What is a flywheel? How to replace the purchase funnel

Out with the Funnel, in with the Inbound Flywheel

The customer journey is alpha-omega today. And one of the most popular ways to illustrate it is with the classic sales funnel, but in this post we are going to talk about Flywheel. For many it is a go-to model, so you probably know the funnel yourself as a classic illustration of marketing and sales. Understandably enough, because it makes visible exactly the process marketing and sales have always stood for – delivering customers to the business.

But do you also know that the funnel is outdated?

This was announced by HubSpot CEO, Brian Halligan, at Inbound 2018.


But why should I listen to Brian Halligan, you might ask?

In addition to being the founder of one of the leading forces behind the development of inbound marketing, Halligan has personally developed and adapted the classic sales funnel to the modern customer journey.

You can learn more about inbound marketing here.

At Inbound 2018, Halligan talked about HubSpot’s transition to using Flywheel instead, to better reflect the modern customer journey. Precisely the customer journey, which was originally seen as a very linear process, no longer fits the funnel.

With an increasingly critical audience and better opportunities for additional sales than new sales, there is indeed a good reason to see the customer journey as a more circular process. It’s about marketing, sales and service working together, so that customers don’t stand as a finished chapter once they’ve come through the funnel.

I’ll probably offer it further down in the post, but basically it’s about using satisfied customers to grow your business.

However, the conclusion is that the funnel has been retired.

The sales and marketing funnel has been retired

And not quite anyway. Because the funnel is still effective when it comes to sales and marketing skills to attract new customers. It just can’t stand alone any longer.

Therefore, the funnel must be seen more as a tool to deliver customers and momentum to your Flywheel.

So what is a Flywheel and why should it outperform your funnel?

The sales and marketing funnel is all about building momentum to bring customers to your business. There can be several weeks or months of work behind each customer. From marketing that creates leads based on interested website visitors, to sales that closes the final deal.

Why does all this work and momentum have to disappear as soon as the customer is through the funnel?

Nor should it!

But your Flywheel continues where the funnel stops and drops the thread. Here it’s about utilizing the customers’ ability to grow your business.

It is becoming an increasingly critical success factor for many companies, as we are in an age where trust in salespeople and marketing is at an all-time low, it is harder to get visibility through advertising and potential customers are doing more information searches than ever before.

Think word-of-mouth. It has always been popular, and is one of your strongest channels to break through potential customers’ wall of distrust.

With a Flywheel, you build your organization to create more happy customers who help promote your business, and give you more opportunities for additional sales.

What is a flywheel?

Now you might be thinking: “Isn’t it just a matter of words whether it’s one model or another that I use?”


The model is an expression of a change in your thinking, which also helps to change your actions.

Just look at the quote below from HubSpot about how the shift from funnel to flywheel has changed the organization:

"Flywheels represent a circular process where customers feed growth. We've invested more in customer marketing, more in customer advocacy, and more in creating delightful onboarding for new customers. We've also invested in an integration ecosystem that helps customers do more with HubSpot and creates real value for people who adopt our suite of software.

Friction kills flywheels. We've made investments that systematically target our biggest points of friction: Great free software as an entry point, channels that help people connect now instead of later, a sales process that solves for prospects, and a broad range of customer education.”

                                                                                                                                          Jon Dick, VP of Marketing at HubSpot

Want to dive even deeper? Read the full explanation of Flywheel from HubSpot here.

The structure of HubSpot’s Flywheel

The model is built on Attract, Engage and Delight. In other words, to attract, engage and satisfy your customers. Customer satisfaction is largely the focus of a Flywheel, as it is now the strongest reason for growth.

As Jon Dick mentions in the quote above, friction is one of 3 important elements for the amount of energy in your Flywheel. The other 2 elements are its power and how big it is.

The power of your Flywheel

By adding power to all the places where it has the most impact, you can increase the speed and thus the energy in your Flywheel. In the funnel, the power is added to Attract and Engage, while in Flywheel you can also add power to the Delight phase.

Since you add power in many different places on your Flywheel, it is important that all your investments support each other. If the messages in different departments do not agree, it can slow down your flywheel in the form of dissatisfied customers and churn. It can, for example, be due to a lack of connection between the communication from sales and service.

The speed of your Flywheel reflects the growth of your customer base. So the more speed you can achieve by adding power through marketing, sales and service, the better you can grow your business.

The friction in your Flywheel

Friction is a factor that slows down the speed of your Flywheel.

Friction is about how your customer-facing teams (marketing, sales and service) are structured, why customers leave your business and where prospects experience blockages in their customer journey. It’s about removing friction through your business strategy.

You can e.g. work with clear and unidirectional communication to your customers, smooth handover between departments, or a shared goal of satisfying customers in all departments.

By reducing friction, you increase the yield of all the power you apply to your Flywheel.

In other words, you get more bang for your buck.

How big your Flywheel is?

Size depends on weight and density.

More satisfied and loyal customers means a heavier flywheel that contains more energy. If you can make additional sales to your customers, or ensure that they stay with you longer, you will increase the density of the customers, which in turn has a positive influence on the energy in your flywheel.

HubSpot is all about supplying energy to your Flywheel

Finally, I would like to mention HubSpot as the platform to supply energy to your flywheel. With HubSpot, you have all customer-facing departments gathered around the same CRM, and you get in-depth knowledge and reporting on your customers’ customer journey.

In short, you get the tools to increase speed, reduce friction and increase the size of your flywheel.

The flywheel is the new way of thinking about inbound marketing, and just proves how important loyalty & customer success is. Whether you use HubSpot or another tool, it is important that you work with marketing, sales and service as a whole.

You must also ensure that you work with content for all stages of the customer journey – including your existing customers.

Thereby you can increase both your new sales and your additional sales and get more loyal customers who talk about your company.

Affiliate Disclaimer: “This post contains affiliate links. If you use these links to buy something, we may earn a commission (by doing so, you support this blog).Cheers.”

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