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Why the Flywheel is displacing the traditional marketing funnel?

Sooner or later, almost every marketer gets to know it. The marketing funnel maps the Buyer's Journey in countless textbooks and presentations.
Ben Harmanus | 21.03.2021

Sooner or later, almost every marketer gets to know it. The marketing funnel maps the Buyer's Journey in countless textbooks and presentations. But does a model where the customer's journey ends at the bottom of the funnel fit into an era where customer relationship management and customer experience are top priorities?


Marketing Funnel: What's the approach behind it?


The traditional marketing funnel serves as an illustration of the stages of the buying process and encompasses the Buyer's Journey from the first perception of the product to the conclusion of the purchase.

From this, it is derived which measures companies should take at which point in time. The traditional funnel is divided into the following linear phases:


Perception phase: The target group is made aware that it has a problem or need that requires a solution. In this phase, a company must primarily attract attention and create initial contact points with potential customers.


Consideration phase: The next step is to communicate the appropriate solution that the company can offer. Now, for the first time, concrete products are mentioned and the brand comes prominently into play.


Conversion phase: The prospect must now be convinced that the company's own product is the best solution option so that a purchase is actually made. This is where the sales department comes in. The company should remove obstacles and make the buying process as simple as possible.


For each of these stages, different content formats are suitable that best meet the objective of the respective stage. A proven advertising measure that is traditionally placed at the end of the funnel is the email funnel.


Example: the email funnel takes leads from the consideration stage to the conversion stage.

An email funnel is a series of automatically sent emails that are designed to convince the potential customer, who has already converted to a lead, to make a purchase one step at a time. To do this, you can provide them with additional helpful content (for example, whitepapers), send discount codes or draw their attention to special offers.


But be careful: the email funnel should always be used with tact, because today's flood of emails can easily lead to weariness in some recipients and thus to a negative attitude towards the sender. Therefore, make sure that the content sent has as much relevance to your leads as possible and that the frequency of the emails is not too high.

Traditional funnel vs. online marketing funnel

In both the traditional funnel and the online marketing funnel, the business goal is to first capture the interest of as many visitors as possible and then, piece by piece, filter out people who actually qualify as customers. The conception of the traditional funnel model indicates that customer acquisition is seen as the end result of a linear process. Not only does this make it too easy for us, but it wastes the potential to grow together with our customers.


The funnel model is over 100 years old and therefore ignores the changing buying process of today's generations of customers. The technical possibilities of obtaining information and comparing products online play a significant role. In contrast, the circular cycle model, which is visualized in the form of the flywheel, takes these new circumstances of the buying process into account.


From funnel to flywheel: before the purchase is after the purchase

As indicated: in the marketing funnel, the conclusion of the purchase is tantamount to the end of the relationship between the customer and marketing, perhaps even the entire company. The customer has bought, and attention turns to the customers who are in the funnel. In fact, marketing efforts should not end at this point, but, in addition to acquiring new customers, should also focus on nurturing existing customers.


After-sales marketing therefore only starts where the funnel says the end of the process has already been reached. The circular flywheel, on the other hand, illustrates the intended cycle of "buy-and-buy again".

This circular model represents that both the acquisition of new customers and the activation of existing customers for follow-up purchases and recommendations must now take place. Additionally, with Flywheel, the customer is always at the center of the company's efforts, all actions are geared towards them and pay off on the long-term relationship with them. You can achieve this goal primarily by more closely intertwining and dovetailing the departments involved in the buying process.

Customer centricity and joint Customer Relationship Management (CRM) instead of rigid funnel structures and silos. Source: HubSpot


The Flywheel concept specifies that the various departments, especially Marketing, Sales and Customer Service, work closely together. The customer is no longer "passed on" from department to department, but all departments involved share responsibility for the success or failure of his Buyer's Journey. This is where customer relationship management comes into play. All relevant departments along the buyer's journey have access to the so-called single source of truth, the one data record that lists every contact with a specific customer. This creates the homogeneous and seamless customer experience that today's customers expect through their interactions with best-in-class companies like Netflix or Amazon.

Accordingly, the persistently positive customer experience is at the core of the Flywheel approach. To make this experience ideal, consider the dynamics of today's buying behavior when planning your marketing strategy.


The Flywheel is attuned to modern customer behavior

Through review portals, word of mouth, recommendations, seals of approval, and the low-threshold research capabilities of the Internet, significant transformations in the buying process have occurred in recent decades. Prospective buyers have gone through countless research loops. They are often relatively well informed about the product, have effortlessly made price comparisons and, above all, have read reviews about the product, but also the company, before making contact. How much this process deviates from a linear approach is also illustrated by a study by Google on the Buyer's Journey, which depicts the exploration and evaluation process as a separate cycle.

Source: Think with Google

It's obvious that the traditional marketing funnel doesn't fully account for these dynamics, as it only includes communications driven by the company itself. However, a customer may already be introduced to a problem and your product as a possible solution through private bloggers, podcasts, tweets, and reviews, for example, so the first direct contact with your company doesn't happen until the consideration phase. Flywheel respects this fact: Here, prospects can enter the process at any point. If this happens, the ultimate goal is that they remain part of the Flywheel.


Conclusion: The role of the marketing funnel is being redefined

Do funnel models immediately belong in the digital trash bin? No, it's not that dramatic. The representation of the buying process as a funnel with different phases is still suitable for schematically representing and explaining partial stages in the Buyer's Journey. However, the marketing funnel is overburdened with the inclusion of the dynamics of the new buying behavior of modern customers. The Flywheel conceptualizes the buying process as an open cycle that consistently revolves around the customer. Because if we inspire our customers permanently, customers become partners and brand ambassadors who turn the Flywheel faster and faster and grow together with the company.