The sales funnel metaphor is somewhat misleading; in real life, the process never goes as smoothly as liquid down a funnel. In the last decade, digital marketing, artificial intelligence (AI), and CRM have drastically changed the process of converting new leads into customers. Given this, it’s increasingly important that business-to-business (B2B) sales and marketing teams are aligned in their views on a sales funnel strategy and lead generation as a whole.
One of the main reasons for giving out this free content is to get prospect to give you their email address in exchange of an opt-in offer. This could be mini-course, download, cheatsheet or report. At this stage your email marketing provider must provide you automations, meaning emails are sent without your involvement and as per your defined actions.

But, once you have enough experience to be eligible (and are likely itching for a promotion), they start marketing to you. It might be email marketing or an email list-based retargeting campaign, but these graduate programs do their level best to get back on your radar. It’s a long-term play, but it’s one that works incredibly well because the schools know exactly when their students are “ready to buy” again.
For instance, if you’re running an accounting business, at this stage your leads would be comparing plans offered by different service providers. They might need resources like how to evaluate the landscape of accounting services (i.e. whether to hire a solo accountant, an agency, etc.), pricing guides (so they know what ballpark rates are), or how to choose an accountant.
Before you start building your sales funnel, it is essential to have a clear business vision, develop an ecommerce marketing strategy, and then define your target audience to work towards your business growth. If, for example, you are looking at how to create an online clothing store, you need to follow specific steps to develop your business and stay successful.

In a recent conversation I had with Perry Belcher, co-founder of Native Commerce Media, he told me that you also need to train your prospects to click on links. For example, you could have them click on a link of what interests them or link them to a blog post or eventually to a product or service that you're selling, but you need to train them to build a habit of clicking on those links from the very beginning.
If you're wondering what a sales funnel is, simply imagine a real-world funnel. At the top of that funnel, some substance is poured in, which filters down towards one finite destination. In sales, something similar occurs. At the top, lots of visitors arrive who may enter your funnel. However, unlike the real-world funnel, not all who enter the sales funnel will reemerge out from the other end. 
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