Is the marketing funnel dead?
Not just yet…
Honestly, the marketing funnel isn’t going to die just yet. A lot of education and understanding will be needed along the way.
If you work with HubSpot, follow their news, or work with their partners then you may well have been told that the days of the marketing funnel are over.
Take a bow, the Flywheel.
The HubSpot flywheel isn’t really new, but it is a far more polished explanation of a different way of thinking.
For many B2B companies trying to take in this change may be a challenge.
But I would argue it is important, as a marketer, to start to understand the importance of the flywheel against the traditional funnel.
With evolving technologies the B2B audience is in a far stronger position to change products and services than they ever have been before.
So keeping our business clients engaged, happy and involved becomes even more important to our total business success.
What is a marketing funnel?
This may seem pointless, but just to make sure we are on the same page.
A marketing funnel is a simple representation of the basic steps that a new contact or lead will take to become a new client.
It’s purpose is to show these steps in an easy way, explain them to people outside of marketing and sometimes to highlight the targets you have set.
It can have any number of different labels and tags a couple of examples are:
- Awareness, interest, evaluation, trial, adoption.
- Prospect, lead, MQL, SAL, SQL, client.
You may even find it combined with a content funnel such as; TOFU, MOFU, BOFU (top of funnel, middle of funnel and bottom of funnel.)
Regardless of the actual labels or whether content is included, the premise is the same. It is a funnel.
Lot’s goes in the top (new contacts or prospects), and the least comes out the bottom (clients or advocates).
At each stage you are nurturing and educating your audience, and people only move to the next step when they are ready.
It is also important to remember that it is rare for a funnel to actually include clients as a key focus.
First off, why a flywheel?
Flywheels are, simply, incredibly energy efficient.
The energy they store is dependant on its size, speed and any friction when spinning.
Now, the size element is something that should naturally grow, this relates to the number of happy customers you have telling your potential customers all about you.
For a lot of B2B organisations their focus is likely to start on the other two key areas. But it shouldn’t stay that way for ever. More on this shortly.
How is the flywheel different from the funnel?
To start with you will notice the labels that are used below: Marketing, Sales, Service & Customers.
Not something normally associated with the marketing funnel.
And that is one of the most important points of this.
The funnel and inbound marketing have a problem.
Traditional funnels are designed with very specific steps that a new contact will take.
With inbound marketing these are no longer so easily defined. People may spend a long time engaging with your content at the start of their journey.
These new contacts will then drop through the funnel very quickly to becoming clients.
In B2B, for many marketers, this is virtually the end of their engagement or thoughts about these people.
Yet nearly everyone would like their clients to sing about them from the rooftops.
And that is why, in the flywheel, clients are front and centre. And elements of the business, like Service, are included in the overall targeting.
Marketing shouldn’t stop once clients have signed on the dotted line.
The flywheel is designed to try and highlight the importance of customer focused energy at every step.
From someone who may be a client, to choosing your product or service, to getting amazing customer service after they have purchased.
This way the aim is to have happy customers proactively talking about you, and becoming part of your marketing strategy.
After all, happy customers can be the largest influence on a new client signing with you in the B2B space. Things like references, site visits etc. are common requests.
Even more simply, when someone is looking for a product or service we are all more inclined to purchase something with great reviews, than something with mediocre or no reviews.
Focusing business energy, and marketing energy on customers is a sure fire way to boost your incoming leads. After all, that is the entire purpose of an inbound marketing strategy.
Simple things like:
- Ensuring customers are engaged and happy with your offerings.
- Making sure that your contact infrastructure is up to speed.
- Monitoring customer behaviour.
- Personalising the customer experience.
Speed & friction.
A good question for many of you to be asking your business is “do they know where the most friction is in their processes when a customer comes on board?”
In many cases, if you ask a broad group within your business, you will get some pretty clear areas that can be improved.
Whether that be delivery of a project, post project support, cost, engagement etc. each of these areas can be addressed if a company genuinely wants to drive forward new business.
This is where you can start addressing the friction within your own flywheel. The elements of your business process or plan that slows down the generation of happy, proactive, engaged customers.
Most of what I have highlighted here is unlikely to be friction caused by marketing, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t potential issues here as well.
For example, do you allow your prospects to engage with you when, where and how they want? Or do they have to work to your times and processes?
Reducing friction in every stage of the customer journey allows for happier, more engaged customers who will then feed new leads back into your business.
Equally, reducing friction increases speed of new leads and customers being acquired, all without the need for a big team of people cold calling other companies up…
The next logical step from marketing funnel to flywheel.
HubSpot, bless them, took this process to the next logical step and broke the flywheel down a little further for marketers to clearly understand.
The customer stays front and centre, but the labels around the edge are more defined for an inbound marketing strategy: Attract, engage, delight.
Fundamentally the concept is the same, reduce friction, increase speed, boost energy and generation.