To help you get started, we’ve created a sales funnel template you can use to create something that works for your business. It’s a PowerPoint document with prompts that you can customize based on the specific stages you feel are the best fit for your customers. This template will help you think of each stage in your customer’s journey and what should happen in each stage. It will also help you map out your own sales funnel stages unique to your business.
We currently have three Editors' Choice picks for marketing automation solutions here at PCMag. One of them, Campaigner, impressed me with its intuitive UI and its wealth of online resources. Another Editors' Choice, the aforementioned Pardot, excelled due to its built-in search and social marketing functionality. Lastly, the aforementioned HubSpot had an impressive set of prebuilt workflows that also got our top nod. While all of these are fantastic solutions, they are all quite different, and it's definitely worth taking the time to research the best solution for your needs. This, of course, also applies even to the other products that did not get an Editors' Choice designation.

Depending on your business and industry, you could have 1,000 prospects at the top of your funnel. However, towards the end of your funnel, you may have 25 qualified leads. While these 25 prospects are more likely to convert than the ones at the top of the sales funnel, at the very end, there may only be five customers who make a purchase and only two that go on to become repeat customers.
It all goes back to lead nurturing. Moving people down each level requires the same process: education, evaluation, engagement, commitment, purchase (or “action” – sometimes they aren’t actually making a purchase, but rather taking an action like sending out a tweet). In some cases, that process happens within a single email. Other times, it takes days, weeks, or even months. To make matters even more complicated, every customer is different. While some people might make the decision to buy your $19 within a few hours of downloading and sharing your ebook, other customers might be in “deciding” mode for 6 months.
Large enterprises have long found value in the technology, but marketing automation isn’t just for big companies. In fact, Small and Mid-Sized Businesses (SMBs) make up the largest growing segment in the space right now. And thousands of companies even smaller than that are using automation as well. Similarly, companies across all industries are using it. The early adopters were primarily in “business-to-business” (B2B) industries such as high-tech / software, manufacturing, and business services. But increasingly companies across all categories–including “business-to-consumer” (B2C) industries such as healthcare, financial services, media and entertainment, and retail–are adopting the software for its real-time, engagement-oriented approach to maintaining and extending customer relationships throughout the customer lifecycle.
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