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Most businesses struggle to find cost-effective ways to harness their website traffic and generate qualified leads. Many will spend hours creating newsletters only to have no one open or read them. This work results in wasted time and money and ultimately giving up on making email marketing work.

But what if there were a better way? What if people looked forward to your emails and were compelled to open them?

According to HubSpot, email generates ~$38 for every $1 spent, which is an astounding 3800% return on investment, making it one of the most effective marketing options available. Furthermore, over 59% of marketers say email is their most significant source of ROI. So, how can you take advantage of this highly effective strategy to grow your business?

This article will introduce you to the StoryBrand sales funnel, which has been implemented numerous times with our clients in various industries. The funnel will help you build brand awareness, generate and nurture leads 24/7/365, and add revenue to your bottom line.

Step 1 – Create a Clear Message based on a Story

Any effective email marketing sales funnel should be based on a story-based framework. Psychologists have proven that story is hardwired into our brains. It’s why movies can hold our attention for hours and Hollywood is a billion-dollar industry.

Brand messaging process

StoryBrand Messaging Framework

Below, I’ll share an example of how to create an effective email marketing program or sales funnel using the StoryBrand framework. StoryBrand answers the seven questions your customers are asking in a story-based order. By answering the questions below, you will have all the words you need to write and create an effective automated email program. I’ve also included example responses based on a hypothetical lawn care company.

  1. What does your customer want? A greener lawn.
  2. What problem does service solve? We help homeowners have the best lawn on the street. 
  3. Have you positioned your service as the solution to their problem?  For over 20 years we’ve given homeowners a lawn they can be proud of. 
  4. How do they do business with you? Or, in other words, how do they go about signing up? Schedule a visit, get an estimate, get a greener lawn. 
  5. What is the call to action? Book now! 
  6. What does a success look like? A lawn you’ll want to enjoy every morning while you sip coffee. 
  7. What does it look like if they don’t choose your service? A brown, spotty lawn everyone makes fun of.

By taking the time to answer the above questions, your business will have a more straightforward message and copy blocks to create the emails outlined below.

For more information on how to clarify your message and write your business’ story, check out this article.


ClearStory’s Lead Generator

Step 2 – No One Wants your Newsletter. Write a Lead Generator Instead

Once you have your story questions answered, you now need to create a way to collect email addresses. It may come as a shock to you, but prospective customers don’t want to read your newsletter. They want to know more about how you’re going to solve their problem.

Two types of buyers show up on your website: direct and transitional.

  • Direct buyers are people who know of you, heard about you, or got referred to you and are ready to signup.
  • However, transitional buyers need more information and time to understand what you offer. For this reason, we suggest creating a lead generator. A lead generator is a piece of content (ebook, video series, checklist, or guide) that warms your prospect up to the idea of doing business with you. They should find your lead generator valuable enough to give you their email address. For example, you may create an ebook that showcases your software, fitness plan, travel planner or using out example, a lawn care plan—complete with specifications, fantastic photography, and success stories. Or you may design a “Weed Identification Guide and How to Kill Them” Guide that establishes your company as an expert in the space. The idea here is to get them to say, “tell me more.” Put yourself in your prospective client’s shoes and give them something they will find both valuable and memorable.

Step 3 – Write your Automated Email Sequence the Right Way

Once you’ve had your web developer add a form to your website for prospects to download your lead generator, you now want to keep the interest and momentum going by staying top of mind in their inbox.

The human brain needs to see your brand message 7-8 times before it can be internalized, noticed, and taken action on. Also called the Rule of 7. We live in a highly distracted world, and it’s easy for people to forget why they visited your website, so it’s your job to remind them.

At this point, you’ll want to pull out the answers to your story questions and begin using them to create your copy. Each email should be sent 2-3 days apart at 7 AM or 11 AM to your prospects’ time zone.

 StoryBrand Email Sales FunnelThe email should also include:

  • Your logo
  • Links to your social media accounts
  • Contact information
  • One button at the bottom that calls the prospect to Book Now
  1. Welcome Email – The welcome email is just what it sounds like. It’s your chance to thank them for downloading the lead generator and introduce them to your product or service by stating the problem you solve. You may want to welcome them or give them a discount.
  2. Add Value #1 – The second email should offer helpful information. Resist the urge to sell—try to help.
  3. Add Value #2 – The third email should, again, add value. This time you may want to offer tips on how to solve the problem your particular service or product solves. Once again, the idea is to warm your prospect up to the idea of doing business with you.
  4. Overcome an Objection – At this point, you should see an average open rate of 50% and click-through rates around 20%. These are good indicators that your prospect is still interested in your service. This email should begin to address any friction points they may be having. Friction points consist of price, location, shipping or any other obstacles your prospect may have. Address those objections and offer solutions with transparency.
  5. Problem and Solution – In this email, list the problems your product or service solves. Address these problems and what the customer wants—and tell them how you solved them with past clients.
  6. Deliver a Paradigm Shift – A paradigm shift means your prospective customer thought one way about your product or service but now thinks differently. If your product or service is different, explain why that is.
  7. Customer Testimonial/Success Story – Next is the email that tells what your customer’s life looked like before they worked with you and how their life has changed after working with you. Ask for your clients/customers to provide their stories and highlight them in this email.
  8. Close with a Sales Letter – Finally, if they haven’t booked, scheduled or converted with you but are still opening your emails – offer a time-sensitive incentive like 10% off if they sign up by the end of the month. Ask for the sale with a clear call to action: Book Now! If they open the email, reach out personally to close the sale.

The above sequence gives you almost a month of automated emails. It can be used as a baseline strategy to help you create your email automation program. Once you get these emails set up in your email program, begin testing subject headlines and content to see if you can improve open rates, click-through rates, and close rates.

Your lead generator can also double as an advertisement on social media or other platforms. Use it at trade shows and local events to generate leads.

In conclusion, the above gives you a simple strategy for creating an effective lead generation and automated email sales funnel. Start by clarifying your message through story-based elements. Create a valuable lead generator in the form of an ebook, checklist, video series, or guide that your prospects will exchange their email address for. Then create a series of eight emails that nurture your prospective leads that keep your brand top of mind, which incentivizes them to do business with you. Don’t worry about doing it perfectly right away. Like anything, it takes time to get it right. By having this strategy in place, you’ll begin to see results and grow your business.


StoryBrand Marketing Report

Most businesses don’t have a marketing plan they feel confident in.

We’ve seen it happen to many businesses. You don’t know how to fix your marketing to grow your revenue, so you end up trying idea after idea, hoping something works. In the end, you waste a ton of time and money, all with nothing to show for it.

The StoryBrand Marketing Report gives you a ready-to-go tailored marketing plan that works. Your custom report will guide you through the areas of your marketing that are weak and give you a detailed plan on how to fix it, using the StoryBrand framework that has worked for hundreds of thousands of businesses.

Josh Claflin

As a trusted branding and marketing professional for over 25 years, I’ve seen first hand the struggles and avoidable mistakes entrepreneurs, startups and business owners make, which is why ClearStory coaches you on proven brand and marketing frameworks that will help you achieve clarity, build your brand and drive growth.

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