How to build a sales funnel and flywheel using author ecosystems
Different ecosystems have specialized strengths when it comes to building and maintaining a thriving direct sales enviroment. When you learn to lean into those strengths, you grow with more ease.
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Recently, I wrote a massive 10,000+ word piece about setting up your direct sales environment that was very well-received, but people kept asking me how it related to the Author Ecosystems. I mentioned the Author Ecosystems a bit in the article, but after releasing that article we had a breakthrough in how we think about funnels and flywheels at Writer MBA, and I wanted to share it with you.
Large portions of this article will be cribbed from that previous one so that in case it goes behind a paywall you can still read it, but there’s plenty of new here, too, and I think it’s important to the methodology we’re developing that you read about it from this new perspective.
If you’ve ever seen our 10 Stages of Audience graphic then, you might understand some of the methodology on how we turn casual readers into raving fans.
Well, we’ve given it a major glow-up and overlaid it on top of the methodology we’ll be talking about today and passing it through the lens of The Author Ecosystems.
Most archetypal systems are built on underlying frameworks that relate to helpful solutions in the real world. For example, the Enneagram is built on a mix of healing and wounding frameworks that are used in both psychology and spiritual/religious practices.
Our framework is built on underlying psychological frameworks too—ones that our training in marketing and sales has helped us understand and hone for over 25 years between the two of us.
For the first time, we are sharing how our archetypal system Author Ecosystems relates to the traditional sales cone or funnel framework, which we've expanded to match our descriptions around funnels and flywheels.
***This is a long post that will be truncated in emails. I highly recommend you go to this page to read the whole 9,000-word post without interruption.***
What is a sales funnel?
Very few customers will ever close on a deal the day you meet them. Customers need time to get to know you, like you, and build trust with you before they buy your product or service. What you do today is predictive of your success in six to eight weeks.
Your hard work today won’t pay off for nearly two months. This is what hampers many artists from growing their businesses. They give up before they can ever realistically succeed. We live in a world of instant gratification, and success in business is a long-term payoff. Over time, your hard work compounds through the success of your sales funnel.
A sales funnel is no different than a funnel you would use in your kitchen or to put oil into your car—wide at the top with a narrow bottom. Into the top of the funnel goes potential customers and out the bottom comes clients. It’s as simple as that.
There are five stages in my sales funnel. The first stage is that people need to know you exist. This is called the Awareness stage.
At this stage of the funnel, you aren’t trying to find the right clients. You are simply looking for as many potential customers as possible. The rest of the funnel will weed out people who are bad matches for your product, and leave you only with perfect fits. You need to cast the widest net possible at this stage, because the wider the top of the funnel becomes, the wider it will be at the bottom.
Let’s assume you need to talk with one hundred people in order to find one client. If you only talk to twenty people a month, you will not find a new client for five months. In this case, by simply talking to five times more people, you can find a client every month. If you increase that to two or three hundred people a month, you can find two to three clients a month. This alone can exponentially increase your revenue.
The second stage of the funnel is getting people to like you. This is called the Consideration stage.
This is when we start narrowing the funnel down. We need to push out content that is attractive to our ideal client, whether that means sharing comic book pages, short stories, or articles about pandas.
Whatever you share, it should be hyper-targeted to your ideal client. If it is, then people who are interested in the things you are sharing will grow to like you. Meanwhile, people who aren’t interested will drop out of your funnel before you invest too much energy in them.
This is the stage where people fall out of your funnel the most. You shouldn’t be nervous when people unfollow you or unsubscribe from your mailing list at this point. My mailing list has a 31 percent unsubscribe rate in the first couple of weeks of somebody joining. I love that number because it means I’m weeding out the people who don’t care about what I do.
This process of showing people what you do, building empathy with your ideal client, and weeding out ones who don’t care about your message is one of the most powerful tools in business. Unfortunately, because of our natural need to be liked, we shy away from offending anybody. As a result, we try to please everybody and thus attract nobody.
Weeding out people who don’t fit your product is a natural part of business. You shouldn’t care about those people anyway, because they won’t buy from you. Heck, they don’t even like you. Your job isn’t to please people who have no interest in what you are doing with your business. Your job is to connect with as many people as possible and let the right ones self-select to be part of your network over the long haul.
The third stage of the funnel is making people trust you. This is called the Decision, or Purchase, stage.
This is the trickiest part of the funnel. Everybody left at this stage of the funnel is in your ideal customer pool. Now, you have to convince them to buy your product. Even within your ideal client pool, there will be people who don’t like your specific take and won’t buy.
Take a car for instance. Even among car buyers, some people want the most reliable vehicle for their family, others want a sports car with the fastest engine. Still, others want the most luxurious ride on the road.
That’s why car companies have multiple brands and models. There are many features people might want, and it’s critical to target the right message to the right customer. If we didn’t have different needs, then everybody would be driving around in the same beige Honda Accord, right?
But we aren’t driving around in the same cars. There are more than a hundred different types of cars on the road, all with different features, sold by different companies, under different brands. They all capture a different part of the market. They all speak to a different type of person.
The same is true with your product. If you create high-end geek chic necklaces that cost $100 or more, then you are isolating yourself from people who are looking for cheap charms, and isolating yourself even more from people looking for an art print, or a comic book.
And that’s natural. That’s good. Heck, that’s necessary to create a sustainable business. This is what finding the right client for your product is all about.
The fourth stage of the funnel is making your customer happy. You have proven you are the right person to help them. Hooray! You’ve got a customer. Now we have to keep them happy so they buy again. This is called the Retention stage.
Notice there are three stages in this funnel before buying your product even comes into the equation. There will be people in your funnel who know you but won’t like you, like you but won’t trust you, and trust you but won’t buy from you.
We can see this play out in our own lives. We all have a coworker we hate but can’t get rid of, or a family member we love but wouldn’t trust with a dollar of our money. We all have those people in our lives, but we also have a friend we would gladly give money to because we know they’ll use our money to do something awesome.
The same is true with your business. Most people won’t buy from you. When I go to a convention, I’m lucky if one percent of people sign up for my mailing list and 10 percent of those people ever buy from me. Even at a convention like San Diego Comic-Con, where I make thousands of dollars, I only sell a few hundred books and there are over 160,000 people in attendance.
But that’s okay. In fact, that’s how a funnel is supposed to work. This year we were set up in the small press area of San Diego Comic-Con, which meant people who came down our aisle self-identified as people who liked independent comic books. That already narrowed the field of potential customers down quite a bit.
From there, all I had to do was engage with as many people as possible so that some of them would like me, and some of those people would trust me, and then some of those people would buy from me.
In the end, by knowing how many people would attend the event, I could accurately predict how much I would make, and next year I can make an even more accurate prediction because I have even more data. This is the power of the funnel. If you understand how it works, you can predict the revenue for your entire business months into the future.
The final stage is about building evangelists who will tell other people about your work. The absolute best marketing comes from word of mouth. When other people talk about your work to their friends, it’s much easier to get others to buy than from your own marketing efforts. This is called the Advocacy stage.
This can include providing referral links, building a strong community, offering giveaways to readers, or generally showering them with love. Most importantly, it involves creating mind-blowing products people can’t help but talk about with other people. This is called network effects.
The network effect is a business principle that illustrates the idea that when more people use a product or service, its value increases. The network effect significantly applies to digital platforms, dating all the way back to the internet itself. -Wharton
This is not an effect contained to your buyers, either. One of the best ways to generate network effects is among other creators doing interesting work. You can create a recommendation network through platforms like Substack, Sparkloop, or Beehiiv to cross-promote with other creators.
This cross-promotion feature provides a way for writers to promote and discover each other on their own terms.
Writers cross-promoting each other has been the key to discovery on the internet since its inception, notably in the blogosphere, where writers’ blogrolls helped unearth niche communities and build bonds of trust between writers. -Substack
I love Laura’s work, so I was rooting for her really hard when I read it, but throughout the day I noticed that I was getting dozens of free subscribers to my Substack.
I usually get 20-30 a day, so I was very confused to get 60+ in just a couple of hours. It took me a while to think “Wait, doesn’t Laura recommend The Author Stack?”
So, I checked and her publication had sent me 50 recommendations that day. Laura ended up getting 1,500+ subscribers from that article, and I received over 100 because she recommended my publication. You never know where those surges will come from, but they can be very powerful if you set them up properly.
I have over 100 publications recommending mine, and I recommend a bunch, too. Every month I get 300-500 from it and everyone else gets a bit from me I hope. Nobody needs to do the bulk of the work when everyone is working together.
There is one more point I want to make before ending this section. When you start selling your work, a small number of people will buy from you immediately. This is because you have spent decades building up trust with certain people in your life. Those people have already worked their way to the bottom of your funnel and are ready to make a buying decision the moment you launch your storefront. Once those people work their way through the bottom of your funnel, though, there won’t be anybody left to buy your product if you haven’t built out the top of your funnel properly.
I’ve seen far too many creatives tell me that lots of people bought their book in the first month of release, but they haven’t seen another sale for over a year. This happens because they relied on their existing network to buy their product initially, and once those people flushed out of their funnel there was nobody to replace them. Remember, a funnel is only as good as the number of people you put into the top of it.
Today, we’ll be talking about three different areas of funnels, and how they map to the stages I mentioned above.
They are BOFU (Bottom Of FUnnel), which deals with the Decision stage, TOFU (Top Of Funnel), which deals with the Awareness stage, and MOFU (Middle Of FUnnel), which deals with the Consideration stage.
I have listed them out of order because we’ll be talking about them out of order for reasons that will hopefully become clear. Once we finish up with funnels, we’ll be talking about flywheels, which deal with the After Purchase stages of Retention and Advocacy, and how they relate to attracting, engaging, and delighting your readers.
BOFU - Bottom Of FUnnel
Which ecosystem is the best at this part? Tundras
At this point in the sales funnel, prospects are well-educated about how their pain points can be addressed, so BoFu should emphasize why your offering is the best when compared to your competitors.
In comparison to ToFu and MoFu, BoFu is a lot lighter on content, instead favoring actions to better persuade the potential customer to close. -Foundation Inc
While the explanation above is absolutely accurate, the part of BOFU where Tundras excel is creating irresistible offers.
What is an irresistible offer? As the name implies, an irresistible offer is a marketing offer that just can't be refused. It's the proverbial “no-brainer.” The key is to understand what your customer wants and needs. Once you know that, you can craft an offer that's too good to pass up. -iMean Marketing
Tundras traffic in excitement and that excitement is packaged in the offers they present to their audience. It’s not enough to just present something to your readers.
No, you have to make it irresistible if you want them to take advantage of it.
That’s something all the other ecosystems gloss over. They often believe that by simply offering something their readers will buy, but the reason they are busy is intrinsically locked inside the power of the offer. The better the offer, the more people will buy. If you have the right offer, then you can sell anything to anyone.
There are two levers you can pull to make something irresistible.
Adding more to the offer. This doesn’t mean adding just anything to an offer, though. It means adding to an offer to make it more “complete”, whatever that means to your reader. I try to create at least 2x value with every offer, meaning that if the elements of an offer sell for $50 at retail, I will sell it for no more than $25 when I package it in an offer.
Lowering the price of the offer. This one is pretty easy. If you cut the cost of your offer, it becomes more appealing. In general, I try to give at least 2x value in an offer, but if I can get more, I will do it. The more value you pack into an offer, the more irresistible it becomes.
On top of that, you need to layer on some psychological, or buying, triggers to help make your offer even more appealing.
To choose a product, a customer must make a conscious buying decision. This buying decision is based on subconscious emotions and triggers. While looking for influencer buyers, you must consider their emotional mindset. Understanding human psychology and behavior is necessary to create aspects that drive required action. You need to craft better messages to position the customers better. Emotional triggers make it easy for companies to capture customers’ attention if used well. -Stanley Deepak
There are six essential buying triggers that have stood the test of time. They work in any creative field with any set of potential customers.
Commitment – When somebody willingly commits to joining your community, they are more likely to buy your product. This is the main value to people joining your mailing list, or wearing a button, or even taking a flier. They make a commitment when performing that action. It signifies they are part of your community. The more actions they take, the more commitment they build.
Every time they open a newsletter from you and don’t unsubscribe, they are affirming that commitment. Every time they like one of your tweets or share a Facebook post, they are affirming their commitment to your brand again and again. The more you can enforce that commitment through words and actions, the more likely you are to have an enthusiastic ambassador for your brand—one who buys all your stuff.
Reciprocity – When you do something nice for somebody, they want to help you. That’s just human nature. Knowing this, you need to provide value for your potential customer before you ever ask for a sale. Once you have provided incredible value through advice or some sort of free content, then people will gladly give you money, because you have helped them and treated them like a human being.
Social Proof – Human beings want to be part of the “in” crowd. If you can prove that other people are using your product, everybody else will want to use it, too. The hardest sales to make at conventions are the first ones. Once there are people running around the show floor with your product, other people are more likely to want it, as well.
Your work becomes valuable to a customer because other people saw the value in it already. People want to buy what their peers bought. They don’t want to be left out in the cold. If you can show your customer that people they like and respect use your product, then you are more likely to convince them to buy it, too.
Scarcity – When you limit the available quantity of a product, customers become increasingly likely to make a buying decision in the moment. People believe products will be around forever and that they can always buy it later. When they realize a product is in limited supply, they are forced to make an immediate decision. This works wonders for people sitting on the fence about buying your product and also for people who desperately want your product but need a little push to finally take action.
Authority – If you can demonstrate that you are an expert in your field, people are more likely to buy your product over somebody else’s. This is how you stand out above every other creative doing exactly what you do. They choose you because you are an expert in your field.
To prove your expertise, it’s important to have consistently high-selling products for a long time, and it helps if you’re able to teach other people how to do what you do. Another way is to write guest posts on other blogs, share your work on podcasts, or speak on panels. You can also use platforms like Medium and Kickstarter to build expertise, as the platform’s authority can be transferred to you.
Liking – If somebody has a positive connection to you, they are more likely to buy from you. Think about it: You are more inclined to buy from somebody you like than somebody you don’t care about, right? Of course you are.
The success or failure of your funnel is decided when you package your offer together. If you want to see how I designed a series offer for my Godsverse Chronicles series, then you can check it out here.
You’ll notice that I packaged by whole 12-book series together, and then offered it at 60% off retail. However, this is a one-time offer that disappears when the countdown timer hits zero, effectively using the scarcity buying trigger. Additionally, I have a bump offer to include the audiobooks and audio commentary for a total of $50, and then an upsell to get all of my novels for $100.
These offers are called profit maximizers.
Because you aren’t getting the same volume from direct sales as you are from retailers, your goal should be about maximizing the cart value of every sale. One of the most important metrics in direct sales is average cart value.
What is average Cart Value? Average cart value (ACV) tracks the average dollar amount spent on your website by any given customer. ACV is calculated by dividing your total revenue by total number of sales within a set period of time. -Peel
Basically, when you sell somebody one thing, you want to sell them more things. At the moment of purchase, customers enter “buyer mode” where they are the most suggestible to spending more.
Once we commit to purchasing an item, we enter a frame of mind known as “buying mode”—an emotional state that positions us to spend extra money on related products or services. When we’re in that zone, our focus is purely on how the product will benefit us and what we’ll be able to do with it. Though we are aware of the cost, money isn’t the foremost factor in our minds because it is far outweighed by our excitement over the product. Simply put, we are in an all-positive zone of exhilaration.
This state is almost hypnotic. Research has shown that our brains can release significant quantities of the neurotransmitter dopamine while in buying mode. Dopamine is largely responsible for positively conditioning us to rewards and for causing our dreams at night.
The stimulation of seeing a product—particularly one at a good price—gives us a hit of dopamine and leaves us feeling, well, a bit dreamy. Brain scans of people viewing different products even showed a surge of activity in the nucleus accumbens, otherwise known as the pleasure center of the brain.
Another factor that contributes to this quasi-euphoric state is a sense of control. When we are buying something, we feel in control of ourselves and the situation. And each of these variables contributes to the timing of an effective upsell.
When customers are in buying mode, they are ready to consider upgrades that will complete or enhance their experience with the product. When they have already purchased or are about to purchase one of your products, that is when they are likely to consider upgrades or add-ons. Doing so releases more hits of dopamine. -Charlottesville SEO Web Development
At this point, we want to offer more value to them through cross-sells, upsells, downsells, and bump offers.
A cross-sell is when you offer a wholly different, but complementary product or format to your audience after a sale. So, for instance, if you are selling a bag of chips, a cross-sell could ask customers to buy a tub of salsa to complete the experience. With books, cross-selling could be offering a different series to “complete their library” or offering audiobooks to your customers purchasing ebooks.
An upsell is selling a more expensive version of the same product. So, if you are selling paperback books, offering people a “hardcover upgrade” would be an upsell. Additionally, offering “special edition ebooks” instead of the standard ebooks would be an upsell. Additionally, you can offer more books in the same series as an upsell, as well.
A downsell is initialed when a cross-sell or upsell doesn’t work. Usually, an upsell or cross-sell should be 3-5x the price of the core product, while the downsell should be closer to 1.5-2x more than the core product, and should only be offered after your customer rejects the initial upsell/cross-sell offer. If you are offering your complete library in hardcover for $500, a downsell might see you offering either a portion of or library or your complete library in ebook for $100-$150.
A bump offer is a small checkbox that appears on the checkout page that allows for a “one-time purchase” with a single button click. They happen before the first purchase, and can either be an upsell or a cross-sell.
When you’re looking for a direct sales solution, whatever you choose should have this functionality, Whether it’s Thrivecart, Shopify, WooCommerce, Optimize Press, or whatever you choose to use, this functionality is critical because these offers are almost all profit.
That’s why they are Profit Maximizers. Ideally, 20% of your customers would take the bump offer, and another 20% would take your cross-sell/upsell/downsell offer.
If you can make these numbers work, you are bringing significant additional revenue into your business, and this revenue should be almost all profit.
TOFU - Top Of FUnnel
Which ecosystem is the best at this part? Deserts
The top of the conversion funnel is the stage where potential customers become aware of your product or brand. The goal with the top of your conversion funnel is to generate interest, capture attention, and initiate the customer journey. However, it’s not as simple as driving as many people as possible into your funnel…
…ToFu marketing tactics aim to attract and engage a broad audience in the early stages of their buyer's journey. They generate awareness, interest, and initial engagement. -Natalia Zhukova
Deserts are amazing at finding arbitrage between reader demand and book supply, and presenting enticing offers to potential readers.
[Arbitrage is] the practice of people selling your attention to other people.
The attention sellers (in the online world examples are platforms like Google, Facebook, LinkedIn etc.) sell the opportunity to gain the attention of their community members or subscribers. Besides the fact that this cyclical process now occurs online, this is not a new phenomenon. It’s been going on across media for decades.
In recent years, web-savvy entrepreneurs such as Gary Vaynerchuk have mastered the art of gaining attention and turning it into profit. In Vaynerchuk’s case, that’s largely due to his penchant for being entirely relevant much of the time, providing useful (perhaps even visionary) insights and leveraging his personal brand to gain widespread renown across new and traditional media. He’s developed a global following and taps that attention to sell more books, or whatever else he happens to be promoting. -AOK Marketing
Arbitrage is about discovering opportunities where demand outstrips supply, and using that difference to generate interest from potential readers to get them to take action on your offer before that gap evaporates.
In a way, Deserts are also dealing with excitement, but instead of baking that into an irresistible offer, they are trying to skim the “easy” sale by offering something that a hungry audience already wants.
This allows their offers to be quite a bit more basic than that of a Tundra because they are looking to capitalize on a market while demand is high and supply is low. When the arbitrage dries up in a market a Desert usually moves on because their offer is not complex enough, or expensive enough, to compete in a more competitive environment.
However, because a Desert is great at getting people into funnels, they are naturals at creating TOFU offers.
Top of the funnel or awareness stage buyers have just discovered they have a problem or they may be vaguely aware that something is missing. These people do not yet know about your business, so Tofu content is designed to get their attention where they are most likely to see it. This might be a social media ad or search ad, a social media post, short video, or content partnership.
Media types and content change fast in 2021. Updating your marketing strategy regularly and adapting your sales funnel will help it to stay relevant and effective. As you change your strategy, keep the following in mind for your top of the funnel, Tofu content.
What you will need to create Tofu content:
Understanding of what media your prospects consume and how: consider the media platforms, types, time spent, level of interest or engagement for each, and how these habits might change with the emergency of new technology.
Know what gets your prospects’ attention: consider the themes as well as the topics, such as humor, emotional investment, interesting facts, inspiration and more.
Your prospects’ demographic information for targeting: Consumers in different age groups, income brackets, urban or rural areas, lifestyle and other demographics are likely to be interested in different things. -Sam Stemler
If a Desert chooses to stay inside a particular market instead of jumping around, they can quickly become experts at creating new opt-in offers and putting them in front of potential customers consistently.
Put simply, an opt-in offer (also sometimes known as a content upgrade or a lead magnet) is a free gift you give to your readers in exchange for their email address. There are many different kinds of opt-in offers you can make. -Eb Gargano
Every time the market gets cold, a Desert can switch up their offer and create arbitrage almost at will.
Not only is a Desert great at TOFU, but they actively enjoy fiddling with different types of offers and trying to find ways to get new people into their funnels. I’m not just talking about offering free books, either. You can offer cheat sheets, social calendars, maps, side stories, character art, or just about anything to entice people to enter a funnel, but the key to TOFU is in getting somebody to opt-in to a small offer in order to whet their appetite for buying your BOFU offer.
For example, I have dozens of ebooks, cheat sheets, and other things I can offer at any time to get people interested in both my fiction and non-fiction businesses. Each one is targeted at a different segment of people interested in my BOFU offers. The more of these you have, the more ins you have with your potential customers to get them to enter your funnel.
The reason we talked about this directly after the BOFU is that these TOFU offers have to attract the right kind of person for your BOFU offer, otherwise, they won’t work to convert potential readers into buyers.
TOFU is very different from the attract stage of the flywheel we will discuss below. While it’s possible to combine the two and have extensive overlap, for our purposes that phase is all about content marketing and SEO and TOFU is about presenting simple opt-in offers meant to hook new customers quickly and bring them into the sales process.
MOFU - Middle Of FUnnel
Which ecosystem is the best at this part? Depends.
Once your leads reach the middle of the funnel, they know they have a problem, and it’s one that’s clearly defined. If you have a well-functioning sales funnel, you’ve disqualified a decent amount of leads in the move from TOFU to MOFU.
Leads at this stage in the sales funnel aren’t quite ready to evaluate vendors, but they are focused on researching all the ways they can solve their problem. You’re still working on building trust with these leads, so again, don’t go in for the sale or come on too strongly. Continue to nurture them until they’re ready to move to the next stage, which is BOFU. -Ashley Lesperance
We’re going to talk a lot more about MOFU below because a lot of MOFU involves creating a great flywheel. Everyone both inside and outside of your sales funnel will eventually end up in your flywheel, but the most important part of MOFU is to optimize conversions for your BOFU offer.
MOFU strategies include techniques like:
How-to content and “unboxing videos”
By providing helpful information at this stage, marketers can move people further down the funnel toward making a purchase decision. It’s also worthwhile to actively engage with your prospects on platforms like social media or through email marketing so you can develop trust and credibility. This increases the chances that they will buy from you.
While your flywheel can also deliver this value, you should think of every piece of MOFU content as a way to break down barriers to help customers see the value of your BOFU offer. The main delivery mechanism for your MOFU will probably be an autoresponder that indoctrinates people into your ecosystem and tells customers about the benefits of your BOFU.
An autoresponder, or indoctrination sequence, is an automated series of emails your subscribers start receiving after they sign up for your email list. These emails are staggered throughout several days or weeks so that people unfamiliar with your brand learn who you are and what you do.
With every email, you break through one of the objections holding people back from buying and help them build a deeper connection with you. While a flywheel can have focus as well, MOFU content should be laser-focused on helping to sell your BOFU offer.
Ideally, you would deliver MOFU content in something akin to a sideways sales letter for each of your major series.
Created by Jeff Walker, the sideways sales letter is a communication strategy designed to attract keen interest, develop brand awareness and convert prospects. The twist on the commonly used sales letter is that in a sideways letter, prospects are converted in short emails, bursting with compelling content. -Leanlabs
You are basically showing off your series over the course of several different emails that rely on different psychological triggers to get people excited to read it. Every autoresponder will be different but for a series BOFU offer, here is what a very simple sequence might look like:
Email 1: Enthusiastic introduction to the series
Email 2: What’s different about this series?
Email 3: The main character(s)
Email 4: The main conflict
Email 5: The world
Email 6: Reviews and praise
Email 7: Why you should buy now
Meanwhile, you are running an evergreen countdown timer on your site to help entice readers to buy now before time runs out.
The Evergreen type is a timer that shows every user a static amount of time before expiration. No matter when the user enters the website – on the countdown timer he will see the number of days and hours that you set in the Countdown Timer widget Settings block. -Crocoblock
You should have a different autoresponder for each core product you’re launching and they should rely heavily on these psychological triggers. This differs significantly from the flywheel, which is about consistently delivering value to your audience that attracts, engages, and delights them.
What is a Flywheel?
Now that we’ve talked about how to funnel people into your business, we need to create a Flywheel so our efforts grow exponentially while our efforts either stay the same or decrease.
The Flywheel is a model adapted by HubSpot to explain the momentum you gain when you align your entire organization around delivering a remarkable customer experience. It is remarkable at storing and releasing energy — and it turns out that’s pretty important when thinking about your business strategy. Invented by James Watt, the flywheel is simply a wheel that’s incredibly energy-efficient. The amount of energy it stores depends on how fast it spins, the amount of friction it encounters, and its size. Think of it like the wheels on a train or a car. -Hubspot
The goal of a flywheel is to attract new customers, engage them, and then delight them with your work in a cyclical manner that centers the customer experience. By creating this flywheel for your business, you are able to build your network and audience with the least amount of effort and minimal downside.
The flywheel is a cyclical model that self-sustains its momentum to generate a steady stream of unqualified leads or strangers, as well as qualified leads or prospects.
All leads start as strangers. You either attract them or they come in on word-of-mouth from brand promoters who are outspoken about how great you are. Strangers then self-qualify when they rank up to prospects, but you must engage them to make that happen. Keep engaging them, and prospects convert into customers.
But the work’s not done. Delight your customers consistently, and they’ll become long-term champions for your brand. That’s the goal.
So, how does the flywheel build momentum? It builds kinetic energy to self-fuel its forward motion based on three key factors:
How fast you spin it - The faster a flywheel moves, the harder it is to stop its momentum.
How much friction there is - Friction is momentum’s biggest enemy. Any friction can inhibit forward motion.
How big it is - A bigger flywheel takes longer to get going at full speed, but its momentum is heavier and harder to stop.
The takeaway: If you get your flywheel moving and remove friction, you’ll see the benefits of better customer experiences. -Content Bacon
The reason people like this model over the funnel is because it centers the customer experience, and retention, above revenue. If you remember us talking about the sales funnel, Retention and Advocacy were huge parts of any successful business, and the flywheel is a wonderful mechanic to foster that part of your ecosystem.
Additionally, it can be very helpful for the MOFU activities we talked about above, as potential customers enter your flywheel before they buy and use what they learn inside of it to make purchasing decisions. Additionally, a properly functioning flywheel can also help your TOFU activities by helping you attract more potential customers.
Because of this, the flywheel sits in superposition, both inside your funnel and under it.
Superposition is the ability of a quantum system to be in multiple states at the same time until it is measured. Because the concept is difficult to understand, this essential principle of quantum mechanics is often illustrated by an experiment carried out in 1801 by the English physicist, Thomas Young. -Whatis.com
In a well-functioning business, the sales funnel and flywheel reinforce each other.
Which ecosystem is the best at this part? Grasslands
The first stage of the traditional funnel model is ‘awareness’, whereby companies invest in going out to potential customers to build awareness of them and their product. The first stage of the flywheel model is ‘attract’ which flips this concept on its head. Instead of using outbound marketing techniques, the flywheel puts the emphasis on attracting or ‘pulling’ customers to a business through relevant content on existing channels.
During this phase, businesses should recognise a consumer need or challenge and draw attention to the solution that their product or service provides. Businesses need to add value to their potential customers’ lives by helping them overcome an issue, meeting a need or providing educational information. -Amy Bull
Since TOFU activities are also about bringing in new leads, it’s possible to conflate those with the attract portion of your flywheel. However, for our methodology, we consider TOFU activities those that revolve around simple, free offers like ebooks, cheat sheets, and other opt-in-based marketing, while this attract stage deals mostly with content marketing and SEO.
SEO drives targeted, relevant traffic from Google – not random people who won’t care about what you do or sell, but rather prospects who could join your audience and convert at some point. It’s so powerful, SEO drives 1,000% more traffic than organic social media.
Content marketing builds trust, authority, and loyalty with those prospects. If you’ve been paying attention, most modern consumers do diligent research before making purchases, and they want to like and trust the brands they give their money. 55% of buyers rely more deeply on content for researching and making purchase decisions than they did a year ago.
To put it lightly, SEO and content marketing have an incredibly symbiotic relationship. Let’s explore how they harmonize. -Seaerch Engine Land
I’ve taken the below quote, crossed out what we consider TOFU, and changed the bullet points to show what we are focused on in the attract stage instead.
Your potential leads could be reaching your company in any number of ways in the attract stage. This often includes:
A robust content program to attract organic traffic
Thought leadership and PR, like podcast interviews and guest blogging -Maia Wells
In short, TOFU deals with a focused call to action, whether through advertising or organic reach, while the attract stage is about the long-term cycle of creating content to draw in your audience.
Call to action (CTA) is a marketing term for any design to prompt an immediate response or encourage an immediate sale. A CTA most often refers to the use of words or phrases that can be incorporated into sales scripts, advertising messages, or web pages, which compel an audience to act in a specific way. -Wikipedia
While good content marketing often has a call to action, they are considerably subtler than the way we think about TOFU marketing at Writer MBA.
That is why we say the attract stage is the strength of a Grassland, who is most comfortable writing and producing at least weekly content over a long time horizon (1-2 years+) about the same topic until they rank highly in their given topic and can continue to reap the benefits of that thought leadership for years to come.
So, why is weekly content creation such a big deal? Well, it's like building a solid relationship with your audience. When you consistently churn out awesome content, whether it's blog posts, podcasts, videos, social media posts, or newsletters, you become a reliable source of information and entertainment. Your audience starts trusting you, seeing you as an authority in your field. Plus, having a clear content strategy and an editorial calendar ensures that you always have something valuable to offer your audience. -Donna E.
This is why a Grassland can be subtler with their calls to action. They are relying on the thought leadership advantage that comes from people seeking them out and wanting to work with them.
Even when it comes to social media content, the way we think about attracting new readers is by simply being a constant presence in their lives while the way we think about TOFU activities is by presenting them with a new book or offer to bring them into a funnel.
These are both crucial activities, but one takes advantage of the short-term arbitrage of the offer (which is the purview of the Desert) while the other takes advantage of the long-term depth of knowledge of a Grassland.
Which ecosystem is the best at this part? Forests
Next is the engage stage. This is where you turn your new prospects into customers, guiding them through the ‘consideration’ and ‘decision’ sections of their buyer journey. You can do this by providing expertise and helpful insight that highlights how they can overcome their challenges whilst also helping them to navigate the different solution options that are available to them.
Whilst you control the narrative, you should always maintain a neutral stance favouring factual accuracy and quality of information. This in turn will help your potential customer to view you favourably and have the confidence to consider your brand as a provider of the solution that they seek. -OlsenMetrix
The engage phase is about being present for your potential customers and showing them the value of your community, which is why it’s the advantage of the Forest, who are all about interconnectivity, shared language, and making readers feel like they are part of their “in-crowd”.
In the engage phase, you make it easier to shop and buy from you by enabling customers to engage with you on their preferred timeline and channels. Focus on opening relationships, not just closing deals. Some forces include website and email personalization, database segmentation, marketing automation, lead nurturing, multichannel communication (chat, phone, messaging, email), sales automation, lead scoring, and try-before-you-buy programs. -Hubspot
This doesn’t mean you have to have a 100,000-person subreddit like Brandon Sanderson. We talk to Forests all the time who don’t want to have a Facebook group or any sort of formal community, but their readers still seem to find each other anyway. This is because they build community into their books through in-jokes and shared language.
Shared language refers to people developing understanding amongst themselves based on language (e.g. spoken, text) to help them communicate more effectively. The key to understanding language is to first notice and be mindful of your language. Developing a shared language is an ongoing process that requires intention and time, which results in better understanding. Shared language is critical to collaboration, and collaboration is critical to business and education. -Joyce Thomas and Deana McDonagh
This shared language bonds people together even if you don’t formalize that bond with a reader community.
Even if you don’t have a formal community, you will certainly have at least a newsletter where you can engage with readers and show them why they should become a member of your community. Forests often love to offer engagement questions in their newsletters to keep up with their readers, and we think they should lean into that instinct. These questions could be anything from “What did you do this weekend?” to “What is your favorite book?” to anything you can imagine.
The key to this phase of the flywheel is for readers to develop a relationship with you that feels like you care about the same things they care about, and that you understand their pain points.
Pain points are specific challenges, issues or problems that customers face in their journey while interacting with a product or service. These can be anything from inconvenience, inefficiency, or difficulty in accessing a product or service to frustrations with customer support or a lack of features. -Chisel glossary
While during the attract phase you are signaling that you understand the general pain points a reader goes through, the engage phase is really about personalizing that understanding so your readers feel cared for and understood.
This does not mean reaching out to them all individually, but instead making them believe that you are there to care for them if they ever need you. Just make sure to set boundaries. Forests are particularly bad at giving more of themselves then they can energetically afford to lose. One key to a good community is that they can exist and connect without you even being there.
Which ecosystem is the best at this part? Aquatics
The Delight stage is all about creating memorable experiences for your customers. It's about going the extra mile to ensure that your customers are thrilled with their interactions with your brand. Why is this so important? Because delighted customers are more likely to become loyal advocates who sing your praises to the world.
HubSpot defines the Delight stage as the phase where you "amaze and delight your customers by providing an outstanding experience." In other words, it's about building strong, lasting relationships with your customers and turning them into your brand's biggest fans. -MTRMarketing
The final stage of the flywheel (although it’s a circle so it never really ends, just loops back around on itself) is the delight stage. The delight stage is all about providing unique and overwhelmingly positive experiences to your readers that they will remember and carry with them.
Every one of your customers has the potential to become a promoter who will scream and shout about your company. Create memorable content your customers and prospects can share with their friends and family.
What makes the Inbound Flywheel differ is the removal of the convert and close phase and addition of customers in the middle. Psychologically, the whole process already seems a whole lot more customer-centric.
Visualize your business first as a funnel and then the inbound flywheel. It just feels RIGHT.
Customers are the center of attention and sales terms are replaced with engage. This way, instead of focusing all our efforts on acquiring, converting, and nurturing sales, we are more focused on keeping our prospects and customer's attention by engaging with them. Isn't that much more human? -EuJin Kok
Just like how the attract stage can be partially mapped onto the TOFU, the delight stage can be partially mapped onto the BOFU. After all, a major way to delight your audience is with products they will love.
However, that is not the only way, which is where the delight stage differs from BOFU. In a sales funnel, all that matters is the offer and the sale. There are millions of ways to delight an audience that move beyond what you are selling them, and delighting audiences with different formats and experiences is where Aquatics excel.
Aquatics think of themselves as “brand managers” for their universes, and that extends to how they think about their fandom. If they can find ways to bring people further into their world, they are going to take it.
Although satisfied customers are good for your company, delighted customers are more likely to become loyal customers and brand advocates for your company.
In today's competitive business world, delighting your customers rather than simply satisfying them is critical to your long-term success.
Why? Well, not only are customer expectations tougher than ever, but their recommendations to their personal and professional networks can also be the difference between your business growing or struggling.
In fact, it's easier than ever for your customers to change their products or services if you don't meet (and exceed) their expectations. Additionally, they can easily publicly share their experiences and publish average or negative feedback about your business on platforms such as Facebook, Yelp, and Google Reviews.
This ability to delight is why I believe Aquatics have the highest superfan ratio of any ecosystem. They easily move beyond satisfaction to delight readers by sending them Christmas cards, reading their books on YouTube, creating a fan experience with them like riding horseback together, or any number of ways that make them unforgettable to their readers.
Aquatics are always thinking past the current offer into how they can deliver even more value to their readers. They are the grandmother who is always in the middle of cooking an amazing meal to make sure you leave more than satisfied. We all remember that special food that feels like home, and that feeling is the special purview of the Aquatic.
Bringing it all together
Now that we’ve talked about each section of this system, how do we bring it all together?
First, we have to find out where you are strong and weak. Ideally, I suggest booking a meeting with Monica or me to help you figure this out. At the very least, take out a piece of paper and rate yourself on how much time you spend on your TOFU, MOFU, BOFU, Attract, Engage, and Delight activities on a scale from 1-10.
Then, rank them by how much time you spend on each activity. Finally, rate yourself on how successful you are at each activity.
Here’s the twist. You can’t use 7. Why? Because that is the default number everyone uses when they don’t want to commit. You have to either choose between 1-6 or 8-10.
A quick tip: You shouldn’t rate yourself a 9 or a 10 unless you are killing it in that activity. Unless you getting serious ROI on any single activity, you are at best an 8. I’m a pretty successful creator and the only thing I would rate myself a 10 in is BOFU activities. I survive because I create world-class offers. I’m probably a 9 at the attract stage and MOFU, a 6 at TOFU and the delight stage, and a 5 at the engage stage.
That is painful to look at, but based on conversations with Monica and my mastermind, I think that’s brutally accurate.
Notice that I’m a Tundra and I’m strongest at the activity that best maps to my strengths. Your rankings should similarly match up pretty well with your base ecosystem, but they might not…and if not that’s a problem.
Lots of Forests, for instance, are working hard on TOFU activities which takes away from where they should be focusing, bumping up their engagement activities because that’s where their natural tendencies lie and they’ll have the most effortless success.
Now, it’s time to get alignment. Focus on getting one activity up to a 9 or 10, and then move yourself around either the flywheel or funnel to buttrice everything else.
If that doesn’t resonate with you, or you want results fast, then the one thing that will give you the biggest ROI the quickest is to focus on BOFU offers. Really, everything in your business centers around the offers you make, and if you’re not good at designing and stacking offers, the single best thing you can do is get really good at doing that.
There are no more important concepts to your business than the flywheel and the funnel. However, individually they are far from perfect.
The funnel model functions as a way to bring people through a sales process, but once they buy (or don’t) customers are then dumped summarily into a vacuum of nothingness as if they have no value. However, the true value of a fan is more than just a $20 bill.
They are human, after all, and humans have value for simply existing. It feels really crappy to simply abandon them on a personal level.
It’s also bad business. A major component of business growth comes from selling repeat customers new products and services, not solely through finding new business, making a sales funnel suboptimal for continued growth.
Centering the customer experience is something the flywheel does really well. However, the flywheel is a bit sloppy and haphazard. There’s very little direction about when or how somebody enters your flywheel, or how to turn their excitement into revenue, which is where the sales funnel shines.
We believe it is ideal to blend the two. I use sales funnels as a way to bring people into my universe, but once customers finish a funnel, they enter my flywheel, which centers the customer experience for the rest of their time with me, until the next sales event.
Conversely, if they enter my flywheel first, there are several ways for them to enter funnels to learn more about specific products. I like to consider all of my funnels to be little more than spokes in my promotional wheel, leading out from my flywheel.
I love how these two mechanics can blend seamlessly together to create a strong customer experience.
I am trying to build ways for people to enter my ecosystem, and then keep them inside my flywheel for the long haul. None of my sales funnels or platforms are the center of my flywheel. They are just onramps. If an onramp breaks, the flywheel keeps functioning.
If you haven’t had a chance to take our quiz yet, I highly recommend taking it before you read this article. Additionally, if you haven’t taken a look at our membership options, I think they are pretty neat.