Customer-centered flywheel vs. traditional sales funnel

Late last year at HubSpot’s INBOUND 2018 event, Brian Halligan, HubSpot’s founder and CEO, shed light on a new approach to inbound marketing and customer relationship management (CRM). This concept, known as the flywheel, is a new spin on the traditional funnel approach to HubSpot’s inbound methodology. It places CRM at the center of your sales, marketing, and services strategies, ultimately using it as the force to generate growth for your business.

From funnel to flywheel

As a marketer, you’re likely well aware of the traditional inbound marketing funnel and how it aligns with your buyer’s journey.

Visitors enter the top of the funnel in the awareness phase searching for a solution to a challenge. As they continue their research, they’ll move down the funnel into the consideration phase. Here, they’ll likely provide you, the marketer, with more information about themselves and their behavior. Eventually, this lead will start comparing features, benefits, and prices of products or services similar to yours. This means they are in the decision phase and, hopefully, choose to buy from you.

But there is one major flaw with the funnel model:

What comes out at the bottom has no impact on what goes in at the top.

In the business world, existing customers can have a huge impact on prospects. Customers now have easy access to share their experiences and opinions of brands via social media. Those opinions quickly spread to potential and other existing customers, making the full inbound marketing process more of a cycle than a linear path.

So what is a flywheel?

By the Oxford Dictionary definition, a flywheel is a revolving wheel within a machine used to increase that machine’s momentum. Its purpose is to create stability and reserve power. Flywheels continue to spin unless some other force slows them down.

So what does that have to do with marketing? Let’s take a look at a visual representation of the flywheel framework developed by HubSpot:

HubSpot flywheel framework

The flywheel approach moves the customers from the bottom of the funnel, to the core of your marketing and sales efforts. This shift establishes your customers as a crucial part of your brand’s overall momentum and growth. After all, JD Sherman, president of HubSpot, says, “Your biggest untapped growth opportunity today is, in fact, your existing customers.”

Why adopt the flywheel?

It’s common for marketing, sales, and services teams to have the perception that they are each responsible for only one piece of the inbound methodology. Implementing the flywheel can alter this perception, helping them realize the role they each play in ALL of the inbound phases. The marketing team doesn’t just attract. The sales team doesn’t just engage. And the services team doesn’t just delight.

Over time, you’ll break down the silos typically formed among these teams. This can create a synergy that benefits not only the internal organization, but the strangers that become prospects … that then become customers … that become promoters … that impact other strangers … that then become prospects … that … you get the gist.

The flywheel creates an organizational shift to better CRM that helps increase and maintain satisfied customers.

So, ditch the funnel all together?

Not necessarily. Funnels are still valuable visualizations for various processes within an organization. 

Instead, use the flywheel to represent your company as a whole. Position the individual funnels within your overarching flywheel, and you’ll find a wealth of opportunities for cross-team collaboration and stronger customer relationship management.

Ready to adopt the flywheel and make the move to a more customer-centric model for your business? Check out content expert Keesia Wirt’s “How to become a customer-focused content marketer” to learn more about how to use content strategy to improve your CRM.