Why you should choose the inbound flywheel over the funnel every time

The funnel has been a part of the inbound marketing methodology for over a decade. In 2018, HubSpot made the decision to ditch the funnel for the flywheel; putting customers at the centre of every marketing decision. The funnel served marketers well, but as new observations were made, it was important to create an updated model that allowed businesses to grow in line with their customers. What makes the flywheel more effective than the funnel and how does your business use it to your advantage?

What is the inbound methodology?

HubSpot defines the inbound methodology as “the method of growing your organisation by building meaningful, lasting relationships with consumers, prospects, and customers.” The inbound methodology is about adding value at every stage of the buyer’s journey to achieve their goals successfully. Creating valuable experiences with customers involves offering your support and services to solve their needs and move them along the customer journey.

Value usually comes in the form of creating and distributing consistent and high-quality content. Creating content that provides your audience with what they need is essential for building customer relationships. Understanding your audience’s needs involves identifying their challenges, goals and behaviours. What can your business provide to make your customers’ lives easier?

The inbound methodology involves three stages: attract, engage and delight. Attracting refers to how you generate brand awareness and target your audience with the right content that gets them to notice your brand and engage. Engage involves communicating your solutions in a way that solves your customer’s challenges and aligns with their goals; moving them closer to a buying decision. Delight comes into action to ensure your customers receive the support they need to be happy with their purchase.

How does the flywheel work?

The flywheel uses the inbound methodology and elevates it. It puts growth in the middle; attract, engage and delight around the centre; and strangers, prospects, customers and promoters on the outer edge. The directional movement of the flywheel keeps the growth strategy moving forward. Your customers are no longer the end product as they were with the funnel. There is always progress to be made to better support your customers and continue the customer journey.

To keep your flywheel turning, you must fuel it with the right strategies at the attract, engage and delight stages, while reducing the friction that can slow the flywheel down. Friction can be anything that challenges your business growth, for example, failure to understand your customers, lack of communication or poor internal processes. To reduce friction, you should understand where your customers are failing to convert or why they’re churning. Look at your business operations and where your departments may be misaligned. Putting solutions in place to iron out these challenges will help to move your flywheel forward again.

Why is the funnel no longer effective?

The funnel put marketing at the top, sales in the middle and customers at the bottom. All of your marketing activities came first to build brand awareness and generate leads. Tactics in the sales stage encourage your leads to convert into customers which are the product of the funnel. This is the main flaw with the funnel model.

The funnel sees the customer as an afterthought. The funnel is focused on moving leads through marketing and sales processes to convert them into a customer. There is no progression or nurturing to grow that relationship further. Once the customer has converted, the job of the marketer and salesperson is considered done. We know that this is far from the truth. Encouraging your customers to become promoters for your brand and spread word of mouth ensures you can retain the customers you’ve converted.

How to make the flywheel work for your business

If you already had a strategy in place for the funnel, adapting it for the flywheel model is intuitive. Here are some ways to make the flywheel work for your business:

  1. Put the customer in the centre
    As discussed, the flywheel puts customers in the centre of the model. This means that all of your marketing and sales activities should have the goal of attracting, engaging and delighting the customer. You should align your business goals with your customer goals to ensure you grow together. Building all of your operations and processes around your customer will help you achieve that. Your systems should help you make the customer experience as seamless and intuitive as possible. Your customers should naturally want to to move on to the next stage of the buyer’s journey, with your support helping them get there. Consider reviewing your customer experience to identify areas of friction and put actions into place to reduce it and speed up the wheel again.
  2. Eliminate friction between business processes
    One of the main causes of friction is internal processes that aren’t aligned. A lack of communication between marketing, sales and customer service departments can slow down your flywheel and hinder your business growth. Customers along the customer experience come across different brand representatives and messaging. If your teams don’t have access to customer data, stage of the buyer’s journey and information on the experience they have received so far, it’s near impossible to pick up where your team members left off. Spend time evaluating your customer experience and the processes you have in place to keep this progressing. A CRM system is a great way to organise and automate your pipelines so your customer experience is consistent.
  3. Delighting your customers
    Delighting your customers comes into play when your customers have recognised the value you provide and engaged with your brand, resulting in a purchase decision. Delighting customers can come in many different forms; as customers have high expectations now more than ever, it’s important to provide support and value in every interaction to retain them. Ensuring you have detailed data on each customer enables you to identify where your customers need support and how you can provide that.
  4. Generate word of mouth
    The natural next step for a delighted customer is to recommend your brand to their friends and family. Word of mouth marketing is one of the most cost-effective ways to generate new customers. Customers trust what other customers say about a brand, more than what the brand says about themselves. Ensuring you delight every customer increases word of mouth around your business.
    The funnel loses its momentum at the bottom. Customers are generated and there is no opportunity for follow up. The flywheel leverages the momentum of the customer to keep spinning. Customers are always the focus, and once you’ve attracted and engaged them, your focus turns to delight to make sure they advocate your brand. Flywheels preserve momentum; the more energy you add into the wheel the faster it spins and the better you grow.

Image via – https://blog.hubspot.com/sales/frictionless-selling

Written by: Laura Greenhalgh
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