A flywheel is a simple machine composed of a wheel or disc on an axis. It is used in cars, trains and power plants, and it is incredibly energy-efficient. The amount of energy it stores depends on how fast you spin it, how much friction there is, and the composition of the wheel itself.
The flywheel marketing model uses core components of this simple machine to create an inbound business that puts customers first. Customers are at the center of the flywheel, and it is a marketer’s job to create a strategy attracts, engages, and delights consumers to attain growth.
How it Works
The average consumer has become more independent. Customer referrals and word-of-mouth outweigh the influence of commercials or advertisements in the consumer purchasing process. This shift in influence is the very reason for the introduction of flywheels, and consequently, the retirement of funnels.
Unlike the funnel, the flywheel model is able to use the momentum of satisfied customer to drive referrals and repeat sales. The customer is an input within the flywheel; it is the driving force.
The energy, or momentum, your flywheel contains depends on (1) how fast you spin it, (2) how much friction there is, and (3) the size of the wheel itself. It is important to note that your flywheel model is dependent on your business model, and thus, it is important to identify areas of your business that have the largest impact on growth.
The speed of your flywheel increases when you add force to areas that have the greatest impact. The focus should be on both attracting and impressing your customers, and should do this through the emphasis of key departments. For example, if Sally were selling sunglasses, she might place an emphasis on the customer service department. This would increase both customer experience and the momentum of Sally’s flywheel model.
It is important to note that your investments should align with one another. If, for example, your sales strategy conflicts with your marketing strategy, your flywheel would slow as a result of added friction.
“Friction” refers to conflicting business strategies that slow down your flywheel model. You can reduce friction by finding the inefficiencies present within your business strategy, inefficiencies that may lead to customer dissatisfaction.
For example, Sally’s customer service department is composed of three different sections:
The first section is responsible for managing defective merchandise. The second is responsible for shipping and handling inquiries, and the final section is responsible for payment inquiries. If a customer were returning a faulty set of sunglasses, the customer would have to go through all three sections of customer service. The customer would be transferred from one representative to another, and would experience wait times between each transfer. This would result in customer dissatisfaction, and would add friction to your flywheel model.
Sally could reduce friction within this example by restructuring the customer service department.
As you increase customer satisfaction, you also increase the size of your flywheel. The laws of physics dictate that the rotational energy stored in a flywheel is related to the mass and speed of the object. In other words, an increase in the size and in the speed of your flywheel will result in a flywheel that produces more energy when spun. From a marketing perspective, this is a good thing. It means that your flywheel is producing more growth as your customer count increases.
As Sally’s flywheel increases in size, Sally’s Sunglasses experiences business growth. Customers of Sally’s Sunglasses refer their friends and family, make repeat purchases, or purchase multiple units.
Using Your Flywheel as a Tool for Growth
When you shift from a funnel framework to a flywheel, you make different decisions that alter your business strategy. You use the momentum of your satisfied customers to propel referrals and repeat sales, or to encourage the purchase of multiple units. This growth model can be made more efficient through the analysis of three core areas.
Attract, Engage, Delight, Repeat
As a marketer, you must first analyze the core activity associated with each stage of the flywheel. The ‘Attract’ stage aims to entice the consumer by providing useful content. The ‘Engage’ stage aims to build a relationship between the business and the consumer by further providing information, insights, and solutions. Finally, the ‘Delight’ stage aims to provide a good experience, one that encourages the consumer to promote your company.
For each stage, you should have an accompanying core activity. This core activity should be measurable by tangible metrics. For example, Sally’s Sunglasses attracts consumers by providing free, educational content. Sally’s site features a blog that matches users with their ideal set of sunglasses, and provides information about prescription sunglasses, polarized sunglasses, and transition lenses. Sally measures the success of this strategy by monitoring monthly website traffic.
Sally’s Sunglasses engages consumers by making it easy for prospects to buy. She does this through the use of a virtual try-on software. Sally is able to track the success of this strategy by first monitoring how many free users enter her business’s flywheel, and second, by tracking how many free users go on to purchase a pair of sunglasses.
Finally, Sally’s Sunglasses delights customers by offering an expansive customer service experience. This stage is measured by a customer satisfaction survey.
The Customer Comes First
The second core area focuses on maximizing consumer satisfaction. It consists of identifying, analyzing, and improving the forces that move your customers through the flywheel. For example, a component of Sally’s marketing initiative is a live chat function on her website. Sally recognizes that the live chat is only available during business hours, and she recognizes that she could delight more consumers if help were offered 24/7. Sally chooses to invest in chatbots to answer questions 24/7.
The final core area focuses on the reduction of friction across all business initiatives. This analysis consists of identifying your points of friction and determining separate resolutions. Resolutions can include automation of repeatable tasks, shared goals, or team reorganization, specifically of over-specialized teams.
It is important to note that when identifying friction, you must consider both external and internal feedback. Externally, think about complaints you hear from the consumer. Internally, consider processes that take longer than they should or sources of miscommunication.
For example, Sally identifies a source of friction to be her customer support department. Customers who would like to return a defective piece of merchandise must speak with multiple support teams. To eliminate this friction, Sally first considers automation. However, this is not a repetitive, mechanical task that can be accomplished by a bot. Sally deems the best solution is unifying her customer support team. This way, her customers have one core point of contact, thus eliminating the need for transfers or wait times.
The Flywheel Effect
The flywheel model provides a distinct framework that enables you to make different decisions and alter your business strategy. As you move through the stages of attracting, engaging and delighting your customers, you build momentum. This momentum fuels business growth that will help you and your business move forward.