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Farewell Funnel, Hello Flywheel: How can SaaS marketers rock the customer data flywheel

The marketing funnel is DEAD! 

Yes, you read that right. The classic, omnipresent & accurate representation of the various stages that a customer goes through (right from the initial research to the final conversion) is not relevant anymore. 

Marketing funnel via
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For years this model has been the cornerstone for myriad marketing strategies. It is a known fact that not everyone who comes to a website will sign up and end up making a purchase. So marketing teams try to bring in as many leads at the top of the funnel so that their sales teams can close more deals. While the funnel can accurately pinpoint where users drop out, how they interact with your brand and more, it does not give ample information about the customer journey in an ever-changing environment.

By following the funnel approach, marketers tend to focus more on acquiring new customers & pushing them down the funnel. Simply put, customers are just an output of the entire process. Once the flow is complete, marketers go back to the drawing board to craft new strategies to fill the funnel with new leads. 

Instead, what if marketers focussed their energies on delighting existing customers? Is there a way to get more out of their existing customers? Is there a model that puts customers truly at the centre of all marketing strategies?

Introducing The Marketing Flywheel!

The concept of the Marketing Flywheel is “Leveraging delighted customers to drive and attract new people to your business”

Marketing Flywheel via
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How does the Marketing Flywheel work?

Rewind to Inbound, when Hubspot CEO Brian Halligan announced the marketing flywheel, most marketers thought it was just another marketing jargon. Turns out, the flywheel actually has the ability to get the most value out of your customers. 

Marketers invest a lot of time and effort in generating happy customers, the flywheel garners the power of these loyal customers in bringing new leads. 

In the traditional funnel, customer delight was not a priority for the marketing team. The funnel simply does not resonate with a customer-centric marketing strategy anymore. However, the flywheel model reiterates the fact that the most powerful marketing comes from – YOUR CUSTOMERS.

TrustRadius Survey - Customer Advocacy Actions

Today, 57% of B2B purchase processes are completed before buyers even reach out to vendors. And instead of a company’s marketing collateral buying decisions are hugely influenced by third-party review sites, peer-to-peer recommendations, and word-of-mouth. The traditional funnel does not account for any of these factors. They do not enable marketers to leverage the momentum they built through a great product and personalized customer experience. 

Flywheel for growth

The marketing flywheel depends on three factors, 

  • Force: The flywheel is not going to spin on its own. You should apply force to areas of the flywheel that are going to have the greatest impact on your business. Identify areas where you can double your content marketing efforts. Pump in relevant content that resonates with your buyers.
  • Friction: Once the flywheel starts to spin, it helps marketers identify friction points. Make it easy for your customers to make a purchase rather than putting them through long product demos, sales chats and more. 
  • Momentum: Once proper force is applied and friction is eliminated, all you have to do is focus on delighting customers. This results in more loyal customers who in turn help in driving the flywheel. 

These factors when combined with a strong inbound strategy to Attract, Engage & Delight can help in delivering an amazing experience throughout the entire customer journey. 

Customer data flywheel for SaaS Marketers

With the flywheel model focusing on the customers at every step of their journey, it is important to deliver a personalized experience at every interaction. As much as marketers would want to deliver a consistent experience across multiple devices and channels, some of the roadblocks that they often run into include, 

  • Not enough customer data: Marketing teams would not have collected the most relevant customer information to make meaningful decisions
  • Inaccurate & Siloed data: The collected customer information might reside inside multiple platforms like email marketing tools, CRM and more

A flywheel approach to customer data collection can help in identifying what & how to gather the customer information you need to provide a seamless experience. To get started, it is essential to integrate multiple platforms and create a centralized repository for customer information

Customer data flywheel via Forget the funnel

Snippet from the workshop hosted by Forget the Funnel

User intent data

The insight into why a particular user landed on the website can be the most powerful information a marketer can leverage. Efficient integration with third-party sources such as G2 or Bombora can help marketing teams identify target companies researching about their product, competitors or categories. 

However, this intent data from third-party sources is only effective when it meshes with existing first-party data to reveal critical behavioral insights about a customer. But the main problem here is that first-party data comes not just from the website but from multiple sources. Without a proper integration setup between all these tools, maintaining data quality can be difficult. 

While there are numerous technical complexities from using external integration tools, the right data integration partner can help in bringing all this information together enabling to make data-driven decisions. 

This combined user information can then be used to,

  1. Personalize website experience for your anonymous visitors
  2. Nurture known leads with personalized emails
  3. Identify potential customers who haven’t engaged with you yet
  4. Prioritize inbound leads based on engagement levels 

 Event data

The best way to improve customer satisfaction and retention is by identifying where they are in the onboarding journey and help them see value from your product at the earliest. While event data tracking can be performed in a few clicks without depending on IT teams, effectively utilizing them as either a trigger or as a filter plays a major in personalization. 

CustomerLabs CDP segmentation screen

A sample segmentation criteria in CustomerLabs CDP

In some cases, this event data can be inside multiple platforms. For example,

  • Users from a specific email marketing campaign. (This will require user data from your email marketing platform)
  • Users that belong to your business customers. (This will require retrieving data from platforms like Chargebee)

To effectively execute event based segmentation strategies, it is important to connect all existing martech. 

Insights & Continuous Feedback

While it is important to focus on bringing in new customers and delivering relevant messages, it is equally important to hear from them and what they’ve been feeling about using the product. Collecting customer feedback is crucial for product development, improving the customer experience and overall customer satisfaction levels. Live chat, social media, quick surveys & review websites are 4 main places where marketers can proactively hear from their customers. 

Measuring the net promoter score (NPS) of users by introducing a rating system can help in sending automated follow-up messages that are customized to each individual. For example, Integrating a customer experience management platform such as Wootric to Intercom/Drift can actually help in personalizing follow-up emails and even incentivize top raters. 

Efficient use of the customer data flywheel by SaaS marketers can help in delivering the experience that marketers strive to achieve across multiple channels and devices. 

CustomerLabs CDP is the first marketer-friendly customer data platform that helps in unifying customer information spread across multiple platforms and teams. Start your free trial today.

Vishnu Vankayala

CEO of CustomerLabs, Building next-generation tools for Digital Marketers.

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