flywheel diagram for sales and marketing

The sales funnel once reigned supreme, widely considered the superior strategy to map a consumer’s journey. While some old school advertisers still cling to this notion, most marketers today recognize the funnel for what it is: an outdated approach.

The flywheel, however, has gained traction among big-name brands. This boundary-pushing tactic places customers at the center, addressing the fact that businesses need to adapt their messaging to meet consumers where they are. This strategy, like most of the best ones, requires businesses to provide both stellar service and top-notch, customized marketing campaigns. Read on to learn more about the flywheel and how it can be used to grow businesses like yours!

Why is the Sales Funnel Considered an Outdated Approach?

The sales funnel, despite its best intentions, ignores converted customers. The folks who have already made a purchase, booked a service, etc. are essentially forgotten thanks to the one-direction path the sales funnel mistakenly suggests. Customers’ journeys are, of course, far more complicated, seldom ending with just a sale.

As technology advances, the way customers learn about and interact with brands has changed drastically. Word-of-mouth traded over mugs of coffee or grocery check-out lanes no longer takes the cake, although customer advocates still play an incredibly important role. It’s just that the mode of communication has changed, with referrals now offered online. Brands must keep up with developing technology in order to stay relevant, and to recognize that there are countless new touchpoints and opportunities for influence – with new ones emerging all the time!

How is the Sales Funnel Model Defined? 

sales funnel diagram

The sales funnel is broken into three stages, progressing in a straight line from awareness to consideration to conversion. As mentioned above, the issue is that the funnel suggests that a customer’s journey ends there – and misses out on the chance to turn customers into a brand’s best asset: unpaid advocates!

Note that the sales funnel is widest at its first stage, designed to capture the most potential buyers. The audience is then reduced further and further as the funnel narrows, until only a select group of strong prospects remain. The decision-making phase inevitably follows, with the process concluding when the prospect takes or leaves the deal.

How is the Flywheel Model Defined?

flywheel diagram

As seen above, one of the flywheel’s goals is to attract “strangers” who have not yet interacted with the brand. But once they become “prospects,” you must continue to attract while beginning to engage. Once the prospect’s interest has been sufficiently piqued, they become customers. At this stage, the best brands continue to engage and interact – and of course, delight! Because satisfied customers make the best advocates, it’s crucial to attract and recruit promoters without neglecting the “delight” that made them brand loyalists in the first place.

Like any other wheel, the marketing flywheel’s results depend on how fast you spin it and how much friction is found. Implementing practices – like launching paid ad campaigns and training staff to provide premium service – apply the “force” needed to maximize speed. Eliminating friction requires you to identify any sticking points along your customers’ journey, like a poorly functioning website.

The flywheel model is based on a concept that originated from Jim Collins’ business book entitled “Good to Great.” The main takeaway is that your loyal customers are your best salespeople. Take care of them, and they’ll take care of you.

The Biggest Difference Between the Flywheel and Funnel: Continuity

The most glaring distinction is the concept of continuity, as evidenced by the illustrations above. The funnel, for one, has a clearly defined (and problematic) start and end.

The flywheel, in contrast, welcomes leads of all types – like the “thanks but no thanks,” the “maybe later,” the “centimeters from closing the deal.” The flywheel nurtures these leads until they become customers, then continues to lavish attention as they turn from happy customers to outspoken advocates. In terms of continuity, each customer presents an endless opportunity.

Our Conclusion: Are Sales Funnels Dead?

Dead and buried. While it may remain a viable option for select brands, even these would likely benefit from a refreshed approach. Keeping up with the competition is a major priority for most businesses, so you can’t afford to ignore the enormous potential of your paying customers. The flywheel approach makes the most of every conversion, making it a top trend for 2023!

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