This is a guest blog post written by Maia Wells, Marketing Director and Project Manager at ClearPivot.
If you’ve worked in marketing in any capacity, you’ve probably heard the term “marketing funnel.” Perhaps you even spend most of your days trying to optimize yours. You may be considering how to allot resources between the top, middle, and bottom of your funnel, or perhaps trying to figure out a better way to draw people, from engaging with your content to becoming a customer.
Using the traditional metaphor, contacts come into the top of your funnel and filter down in a one-way direction. What if we thought about that in a different way? Rather than a one-way funnel, what if the marketing, sales, and service aspects of your business are working together to form a flywheel?
This article explains the inbound marketing flywheel, and shows you how providing the right customer service response on the right channels at the right time can help you power the inbound flywheel at every stage and receive more from your marketing efforts.
The inbound marketing flywheel is a metaphor for building a full-circle marketing program that powers itself. Traditionally, there are 3 stages to the flywheel: Attract, Close, Delight. From a marketing standpoint, attracting means you’re getting new leads into your flywheel, then closing is, of course, the moment your lead becomes a customer. Customer service and product support comes next, in the delight phase. At ClearPivot, we like to add Engage as a fourth stage of the inbound flywheel because we know there is an important lead nurturing phase before the close.
This flywheel metaphor is a great framework for planning out marketing at each stage of the customer’s journey. For marketers, it’s of the utmost importance to make sure the content that is put out is strategically planned, and consistently executed. Here’s a graphic that shows you some tactics and content examples at each stage:
Your potential leads could be reaching your company in any number of ways in the attract stage. This often includes:
In the attract stage, availability by some combination of chat, email, text message, and phone is essential. This is where many people seek quick answers that help them decide whether to continue pursuing your product or service as a possible solution to their problem.
When we think about the traditional three-stage inbound marketing flywheel, we like to add a fourth stage to capture the interactions your potential customer is having with your content before converting. This is such an essential step because this is where your future customer is learning what your product or service can do for them, and deciding at each moment whether to continue investigating. During the engage phase, the marketing team’s number one job is to offer relevant answers to the questions your leads are asking. The name of the game here is providing value.
In the engage phase, many businesses consider offering downloadable content, like a checklist or solution guide, to continue gauging interest and narrowing down the segmentation possibilities. Availability by chat, email, or phone is less important here than it is in the first phase, or the next, because a lot of this phase is a self-directed endeavor. However, part of the potential customer’s evaluation process could be your company’s availability to solve questions in real time. So, keep in mind that being available is one way to provide value.
The close phase is where your sales team kicks into high gear to get a signature on that services contract, software deal, or simply when the e-commerce checkout process is completed. Depending on your particular product or service and the way that your company‘s sales process is set up, this phase will look different for each scenario. At a broad level, however, this is where the customer actually puts money down to purchase what you are offering.
This stage is absolutely essential in terms of communication and availability. Many organizations spend a lot of energy to optimize this part of the inbound marketing flywheel. Of course, that makes sense, because that’s where you actually see the revenue coming in. This can look like offering support with on-boarding, easy tracking of shipments, or even just a friendly voice on a customer support telephone line. The close phase gets a lot of attention, and rightfully so. It’s important to think strategically about how your sales process will work and what kind of support mechanisms will be in place to facilitate the easiest possible process for your brand new customers.
As a marketer, the delight phase is one of my favorites. This is where we get to surprise and delight our existing customers into advocacy. That means providing such amazing customer service, product support, information, or entertainment that your customers just cannot wait to share it with their friends and colleagues. The delight phase can involve things like celebrating your customers victories, surprising them with a cute branded sticker pack, or even just asking for their opinions on a survey and then acting upon the data you gather. The delight phase will take a very different form depending on your company's products and services. The purpose of the delight phase is to create a feeling of goodwill and connection among the current customer base. In this phase, you could use email, in-app tooltips, live chat, or even SMS text messaging to open up the lines of communication and provide delightful experiences.
Accentuating other resources, like a knowledge base or ticketing system, human interaction makes sense on phone and chat as you delight by providing easy and effective customer service.
All in all, the inbound marketing flywheel is a wonderful metaphor for understanding the self-powering cycles your leads and customers go through. Applying a personal touch and demonstrating availability at each stage of the inbound marketing flywheel is important. and using chat, SMS, and messaging is a great way to provide a sense of openness and availability to your customers. In addition, try to engage different types of content and different approaches to your messaging at each stage in order to keep your audience engaged.
At the base of all of this, always operate from the standpoint of providing value. You can never go wrong when you are offering your audience something that they desire or need. Starting with the customer mindset first, and trying to provide value can help you begin understanding and planning your content planning efforts. At every stage of the flywheel, a great way to provide value is simply to be available. So, understand your customer persona, and get familiar with how they communicate and where they hang out online. Use that information to set up your content and communication systems to meet them where they are and serve their needs accordingly. Most of us get into business to provide a solution. Marketers could easily benefit from keeping this perspective in mind to provide value at each moment of interaction.