Goodbye, Marketing Funnel! Hello, Customer Flywheel!

At the 2018 Inbound Marketing Conference, Brian Halligan, CEO at HubSpot broke the big news:

HubSpot was closing the door on the company’s sales and marketing funnel and adopting a new model – the Customer Flywheel.


A declared supporter of models, Brian said that for the past 10 years, the funnel worked great for HubSpot. Sales and marketing were feeding the funnel with prospects and leading them towards the top with valuable content and sales conversations. Attract, convince, delight.

It all changed two years earlier when HubSpot noticed that their customers were being convinced to buy HubSpot products by an acquaintance or friend who was already a HubSpot customer. As Brian put it:

The loudest voice in their customers’ head were not sales and marketing any longer but word of mouth.

A Sign of The Times – Shift of Trust from Brand to Customers

Drawing on this insight, Brian recommends brands do as follows:

  • Trust your customers to convert your prospects into new customers;
  • Acknowledge that word of mouth is your brand’s most powerful channel;
  • Shift your mindset from the customer being an output to the customer being an input.

How can brands do that? By adopting the Customer Flywheel.

What is a Flywheel?

A flywheel is a rotating disk used as a storage device for kinetic energy and it pretty much looks like this.

Spoked flywheel animation.gif

James Watt contributed to the development of the flywheel in the steam engine in the 1800s.

His flywheel was foundational to the Industrial Revolution because it was highly efficient at capturing, storing, and releasing energy.


Will the Customer Flywheel revolutionize business growth in 2019?

HubSpot seams to think so.

Flywheels represent a circular process where customers feed growth.

Jon Dick via hubspot.com

The rules are changing – From Sales & Marketing Funnel to the Customer Flywheel

It’s 2019. What do you need to build a great company?

Up until now, the answer was: a product 10x better than your competition.

Brian believes the answer has changed: the secret to build a great company is to provide a customer experience 10x lighter than the competition.

It’s not what you sell; it’s how you sell.

Brian Halligan, CEO@HubSpot

The Customer Flywheel – The Best Way to Find New Customers

Brian Halligan says the funnel is flawed because it fails to capture momentum.

According to this model, the company puts all its efforts into pushing them through all the stages of the funnel only to close the door behind them once they become customers. It’s like when you had a good time with your date, but you don’t call the next week to repeat the experience. It’s a wasted opportunity!

We all know that it’s harder and more expensive to attract a new customer. Why not make the most of your current customers? Instead of giving them the cold shoulder, start a relationship and turn them into brand advocates. The work is not done once your sales rep converted the prospect to a customer. The work has just begun!

The funnel can’t conceive of customers buying from you more than once, so the momentum you build acquiring customers via the funnel just falls away.


The Customer Flywheel leverages the enthusiasm of existing customers and turns it into a driving force for attracting new customers. In his speech, Brian said HubSpot has applied all its energy and force to sales and marketing like all brands have in the past a hundred years. Beginning with 2018, the company has shifted its centre of gravity away from the funnel and applied more force towards delighting their existing customers.

Funnels produce customers, but don’t consider how those customers can help a business grow.

James Gilbert via Marketingmag.com.au

What makes the Customer Flywheel spin?

Force and friction are the two dynamics that directly influence the spin of the flywheel.

What makes the flywheel spin faster and faster? Increased force and reduced friction. The more force with less friction applies to the flywheel, the faster it spins. Once the flywheel gains momentum, it can spin forever with little effort from the company.

Once your flywheel is spinning, momentum comes from retaining customers and transforming them into promoters who will advocate for your brand and even bring you knew business.

Jon Dick via hubspot.com

Here’s what brands need to do to keep their Customer Flywheels spinning according to HubSpot:

1. Increase speed

To make your flywheel spin fast, your company needs to align its sales and marketing. Misalignment of sales and marketing departments leads to flywheel slowing down. If you want to increase the speed of your flywheel, improve your conversion rates, delight customers at scale and address the issues that cause your company to churn customers.

2. Reduce friction

Traditional organisation of the company is the source of friction in a flywheel model. Silos, handoffs, and specialization all create friction. Find the inefficiencies where your customers are losing momentum and make them better.

3. Heaviness

Work towards getting a heavy flywheel. Heaviness is reached by acquiring more and more customers. A heavier flywheel means it is producing more energy when spun. It’s physics! The more your customer count increases, the more growth is your flywheel producing. You can generate even more momentum by getting your customers to adopt more of your products.

Three Benefits of the Customer Flywheel according to Eric Baum of bluleadz.com:

  1. It’s self-perpetuating;
  2. It requires alignment;
  3. It’s relationship focused.

Why is the Customer Flywheel working so well?

The Customer Flywheel is the solution to the challenges the sales and marketing people are experiencing today:

  • decrease of brand trust;
  • increase of word-of-mouth;
  • decreased effectiveness of marketing campaigns which focus on running too many sales activation-based campaigns to the detriment of brand building activities.

Learn more: Your Marketing Campaigns Are Less Effective

[bctt tweet=”In 2019 successful brands will turn customers into brand advocates and morph into a customer-centric company.” username=”brand_minds”]

Main takeaways if you are committed to implementing the Customer Flywheel:

  • Examine what forces your company needs to apply to make the flywheel spin – activities, programs etc;
  • Identify the frictions and work towards reducing them as much as possible;
  • Gain new customers by turning your current customers into brand advocates;
  • Find new ways to maximize delight;
  • Set alignment between departments as your 2019 organisation goal;
  • Begin the process by which your company will embrace customer centricity in 2019.

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