How to use the marketing flywheel method to supercharge your business

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Contributor, Sell to Win

Sales and marketing professionals are constantly slinging around new buzzwords, complex terms, and confusing abbreviations. It’s what we do.

No blog, video, or sales pitch is complete until the phrase “boost ROI” or “improve your net promoter score” is used.

Well, here’s another important term for you to memorize: the marketing flywheel.

The flywheel model was first introduced in 2001, but it’s recently experienced a rebirth in the business world and inspired professionals everywhere to re-evaluate the classic sales and marketing funnel.

Keep reading to learn what the marketing flywheel is, why it’s a beneficial business methodology, and how to implement it at your organization.

What Is a Marketing Flywheel?

A flywheel is a mechanical device that’s designed to store rotational energy in an efficient way. At first, it can be difficult to spin a flywheel. But once momentum is built, this kind of contraption is able to perpetuate its own motion and spin by itself.

The marketing flywheel builds on this concept.

By uniting marketing, sales, and customer success teams, companies are able to better serve their audience, which builds momentum and generates both repeat sales and new customers via word-of-mouth marketing.

This approach to company growth is different than the one most organizations have been using for decades: the standard funnel.

Funnels are designed to take leads on a linear journey, which is often divided into three stages:

  1. Awareness: A consumer realizes that they have a problem.
  2. Evaluation: The lead searches for the best way to solve their problem.
  3. Conversion: The prospect makes a purchase and becomes a customer.

Customers start at the top of the funnel and (hopefully!) reach the bottom of it after a bunch of marketing and sales tactics that include content creation, user testimonials, and product demos.

The problem with the standard funnel approach is that the customer is an afterthought. Every ounce of organizational energy is spent turning leads into buyers, but little effort goes towards delighting customers into repeat purchases and becoming company advocates.

By contrast, the marketing flywheel focuses on the following three stages:

  1. Attract: Companies attract potential customers using a variety of promotional channels that include content creation, social media marketing, and digital advertising.
  2. Engage: Companies engage the traffic they generate via chatbots, email marketing, and sales interactions. The goal is to build trust-based relationships.
  3. Delight: Companies delight their prospects by providing them with relevant and timely content, easy buying processes, and excellent customer service.

The marketing flywheel works to attract new prospects and turn current customers into brand advocates simultaneously, the result of which is sustainable revenue and organizational momentum.

How to Take a Flywheel Approach

The benefits of the flywheel model are clear. The question is, how do you implement this approach into your marketing and sales efforts? If you’re already using the funnel methodology, switching to a marketing flywheel is actually pretty straightforward:

1. Shift Your Resources

Chances are you have a huge pile of created content. We’re talking about the blog posts, ebooks, case studies, webinars, and email sequences already in your company’s archives.

Good news: you don’t have to scrap these materials! You simply have to repurpose them.

For example, maybe your case studies are gated. Instead of requiring an email address for access, you might try posting them on the company blog for anyone to read—in other words, reassigning a typical piece of Conversion stage content (in funnel-speak) to the Engage stage of your new flywheel strategy.

Take a look at each page of content that your company owns and assess where it will fit best in your flywheel. But don’t stop there. You need to reassign metrics and KPIs, too. For instance, in a funnel, the number of leads generated would fall into the Awareness Stage. When shifting this metric to a flywheel model, it would probably fit best in the Attract Stage. Use this same process to shift all of your funnel KPIs to your new marketing flywheel.

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2. Apply Strategic Force

The flywheel method is based on two main tenants: applying strategic force and eliminating unwanted friction. We’ll focus on force first.

Mechanical flywheels require force to get going. They need something (or someone) to provide an initial burst of momentum or they’ll never move. Your marketing flywheel is the same, except that the force you apply will be aimed at attracting, engaging, and delighting your audience.

Identify the areas within your marketing and sales efforts that warrant the application of force.

For example, you might decide to invest heavily in content creation in order to attract new leads and delight current customers.

Or maybe the best option for your company is to instill a claw-back policy when customers churn prematurely. This will force your sales reps to focus on retaining current patrons, too, rather than just generating new ones.

Where you apply force is completely up to you. Just know that the more force you apply strategically, the more momentum your flywheel will generate and the faster it will spin.

3. Eliminate Friction

Friction is the arch-enemy of the marketing flywheel. It can take the form of low conversion rates, high churn figures, and poor customer experiences due to siloed company departments.

Your job is to investigate your company and identify any areas of friction. Then eliminate them.

It’s easy to evaluate your conversion and churn rates. Simply take a look at your company analytics dashboard and record what it tells you. Discovering customer experience issues is trickier, but can be accomplished by reading through customer complaint messages.

Once you’ve identified any and all areas of friction in your organization, you need to remove—or at least reduce—them to the best of your ability. Here are some tips to help you:

  • Use Automation Tools: When all company processes are dependent on humans, mistakes are easily made. Try to automate repetitive and complex tasks so that both employee and customer experiences are enhanced.
  • Align Departmental Goals: If sales and marketing teams are at cross-purposes, your marketing flywheel will always have friction. Make sure all departments are on the same page and working towards the same goals at all times.
  • Create New Content: Sometimes friction occurs because audiences don’t have the materials they need. Create content pieces that streamline the buying process and/or educate customers on proper product use.

When friction is eliminated from your flywheel, you’ll convert more leads into customers and garner more loyalty from them, reducing your churn rate.

Pro tip: Your marketing flywheel should be evaluated on a regular basis. Are your efforts in this regard bearing fruit? Look for new areas to apply force and recurring friction points, then use the information you have to better attract, engage, and delight your target audience.

The flywheel creates a perpetual cycle of customer satisfaction.”

—David Morneau, Co-Founder, inBeat

Remember: Your Customers Drive the Marketing Flywheel

The classic marketing and sales funnel is NOT dead. We believe that companies should use both funnel and flywheel methodologies in conjunction.

The flywheel should be used to inform our actions—the marketing tactics we choose, sales strategies we deploy, and the ways in which we engage with current customers. Instead of customers being the end goal like they are in a standard funnel, they are the center of everything a company does in a flywheel. With this approach, happy customers become the energy that pushes a company forward and helps it grow. 

Fortunately, adopting the marketing flywheel is pretty easy if you just follow the steps outlined in this article. Once you do, you’ll be able to better serve your unique customer base. Good luck!

Photo courtesy of Riley McCullough on Unsplash

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