Anyone who works in marketing will be familiar with funnels - visual representations of the processes and mechanisms in place that work to convert leads into sales.
However, as the marketing landscape evolves, with many companies now adopting a digital-first approach, we look at how these stack up against the new kid on the block – the marketing flywheel.
Here we discuss:
- The Marketing Funnel (and why this may no longer be fit-for-purpose)
- The Marketing Flywheel (and how it works to fuel business growth)
- How the Funnel and Flywheel compare
- Making the move to the Flywheel
The Marketing Funnel: Trusted, Robust…Obsolete?
Also known as the purchase funnel, this represents the series of steps a prospect or visitor takes from first finding out about your brand, right through to the point at which they become a customer. It is a way of breaking down the customer journey, if you like, and a way for the marketing team to assign actions designed to move them through this journey to conversion.
These steps are normally broken down as follows:
Customers as an after-thought
The awareness stage can include website visitors, or readers of your blogs, whereas consideration could be free trial sign-ups.
For a long time, this has been the go-to for marketers who capture as many leads as possible to feed the top of the funnel, which starts off wide, and then nurture prospective customers through to the purchasing decision, by delivering messages that speak to people according to their stage in the buying process.
With only a fraction of the initial prospects going on to take action, the funnel narrows at each consecutive stage.
Helpful right? Well, yes, but more recently there has been increasing debate on whether the funnel is a good enough representation of the buyer’s journey and if it truly helps marketers and salespeople realise maximum growth for their businesses.
So, what's the alternative?
Enter stage left, the flywheel...
The Marketing Flywheel:
With higher expectations, and savvier than ever before, HubSpot believe in a better path to growth for companies, where they deliver an excellent experience for prospects and customers alike, at every touch point.
The flywheel model offers just that.
According to Wikipedia, “A flywheel is a mechanical device specifically designed to use the conservation of angular momentum so as to efficiently store rotational energy - a form of kinetic energy proportional to the product of its moment of inertia and the square of its rotational speed.”
Much like a car’s engine needs a flywheel to store and transfer energy, marketing and sales teams require a flywheel to power customer loyalty and brand advocacy.
Whilst the flywheel is like the funnel in that it visually represents the customer journey in three main steps, HubSpot name these differently:
Customers at the epicentre
At its very core sits the customer base, with the rotation of the wheel itself representing the growth of your business – all built around the idea that if you continue to delight customers, they will fuel this growth for you, driving referrals and bringing you new customers. Very energy-efficient!
Naturally, this momentum is wholly reliant on all parts of the flywheel working well (not too dissimilar to the funnel concept) and a poor customer experience creates friction points, which can in turn slow the flywheel down.
Flywheel vs Funnel - How are they different?
Output vs Input
If we look at the funnel model, we can see that this treats customers as being an “output”, where all force is applied from the top of the funnel down in a bid to convert leads.
This means they are often passed through the different departments within a business (marketing to sales – sales to service), which often leads to an unpleasant experience. Plus, it appears to completely ignore the scenario where new and existing customers feed the attract and consideration stages.
Conversely, the flywheel focuses on “input” where most of the force is applied to delighting at every stage, whether that be excellent customer service, serving up compelling ads to prospects, or a great loyalty reward scheme.
If that energy is retained within the flywheel, as customers and prospects become promoters of your product or services, this will drive more leads for your sales team. This also means that all departments within the business have a vested interest to keep customers happy and start working more as a team, rather than in silos.
Let’s explore each of the three stages…
This covers anything that introduces new potential customers to your brand.
Some examples include, but are not limited to:
- Inbound marketing that focuses on personalised content where every customer is spoken to like the individual that they are
- Word of mouth
- Paid advertising
Once you’ve attracted a prospect, it’s time to build this relationship. This comes from solving their individual challenges to build trust and credibility.
Essentially this should be a set of actions that make it easy for prospects to buy.
- Blog articles addressing pain-points and challenges
- How-to videos
- Dynamic content
This is where the magic really happens! Delighting your customers at every stage of their journey, both pre, and post-sales, is all about creating such a fantastic experience they want to share with their peers. Examples include:
- Real-time support
- Building a customer community
- Second-to-none customer support
- Reward schemes
So, is this “curtains” for the traditional funnel?
Marketing is one of the fastest-paced industry sectors, and yet marketers and business owners can find it just as tricky as anyone else to adopt and implement change, especially when it comes to swapping out a tool that has been embedded within a company’s marketing efforts for so long.
It’s therefore reasonable to think the funnel will be around for a while longer, as teams adapt and transition.
That said, the flywheel continues to disrupt the online marketing landscape due to its focus on creating a remarkable customer experience. After all, happy customers equal more customers.
Worth making the switch?
If your business is contemplating making the move to the flywheel model, it’s imperative that you address the challenges associated with the leap, before leaping!
The good news is that your current funnels will likely tell you all you need to know in terms of the metrics you’ll need to apply to each stage of the flywheel.
It’s then important to pinpoint the areas where you can see friction so that you can think about how to remedy these, as well as the scope to increase customer satisfaction.
Check out the great video below from HubSpot on how to make the transition.