Building a Marketing Flywheel for Accelerated Growth
At Stratabeat, we’ve seen the power of creating a marketing flywheel. Looking under the hood, our process works like this:
- We create optimized long-form blog posts
- This leads to greater Google rankings
- In turn, this leads to greater organic traffic
- This generates opt-ins to our database as well as opens up different engagement opportunities with our audience
- Each new long-form blog post reaches more and more audience members, leading to more and more engagement, online shares, word of mouth (WOM), links, and new clients
For all the marketing nerds out there, here’s a more detailed version of our marketing flywheel:
- We create long-form blog posts that target highly relevant SEO keywords
- These posts generate social shares and attract backlinks from other sites
- This leads to stronger site authority and higher Google rankings across the board
- Higher rankings translate into even more organic search traffic
- More traffic leads to more mailing list opt-ins
- More traffic also leads to more downloads of our “Playbooks” (downloads require an email address)
- Our email database grows
- We then send them relevant emails based on their interests
- When we see them on our site via IP detection software displaying certain types of behaviors, we start conducting personalized outreach based on the content they are consuming
- Eventually, this personalized outreach turns into in-depth conversations about how we can help them achieve more for their business
- The more we engage with them, the more of our content they consume
- Some become clients
- Others simply keep on consuming and sharing our content
- Both tell others about Stratabeat, whether through online sharing or WOM, building our traffic
- Leading to more long-form posts to a wider audience to educate everyone and engage them further. And the cycle then continues…
Here’s the thing. The more you do within your marketing flywheel framework, the more momentum you gain. A marketing flywheel produces compound results, where you get greater returns with less effort over time.
Keep reading to learn what a marketing flywheel is, why it’s superior to a marketing funnel, and how you can implement your own.
What is a Marketing Flywheel?
The marketing flywheel represents a shift in how to approach the customer relationship. Instead of trying to force a prospect from one stage of the funnel to the next and the next in a linear manner, the flywheel produces frictionless momentum along the zig zag nature of the customer journey.
You first align with their interests and connect with them using reliable marketing tactics. The more you do, the easier it becomes to produce even greater marketing results.
The result is not just another satisfied customer. It’s a loyal advocate and promoter, pulling others into the flywheel.
With a marketing flywheel, you’re not just selling your customers a product or service, but also providing them an experience.
Companies that focus on a funnel instead tend to deliver a kindly ushered trip to the cash register. It’s a one-way trip to your wallet.
The marketing flywheel seeks to change that limited view of the customer, with the experience more reciprocal, mutually beneficial, and more naturally aligned with their actual journey.
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Marketing Funnel vs. Marketing Flywheel
Of course, those one-way trips to the cash register are how many companies continue to measure their success. The marketing funnel model only reinforces this.
At the top of the funnel, the widest part seeks to capture as many prospects as possible. Awareness is the first step. Customers are then filtered through the various stages of a narrowly defined marketing and sales process. After awareness, there is always some version of consideration and interest, eventually moving to conversion and purchase.
The problem with this is that the funnel still represents a singular, linear, straight-line journey. Once the conversion is made, it’s on to the next batch of prospects. The problems with this include:
- It’s myopically focused only on a conversion
- It takes just as much effort with every new conversion (customer acquisition #561 costs just as much as #1)
- There’s a lack of engagement and relationship-building, meaning that your latest conversion probably won’t lead to longer-term growth
The marketing flywheel solves all of these issues. Driving conversions is obviously great, but it leads to greater long-term results more easily when it’s within the framework of a powerful marketing flywheel.
How a Marketing Flywheel Works
Instead of functioning in a straight line, like the marketing funnel, the flywheel follows a circular pattern. Each new push of the wheel reduces friction. Each turn helps to accelerate the momentum.
What are the requirements of a marketing flywheel?
- A set of mutually-reliant, consistently-repeatable tactics
- A system for reaching new prospective customers and moving them to action
- A process through which strengthening one step in the process further improves the performance of the other steps
- A compound effect, where each new marketing effort becomes easier and easier, with greater and greater results
- A reduction in friction in the audience experience
- Scalability, where the system is built to continually achieve more than before
- A win-win for both parties
What is it that pushes the flywheel forward?
As Jim Collins, author of Good to Great and Built to Last writes, it’s not any single tactic or action. Rather, it’s the combination of all the steps in the flywheel improving the performance of other steps in the process. With this interdependence in mind, it’s important to continually work on strengthening every stage of your flywheel for maximum results.
The First Action Is To Attract
Here, your objective is to gain the attention of your target audience. You’re not just casting a wide net to see how many prospects you can catch or see who’s attention you can grab. The attraction process is more organic, natural.
You earn (not force!) your audience’s attention through methods that are both meaningful and useful to them. This includes producing and promoting valuable content that provides an easy point of entry for your audience. You can use social media, content marketing, SEO, blogs, videos, and paid ads to entice people to notice.
Once your audience takes notice, it’s time to engage them.
This represents the most significant departure from the traditional funnel. Instead of simply working to create a sale, you’re working to create a meaningful relationship. You can drive scaled engagement though: database segmentation, marketing automation, conversational marketing, email marketing, lead nurturing, and website personalization.
Part of this process includes engaging with your audience one-on-one. The engagement process works best when it’s more personal.
Build a Relationship
A marketing flywheel is about more than just making a purchase. The stronger the connection between your company and a customer, the more loyal they’ll be to you and promote you to others. Your overall Customer Lifetime Value (LTV) will increase and your acquisition costs will fall.
The Compound Effect of a Marketing Flywheel
As you incorporate the marketing flywheel into your customer acquisition processes, you’ll begin to see just how powerful it is. There is a compounding effect, where you start to see bigger results with less effort.
As the flywheel spins, it generates momentum. The faster it spins, the more momentum it builds. With each spin, you create a larger pool of happy, passionate customers. Those customers are now motivated to engage with you even more, buying more of your products/services and encouraging others to do the same. This brings in even more new leads, which adds even more momentum to your marketing flywheel.
Imagine a heavy, metal flywheel in a factory. It could easily weigh several thousand pounds. It requires a great deal of effort to get the flywheel to rotate on the axle. At first, it only inches forward. Finally, it completes a full turn. The more you push, the faster it starts to rotate, until finally it’s spinning round and round.
As Collins writes, “Then, at some point—breakthrough! The momentum of the thing kicks in in your favor, hurling the flywheel forward, turn after turn … whoosh! … its own heavy weight working for you. You’re pushing no harder than during the first rotation, but the flywheel goes faster and faster. Each turn of the flywheel builds upon work done earlier, compounding your investment of effort. A thousand times faster, then ten thousand, then a hundred thousand. The huge heavy disk flies forward, with almost unstoppable momentum.”
That’s what a marketing flywheel achieves. It makes your marketing many times more efficient, effective, and powerful. At the same time, it makes it easier and easier to generate results.
The faster it spins and the more momentum you build, the greater your growth.
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Marketing Flywheel Examples
To appreciate how a flywheel will lead your business to grow, it helps to see how it achieved results for other companies. There are a number of different ways to create a marketing flywheel that gets big results, including the following models.
The Organic Flywheel
There is the content and SEO flywheel as outlined with the Stratabeat example above. This involves publishing high-value SEO content on your website and then promoting that content across your various channels (email, social, etc.).
This attracts visitors who will engage with, share, and link to your content, which in turn boosts your site authority so that you rank better in search engines. The higher you rank, the more traffic you get, etc. The more that you deliver a great experience to those individuals, the more repeat visitors, mailing list opt-ins, and content downloads you generate.
In our case, we also tie-in IP detection software to help create new conversations with those who have been to our site. You could also use a chatbot to start the conversation while they are on the site. Regardless of the specific tactic, what’s important is to increase the number of new conversations you are generating.
Numerous other companies have used the content and SEO flywheel strategy to accelerate their growth, including Moz, Buffer, HubSpot, Databox, Drift, and many more.
The Organic and Paid Media Flywheel
You can augment the content and SEO flywheel with the use of paid media.
AppFolio, named the fastest growing company in the U.S. by Fortune Magazine, augmented its content and SEO efforts with paid search, retargeting, and other paid media. In our experience working with AppFolio, growth was built on constant testing across SEO, blogging, webinars, paid search, retargeting, landing page testing, and email. Beyond this, the company also built a separate topic-focused website that acts as yet another organic engagement mechanism in its flywheel. Same effort, greater growth. Over time each new piece of content or ad resulted in accelerated results, helping us to spur 5X employee growth.
The PR Flywheel
Another model is the PR flywheel, in which creative ideas are your starting point. In this model, you build press relationships as one of the foundational steps in the process, priming your pitches. The ideas you generate are geared towards gaining virality or media attention that triggers press coverage. The buzz around your brand attracts fans, loyalists, and evangelists, who spread the word about your brand further. If you’re lucky, like wildfire. When you secure media coverage, you grease the wheels with owned and paid media. This further attracts new fans, who engage with your new PR campaigns, helping you to attract even more fans.
The Freemium Flywheel
There’s also the freemium flywheel, which has been used successfully by many SaaS companies. Users are given free access to a limited version of your product. If your product or service is good, free users will spread the word and a portion will convert to paid plans. As word spreads, you gain more free and paid users.
This is exactly the strategy Dropbox used to propel massive growth. Users could get two gigabytes of storage for free, and even more free storage if they invited friends.
The Referral Flywheel
The referral/ambassador flywheel is another example. Email newsletters like The Hustle have used this to drive hockey stick growth. They use paid ads to initially attract new subscribers. Then, they incentivise those subscribers to invite their friends with different rewards. The more referrals they generate, the bigger the rewards.
These examples prove that there are many ways you structure your marketing flywheel. However, one thing remains the same no matter what model you use: the customer is always at the center. If the customer isn’t at the center, your flywheel simply won’t work.
Flywheel > Funnel
Shifting from a marketing funnel to a marketing flywheel allows you to deliver greater growth. On top of that, your growth will compound over time. In addition, it gets easier and easier to produce results. Every new piece of content is seen by a larger and larger audience, with audience engagement continually deepening.
Because the flywheel is built on benefits to the audience, your delighted new customers and other audience members will then spread the word. This brings in new audience members in turn, causing your flywheel to turn even faster.
Building an effective marketing flywheel takes time. It doesn’t happen overnight. But if you are looking for long-term growth, it’s an invaluable investment.
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