The sales funnel has arguably been the most accepted marketing and sales process in place for years. It outlines the process in which leads are found and nurtured into customers until finally the sale is made. Businesses use the funnel as a way to form and organize their various marketing and sales strategies.
However, as proven of a process as the sales funnel is, a new, more effective process has emerged over the past few years that is being favored by many businesses--including incredibly successful corporations like Amazon. It’s more inline with the inbound sales philosophy and has proven itself as a superior model towards developing better customer relationships and user experience. It’s known as The Flywheel.
What is a Flywheel?
To understand what the flywheel model is, it's helpful to know what the actual flywheel it's named after is and does. The flywheel, like the funnel, is a marketing model based on a real-life object.
A funnel is a tube that is wide at the top and narrow at the bottom, allowing you to pour a large amount of a substance (such as liquid or powder) into the top of the funnel so that it comes out at the bottom, making it easier to pour into a container with a narrow opening. The marketing funnel takes this name because the idea is that at the top, you gather as many leads as you can, and as you nurture those leads, you narrow them down (separating those who are lower quality leads from those that are more likely to make a purchase) into customers that purchase your products or services.
A flywheel is a heavy mechanical wheel that was designed to store rotational energy. They are made from steel and use conventional bearings. Designed over two centuries ago, the amount of energy a flywheel stores is based on how fast it's spun, how big the wheel is, how much it weighs, and how much friction there is. Essentially, their purpose is to provide continuous power output to machines that do not have continuous energy sources.
The Marketing Concept Behind the Flywheel
The idea behind the flywheel marketing model is that the work you put into nurturing leads throughout the process won't just end with the sale. Instead, the effort put into nurturing that lead will be leveraged past the point of sale instead of allowing it to die out once the sale has been made. Instead of spitting the customer out the end of the funnel, they are transformed into a force of continuous energy, leveraging the flywheel to continuously improve.
Amazon is a master of flywheel leveraging. Amazon's flywheel focuses on the continuous improvement of their customer experience. The better their customer experience becomes, the more traffic their site gets. The more traffic they get, the more sellers use their site. The more sellers that use their site, the bigger their selection becomes. The bigger their selection becomes, the lower prices become, resulting in a better customer experience. Then the cycle repeats itself, the momentum of their effort helping to grow their business.
The Advantages of the Flywheel
While the funnel has been a relatively effective way to design marketing strategies, it's somewhat inefficient. Say you have a hundred leads that go through the funnel. At the end of the process, you end up with ten sales. This means you've closed ten percent of your leads. However, all of the effort you put into doing this just goes away. You have to start all over again by attracting a different group of leads.
Using a flywheel model, the success you see from the effort you've put into your marketing is leveraged in order to promote growth. Essentially, instead of having to start over, you're building on what you've already accomplished. Brian Halligan, CEO of HubSpot, is a huge advocate for the flywheel. As he states:
"The difference between a funnel and a flywheel is as simple as the difference between product and experience. It is the difference between a better product era and a better experience era."
The Flywheel is about enhancing the customer experience and letting customers generate the energy that grows your business.
Implementing a Flywheel
Now that you understand what a flywheel is, odds are you'll want to know how to implement a flywheel, especially if you've been using the standard funnel model. A flywheel consists of three major components -- attract, engage, and delight. The following is a breakdown of these components.
Attracting Leads - Attracting leads is the first step in the flywheel process. It's not dissimilar from how you attract leads in the sales funnel process using original content, SEO, and other such inbound marketing strategies.
Engaging Leads - Once you've attracted your leads, you'll want to nurture them by engaging. This entire step is about building a relationship by providing helpful information and solutions to their specific problems and goals. You can engage leads through free content in return for contact information, or engage leads with chatbots, in-line surveys and action driven CTAs. Offer an experience, not your product. That will come naturally once momentum is picked up and the friction in the journey has reduced enough for the force to naturally spin the wheel.
Delighting Customers - The biggest difference between the stages of a funnel and that of a flywheel is the last stage. Whereas in the funnel the goal is to close the sale, in the flywheel it's to provide the lead with the best possible experience. This includes the sale of a product or service, but emphasizes the entire experience that the lead has with your business so that they will become promoters of your company. Once they become a promoter of your company, they will help attract more leads. This is how the energy you've put into nurturing a lead can be leveraged back into the beginning of the process.
If you're familiar at all with the funnel model or inbound marketing in general, then you've probably got a good idea as to what the attracting and engaging steps of the flywheel process look like. It's the delighting customers step, in which you focus on creating the best possible customer experience, where things differ a little. This stage concerns your marketing efforts, sales efforts, and service efforts.
Here are a few examples of how you can improve delight across all of your marketing, sales, and service efforts:
Instead of focusing purely on the acquisition of customers, create a customer marketing team that also focuses on retaining the customers you acquire.
Establish a centralized customer communications team that develops a comprehensive communications strategy.
Provide leads with multiple conversion paths, such as the ability to not just fill out a lead generation form, but also to schedule a meeting in person or the ability to chat with someone on your marketing team.
Offer in-product and chat-based support in addition to phone, email, and ticketed support.
Implement a chatbot into your site so that leads can have their questions answered
24/7 instead of only whenever your marketing team is online.
Provide self-purchase options.
Establish a team in your sales department that's dedicated to helping your customers grow.
Emphasize self-service education.
Establish a community in which customers can interact with one another to ask questions and provide helpful advice.
These are just a few ideas that could be implemented as a way to help improve the customer experience, thereby improving their "delight." The better the experience that your customers have, the more likely they will become brand ambassadors and return customers.
One of the most important aspects of implementing a flywheel model is making sure that your marketing and sales strategies are all aligned. A lack of alignment can create unhappy customers, which will slow down your flywheel, thereby preventing the type of growth you could be experiencing.
Focusing on eliminating inefficiencies throughout the marketing and sales process, addressing any issues that come up, and ensuring that your customers are happy, will help prevent your flywheel from slowing down and allow it to gain speed in order to promote faster growth. The following are some of the potential issues that might reduce the customer experience, thereby causing friction in your flywheel:
The inability to learn about a new product without talking directly with support.
The inability to try new products or services without purchasing.
Your support team is obtaining sales questions while your sales team is receiving support questions.
You don't have centralized customer communications, which means your customers are getting overwhelmed with emails.
Purchasing multiple products requires that the customer speaks to multiple sales teams.
Your'e increasing leads, but they aren't high-quality leads.
Identifying and addressing issues that could be reducing friction is an important facet of ensuring that the flywheel works properly. It's issues like these that hurt the customer experience, after all, thereby affecting your ability to leverage the effort you've put into nurturing your leads to promote growth.
Hopefully, this brief overview gives you a good idea of what the flywheel model entails and how it can benefit your marketing efforts. For more in-depth detail about how to reduce friction in your flywheel, download our e-book on optimizing your business below: