As any marketer can tell you, getting attention is easy – but converting that attention into sales isn’t. That’s because from the moment a new prospect first connects with a business, there are myriad ways they might wander off of the route to a sale. Even time can be the enemy in the process, as the prospect’s attention slowly fades and drifts elsewhere.

To overcome all of those obstacles to conversion, marketers deploy a carefully crafted series of engagements and interactions with their leads to keep them moving toward a sale. The whole process has come to be known as a marketing funnel, representing the ever-narrowing path that guides each prospect to become a paying customer. It’s a tried-and-true approach that’s a part of just about every modern marketing strategy.

The trouble is, it’s a lot of work.

From generating leads to creating interaction and promoting conversion behavior, there’s quite a bit to do at every phase of the process. But today, that’s getting easier with the help of the latest automation technology. With the right tools, it’s possible to put much of a marketing funnel on auto-pilot. Here’s a step-by-step look at how to do it.

Feed the Funnel

The top of a marketing funnel, as you might expect, is where prospects first make contact with a business. To maximize sales opportunities, marketers must keep a large and steady flow of leads coming in at all times. That’s why companies invest so much in content marketing, social media presence, and digital advertising. It’s all to get as much attention as possible to keep feeding their funnel.

The good news is that there are plenty of opportunities for automation within such top-of-funnel operations. Within content marketing, for example, there are countless ways to speed up the process. For one, using Google alerts to keep tabs on the content others are creating is a great way to keep your own content creation relevant and fresh. Then, using tools like Grammarly to help automate the process of checking your content for style and grammar errors cuts down on needless revisions that slow down publishing. And when you’re ready to publish, you can use a platform like Hootsuite to post your latest content across a variety of social media channels according to a schedule you’ve set in advance.

The same kind of automation opportunities exist for digital advertising, as well. To begin with, both Google and Microsoft’s digital advertising platforms provide tools for campaign automation. Using their basic options, it’s possible to set an ad space bidding strategy that suits the campaign’s goals and that will auto-adjust tactics based on the real-time results. And if that’s not enough, there are even AI-powered advertising tools that can plan and execute campaigns from top to bottom.

Engage with Prospects

The next stage of a typical marketing funnel is where prospects connect to the business. It is the marketer’s job to find ways to keep them engaged and moving forward toward conversion. In most modern marketing funnels, this is accomplished through email marketing that re-engages with prospects based on the actions they’ve taken in interacting with the business. This is yet another area that’s ripe for automation.

Today, marketers can choose from a variety of email automation platforms that use complex sets of triggers to send personalized emails at just the right moment. Some of the most well-known among them are Constant Contact and Mailchimp, the latter of which has been used to great effect by small businesses in particular. By leveraging such technologies, marketers can prompt prospects to take the next step in the customer journey, keeping their attention and moving them toward a sale.

Close the Deal

If the earlier stages of the marketing funnel have worked as intended, the bottom of the funnel should be chock full of qualified prospects that are primed to convert. They won’t act on their own, however. It is at this stage that marketers must use tactics that provide the nudge they need to take the next step. This can include inducements like free trial offers and product demonstrations – whatever it takes to illustrate the value proposition that’s on offer.

This is also an area where the tiniest of changes to landing pages, shopping carts, and the customer journey can make all the difference. And not only is getting all of it right difficult – it takes constant care and revisions to make sure nothing’s left to chance. That’s where specialized conversion rate optimization platforms like Convincely come into the picture. They make it possible to automate the process of testing site variations to maximize conversion behavior. In short, they help make sure that as many late-funnel prospects as possible become loyal, paying customers.

In fact, this might be the most important way marketers can leverage automation in their funnel. Because conversion optimization is an evolutionary process, it isn’t the kind of thing that can be done once and then left alone. What works with today’s customers may fall flat next week, and taking your eye off of this part of the funnel risks wasting all of the resources and hard work it took to get prospects to that point. With automation as an ally, constant updates to the process can ensure that marketers get the most bottom-line bang for their buck.

The Path to Success

In truth, these are but a few of the more important and obvious ways to bring the power of automation to bear on a marketing funnel. There are countless more ways available that can suit almost every type of marketing strategy imaginable. So, it’s easier than ever to build a suite of solutions to fit every need. And more solutions are coming to market every day. As technologies like artificial intelligence continue to evolve, marketers will have more end-to-end automation solutions than they know what to do with – but the one thing that’s certain is that the creative and ever-inventive marketing industry will put them to work in ways we can’t begin to fathom today.