Goodbye Marketing Funnel, Hello Flywheel

One of the most interesting disruptions in marketing right now is the marketing flywheel. It’s a refreshingly new way to view and interact with customers, replacing the traditional marketing funnel many of us have been using for decades.

Why the change from funnel to flywheel? As Neil Patel puts it, we need an updated model that reflects what is actually happening in today’s world, with today’s consumers. The marketing flywheel addresses those shifts in consumer behaviors and trends.

Let’s take a look at the updated strategy, and then I’ll share some thoughts on how to apply it.

What is the Marketing Flywheel?

Hubspot first introduced the flywheel earlier this year, calling it the new model for the buyer’s journey.

The buyer’s journey takes shape in the new marketing flywheel. (Source)

As you can see, the flywheel puts the customer at the center. The three sections surrounding the customer – Attract, Engage, Delight – illustrate the buyer’s journey from beginning to end. Again, all parts of the journey revolve around the customer, keeping them involved at every step.

But it doesn’t stop there; the flywheel continues the momentum built from acquiring the new customer, so the energy is stored and released in a continuous cycle. Customers, once acquired, fuel the growth of the business.

HubSpot’s Marketing VP, Jon Dick, explains: “Funnels produce customers, but don’t consider how these customers can help you grow. And all the momentum you built acquiring that customer? Gone. Each day, each month, and each quarter, we have to start new.”

If we look at a traditional marketing funnel, we can see what he means:

The traditional marketing funnel loses energy as customers reach the bottom. (Source)

In the past, a typical buyer’s journey filtered through the marketing funnel, with many prospects coming in at the top (the “Awareness” stage) and few coming out at the bottom (the “Purchase” or “Retention” stage).

Over time, however, we have learned that customers can enter through any of the stages of the funnel. They often switch between stages, too, as they research and/or consider a new product or service. Most importantly, consumers rely on customers who have used the product or service already, basing many of their purchase decisions on reviews and recommendations.

In short, the funnel doesn’t service marketers in a way that makes sense for modern consumers. The marketing flywheel, however, is a more efficient use of energy. Instead of starting over again and again, businesses can leverage their customer relationships to attract more and more customers.

Now you’re probably wondering how to apply the flywheel to your own business strategies…

The Marketing Flywheel as a Growth Tool

In order for the marketing flywheel to be effective, we need to see it as more than a marketing tool; we need to see it as a growth tool. In other words, we must view the flywheel as a means of creating energy and releasing it, in order to generate even more energy -– encouraging even more opportunities for growth.

Hubspot explains the three stages of the flywheel as such:

Attract: Attracting is about using your expertise to create content and conversations that start meaningful relationships with the right people.

Engage: Engaging is about building lasting relationships with people by providing insights and solutions that align with their roadblocks and goals.

Delight: Delighting is about providing an outstanding experience that adds real value, empowers people to reach their goals, and become promoters of your company.

If we think about the purpose of each stage, then it starts to make sense where to direct our resources. In the Attract stage, for example, you might consider social media or paid advertising as a means of starting a relationship. In the Engage stage, you might want to nurture those new relationships by giving them interesting and relevant content, like blog posts or white papers. Finally, in the Delight stage, you might consider how you can deliver amazing service after the conversion. This is a double bonus: it keeps the customer connected to your business (loyalty), and it encourages them to “get the word out” to other consumers (referrals).

The marketing flywheel is a critical development in marketing because it focuses all activities around our most important assets: our customers.

Will everyone say goodbye to the marketing funnel in the coming months? I’m not a gambler, but I’ll venture to say you are at least intrigued by the idea (be sure to let me know in the comments, either way!).

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