Traditionally, marketers have looked at the customer journey as a funnel: first, prospects enter the content marketing funnel, and as they learn more about the company and make their way down the funnel, some drop off. Finally, a small percentage reach the bottom of the funnel, where presumably they buy from you. The problem with the funnel model is that customers rarely proceed in a linear fashion and that all the energy expended in the funnel is to get a single outcome — the sale. And once a customer makes a purchase, they drop out of the funnel. But the flywheel changes all that.

It’s rare these days that customers begin their journey with a cold call, a catalog, or a trade show booth. According to research from Salesforce, 87% of people begin their product search online. They’re reading blogs, investigating products on your website, and looking for as much information as possible before they purchase from you — particularly if it’s a business purchase or a big-ticket item. By the time they contact you, they’ve already taken multiple steps to educate themselves about their options and many have self-qualified through materials they’ve either found on your site or on blogs and review sites.

There’s no need to squeeze your prospects even further through a content marketing funnel. This outdated approach assumes that every customer starts at the same place and that the end goal is the same: to sell them a product. But it leaves out a lot of ways you can surprise and delight your customers and build lifelong customer loyalty.

It’s time to move your prospects and customers into the center of your marketing and adopt a strategy that seeks to build long-term relationships instead of one-off transactions. That’s why so many marketers are embracing the marketing flywheel, where sales and marketing activities revolve around the customer and continue on – even after the sale.

Unlike a funnel, a marketing flywheel doesn’t drop the customer after the purchase or seek to just make a sale. With the customer at the center, sales, customer service, and marketing spin around the customer, building on happy customer momentum and allowing you to do more than push products. The customer stays in your flywheel as you look for ways to keep propelling the relationship forward, whether that’s through content that helps them make better use of your product or helps them in another area of their jobs or lives.

How to Use a Marketing Flywheel

If you want to keep your flywheel spinning, look at the three main areas of your operations: sales, service, and marketing. How fast it spins depends on how much attention you pay to these areas, and whether your efforts are balanced. The full flywheel uses marketing to move visitors quickly through the sales process, sales to make sure the visitors become happy customers, and customer service to turn your customers into brand advocates.

If your brand is about inviting others to create stunning visual content, it makes sense that you would use a content marketing strategy that does the same to build brand awareness. That’s exactly what B2C camera company GoPro does with its YouTube channel; it’s full of user-generated content as well as tutorials, original travel content, and videos featuring professional athletes and musicians. Their product is geared toward outdoor enthusiasts and amateur athletes, and its content reflects their desire for powerful imagery. The YouTube channel alone has nearly 8.5 million subscribers as a result.

How to Transition Your Content Marketing from Funnel to Flywheel

Fortunately, all the content you’ve created doesn’t need to be scrapped. You can take your existing funnel content and turn it into content that propels your flywheel. Sometimes that might mean making a few small tweaks; other times, you might have to create entirely new content.

Sales Content

Your sales content is what convinces your prospects to buy from you. It’s where you put your customer references, the awards you’ve gotten, and all the cool features your products and services have. Salespeople usually provide this content to prospects to help them make a decision when they’re ready to buy. In the funnel model, it’s called “bottom of the funnel” content.

While this sales content is all important, you can turn it into more customer-centric content that fits in with the flywheel, or create content that complements your existing sales content. Look at it from the customer’s perspective: they want to know that what they buy will solve a problem and may not care that you’ve received a Gold Diamond Award for the past six years. Focus the bulk of the sales content on how your products and services benefit them.

Customer Service Content

The customer service department is a wealth of content, particularly if you look at the emails they answer on a regular basis. They’ve likely built up an extensive knowledge base of frequently asked questions about your products and services, and that is a perfect launching off point for your customer service content.

To pull this content into your flywheel, make it public! Polish it up and create a knowledge base that your customers can easily access. Turn some of the more common problems that customers ask about into blog posts that they can easily find when they’re trying to troubleshoot a problem.

Marketing Content

Your marketing content is meant to charm prospects. It’s often called the “top of the funnel” content because it’s what attracts prospects to your site or your company. It can be website content, blog posts, or social media, among other things.

To bring your marketing content into the content marketing flywheel, make it all about the customer. Create blog posts, customer success stories, and e-books that address customer pain points, like the difficulty securing multiple endpoints on a corporate network. This content won’t heavily push your products and services (that’s what your sales content is for), but it will offer useful tips and information to your readers. In some cases, you might create content that’s helpful to your prospects and customers, but doesn’t directly tie back to your company products and services. This type of marketing content is created with the goal of developing your brand into a trusted resource and thought leader so that when someone is in the market for your product or services, they’ll automatically think of you as a top contender.

One major benefit to incorporating the marketing flywheel is that it helps you quickly identify departmental areas where your efforts are either lackluster or ineffective. For example, you might have an amazing sales team, but you don’t have the marketing material for the salespeople to use as they work with prospects. Just like with a real-life flywheel, that can slow down and even grind the flywheel to a halt. The idea is to remove anything that could stop your flywheel from spinning and apply force equally to all three areas to delight your customers before, during, and after the sale.

Because the traditional content marketing funnel is so focused on sales, you might find that the weakest area of your flywheel is your marketing. A lot of organizations have built up strong sales teams and impeccable customer service, but are lacking the marketing that can educate customers and provide useful information to them before and after the sale, as well as upsell them to new products and services. If you apply more pressure to the marketing area of your flywheel, you can keep your customer happily anchored in the center.

Ultimately, as you move from the content marketing funnel to the flywheel, you’ll uncover areas where you can grow and continue to engage your customers. In the end, the flywheel will not only propel customers toward lifelong loyalty, but it will also power your business and generate revenue with much less effort.

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