The Funnel vs The Flywheel


3 min read

What about the funnel? For years, companies have structured their business strategies around the funnel — and it worked. But the funnel failed marketers, salespeople, and business leaders alike. Today, customer referrals and word-of-mouth have become the largest influence on the purchase process, which means the funnel has one major flaw:


It views customers as an afterthought, not a driving force. You see, funnels produce customers but don’t consider how those customers can help you grow. That’s why the flywheel is so important. The flywheel model is a more comprehensive, unified way of representing the forces affecting your company’s growth.


The flywheel model is a more comprehensive, unified way of representing the forces affecting your company’s growth.


The actions taken by each team at your company impact each other. Your marketing inputs affect how quickly prospects move through your sales process. Your sales motion affects how likely it is prospects will become happy and successful customers. And of course, your support and service activities impact whether your customers become promoters — people who recommend you to their colleagues — or warn their networks to stay away.


Today, 57% of B2B purchase processes are completed before buyers ever reach out to vendors. And buyers aren’t looking to your company’s marketing materials to make that decision: Third-party review sites, peer-to-peer recommendations, and word-of-mouth play a bigger role in buying decisions than ever before. At the same time, overall trust in businesses is plummeting: 81% of buyers trust their families’ and friends’ recommendations more than companies’ business advice, and 55% report trusting the businesses they buy from less than they used to.


Conversations happen in more places, among more people, than ever before. The funnel was a good representation of how buyers used to learn about products — they found (or were sent) marketing materials, they had to speak to salespeople to find out more information, and then they became customers.


But that’s not how people make decisions today. They ask their networks for advice, they search for mentions of your company on social media, and you bet they’re reading third-party review sites.


The traditional funnel doesn’t account for any of these factors. And because they’re linear, funnels don’t reveal the momentum you build through a great product and customer experience, nor the drag you experience when your processes start to slow down growth.


The flywheel is the mental model that brings these forces together. Removing friction from your internal processes means you can spin your flywheel — and grow — faster. And most importantly, when paired with the inbound methodology, the flywheel reveals the importance of the customer experience. The “delight” stage powers the “attract” stage of the inbound methodology, because of course how you treat your customers affects what prospects hear about you.


Simply put, the flywheel is a more comprehensive look at where your business is growing fastest, and it reveals your biggest areas of opportunity.


We recognize that funnels aren’t going away. While the flywheel is a better metaphor for how today’s organizations grow, you will still have funnel-shaped charts and graphs representing the effectiveness of different processes within your company. You may use a funnel chart to improve a particular aspect of your business performance. Just remember, even though a process can easily be visualized as a funnel, it’s actually one piece of a larger flywheel.



DISCLAIMER: This article is sourced from our partner, HubSpot.