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The Marketing Flywheel Model: Turning Customers into Business Drivers

by Mary Ann Hegvold on July 3, 2019

Which of these two terms better describes the impact that customers have on your business: outcomes or drivers?

Sales people and marketers from 20 or 30 years ago would likely say "outcomes" without a second thought. After all, their jobs revolved around moving prospective customers down the sales funnel, until the company finally acquired them as actual customers. And that's a great outcome, right?

But times have changed and we've all realized how much power the customer holds. They are more than an end-result. They are a source of referrals (personal or online reviews) and repeat sales. But only if they feel like you "get it." 

Customers are Now Viewed as Drivers of New and Repeat Business

Simply put, consumers make decisions differently than they did in the past. For instance, 81% of respondents from one survey stated that they trust the recommendations of family and friends more than any company's business advice. Additionally, customers are making more and more business decisions based on quality of customer experience rather than quality of product. Sounds weird, right? But it's true.

The sales process today is more than talking to someone about features and benefits. The experience before a purchase is a large part of building trust and showing that you understand what potential customers really want. But the experience doesn't stop there.

If you're not familiar with inbound marketing yet, and how it works to create and maintain trust with prospects and customers, you might be interested in our free (no email required) explanation: 

Guide to Inbound Marketing


Once a customer has the product or service, they still interact with the company whether it's on social media, calling or chatting with tech support or reaching out to your customer service team. These other teams in your organization play a huge role in the ongoing experiences that your customers have. And, your future sales depend on them.

So how do you get your internal team to understand that the company's success isn't in the hands of the sales team alone? It's a shift in the way of thinking, from a sales funnel to marketing flywheel that can help explain how everything is interconnected. 

Sales Funnel vs. Marketing Flywheel

All of us have probably seen some kind of representation of the sales funnel: marketing is at the top of the funnel, driving traffic in.

Inbound marketing has been a key part of the funnel, pushing people towards the bottom of the funnel where a sale is most likely to happen. 


Source: HubSpot


So what is this marketing flywheel stuff and why should you care?

A flywheel, as the name implies, is a wheel that turns around a customer. The prospective customer makes the journey from total stranger, to prospect, to customer, to active promoter. This model is more than a simple change in marketing jargon. Rather, it is a fundamental shift in how companies think about the customer's experience. It shouldn't stop when the sales is complete.

SALES Funnel: The Old Way

In the traditional sales funnel methodology, customer acquisition was treated as the end-all, be-all of a successful marketing and sales process.  But, just as liquid funneled into a jar loses all movement once it settles at the bottom, that's what used to happen to customers – they'd settle in and stay quiet and out of sight. That process doesn't build any further excitement about your brand or your products. this applies to all types of businesses and services – B2B and business-to-consumer, services and products. For most companies the funnel was the end of the road for sales. There might be some periodic up-selling that would happen as part of a follow up marketing email program, but nothing specifically set up to continually engage a customer once they've made the purchase.

Is Your Website a Good Salesperson?

MARKETING Flywheel: The New Way

In contrast, the marketing flywheel model seeks to build upon the momentum generated from successful customer acquisition. Each customer can represent so much more than a line on a spreadsheet, or an amount of revenue earned. You want that customer to stay loyal to your brand, and speak positively of your company to others.

Consider this: studies have shown that even a 5% increase in customer retention rate can increase profits by anywhere from 25 to 95%! So where does customer retention fit into the funnel? It doesn't.

With the flywheel approach to customers, they're at the center, surrounded by your various teams who can heighten their overall experience.

Check out the diagram and think about each of the following things your customer is likely to experience when you continue to engage with them:

  • SALES: Purchase more items or renew annual services (sales)
  • MARKETING: Learn more about all the cool bells and whistles they might not have known about otherwise - which usually tickles them pink (or whatever color they might like:-). That makes them more likely to tell others about the great purchase they've made.
  • SUPPORT: Whether they have a question about what they bought or maybe they need some tech support, training your support staff a part of the overall marketing and sales process is a non-traditional take on a group of people who are critical to your customers' interest in sticking with you.
These things are part of the flywheel so you can avoid "friction" that might cause your customer to either avoid talking about your company in a good way, or worse, cause them to leave and go somewhere else (known as customer churn). 

Moreover, think of the viral marketing value that the flywheel approach can bring to the table. Your delighted customers will become, in effect, members of your marketing department – and you won't even have to pay them a salary! In fact, in one survey of small business owners a staggering 85% stated that word of mouth referrals are the best drivers for acquiring new customers. That includes online reviews.

How can you implement flywheel-friendly practices in your business?

Use the Marketing Flywheel to Your Advantage

Think about what you need to do to grow your revenue. It includes having a strong plan in place to do the following:

Marketing Flywheel Theory

  1. Attract visitors/potential customers and turn them into prospects
  2. Engage with potential and current customers
  3. Delight the current customers so they are willing to share their story with others

See how sales, marketing and customer service have more than just one role? They cross over to keep the wheel turning. They all have to be working towards the same goal.

This seems like a big change, right? It is. And it's taken a little bit of time for people (including us) to adjust to the fact that it's not a funnel as much as it is a continuously spinning, well-oiled wheel. 

How to Get the Flywheel Turning at Your Company

Start the wheel spinning by getting everyone involved moving in the same direction.  Literally put these teams together in a room and talk about stuff. Easier said than done. We get it. But as you get into your discussion, you'll start to see ways that you can reduce friction for customers and make it easier for them to be your raving fans.

Start by asking some questions such as:


  • How can marketing better support sales?
  • Are there questions marketing can answer to help your prospects? Videos? Blogs? Social posts?
  • Are there things marketing can do to get people more qualified before sending them to sales?


  • What can sales do to hand off a new customer into the hands of the support team?
  • Is their commission for the sales team if they upsell someone or there is an additional product purchased after the initial sale?


  • What are the most commonly asked questions you get after a sale so that sales and marketing can be sure to address some of them earlier in the process.
  • Are there features, support services, or additional products that you hear about from customers that they'd like to see? 
  • How do your customers feel about their experiences – even the bad ones? How do you know for sure?
The goal here, probably over the course of a few sessions, is to really get your plan for going forward hashed out in a way that you're all supporting one another. 

Moving from the Funnel to the Flywheel

The marketing flywheel is so much more than a shift in terminology; it's a fundamental shift in how to approach your entire sales, marketing and customer service process. Customers are a company's biggest assets. The marketing flywheel allows you to place them in your teams' hands to continue nurturing, instead of simply storing them away.

If you'd like to leverage the marketing flywheel to work to your advantage, partnering with an experienced growth agency may be just what you need. Since 2005, 30 Degrees North has helped a wide variety of clients meet, and even exceed their business goals. If you'd like to learn more about how we can assist you, reach out to us today. 

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