5 Reasons to Replace your Marketing Funnel with the Flywheel 

(Hint: It has everything to do with Product Marketing)

Is your morning routine linear? I know mine isn’t. One day, I’ll get up to have a cup of coffee. The next day, I’ll start with a stress-reducing run. And the third day, I’ll get an early start on projects I’m looking to move forward. 

As marketers, we know the strategy of marketing isn’t linear either. That’s why I’m intrigued by the marketing flywheel, especially when it rose to prominence in 2018. It gave marketers a framework to capture the fluidity of real-world customers by placing them at the center of their marketing strategies. 

In Maia Morgan Wells’ timely blog on the “SaaS Marketing Flywheel for Product Marketing,” Maia notes: “The go-to-market strategy, usually overseen by product marketers, provides the underlying structure for attracting, engaging, closing, and delighting customers who will stay with your product long-term.”

As the flywheel continues its momentum, upending how marketing and sales grow revenue, I’d like to consider 5 reasons why you should think about replacing your funnel with a flywheel. Hint – As Maia calls out, it has everything to do with product marketing!

Reason 1: Marketing journeys aren’t linear and neither should your marketing strategies

Building on my points above, when prospects are considering becoming a customer of a brand or company, funnels tend to treat each stage as a separate strategy. That leads not only to disingenuous strategies but also conflicting ones as well. You want your strategies to be cohesive, holistic, and not built with that stage only in mind. Flywheels give you this because the core is the foundation of your ideal customer profile and each phase of the flywheel builds off this.

We know from B2C journeys a customer’s intent to purchase isn’t linear and it’s fast becoming the same way with B2B. Taking a marketing automation purchase as an example, a digital marketer may view a blog on a vendor’s site, study the latest industry research, review G2, read a byline article, read another blog… all before an engagement with a vendor starts. Each of these engagements the digital marketer has shouldn’t be treated linearly but as part of a unified strategy built around the customer.

Reason 2: Flywheels optimizes your ideal customer profile

Have you ever targeted your product or service to a segment you thought for sure would be the ideal customer and found out you severely underperformed on conversions? That’s where the ideal customer profile comes into play. In a traditional funnel, ideal customer understanding is almost secondary to the act of executing an awareness or lead gen campaign. Whereas with a flywheel, you are constantly optimizing your ideal customer profile by looking at all phases (attract, engage, delight) and understanding what is working in each phase and seeing how that can create a more refined ideal customer profile. 

For example, a marketer may pivot their target buyer audience because they learn that persona is more influential in the close phase of the flywheel.

marketing demand generation funnel and flywheel

Reason 3: Measurement is outcome driven

With a traditional funnel, yield ratios are the name of the game – that is, understanding what ratios of leads move from awareness to interest to consideration to purchase. When a company embraces a traditional lead generation funnel, that also means marketers are measured on how well they perform in moving from one stage to the next. What this leaves out is something particularly important. The customer outcomes that matter. With the flywheel, the customer IS the center and all actions taken by marketing and sales are considered with the customer in mind leading to an outcome like purchases, app downloads, or conversions.

For example, with the Attract phase of the flywheel, you are much more mindful of what’s truly going to engage the customer and can place greater emphasis on personalized content and use cases. Whereas with a traditional Awareness focus, your emphasis is likely placed on volume of leads entering the funnel because that’s how success is defined.

Reason 4: Helps break down company silos 

Again, with a traditional marketing funnel, departments across marketing, sales, and customer success become responsible for their individual areas and the success metrics associated with those. But the flywheel helps break down those departmental barriers by always thinking about the customer and what’s best for them – and the customer benefits from that. This requires departments to collaborate with other departments to make sure prospects achieve an outcome that matters.

This, in turn, pivots metrics that are important from a customer perspective. So instead of thinking of number of MQLS or SQLs as metric value, you’re driven by customer first metrics like unique visitors, engagement and customer lifetime value.

Reason 5: Breeds consistent positioning and messaging 

This parallels Reason 2 in that if each phase of the traditional funnel is treated as a separate strategy, that means brand and product messaging can easily go off target–leading to conflicting and confusing messages for your customers and prospects. By always tethering to target personas and positioning no matter where you are in the flywheel stage, your messaging and targeting will always remain consistent creating an amplification of your core value moment by moment with your prospects and customers.

Consider when a traditional funnel is in play between marketing and sales. If marketing is responsible for leads and determines a Digital Marketing Director is the buyer audience but sales is finding success converting with a head of CRM, that causes your persona and messaging for your target audience to be out of sync.

With the above 5 reasons at the top of mind, let’s think about how product marketing can play a role in putting this into practice. Referring back to Maia Morgan Wells’ blog, she points out the misalignment that can occur between marketing and sales subgroups. Product marketing plays a role by being the glue of the organization, holding together a unified go-to-market strategy. This is by nature of who product marketing collaborates with across the organization – product, sales, marketing, customer success, and executive stakeholders – and creating the go-to-market plan that will emphasize a unified approach to the customer. All of this can be guided by product marketing and will be critical in making your transition from a traditional funnel to a marketing flywheel a “flying” success.

We’re happy to offer you a free 30-minute consultation to see how you might shift your funnel to a flywheel approach.