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The Funnel is Dead, Long Live the HubSpot Flywheel

3 mins read

And that was that - the Marketing Funnel was no more. Brian Halligan used his INBOUND 18 keynote to fully break down the Marketing Funnel and introduce everybody to the Flywheel.

Flywheel at INBOUND 18

What the Flywheel Is and Why We Need It

We were first exposed to the HubSpot Flywheel as a concept when the Service Hub was introduced. With this additional platform added to the HubSpot suite, the linear Marketing Funnel broke down, like all metaphors must eventually. If we build a funnel with the end goal of producing customers, the post-sale Service Hub doesn’t have a place to sit in the infographic.

I suppose the Service Hub and all it entails could be bolted-on to the end of the Marketing Funnel, but then that doesn’t fully portray what customer service is supposed to achieve. Because it’s not just about keeping customers happy. As Dharmesh Shah said in his keynote, “I mean, it is that, but it’s not just that.” It’s also about turning them into promoters and brand advocates.

Delighting them.

It’s part of the Inbound Methodology and the most crucial part for sustainable business growth beyond 2018. Happier clients and customers stay with you longer, they’re a joy to work with and they shout about your company to their network. This then keeps the Attract part of your prospect pool well-topped up and they already partly-trust you.

During this year’s keynote at INBOUND 18, Brian Halligan highlighted that customer experience is the way to differentiate yourself and grow a business better (note, not “bigger”) in the coming decade. In the 1990s, having the best sales experience led the way, just like it always had. In the 2000s and 2010s and with the birth of “Googling it”, we had the Attract-focused Inbound and content marketing approach to empower buyers.


But today’s buyers - B2B and B2C - all crave and prioritise ease of service, a smooth experience and an ongoing relationship.

And a linear metaphor - the Marketing Funnel - cannot truly convey this as it prioritises getting the deal done above everything else. Hence, the Flywheel is born.

flywheel on show at inbound 18

It Helps to Know How an Actual Flywheel Works

We’ve had the Flywheel infographic for months now. As I look around Club Inbound at the product stands and HubSpot area, there are plenty of Flywheels on show. I even saw a guy with a band t-shirt yesterday with a dummy album sleeve which featured the Flywheel. Andrew, Head of Inbound, talked everybody through the Flywheel in our July 2018 Company Update. At Partner Day, it was referenced a lot by HubSpot speakers.

But it’s only this week at INBOUND 18, when we recorded a podcast with John Dick, the VP of Marketing at HubSpot, that I heard it explained in an easy-to-digest way. And it helped that he explained how an actual flywheel works.

Created by James Watt during the Industrial Revolution, a flywheel works by minimising friction and fully utilising the force that it’s put under. It’s a super-efficient way of utilising rotational energy.

Two wheels, a connecting axis and a quick push - then you’ve got maximum energy with minimum input. It spins and spins for ages. How well a flywheel works depends on three factors:

  1. How fast you spin it.
  2. How much friction there is.
  3. How it’s composed -- how big it is and how much it weighs.

It was invented for the early steam engines, but now the same principle powers roulette and gameshow wheels all over the world. Thanks to how the flywheel is put together, friction is minimised so output (spinning the wheel) can be prolonged with minimum input (how hard you push the wheel).

You can increase the friction between the components to shorten how long a flywheel spins or you can let it spin slower by lowering the input of energy (not pushing it a hard).

And that’s how it powers sales and marketing too. So, here’s the new metaphor.

Breaking Down the Flywheel Metaphor - Attract, Engage, Delight

We Attract people to our marketing and this gets the Flywheel spinning. If the friction during the journey from marketing content to sales conversations is minimal, we have little drop-off in conversions.

I.e. plenty of energy left to keep the Flywheel spinning.

Once a sale has happened and we’ve gone through the Engage phase, we shouldn’t forget to prioritise Delighting these customers. Delighting customers matters. A lot.

Whether that’s your favourite independent clothing label including little freebies and handwritten thank you cards in your delivery or your new Inbound Marketing agency spending weeks on getting to know your business - I’ll say it again - Delighting customers matters.

Pissing them off causes friction. And friction slows down flywheels.

HubSpot's Flywheel

HubSpot's Jon Dick has explained the Flywheel on their blog here and our podcast here.

The Service Hub and all its related features and tools are available to help teams better service customers and minimise friction during the ongoing relationship. Customers then end up Delighted and tell their network all about what a wonderful service you offer.

They start Attracting new prospects to your marketing content or directly to your sales team and the Flywheel spins again.

What’s central, however, is the Customer. And how well your Customer Flywheel works depends on three factors:

  1. The quality of your marketing content, sales team and service team - How fast you spin it.
  2. How smooth and enjoyable your customer’s experience with you is from start to finish* - How much friction there is.
  3. How much marketing content you produce, how efficient your sales team is and how much you help existing customers be delighted - How it’s composed -- how big it is and how much it weighs.

*Great point by Dharmesh in his keynote was that 89% of people who know it’s easy to leave a provider are more likely to purchase in the first place. Don’t block the exit!

So, we’re gonna be talking about Flywheels a lot more over the coming years, starting now. The Marketing Funnel is gone and the components have been transposed and transformed into the Flywheel.

If you want to get up to speed with all the other learnings and announcements from INBOUND 18, check out our recent blog posts. Plus, we’ve created an easy-to-read guide on all things Inbound Marketing. So, to learn more about the topic, click on the link below to grab your free copy.