The Future of Marketing: Moving From the Funnel to the Flywheel

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The traditional way to describe how a customer moves through the buying process is by comparing their journey to a funnel. “Leads” come in at the top of the funnel where marketing helps them learn about the business and decide whether or not  they are interested. If the prospect takes a couple of steps in the buying process, they move to a marketing qualified lead (MQL). Once they’ve been nurtured long enough and are ready to buy, it’s the sales team’s turn to close the deal. After the deal is closed, the client will move through the bottom of the funnel, thus, finalizing the sales cycle. 

The problem with this model is that today’s market calls for a much more client-centric model. 

In the past, it was easy to identify the distinct phases through which a customer passed as they interacted with your brand. But, in the world of social media, online business listings, and online reviews it’s not as easy to make those distinctions. The process of Marketing -> Sales -> Customer is too simplistic.

To better reflect the current marketing landscape, marketing software giants HubSpot have proposed that the model should not be a “funnel,” but rather a “flywheel.” The idea of a flywheel is that it’s something that is very difficult to turn initially, but as it gains momentum it becomes much easier to move and eventually requires little effort to turn. That is how marketing and sales work in the digital economy.

The Phases of the Marketing Flywheel

As with the funnel, there are three phases to the Flywheel. But, crucially, the three phases can’t be neatly divided between distinct teams within your business. Rather, they are three separate phases in a relationship with a person who might become your customer and your entire team has to play an equally important role in that relationship.

Phase 1: Attract

During the first phase, you have to attract potential residents through digital ads, organic search, networking events, mailers, and so on.

This work is often the most difficult. How do you stand out in organic search? How much do you spend on ads? Where should you go to attract the right residents? There are lots of questions, very few obvious answers, and what feels like too much time spent on waiting around to see if a given technique produces results. And by its very nature, the flywheel isn’t moving much at this point, so it can be very discouraging. That being said, this work is necessary. You cannot engage people if you don’t have anyone looking at your community. Be patient—the hard work will pay off.

Phase 2: Engage

Once you have built enough of a marketing presence to have an audience, it’s time to think about how to give those people what they are looking for. This is known as the “engage” phase. This is when you are establishing relationships with those people. Your video tours help them learn about your community and help them imagine living there. The phone conversation between your leasing agents and  prospective residents is one of your first opportunities to learn their name, begin to establish rapport, and also get to know them on a more personal level. The in-person tour is a chance to shake their hand, show them around the property, and show them what it’s like to live in the community. Afterward, you can follow up with emails thanking them for their time, asking if they have any further questions, which build the relationship further and allow the prospect to feel more comfortable with the brand new property. The goal of all these engaging pieces is to lay the foundation for a healthy relationship. 

Phase 3: Delight

Finally, the third phase is where you begin to think about how you can better serve the prospective resident and give them the best possible experience with your property. This phase will include hosting community events, offering resident gifts, answering maintenance requests promptly and correctly, dealing with complaints fairly, giving them generous lease renewal terms, and so on.

By following the flywheel, you will not only solidify your relationship with your residents, but you will also make their day-to-day life better in tangible ways. By doing this, you increase the likelihood that they will renew their lease, leave a positive review, refer friends and family, and maintain their apartment.

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