If you are running a larger business, chances are you already have a sizeable database of contacts. A marketing automation platform can connect with your CRM to streamline your data and eliminate any cold contacts from your email marketing process. Similarly, if you’re already managing multiple campaigns and websites, automation software can provide you with powerful data on which landing pages are converting the most, which emails and posts are working best, and which content is getting the most downloads. Automated segmentation is also a helpful tool to ensure that you’re sending relevant content to your leads, especially if you provide different services or operate in different countries.
In the past, large affiliates were the mainstay, as catch-all coupon and media sites gave traffic to hundreds or thousands of advertisers. This is not so much the case anymore. With consumers using long-tail keywords and searching for very specific products and services, influencers can leverage their hyper-focused niche for affiliate marketing success. Influencers may not send advertisers huge amounts of traffic, but the audience they do send is credible, targeted, and has higher conversion rates.

Has a focus on moving leads from the top of the marketing funnel through to becoming sales-ready leads at the bottom of the funnel. Prospects are scored, based on their activities, and receive targeted content and messaging, thus nurturing them from first interest through to sale. Commonly used in business-to-business (B2B), business-to-government (B2G), or longer sales cycle business-to-consumer (B2C) sales cycles, Marketing Automation involves multiple areas of marketing and is really the marriage of email marketing technology coupled with a structured sales process.
First, try some cold calling. We’ve all gotten those dreaded calls from telemarketers, and while the number of hang-ups sales reps get is enough to make some people quit, this does still work. If it didn’t, people wouldn’t be doing it. The key to success with cold calling is to make sure you have a list of qualified leads. If you’re selling a product for men, for example, make sure your list is primarily male.
A “Set it and forget it” solution. Marketing automation is an incredible tool that helps businesses achieve real results. But those results don’t occur without the right processes, strategies, and efforts set in place. Marketing automation objectives are meant to enhance and support marketing and sales, NOT become a one-size-fits-all substitute. So don’t sit back and expect marketing automation to magically reach your business goals without you.
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.
The Internet has increased the prominence of affiliate marketing. Amazon popularized the practice by creating an affiliate marketing program whereby websites and bloggers put links to the Amazon page for a reviewed or discussed product to receive advertising fees when a purchase is made. In this sense, affiliate marketing is essentially a pay for performance marketing program where the act of selling is outsourced across a vast network.
In 2008 the state of New York passed a law asserting sales tax jurisdiction over Amazon.com sales to New York residents. New York was aware of Amazon affiliates operating within the state. In Quill Corp. v. North Dakota, the US Supreme Court ruled that the presence of independent sales representatives may allow a state to require sales tax collections. New York determined that affiliates are such independent sales representatives. The New York law became known as "Amazon's law" and was quickly emulated by other states[44]. While that was the first time states successfully addressed the internet tax gap, since 2018 states have been free to assert sales tax jurisdiction over sales to their residents regardless of the presence of retailer affiliates[45].
In the Intent stage, your prospect has made a decision to buy from you, but the deal hasn’t closed yet. They plan to buy but want to make sure your quote or proposal encompass everything they need at a price they are willing to pay. Here, you are negotiating terms or finalizing your proposal. Objections around price and other key terms usually surface here.
Pro tip: The most effective sales funnels are illustrated with step-by-step corresponding sales and marketing activities. CRM tools like Salesforce Essentials can help you create visual funnels that align with your pipelines while helping you manage activities needed to convince your prospects to buy from you.Try Salesforce’s features with a free 14-day trial today.
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.
As noted, the pizza shop funnel example above is really simple; there aren’t many steps. Sometimes this is okay (for example, in our pizza funnel, adding more steps may or may not hinder down the sales process). However, for better results, it is often beneficial to add more levels to your sales funnel. This is especially true if you’re selling high-ticket items.

For instance, you might use Facebook’s Lookalike Audiences to get your message in front of an audience similar to your core demographic. Or, you could pay a social media influencer to share images of your products to her already well-established community. Paid social media can attract new customers to your brand or product, but you’ll want to conduct market research and A/B testing before investing too much in one social media channel.
And why not? Human beings have always enthralled themselves into one pursuit after another, all with a means to an end of improving our lives. Clearly, the conveniences afforded by the internet are quite literally earth-shattering to say the least. Three decades ago, few could have ever imagined the present state of our on-demand-everything society, with the ability to instantly communicate and conduct business in real-time, at a pace that often seems dizzying at the best of times.
I don’t want to make it all about money here, but one thing is true: it’s much easier to sell to someone that has purchased from you before. Keeping your customers engaged with content marketing is an essential piece of growing your company. Nurture those relationships by sending segmented, customer-only content, that will educate and encourage them to continue to come back to your company for thought leadership and expertise.
Think about that the next time you're building out a sales funnel. This complex and intricate concept in business can literally take you from a complete unknown to a global powerhouse quickly through the art of scaling out a highly-converting offer. Don't try to take shortcuts or implement hacks, and put in the time if you're looking to eventually reap the benefits and results.

As noted, the pizza shop funnel example above is really simple; there aren’t many steps. Sometimes this is okay (for example, in our pizza funnel, adding more steps may or may not hinder down the sales process). However, for better results, it is often beneficial to add more levels to your sales funnel. This is especially true if you’re selling high-ticket items.


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