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.

If you’re publishing good content, generating a steady flow of new, organic leads, and you’re ready to scale your efforts, chances are it’s time to focus your efforts on a marketing automation strategy that will nurture those quality leads into paying customers. Here are some good questions to ask yourself when deciding if marketing automation is the right move for your business:
Getting this timing right prevents losing prospects by bombarding them with too much information or giving them the hard sell too early. This is why moving prospects through the funnel is often called “nurturing.” Seventy-eight percent of business buyers seek salespeople who act as trusted advisors with knowledge of their needs and industry. Prospects should ideally only receive the information and sales help they need when they need it.
For example, at the beginning of your funnel, prospect interaction is low and the number of prospects is high. This is the Awareness stage, where you do advertising or another form of low-cost, low-touch, broad outreach. The next stages have fewer people in them and require activities that take more time and attention. This is where you’d send emails, make phone calls, or invite qualified interested prospects to a webinar to learn more about your offerings.
For instance, in the Awareness phase of a sales funnel (the first stage), you’re focused on what your customer sees, hears, and feels as they are becoming aware of who you are. In the Prospecting phase, which is the first phase in pipeline stage, you’re focused on what the salesperson is doing to find qualified leads and to build awareness within their target markets.
Good marketing automation takes into account the evolving needs of your leads, and the behaviors and interactions they have with you across all of your marketing channels. Not just email. Using behavioral inputs from multiple channels such as social media, viewing a pricing page, or consuming a particular piece of content gives marketers the context they need to fully understand a lead’s challenges.

Sales funnels are right for businesses that rely on a high degree of prospect interaction and engagement to make sales or close deals. Their sales process may be long and complex or they may be selling a high-ticket item that requires a lot of consideration by the customer. Both business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) businesses use sales funnels.
Paid channel marketing is something you’ve probably come across in some form or another. Other names for this topic include Search Engine Marketing (SEM), online advertising, or pay-per-click (PPC) marketing. Very often, marketers use these terms interchangeably to describe the same concept — traffic purchased through online ads. Marketers frequently shy away from this technique because it costs money. This perspective will put you at a significant disadvantage. It’s not uncommon for companies to run PPC campaigns with uncapped budgets. Why? Because you should be generating an ROI anyway. This post walks through the basics of how. Get Started
A sales funnel illustrates your customer’s journey and works by increasing the level of engagement and trust in each interaction with your prospects. It typically contains six stages, starting with awareness and ending with loyal customers, with each stage more intentional than the last. While not all prospects will reach the end of the funnel, those who do are actively engaged and therefore more serious about buying your product or service.
In 1994, Tobin launched a beta version of PC Flowers & Gifts on the Internet in cooperation with IBM, who owned half of Prodigy.[10] By 1995 PC Flowers & Gifts had launched a commercial version of the website and had 2,600 affiliate marketing partners on the World Wide Web. Tobin applied for a patent on tracking and affiliate marketing on January 22, 1996, and was issued U.S. Patent number 6,141,666 on Oct 31, 2000. Tobin also received Japanese Patent number 4021941 on Oct 5, 2007, and U.S. Patent number 7,505,913 on Mar 17, 2009, for affiliate marketing and tracking.[11] In July 1998 PC Flowers and Gifts merged with Fingerhut and Federated Department Stores.[12]
Despite its older origins, email marketing is still a viable source of affiliate marketing income. Some affiliates have email lists they can use to promote the seller’s products. Others may leverage email newsletters that include hyperlinks to products, earning a commission after the consumer purchases the product. Another method is for the affiliate to build an email list over time. They use their various campaigns to collect emails en masse, then send out emails regarding the products they are promoting.

Some merchants run their own (in-house) affiliate programs using dedicated software, while others use third-party intermediaries to track traffic or sales that are referred from affiliates. There are two different types of affiliate management methods used by merchants: standalone software or hosted services, typically called affiliate networks. Payouts to affiliates or publishers can be made by the networks on behalf of the merchant, by the network, consolidated across all merchants where the publisher has a relationship with and earned commissions or directly by the merchant itself.


Disney initially stated they wouldn’t exceed one million in donations, but ended up donating two million after the campaign blew up. #ShareYourEars campaign garnered 420 million social media impressions, and increased Make-A-Wish’s social media reach by 330%. The campaign is a powerful example of using an internet marketing strategy for a good cause. #ShareYourEars raised brand awareness, cultivated a connected online community, and positively affected Disney’s brand image.
When we talk about marketing on the internet, we're talking about driving traffic or boosting visibility via a number of means. Any type of advertising done on the internet to promote any product, person, service, business or place for that matter, can be deemed as online marketing. However, to succeed in this arena, whether it's SEO, social media, email marketing or beyond, you need to ensure you adhere to the three pillars of trust first and foremost.
Merchants receiving a large percentage of their revenue from the affiliate channel can become reliant on their affiliate partners. This can lead to affiliate marketers leveraging their important status to receive higher commissions and better deals with their advertisers. Whether it’s CPA, CPL, or CPC commission structures, there are a lot of high paying affiliate programs and affiliate marketers are in the driver’s seat.

Now, optimally, you’ll want to add more steps to your sales funnel (more on that later), but let’s say this is your bare-bones funnel. To generate leads and collect customer information, you offer a loyalty program, where people earn points for buying pizzas that they can cash in for discounts on future orders. Then, you email them a special coupon, and a percentage of your leads will open that email. A percentage of those opens will actually buy a pizza.


Now, put yourself in your prospect’s shoes for a moment. If this was you, receiving information from a company about their products / services, wouldn’t you prefer to get emails like the ones above over blasts you can tell they’re sending to thousands of other people? It feels personalized. It feels tailored to you and how you are interacting with that company. It makes you much more likely to trust that company. And ultimately, more likely to buy, doesn’t it?
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.

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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