this case, is bad data as to who are your target customers).

When creating content or anything else to collect customer emails, you must target your ideal customers. Make sure they’re the only ones signing up to join your list. 

In the long run, this will save you the headache of having a large email list that’s filled up with people who will never become customers — because they simply don’t have the problem your product or service solves.

Here’s how to make sure you’re collecting emails of actual potential customers:

Do your research and create content that speaks directly to their problems or interests. Then, use that content to collect their emails and bring them into your funnel.

For example, take Ian Brodie — a lead generation consultant for service-based businesses. Like many other consultants, Ian writes blog posts in a bid to attract more clients. 

But he does something smart with his posts. When you scroll about 60% of the way down Ian’s blog posts, he offers you this blueprint to sign up for and download. 

Image showing an opt-in form promoting a free downloadable resource.

This is a great example showing you how to collect your potential customer’s email because:

  • The blog post where Ian places the form is titled, “The Ultimate Guide To Creating an Effective Follow-Up System.” This is the type of topic that attracts his target customers (service-based business owners).
  • The opt-in form makes a promise that many of Ian’s target customers would be interested in: “Discover the Fastest, Most Practical Approach to Winning Clients…”

With an email opt-in process like this, Ian will be collecting the emails of bonafide potential customers. He knows he can confidently start sending them content to build relationships with them and eventually sell them his services or products.

To explore this topic further, check out these posts:

25 ways to build your contact list

25 ways to build an email list

Learn even more ways you can build your email list with our free ebook, filled with creative ideas and real-life examples!

Download guide

2. Build solid relationships

Once you’ve collected emails of your potential customers, the next thing to do is build relationships with them.

How do you do that? It’s simple: start sending them free, blatantly helpful content. Don’t hold back, unless you’re keeping some content for premium subscribers. But generally, share as much content as you can so they can see you operate as an expert on your topic. And do it consistently.

But sharing content is the easy bit here. You have a much harder task to perform: sharing content your potential customers actually need. To build solid relationships with them, you need to think deep and hard about the topics you’re addressing and the quality of the content you’re sharing.

If you share mediocre content or content on topics that don’t directly benefit your audience, getting and keeping their attention will be hard. Worse, they’ll stop opening your emails or simply unsubscribe.

You don’t want any of that. So how do you find topics your prospects care about and create amazing content on those topics? Here’s how:

  1. Talk to two or more of your prospects and ask them to share common, nagging problems they’re facing.
  2. Use content research tools like Buzzsumo to see topics your audience is engaging with the most and AnswerThePublic to see what questions they’re asking:
Image showing the AnswerThePublic site.
  1. Go to online communities they hang around, throw a question or two there about their interests or struggles, and watch their reactions and comments. Victor Ijidola, for instance, does this at Premium Content Shop to understand his (or his client’s) audience’s interests:
Image showing how Victor Ijidola of Premium Content Shop engages with folks on social media.

In this particular example, for instance, his agency wanted to create a guide on how to write a service page that drives conversions. 

He went to a Facebook group filled with the sort of audience his client was targeting and asked the question in the screenshot above.

He got fifteen comments from people sharing real-life problems they face with most service pages and what would make them submit a contact form. This gave Victor even more information than he needed to create content his client’s audience actually needed.

By now, you get the idea: customer-focused topics and highly-quality content will help you build solid relationships with prospects who have signed up on your email list and are now in your funnel. 

But that’s not all; to further strengthen your relationship with them, answer their questions when they ask. 

If you’re genuinely sharing high-quality content, you’ll start getting questions from them because they now see you as an expert. Well, answer their questions. The more questions you answer, the stronger your bond with them becomes. 

And when it’s time for you to make an offer, you’d have put them in the right frame of mind to buy from you.

3. Sell your offer

Once you’ve succeeded in building solid relationships through genuinely helpful content, it’s time to start selling.

But of course, it’s not as simple as “just selling.”

There’s an art to selling you need to learn. While creating helpful content helps you build relationships and trust, your subscribers may start having questions once you ask them to draw out their wallets and buy something from you.

It’s at this point that you need to know how to make compelling offers, and here’s how to do that:

  • Prepare to write a series of at least five emails you’d send out over five days.
  • Make your first email in the series focus on a specific nagging customer problem. Show them what benefit(s) your offer will have for them.
  • In your next emails, give them compelling reasons to buy what you’re selling.
  • Give them a reason to buy it now — in each of those emails.

Here’s how these four selling-your-offer elements play out in real life:

Take sales copywriter Tori Reid, for example. There was this eight-email series she broadcasted to her subscribers where she was selling her email copywriting templates.

Image showing a series of eight emails forming a lead nurturing sequence.

The first email had the subject line: “Small **** problems.” It’s the one she used to announce the launch of her product (Email Profits). 

Nothing too groundbreaking at this point; in this first email, she simply narrowed on a specific, nagging problem her potential customers usually face (writing high converting sales emails) and told them how her product would solve their problem.

Example of the email message in the lead nurturing sequence from Tori Reid.

So you see the four points I highlighted above play out here:

  1. She set out to write an 8-part sales email series.
  2. She used her first email to focus on a major customer problem, leading people to watch a video (that’s where the link you see goes) where she thoroughly explains how her product would help solve their sales email copywriting problems.
Image showing the video an email subscriber would see upon clicking the link in the welcome email.
  1. Over the next seven days, she sent out emails with results her past clients have gotten from her course. Each email had one testimonial; here’s one of them.
Image showing a testimonial that was used in the email marketing funnel.
  1. On the seventh and eighth days, she gave her subscribers a reason to “buy now” — which is why you see “Warning” in both emails’ subject lines, telling them that if they don’t buy immediately, her offer won’t be on the table for much longer.

4. Close the sale

Once prospects are prepped and ready to buy, the worst thing that can happen at this stage is not being able to close sales because your payment solution isn’t working. 

Choosing a payment method or payment solution provider is another topic entirely. But the bottom line here is that you work with a tool that’ll make payments hassle-free for your customers.

If you’re using GetResponse Conversion Funnels, you’ll be glad to know that it integrates with some of the best-in-class payment processors including: StripePayPalBlueSnapPayUSquare, Qiwi, and Yandex.


By now, you’re already armed with most (if not all) of the information you need to create funnels that’ll help sell your product, service, course, etc.

To recap, here are key points to take away:

  • Why should you believe email funnels work? There is too much proof to not believe it does.
  • Make sure you’re collecting emails of only potential customers.
  • To build relationships with prospects, create content that genuinely solves their problems.
  • Build out a series of at least five sales emails to send over five days (or X number to send over X days), including customer testimonials in each email.
  • Use payment processors that won’t stress customers when they’re ready to buy from you.

Remember. Email funnels isn’t an outdated or difficult method for converting potential customers. It’s a valid, straightforward process with a proven track record. Use this guide to get started today.

Want to take it a step further? Watch this actionable tutorial on how you can build an email list from scratch!

Irek Klimczak
Irek Klimczak
Entrusted as Content Project Manager at GetResponse, Irek expertly and smoothly runs content marketing projects at all stages of the customer journey in Polish, Russian and English-speaking markets. He possesses more than 6 years of experience in online marketing with a broad teaching background. Irek regularly runs workshops covering digital marketing strategy and tactics, and has delivered presentations at many international events (e.g. Singapore, the US, UK, Poland). You can reach out to Irek and connect on LinkedIn.