Inbound Marketing through the Lens of the Flywheel

If you’re a professional, chances are that you have seen, referenced, built or any number of other activities involving a funnel. It has been the most ubiquitous visual representation of the way companies have viewed the journey customers take.

The problem with the funnel is that it’s a one-way street and tends to focus only on the journey someone takes before they become a customer, and that is only a fraction of the adventure. Strangers are narrowed down to visitors, then leads, then customers, but then what? The funnel model thinks of customers as the end — once you’ve made the sale, you’re done.

By contrast, the flywheel is about acquiring customers, keeping them as customers, and using them to draw in more customers.

How the Flywheel Works

In real life, a flywheel is a component of an engine that conserves the momentum of the motor. The motor spins up the flywheel and its mass keeps it spinning. The momentum of the flywheel depends on its size, how much force is driving it, and how much friction is slowing it down. The faster it spins, the more energy it stores.

Speeding the Flywheel Up

The speed of the flywheel can come from a lot of different directions, but the main three are sales, service, and marketing. Marketing drives sales, sales creates customers who need service, and service keeps customers delighted so that they’ll advocate for you — word-of-mouth marketing. They key difference here between the flywheel and the funnel is that these three are constantly working around the customer and doesn’t have a defined end.

The force on the flywheel is simply a matter of how much time and resources you pour into any of those aspects. Every company is different, and the impact of each segment of the wheel will vary depending on the way your company works. If your lead conversion rate is low, you might make a bigger impact focusing on sales than in attracting more leads with marketing. If you work in a saturated industry with lots of competition, then delighting your customers in order to garner more referrals and testimonials might be your best bet.

In the modern world, delighted customers are the biggest forces pushing company momentum. If existing customers are kept happy, they refer their friends and family to your product as well. They become repeat customers. And they’re more likely to take a risk on your newest products. Marketing, sales, and services should all be focused on the customer and keeping the flywheel spinning.

Slowing the Flywheel Down

At the other end of the equation is friction — factors that slow down your company’s momentum. If marketing is neglected, you’ll lose out on attention and leads. No matter what industry you’re in, there is simply too much competition to hope to be noticed without consistent, agile marketing efforts. If the sales team is neglected, then leads will founder and revenues will fall.

But the biggest way to eliminate friction is to keep your existing customers happy. Taking the barriers away from buying, using, and maintaining a product will help them stay satisfied and turn them into advocates for you going forward.

This focus on customer delight needs to be emphasized before, during, and after the customer experience.

How Assumptions Have Changed

The thing about innovation is that it changes expectations. The technology boom over the last decade has changed the way people not only interact with companies, but their expectations of them. Customers expect customized and targeted marketing that fits into how they make purchasing decisions.

They expect a sales process that is no-pressure and extremely easy. They will not tolerate shoddy customer service or issues that they feel should have been addressed long before they brought them up. And if you are not living up to those expectations, they will find someone else who will.

If there is one constant in today’s world, it’s change. And this change in philosophy is one of those that comes around and has us all going “well, duh.”

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