What is a marketing automation funnel?

Many marketing teams use a funnel to grow their business and build their customer base. They know most prospects aren’t ready to purchase the moment they hear about their product or service, and the funnel nurtures and moves leads along. Marketing funnels come in all sizes, and often become more complex as your team and customer base grows. The key to streamlining your funnel, making the best use of your team’s time and giving your prospects the smoothest experience as you scale is automation. So, let’s dive into all things marketing automation funnel.


The basics of the marketing automation funnel

Before we can talk about how to automate your marketing funnel, let’s first cover the basics of this experience so we’re all on the same page.


What is a marketing funnel?

We’ve covered marketing and sales funnels at length. (You can check out our articles on demand funnels and B2B sales funnels for an in-depth dive into this concept.) In short, a funnel helps you turn prospects into customers.

  1. First, prospects must learn about your product/service or become aware of your brand.
  2. Once they’re in the market for what you offer, they evaluate you. During this process, you may be pitted against several solutions, including products they already use.
  3. After a prospect has connected with your sales team and built confidence in your solution, they convert into customers. They implement your solution and introduce it to their business during this time.
  4. If all goes well, you create a loyal customer and you retain their business. These are the kinds of customers that tell all their friends and colleagues about your solution, driving more prospects to the top of your funnel. 

Marketing, as you can imagine, is primarily responsible for the top pieces of the funnel—everything from awareness to the moment a lead enters the sales process. Taking a closer look, you’ll see that the marketing funnel (again, which varies from company to company) includes:

  • Awareness
  • Lead capture
  • Prospect
  • Marketing qualified lead


What is marketing automation?

As organizations grow, it becomes harder for you and your team to do everything manually. Marketing automation is a strategy that companies can use to scale their efforts and systemize their work. Companies use many automation tools to handle tasks that are repetitive and/or need to be handled at scale, like sending emails, building landing pages, etc.

According to data from Ascend2, 80% of marketing professionals think marketing automation is important for their lead nurturing performance. Furthermore, a recent study from HubSpot revealed, “43% of marketers agree that automation and AI have been the most effective trends for their organization’s growth.” 


What is a marketing automation funnel?

A marketing automation funnel is, then, bringing automation to the top half of the traditional “funnel” we outlined above. By automating a lot of the work that would otherwise create a drag on your time (and the customer experience), you’re able to move prospects through the funnel and to sales faster. 


The benefits of a marketing automation funnel

Do you need a bit more convincing on the merits of automation? Let’s review some of the major benefits of investing time and energy into automating your company’s funnel.


Increase your funnel conversion rate

Adobe Digital Index published a 2020 report on consumer electronics. Their report looked at various industries like electronics, gifts, sports, apparel, etc., and found that the average conversion rate for industries was 3%. According to Chili Piper, the average conversion rate for B2B is 2.23% 

McKinsey has shared at length how automation can improve marketing and sales efficiency. When your team can work more effectively, you can close more deals every time.


Improve your data and analytics

When you add marketing automation tools to the mix, they’ll automatically start collecting data that your company will find valuable. Automated tools collect several data points and may even track things you didn’t think to consider. As a result, you’ll find even more value in your marketing and sales strategy as you include these tools in your day-to-day life.


Hire when you want to, not when you need to

You may know a company that was forced to hire before they were ready due to a sales boom. Hiring more marketers or salespeople is impressive, but not if you are forced to make the decision. So before you add another person to your company roster, think about the consequences of that decision. Is your business ready to take on the next hire?

Investing in automation software is typically cheaper than adding a new employee. Investing in technology can ensure that you take your time with all personnel additions.


When is the best time to introduce automation to your marketing funnel?

As you consider automating your funnel, you probably have thoughts on how this could work for your specific business. At what stage should you consider automating? Are there any particular circumstances that might help you automate earlier? 

Here are a few critical times where automating your marketing funnel makes sense:


You have a solid process for engaging leads

There’s a famous quote from Adam Stone, the CEO of D-Tools, “Anything that you do more than twice has to be automated.” Taking such a hard stance in business can be challenging, but automation can save your company time and money. If you’ve built out a solid lead engagement process, it may be time to bring automation into the mix.


You want to increase the number of leads coming in

Next, you’ll likely want to invest in an automated marketing funnel if you need to increase the number of leads coming into your funnel. Automated lead generation can be a great way to improve the number of leads your sales team has to follow up on. Rev has a best-in-class Sales Development Platform that can give your company a consistent stream of quality leads that your team can connect with. When you use our platform, our artificial intelligence can surface interesting traits and find companies that are fit and ready to hear your pitch.


You need to make it easier for leads to exit the funnel

If you’re like many companies, you struggle with getting customers to exit the funnel. As we’ve established, you don’t have customers until a contract is signed, so getting to the delight phase of the funnel is critical. If prospects are consistently getting stuck in one aspect of the funnel, it may be time to tap into automation.

It’s important to remember that automation is not a fix-all cure. If a part of your funnel isn’t working, you should address that instead of automating immediately. If you don’t fix the underlying issues with your funnel, it will continue to leak customers over time. Automate the parts of your funnel that work so you can focus on what doesn’t.


You are working with a lean operation of sales/marketing personnel

Whether you’re short-staffed or ramping up your smarketing team, it can be challenging to do everything with a lean operation. Many companies look for ways to automate and use tools to run their business effectively.

Tools don’t do everything for you. If you work in a high-touch industry, seeing a friendly face will help you close more deals. If your team is small, find ways to make their lives easier. How can automation help them do more with less?


How to set your marketing automation funnel up for success 

Understanding marketing automation and funnels separately is a significant first step for any marketing or demand generation team. It gives you the foundation you need to start exploring the areas within marketing that could benefit from automation. It gives you a nudge toward exploring the tools you can put into place to help streamline and scale your funnel. As you start looking into automating your funnel, consider a few things that will be critical to your success.


Start above the funnel

You need to engage with the right prospects. Otherwise, every step you take after is wasted. But, how do you know if you’re targeting the right ones?

Most companies today have created and rely on a one-sheet that details their ideal customer. This ideal customer profile (ICP) often relies on firmographic data, like industry, company size, geography, etc. and guides demand gen teams on whom to target. But, that’s not enough. Take a page from the B2C marketing book and make sure your ICP also includes behaviors.


Solve the first-mile problem

Many companies aren’t aware of what really makes their prospects a fit for their product or ready to buy. As a result, poor fit opportunities enter the funnel and both marketing and sales teams spend ample time working companies that will never close.

At Rev, we can help you understand what makes your best customers your best—and help you find others that look and act just like them. Using our Sales Development Platform, we can analyze a list of your best customers and tell you the traits (exegraphics) that make those customers great. Those exegraphics are then compiled to create a deep, working aiCP (AI-powered customer profile) and is used as a blueprint to find, create and prioritize a list of similar companies you can target.


Give prospects immediate value

One of the most complex parts of marketing is getting on people’s radar. After all, they can’t purchase from you if they don’t know you exist—or what you offer. In a sea of competitors, getting the recognition you want can be challenging.

One of the ways to gain that recognition is to help your prospects solve a problem, no strings attached. What do we mean by this? Share content that will help your target audience solve a problem or level up their skills, regardless of whether they use your product or service. (And now that you have more insight about your audience via exegraphics, you’re better positioned to deliver content that matters to them.) Creating and distributing free content that is actionable and helps the reader overcome an obstacle positions your company as a trusted thought leader.

Let’s talk about distribution for a minute. This can be tricky. Which channels should you use? Should you gate or ungate your content? The answer is always, it depends. Where does your audience gravitate? What are your goals? These are some questions you should ask yourself. However, consider a mix of channels and ungated content. 

There are benefits of gating content, like immediately capturing an email you can start working. There are also benefits of ungating it. When you ungate content, you make it easier for your audience to find—and easier for them to share. This is a great way for you to fuel brand exposure and start building trust. Once they come to love your content, the barrier to entering an email for a gated piece of content won’t seem like a steep price to pay.


Get their contact info

When you’ve identified content pieces to gate (and make sure they’re extremely high quality!), you need to think about the experience and workflow you’re creating with each landing page you build. Building lead capture pages may not seem like a big lift if you’re only putting up a couple of pages a year. But, chances are, if you’re looking to grow your business, you need something more scalable, sophisticated and automated.

That’s where tools like Marketo and HubSpot come in handy. Whether you use their templates or design your own layout, you can quickly spin up a page that aligns with your brand, includes the form fields you need and routes the collected content to your CRM. You can also assign each content piece a different score, and that interaction is tracked and recorded for each lead.

But, don’t stop there. If a prospect doesn’t engage with a piece of content that automatically MQLs them, you’ll want to nurture them by continuing to give them more value.


Stay top of mind 

After potential customers become aware of your company, it’s essential to keep your company top of mind. They may not be ready to purchase when they first hear about you, so work on building mindshare so they think of you when they’re looking for a solution to the problem you solve.

Nurture programs can help—and automating them can help you scale. HubSpot and Marketo both include email automation that manage all of this for you. Using email automation, you can set up nurture sequences that not only send your list new content, it will also track engagement that can be used for lead scoring or triggering another series of events. If, for example, a prospect engaged with a specific type of content piece, you could set up a flow into another track of content to give them a more tailored experience. This automated, custom-feeling experience will warm your lead and move them closer to the purchasing stage.


How do I know if my marketing automation funnel is working?

We’ve all been there. Implementing a new product is challenging because it’s not always easy to know if it’s working. Thankfully, there is a step-by-step process you can follow to ensure that your new automation is actually working for you and your team.


1. Start with your baseline measurement

Every good experiment starts with a baseline measurement. If you don’t take the time to establish where you start, there is no way to ensure that automation is working for your company.

For example, if you are automating your emails, look at past email data. What was the average time it took to get the emails sent out and to collect reporting on their performance? Once you know that number, testing the automation will be easy.


2. Create a check-in system

Next, you want to create a check-in system. Automation won’t change your numbers overnight. It’s vital to give this experiment adequate time to work. It’s not all about the first check-in, either. You can’t give up on an automated system after one negative check-in.

Create a spreadsheet for your automation experiment. In the first column, add your baseline measurements. Pick an interval for check-ins, and put those dates in the remaining columns. Check-ins every 30 days should work for most automation programs.


3. Compare and contrast

Once you have a few check-ins, you can begin to compare the numbers. Are you doing better? Worse? Are your numbers waffling between good and bad? Talk with your team (both sales and marketing) about their experience with automation. Have these months been easier or harder? You need to grab quantitative (numbers) and qualitative (personal experiences) data around automation.


4. Tweak as needed

Once you have the data, you can tweak it as needed or know that your marketing automation funnel is working for your business.


Conclusion: Your guide to the marketing automation funnel

Marketing automation is becoming more popular. Investing in automation makes sense as companies move to be more efficient and effective. Whether your organization is big or small, automation can help you build your funnel and close more deals.

If you’re ready to see how marketing automation can help your marketing efforts—starting with the right targets and leads, you need Rev. Contact us and we’ll show you the exegraphics behind your best customers.