Blog

The Sales Flywheel — Rethinking the Sales Funnel

Madison Taylor Marketing

Topics: Strategic Marketing

The sales funnel has been around for decades, and it’s been the go-to visual metaphor for the sales process for marketers across the world. But now, many years along, it might be time to buy the funnel a nice gift and send it off to Florida — we’re retiring the funnel.

The Problem With The Funnel

We’re all familiar with the traditional marketing funnel — strangers become visitors, visitors become leads, and leads become customers. The biggest problem with the funnel is that it stops there. What happens after purchase? Nothing, apparently.

But in real life, we know how important it is to keep your customers happy. Happy customers become repeat customers and attract new customers, who might become repeat customers themselves. Executives used to think of quarters as discrete units — they’d make a three-month campaign, pour all their energy into it, and then start the next quarter with no momentum.

Now, your company has assets. You have timeless content, a growing array of backlinks, a social media following, and a brand with a reputation and customers who advocate for you. If you took a month off, you’d still get new leads and new customers. That’s momentum, and it’s what the “flywheel” is all about.

What’s The Sales Flywheel?

Just as the sales funnel was a metaphor using the shape of an actual funnel — large numbers of strangers get winnowed down to small numbers of customers — the sales flywheel is based on an actual flywheel. Flywheels have been around in machinery since the invention of the steam engine over 200 years ago, and the mechanism is simple.

The flywheel itself is a big, heavy wheel that gets spun up to a high speed by the application of force from various inputs. The more forces that are applied, and the bigger those forces are, the faster the flywheel spins. When those forces go away, the flywheel’s momentum continues to spin it, compensating for the lull in the forces that power it. Friction slows the flywheel down, so machinery that uses a flywheel tries to keep it to a minimum.

In the metaphor for the flywheel that we’re applying to our businesses, there are two things to consider: force and friction.

Forces That Spin The Flywheel

In the early 2000s, marketing was a bigger force than sales. Information was easier to come by, so customers could get all the information they needed from their research without asking salespeople. The advantage swung from companies with strong sales departments to companies with the marketing to pull in prospects.

Now, it’s shifting again — delighted customers are the new drivers of company momentum. That’s the force that spins the flywheel, but it needs the brunt of the whole company behind it. Marketing, sales, and service all need to be focused on the singular goal of keeping existing customers happy.

Friction Slows Down The Flywheel

The opposite of “force” is “friction.” Don’t tell your physics teacher we said that, since it’s not literally true, but the concept is sound — there are factors that will slow your flywheel’s momentum if you don’t keep up the force that keeps it moving.

Taking the friction out of the process of buying, using, and maintaining a product is a surefire way to keep customers happy — and keep them coming. Think of some of the hottest companies that have burst onto the scene recently.

Dollar Shave Club sends basic supplies to men who hate shopping on a regular basis, for a lower price. Leesa lets you order a mattress online that’ll be delivered to your door with no haggling, no driving, and a 100-day trial period. Trunk Club takes the friction out of clothes shopping. HelloFresh takes the friction out of meal planning.

If you run a B2C company, you need to get the friction out of your system, and you need to do it now.

Changing Assumptions For The Flywheel

The old model was all about making the best product — you had to be better than the competition, or at least you had to convince your customers that you were. In the new model, product quality is crucial, but it’s not enough.

You need to make your customer experience lighter than your competition’s — the process of shopping, buying, asking questions, getting help, learning more, and every other part of the equation has to be easier. That involves turning some old paradigms upside down.

For example, the old model told you to educate your customer service reps to best handle customer interaction. That’s still a good idea, but with a caveat: customers don’t want to interact with customer service reps. They have questions on a whim, while commuting, or outside business hours. They want to be able to get on a website and learn the solution to their question quickly and easily. The fewer touches they have, the faster and happier their experience will be.

The flywheel isn’t an all-or-nothing proposition, so don’t be too scared of company upheaval to try it out. Anything you can do to reduce friction in your organization will help, whether it’s implementing a chatbot, retraining employees, or organizational alignment. Any changes in the right direction will improve your customer experience, and that improved experience will improve sales. The age of the funnel is ending — the flywheel is here.

Next Step

Your company’s marketing should be the secret sauce, ever elusive unicorn, and magic bullet that your company has been waiting for. Bottom line, it should be bringing you that money.

Strategic Marketing Inbound Marketing
How to Automate Account-Based Marketing
Blog
How to Automate Account-Based Marketing

Account-based marketing is the latest and greatest development in the marketing world. A big part of marketing is ...

Where to Start With ABM
Blog
Where to Start With ABM

There’s always something new and exciting happening in the world of marketing. In 1941, Bulova spent $4 for 10 seconds ...

Using Hubspot for Account-Based Marketing
Blog
Using Hubspot for Account-Based Marketing

Account-based marketing is the latest big thing in the marketing world. Well, there’s always a “latest big thing” in ...

Using Data to Build Your Account-Based Marketing Strategy
Blog
Using Data to Build Your Account-Based Marketing Strategy

Building an account-based marketing (ABM) strategy can be intimidating, especially if you’re starting from scratch. ...

The Marketing Industry Has a Data Problem
Blog
The Marketing Industry Has a Data Problem

Everyone’s sick of the term “Big Data,” but the fact remains that there has never been more information about their ...

Marketing in the Age of White Claw and Plant-Based Meat
Blog
Marketing in the Age of White Claw and Plant-Based Meat

Every year, Morning Consult asks more than 10,000 consumers whether they’d consider purchasing or using a certain ...

Work It, Robot: AI and the Future of Marketing
Blog
Work It, Robot: AI and the Future of Marketing

The phrase “artificial intelligence” gets thrown around so much that it’s obvious not everyone means the same thing by ...

The Value Behind Account-Based Marketing
Blog
The Value Behind Account-Based Marketing

Rather than casting a wide net, showing thousands of leads the kind of work you do and hoping some of them will bite, ...

Marketing to Gen Z - Part Two
Blog
Marketing to Gen Z - Part Two

Last month, we wrote about the increasingly important challenge of marketing to Generation Z, those born between 1997 ...

Marketing to Gen Z - Part One
Blog
Marketing to Gen Z - Part One

On the internet, everyone older than you is a boomer and everyone younger than you is a millennial. In the marketing ...

What Marketers Should Expect in 2020
Blog
What Marketers Should Expect in 2020

Marketing is always evolving. The sun will always rise in the morning, Disney will always put out new Star Wars movies, ...

What the Adobe-Marketo Merger Means for Marketers
Blog
What the Adobe-Marketo Merger Means for Marketers

In September of 2018, Adobe announced that it would purchase Marketo for $4.75 billion, creating a partnership that ...

Need More Help? Talk to the Experts.

Contact Madison Taylor Marketing