Chat with any exec or business owner about the ways in which their industry has evolved over recent years and it’s highly likely they’ll say “customers”. Modern consumers are savvy, skeptical and expect more than at any other time, with one of their chief rules being that businesses don’t focus solely on profits.
When business owners attempt to grow by taking short-cuts that mislead customers, compromise their values and sacrifice long standing relationships, it’s not surprising when it gets shared quickly and widely over the internet.
We know there are better ways to achieve the growth you desire. When businesses focus their success on creating delight and customer loyalty through the delivery of exceptional service, growth is often a given. When they grow “better” in this way, it results in an improved business, enhanced results and superior growth.
In order to grow better, an organisation must offer outstanding service and it’s here that the flywheel is most applicable.
The HubSpot flywheel is a structure that’s created to help people understand just how powerful it can be when your entire company is focused on providing an exceptional customer experience. This model is amazing at holding and then releasing energy - something that’s vital to strategy in business.
As the brainchild of James Watt, the Flywheel represents energy-efficiency, with the quantity being stored depending largely on the speed of the spin, the friction holding it back and its overall size. It’s something that can be likened to a car or train’s wheels.
The energy distribution is particularly helpful in terms of how customers enable companies to grow. Other business models view customers as a thing or outcome and no more. When this approach is adopted, every drop of energy you expend obtaining that customer is lost, placing you firmly back on square one.
With the flywheel, satisfied customers provide momentum that can be used to encourage repeat business & referrals.
Essentially, it allows the wheels of your business to continue spinning. This isn’t some kind of trick or clever jargon, this is something very real that goes far beyond merely redefining a process.
When you see your business through the flywheel prism, you’re able to tweak your strategy and make decisions as you progress. In order to illustrate more clearly, allow us to show you exactly how the flywheel concept works.
The overall amount of moment and energy your flywheel possesses will be determined by three key contributing factors:
Companies enjoying the most success will typically employ a business strategy that takes all three factors into account. Your flywheel’s speed goes up when enough force is applied to impactful areas, with forces being represented by strategies and programs you put into place.
Great examples of these ‘forces’ include freemium models, inbound marketing, referral schemes or paid ads. By prioritising ways in which you can help your customers become more successful, you’ll encourage them to tell more potential clients about the service they’ve received.
As force is being applied in one direction, it’s also important to ensure that it’s not being held up by friction that’s caused by your strategy. Here we’re talking about any element that slows things down like poor team communication, poorly implemented processes and undermotivated employees.
This can be mitigated by examining the structure of your teams, the reasons behind your high churn rate and where on your buyer journey the obstacles exist. Is every member of your team working together or are they independently operating? Are your prices clear? Is the process of making contact with you simple and is it on your terms and not theirs?
The better able you are to add speed and minimise friction, the more organic business promoters you’ll enjoy. Get enough promoters and all of a sudden, they begin applying extra speed to your flywheel.
If you’re currently trying to work out where all this fits in relation to your inbound marketing, at HubSpot, we’ve used the flywheel as a base for our whole business. That’s how passionate we are about it. We’ve even gone to the trouble of re-imagining our inbound methodology to illustrate how you can use it for business growth.
It’s for this reason that the inbound methodology is represented by a circle that’s split up into three distinct phases. They are; ATTRACT, ENGAGE & DELIGHT. Using this approach when applying your flywheel forces, you become empowered to deliver an incredible experience for your customers.
PHASE 1 : ATTRACT - during this phase, you create educational and information content that break down the barriers stopping people from knowing more about your company. Grabbing the attention is helped along by social selling, social media marketing, SEO, content marketing and optimised conversion rates.
PHASE 2 : ENGAGE - next, you create a simple buying process that allows customers to contact when and how it suits them. It’s all about creating relationships, rather than closing deals, email/website personalisation, database segmentation, sales automation, lead nurturing & scoring and multi-channel comms all contributing.
PHASE 3 : DELIGHT - lastly, you assist customers in realising their goals through support and guidance. It’s vital to remember the mantra that a success for a customer is a success for you, with ticketing systems, customer feedback channels/surveys, proactive customer service and self-service knowledge bases helping to achieve it.
Businesses adopting the flywheel approach gain a competitive advantage, as their growth is leveraged by their customers.
Retaining current clients while attracting new ones can be achieved much more easily and efficiently that many do.
When the flywheel is used, it also helps to mitigate friction through disjointed ‘hand-offs’ from team to team. As per the ‘sales funnel’ concept, customers often get shunted along from department to department, which often leads to an unsatisfactory and infuriating experience.
However, when the flywheel model is adhered to, every single team member is expected to do their best to attract, engage & delight any customer they come into contact with. With absolutely everyone on the same page, a more joined-up, seamless experience is had by anyone contacting you for any reason.
At this point, you’re likely to be pondering “whatever happened to the sales funnel?” You wouldn’t be on your own in doing so either, as for many years the sales funnel has been used as the basis of many business strategies - and it’s proven effective! However, nothing is forever and then the funnel concept began failing.
In the modern day, the buying process has once again become most influenced by word-of-mouth referrals. The upshot of this is that the sales funnel method now has a pretty big flaw - it sees customers as a commodity or an addendum, not the force that drives everything. Funnels simply don’t account for how the customers produced can be used for business growth. This is where the flywheel is key.
When using the flywheel, you’ll find it to be a more holistic and comprehensive way of managing the forces that influence your business growth. The positive actions taken by your teams have an impact on each other, with your methods determining how speedily potential clients progress through the sales journey.
This rate of movement also has a large bearing on the overall satisfaction of each potential customer that comes your way, with the service you provide determining whether those customers eventually turn into promoters or detractors.
At present, almost 60% of all B2B transactions occur without any contact between the buyer and vendor. Rather than using your business marketing to guide their decision, instead they’re using P2P recommendations and 3rd party review sites meaning that once again, word of mouth is King!
Concurrently, customer trust has dropped significantly, with 8 out of every 10 buyers turning to family and friends for recommendations and more than half reporting that they trust businesses they purchase from much less than was previously the case.
Discussions occur on more platforms and among more consumers than at any point in history and while the funnel used to be an accurate way to describe the way buyers learnt more about what they were buying, with marketing materials and salespeople there to provide the info, it’s something of an outdated process.
People decide differently now. They look on social media, read 3rd party reviews and ask their network of friends & families.
Conventional sales funnels take none of these factors into account and their linear nature hides the momentum that’s increased through a fantastic experience and the friction that’s caused by poor service, ineffective processes and service to forget.
With the flywheel, every one of these forces into a single place, with speed or lack of it depending on the measures you put into place. When combined with traditional inbound methods, it becomes clear just how vital the customer experience is, as the delight aspect contributes to what people say about you, causing more attraction.
In simple terms, your flywheel represents an in-depth look into the areas of your business that are growing most quickly and where your best opportunities lie.
We completely appreciate that sales funnels are here to stay, but the flywheel is simply a vehicle to illustrate the factors that cause companies to grow. Sure, you can keep your funnel-oriented graphs and charts that demonstrate the performance of particular areas of your business, so long as you realise that your funnel is just part of a bigger flywheel.
At HubSpot, our transition to the flywheel from the funnel was a slow process that took years to realise and we’re still perfecting it. Here’s what our VP Jon Dick says about how we’ve adopted the concept more closely:
“At HubSpot, the flywheel concept we have adopted is focused around our customers driving our business growth. We have significantly invested in additional advocacy, marketing and in making our onboarding processes superb. Further to this, we’ve also funded an ‘integrations ecosystem’ that supports users in getting the best possible value out of HubSpot.
The speed of your flywheel is held back by friction and we’ve invested in reducing it in our most notable areas with awesome free software from the start, a sales journey that educates users and solves problems and communications features that allow people to connect more quickly”.
Moving forwards, it’s vital that you understand that it’s not your competitors that represent your largest threat to success - it’s the spectre of poor customer experiences.
This is precisely the reason why business must have a customer first approach and to grow ‘better’. This means focusing on customers as being people, not sales figures. By viewing them as being central to your success, you apply the biggest possible force to your flywheel, while removing the largest source of friction.
If you’re making it difficult for your customers to buy from you or you’re being underhanded in any way, it should come as no surprise to you when it leads to lost business. Conversely, if you take the time and effort to invest in easily understood processes that are designed to help your customers, there’s a more than average chance you’ll be successful.
If you feel that you’re ready to combine the flywheel and your inbound funnel for ‘better’ growth, you’ll find everything you could possibly need in HubSpot’s CRM.
Bringing together customer viewing, sales and marketing into one platform, every record can be accessed by every team member, tracking every item of activity from moment one. With all of the available tools from customer management to marketing automation, you’ll always have every tool you’ll ever need to ensure your flywheel is spinning round at a rate of knotts!