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Dec 12

The Marketing Funnel is Dead. Now What?

Did you know the marketing funnel has been around since 1898? It was marketer Elias St. Elmo that segmented the buyer’s journey into the four distinct stages commonly known as awareness, interest, desire, and action. While these stages will always have a place in the buyer’s journey, one integral aspect of sustaining customer growth is missing: customer retention. This is how the marketing flywheel’s focus on customer retention put the nail in the marketing funnel’s coffin.

Birth of the Flywheel

The flywheel concept was originally intended by business expert, Jim Collins, as an analogy for business initiatives. However, the flywheel can be applied both macro and micro to a whole business and a business’s marketing strategy, respectively. The flywheel has three main components: marketing, sales, and service. As with all things circular and cyclical, the flywheel has no end. If you think about it, the customer’s experience, ideally, should not end. The goal is to invest in marketing features like SEO, digital ads, social media, and email blasts to give consistent energy to your flywheel. As a result, the customer’s experience will be good enough to keep them coming back and new customers coming in through word of mouth.

Wheel Friction and Force

HubSpot’s CEO, Brian Halligan, identified two elements that make and break the flywheel: force and friction. The idea is to consistently apply force to keep the wheel spinning. Gone are the days of the customer going through the funnel to end the process with a purchase; there needs to be a reason to come back, i.e. circle back around. The second element, friction, represents anything during the buyer’s journey that detracts from their experience. This may include poor customer service, limited return policy, hidden fees, or glitchy online checkout experiences. Notice how none of these frictions have to do with the product itself but rather the customer’s buying experience. Removing these areas of friction gives the best chance at customer retention.

Abandoning the Marketing Funnel

So, how do you forgo the funnel and start implementing the flywheel? You just need to improve upon something you should already be doing, which is keeping your customers at the center of focus. Rather than a customer completing the funnel and looking for them to go through the funnel again, think of them circling a wheel. They’ll either spin off due to a poor experience or keep spinning for repeat business. However, a customer’s second time around doesn’t mean they should get the same exact experience. Since they’re likely educated about the product and have already made a purchase, repeat customers want info about new products related to what they’ve already purchased, exclusive deals, or an even smoother buying process.

Putting It All Together

After singling out areas of friction and marketing opportunities to keep your flywheel spinning, consider this. There’s a large push for authenticity when it comes to customer touchpoints, and rightly so. Scams and misinformation are rampant in this digital age, so it’s more important than ever to establish trust with your customers. With so many options, customers have no patience for poor buying experiences and so your flywheel will gain the most momentum when it’s backed by what we at Madak like to call human-to-human experiences. Authentically delight your customers!