Flywheel marketing: a funnel update that changes everything

Flywheel marketing

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The ambition to “put the customer at the center of everything” has always been part of the company’s daily life, especially in the marketing function and on the customer service side. However, if you look at the marketing funnel, you will see that our conception of the relationship between the company and its customers remains transactional. In the funnel, the work stops as soon as the prospect becomes an actual customer! And it is precisely this bug in the matrix that the Flywheel comes to correct. Deciphering…

What is Flywheel marketing?

As you explore the web, you’ll find that there isn’t really a standard definition of flywheel marketing. We’ll tell you a secret: we’ve come across everything and anything while preparing this guide. Before giving you our definition of the concept, let’s quickly review a few definitions that we feel are wrong or approximate (they come from third-party sites):

  • The marketing flywheel is a method of organizing the work of the marketing team internally, based on the Deming wheel: plan, develop, control, adjust. We do not share this vision.

  • Flywheel marketing is simply a mindset that puts the customer at the center of the marketing and sales action. In our opinion, this mindset already exists. This is called Customer Centricity.

  • Flywheel would refer to the alignment of marketing, sales and customer service teams so that they can work in synergy. This definition is not wrong, but rather it describes one of the consequences of Flywheel marketing.

At Twilead, we think of Flywheel marketing as a simplified graphic representation of the customer journey that updates the Funnel for three reasons:

  • Better take into account the new elements of purchasing behavior (omnichannel, non-linear path, etc.);

  • Take into consideration customer retention actions, which are simply absent from the representation of the classic marketing funnel;

  • Better model actions that aim to generate revenue from existing customers, such as upselling and cross-selling.

In fact, the Flywheel takes on the strengths of the funnel while overcoming its weaknesses.

Tunnel VS Flywheel

Switching from the funnel to the Flywheel involves several changes:

  • We are moving from a linear, top-down journey to a cyclical one, which does not stop at the act of purchase. Thus, an effective customer becomes once again the object of a marketing and commercial effort to encourage him to buy more or to buy “better”, by going upmarket for example;

  • Sales and marketing teams no longer work separately. In the funnel, marketing does its nurturing and qualification work and then passes the baton to the sales team who will be responsible for converting the qualified lead. In the Flywheel model, sales, marketing and customer service teams work closely together at all stages. We discuss this in the next section.

  • The awareness, interest, decision and action stages of the funnel become attract, engage, seduce in the Flywheel. Which brings us to the next point…

From funnel to Flywheel: understanding the new stages of the journey

Flywheel marketing therefore reimagines the stages of the funnel without revolutionizing it. So we move to a three-stage model:

  1. Attract. As in the classic Inbound model, the goal here is to attract a more or less qualified audience with useful content. Here we activate classic levers such as content marketing, search engine optimization (SEO), social media marketing, social selling, targeted paid advertising, etc.

  2. Engage. The aim here is to lay the foundations for a healthy relationship with the members of the audience who have shown an interest in the content disseminated in the attraction phase. Among the levers at your disposal are email marketing, marketing automation, product demonstrations, but also and above all omnichannel communication with a focus on instant messaging (Live Chat).

  3. To seduce or enchant (
    ). This is the biggest difference with the funnel. Your prospect has become a customer. He bought your product… but your job doesn’t end there. Remember that the customer’s success is also your success. You need to make sure that they are using your product to its full potential and that they are able to solve their problems with your solution. You can provide useful content (user guides, video tutorials), a Customer Success agent to accompany them, a ticket system to report technical problems, etc. Objective: to satisfy your customer to encourage him to renew his purchase, to take complementary services or products or to recommend your company to his peers.

The 3 reasons for the rise of Flywheel marketing

As you will see, the Flywheel model is not really a marketing invention. It is simply a logical and contextualized adaptation of the marketing funnel to the new buying behavior of consumers and buyers. There are three main reasons for the rise of the Flywheel.

#1 Distrust of outdated outbound marketing approaches

Think about the last product or service you purchased online. Is it the result of a cold call from an insistent salesperson? Probably not. Is this the result of a banner ad you saw under a YouTube video? Unlikely. Like the overwhelming majority of B2C consumers and B2B buyers, you’ve probably done a few Google searches, consumed some content to better understand your need, compared different products and prices, and read a few online reviews. And you are not the only one. According to a Yougov study, 94% of French people consult reviews on a product or service before buying.

As marketing efforts and sales functions become more digital, audiences are being bombarded by cold calling and email marketing, not to mention the thousands of advertising stimuli that punctuate their daily lives, both online and in real life. The target audience is bound to be skeptical ofoutbound marketing, especially if it is done the old-fashioned way, with intrusive actions.

It is therefore quite natural thatInbound Marketing has finally imposed itself in the mid-2010s, and has seen its popularity increase in the aftermath of the pandemic that has given a big boost to the digitalization of the purchase path.

Beware:Outbound Marketing is not dead. Cold Emailing and Social Selling on LinkedIn are still essential in the prospecting effort… as long as you integrate some Inbound elements. For example, Cold Emailing campaigns will no longer target audiences from a database without prior qualification. Instead, take a personalized approach, doing some upfront research on the interviewee, identifying their challenges and “smoothing” the approach. To go further on this point, you can read our article on the 11 keys to a successful B2B email campaign.

In short, the confirmation ofInbound Marketing as the dominant model has pushed marketing teams to innovate, both to make marketing actions more profitable and to boost revenue generation. This is how the Flywheel model (in its contemporary version) was born.

#2 The sales funnel is not (anymore?) linear

The funnel, or funnel, is a standard and widely used way of conceiving the customer journey, from their first indirect contact with the brand (blog post, online ad, social media post, word of mouth…) to the purchase. Based on this simplified visual representation, marketing teams work to attract the target to the funnel, and then feed them content and information to move them from the top of the funnel (TOFU for Top of the funnel) at the bottom of the funnel (BOFU for Bottom of the funnel), and then hand over to the sales team who will try to convert this qualified lead.

Again, as the buying journey has become more digital, the funnel is no longer truly linear. It has migrated from a static, standardized model to a more complex, omnichannel concept that evolves according to each buyer persona. We talk about it in our guide Funnel Marketing: definition and (really) concrete uses.

Also, the marketing team no longer hands over to the sales team at the moment of conversion. These two teams must now work closely together. This is called “Sales – Marketing alignment”, or “Smarketing”. Indeed, at the time of the customer meeting, the salesperson can ask marketing for content to use in the sales pitch. On the other hand, sales people can advise marketers in the creation of content for leads (in the lead nurturing phase), because the sales team is in direct contact with the target. She knows his concerns, interests, expectations and even his vocabulary. Moreover, the emergence of the position of Sales and Marketing Director


illustrates very well this fusion between these two functions which have historically evolved separately.

This upheaval pleads for a new representation of the purchasing path. The circle, which symbolizes a cycle where the lead can evolve more freely, then becomes more relevant.

#3 Retention becomes the shortest path to growth

This third point is probably the one that was most decisive in the emergence of the Flywheel marketing model.

A benchmark study conducted by Bain & Company and reported in the Harvard Business Review, explains that a 5% increase in the retention rate translates into a 25% to 95% increase in revenue. Retaining existing customers is the shortest route to growth.

In fact, since the pandemic, when prospecting efforts have become relatively complicated due to budget cuts and the fear of migrating to new suppliers to mitigate risk, more and more companies are focusing on their customer portfolio. In concrete terms, sales and marketing teams redirect part of their efforts towards existing customers to sell them products or services that are complementary to those they have already purchased (Cross-selling or cross-selling), or to encourage them to opt for a product or service superior to the one they already have (Upselling or up-selling).

Again, the Flywheel model is better suited to this approach. Unlike the marketing funnel, which stops at the moment of purchase(Bottom of the funnel), the Flywheel is a cycle: the conversion phase (purchase) is linked to the attraction phase. In short, the lead who has just become a customer will enter a new attraction phase, where marketing and sales will try to engage him in a new journey to buy a complementary product or service, buy more or buy “better”.

Moreover, this focus on effective customers has led companies to set up a Customer Success Management (CSM) department. Its objective? Accompanying customers in their use of the marketed product to ensure that they derive maximum value from it and thus optimize their satisfaction… because a satisfied customer is a loyal customer, and potentially an ambassador customer who recommends the company.

Here are some figures that should convince you to allocate some of your marketing budget to your existing customers:

  • On average, 65% of the revenue generated by companies comes from their existing customers(source) ;

  • It costs 5 times more to acquire a new customer than to keep an existing one. Also, it is 16 times more expensive to bring in a new customer than it is to generate revenue from a loyal customer(source);

  • Finally, increasing the customer retention rate by 2% is equivalent to a 10% decrease in the company’s overall expenses(source).

I still work with the funnel: how do I switch to the Flywheel?

The question is legitimate… and you’ll be happy to know that the transition is not complicated. It is even relatively simple, since it is based on three “building sites” that you can start today:

  • You need to consolidate the collaboration between your sales and marketing teams by multiplying the exchange channels. For example, you can involve sales people in your editorial meetings. They will be able to provide marketers with relevant information about the target with which they are in direct contact: the prospects’ preferred content, their interests, their expectations, their fears, their aspirations and even the language they use;

  • You should also deploy a conversational marketing strategy, integrating Live Chat (and possibly a chatbot) to your communication channels, whether on your website or on your social pages. Objective: to increase the density and speed of exchanges between visitors/leads/prospects/customers and your teams;

  • Finally, you need to implement a marketing and sales strategy aimed at your existing customers to build loyalty, encourage them to buy more and eventually to recommend you. This is done through content intended for customers (tutorials, case studies on how to use your product in different situations, demonstration of new features, etc.). You can also organize virtual and/or face-to-face events for your customers, etc.

To conclude, don’t forget that behind each entry in your customer database, there is a person with his or her history, preferences, story and ambitions. By focusing on existing customers, Flywheel marketing encourages us to humanize our approach by building healthy and lasting relationships with our customers. The objective is not only to increase the number of transactions. Our goal is to grow our clients… because their success automatically equals our success.