Welcome to part 3 of the Making an Impression ads series. Now that you've read part 1 and part 2 of the series, it's time to talk about the elephant in the room: funnels and flywheels.

More specifically, the role of funnels in a world where businesses are looking to the flywheel as a high-level model to start and grow. 

Because chances are, at one point or another, you’ve thought about your business as some kind of a funnel. When you think about your prospects or customers, you may think about the larger number of people that know about your brand. You may also think about the smaller number of people engaging with your company — and perhaps the even smaller number actually buying from you. Now add talk of conversion, ROI, and ads strategy to the mix — it gets even more complicated.   


The Nature of the Flywheel

So what do you do? To answer this question, let's explore the nature of a flywheel.

To avoid an unnecessary dive into the land of physics, flywheels are a metaphor. When distilled, flywheels become a lens to see your business where you aren't thinking about your customers as mere outputs. In this day and age, the role of the customer to power your business has greatly changed.


According to the 2018 State of Inbound, 55% of people rely on word of mouth, whether that’s directly from a friend or social media, when making purchasing decisions.  

On the flip side, if you produce unhappy customers today, they can work against your business and inhibit your company’s growth. Unhappy people cause friction for your business. 

In the era of the internet, anyone can become the loudest voice in the room. At the same time, only 3% of people find marketers or sales reps trustworthy. Trust is becoming an even more valuable resource to have when it comes to your customer base.

When the ability to build and sustain relationships and is top of mind for all your customer-facing teams, your business can gain momentum. Grow faster. Grow better. See what I did there? 


So Does Inbound Really Spell the Death of All Funnels?



Well, no. It's complicated.

Funnels are models or charts used to represent specific conversion points and rates. Because no matter how many times you customize or optimize, not everyone is going to take that desired action. Not everyone will fill out your form, book a meeting, or submit feedback.

Funnels can still be a powerful way to visualize this reality and this drop-off so that you can determine best steps forward. 

But as a business model? Visualizing your business as only a funnel has its shortcomings. When you think about your business in terms of a funnel:

  • Customers become “inputs” and an afterthought.
  • You don’t take into account the impact of the customers that make it to the bottom.
  • You think about business as unidirectional.
  • Filling the top of your funnel is more important than retaining at the bottom.

All of which seem small, when they stand on their own. Yet, when each of these thoughts are adopted into the culture and mentality of a business and its processes down the road, it can cause problems, especially if you want to scale.  


What Does This Have to Do With Ads?

When it comes to ads reporting, you will likely see a lot of funnels for visualizing your conversions.  

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HubSpot's ads tool uses a type of funnel reporting to showcase the efficiency and return-on-investment of certain ads campaigns. That should not add an additional degree of separation between the use of ads and inbound marketing. If anything, it should help you see if your ads are indeed remaining helpful and relevant to the audiences you're targeting.

Because ads cannot live in a bubble. You're almost certain to fail if you think they do. Instead, you need to think about how ads fit into the user experience.

If it's a prospect's first time on your website, how is your ad effectively communicating your message and aligning with what drives them? If you're running re-marketing initiatives, how does this ad fit into the larger experience your prospect or customer has had with your company?

You may only handle one aspect of the overall customer experience. However, your job as a marketer is to ensure that your ads do their part to make it feel like your prospects are in a continual conversation with you and your brand. Funnel reports can help you determine how well you've accomplished this mission. They will show you how well you've inspired action — through clicks, submissions, leads, deals, and more

So don't fear the funnel. Funnel reports, like ads, just need to be viewed within the lens of an ever-changing business landscape. 

When you’re talking inbound strategy and how your business values customers? Think flywheel.

Your customers and solving for their experience should always be at the center of your marketing, sales, and services initiatives. As a result, as a marketer, all your customer-facing campaigns should focus on the customer.

When you’re talking about smaller scale conversions, reporting, or measuring the efficiency of your ads? Funnels will do the trick.

They help you visualize whether you have areas that could be further optimized with variations and if you're matching your content to your consumer preferences. 


Talk to Us

Here's how you can get involved and share your inbound advertising story: 

  • Twitter: Tweet us @HubSpotAcademy or through the #makinganimpression hashtag.
  • SoundCloud: Coming soon!   
  • HubSpot Community: Connect about the series here.  

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Originally published Dec 24, 2018 10:00:00 AM, updated January 07 2019