Marketing & Growth

The cyclonic buyer journey - going from funnel to flywheel

29 min read


Marketing doesn’t work like it used to. And that’s because people don’t buy like they used to.

In 2019 buyers want experiences - and they'll buy from the companies that provide remarkable ones throughout the marketing, sales, and customer service cycle. 

For businesses today, it's no longer enough to generate a lead, sell them a product and hope that they continue to use that product for the foreseeable future. In 2019, businesses need to be both proactive and reactive - and this means engaging with customers before, during and after the sale. 

But what does that mean?

As buyer behaviour has changed, businesses need to replace the old funnel-based model with some other model or understanding of how people buy. 

Realising the funnel is dead, the guys at Square2 have put together what they call the ‘cyclonic B2B buyer journey’.

It sounds fancy, but it just expands upon the existing B2B buyer journey to ensure it's accurate and representative of how people buy in 2019. 

So rather than using the funnel-based B2B buyer journey (left), in this blog we'll explain the new B2B buyer journey (right).  

customers-funnel flywheel-blog-launch
Awareness Pre-awareness
Consideration Awareness
Decision Education
  Ongoing Delivery

Moving from funnel to flywheel

Funnel-based approaches are pretty linear: they focus on generating customers but pay no heed to how those customers can help to drive business growth and revenue. Once a lead becomes a customer the business simply moves on to the next opportunity.

A flywheel-based approach, on the other hand, is all about momentum. It revolves around your customers and the ongoing value they provide.

In 2019, your customers are your best marketers, salespeople and advocates. What they say about your business - in public or private - has a dramatic impact on how many new business opportunities you can generate. 

You can also turn to your existing customers for help creating high-quality, middle and bottom-of-the-funnel content (case studies, reviews, testimonials) that will attract new business (just make sure you have created buyer personas). This adds more momentum or energy to your flywheel (in the form of website visits, leads and new business opportunities) that keeps it going. You can then invest revenue generated back into marketing, sales and customer service activity.

Furthermore, as all of your activities are focused on the customer (and generating more customers) the entire process is seamless and constantly active. The speed of your flywheel is determined by how much you invest in a particular area. No part goes neglected. More customers mean a heavier flywheel and a heavier flywheel will generate more energy when it's spun! 

Confused? Check out the video below for more information.

Pardon references to The B2B Marketing Lab, this video was created before we merged with MPULL to form Huble Digital.

It's much easier (and cost-effective) to retain existing customers than chase new ones. Research by  Harvard Business Review shows that acquiring a new customer is anywhere from 5 to 25 times more expensive than retaining and existing one. 

Of course, that's not to say stop focusing on lead generation efforts - it simply means that you should invest more time into looking after your existing clients as they can do wonders for your business.

So how does the cyclonic B2B buyer journey work?

It essentially illustrates the individual stages buyers go through before, during and after making a purchase. The cyclonic B2B buyer journey works in tandem with the flywheel to help businesses optimise their sales, marketing and customer service activity in order to accelerate business growth. 

We’ve broken it down into specific segments.

1. Pre-awareness stage

Before awareness, there is pre-awareness – the point where a prospect is unaware that they have a problem or challenge that needs solving.

Those at the pre-awareness stage aren’t searching for companies like yours or the solutions you and others provide. They might not even know your business or brand exists.

You might think this stage redundant but answer this: why do businesses, including yours, cold call people? To raise awareness. Your business – and others – realise that people need the products, services and solutions you provide, they just don’t know it yet.

The point of engaging with people (potential prospects) at the pre-awareness stage is to raise awareness and gain new contacts; not necessarily leads, sales opportunities or customers. It’s about getting your products, services and solutions out there and ensuring that the right people know your business exists.

The next logical question, therefore, is how do you generate new contacts at the pre-awareness stage?

Here are a few tactics and techniques you can employ: 

  • Account-based marketing (ABM).

  • Strategic email.

  • Conferences and trade shows.

  • Speaking opportunities.

  • High-quality content (PR and thought leadership articles can do wonders).

  • Social media marketing.

  • Paid social advertising. 

These tactics can all be used to introduce people – online or offline – to your business.

You can use the following metrics to measure success:

  • Total no. of target accounts and no. people in those accounts.

  • Connect rate on targeted accounts.

  • Engagement rate on targeted people.

  • The conversion rate on engaged connections to sales opportunities.

2. Awareness stage

You will no doubt be familiar with this stage.

There’s a distinct difference between the Awareness stage and the Education stage: Awareness is more about casual browsing – people at this stage aren’t actively scouring the Internet to find information on products and services just yet – whereas the education stage is when people are actively looking for information.

The goal here is to get new contacts to like you and create an emotional connection with them by providing great value. However, it’s important to note they are most likely not ready to make a purchase or talk to anyone at your business just yet.

As your potential customers are willing to absorb any information on their chosen issue at this stage, it’s the perfect time for you to win them over.

Here are a few tactics and techniques you can employ:

  • Organic SEO
    People will research by using keywords that relate to their pain points, so it’s good to stand out on all search engines and pay attention to phrases or words they search with.

  • UX design
    Website design holds a major part in attracting people to your business. The more interactive and easy to navigate around your website, the longer people will be willing to stay and begin to like you. 

  • Smart content
    Blogs that feature the best things about your business (innovation, forward-thinking etc.), are disruptive and educate can hone their interest to generate leads. 

  • Paid search
    For visibility on search engines, a PPC campaign could be a way to get people seeing your ads and rank higher in searches. However, paid AdWords do require a reasonable budget.

  • Conversion rate optimisation
    You want to turn website visitors into leads. Securing contact information means you can gradually ease them into the next stage of the B2B buyer journey and keep a monthly track.

  • Email marketing
    Strategic emails that influence and nurture prospects are a great way to move them along the B2B buyer journey. They can help to gather essential information and generate leads.

  • Social media
    A good way of interacting with prospects quickly and directly to give answers to their questions. LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter are popular platforms for businesses to attract attention.

You can use the follow metrics to measure success: 

  • CTA button conversion rates.

  • LP conversion rates.

  • Blog subscribers.

  • Webinar registrants and attendees/conversion of registrants to attendees.

  • Top five performing videos and offers.

  • Sales qualified leads (SQLs) from educational assets.

  • New customers who viewed educational assets.

  • Website visitors.

  • Social reach – including followers, mentions and likes.

These will ensure you have an idea of where your potentials come from and why, allowing you to gauge success.

3. Education stage

After the Awareness stage is the Education stage.

At this point, people will be proactively informing themselves on as many solutions as possible (based on how much information is provided). This stage is important as customers may not be ready to buy just yet and will need to be 100% confident with the decision they make.

To engage with prospects at this stage, businesses need to cut through the clutter.

Here are a few tactics and techniques you can employ: 

  • Content marketing e.g. blogging and social media
    Blogging and social media are both great ways to generate awareness online and provide prospects with high-quality information. Use them to highlight your industry knowledge and expertise, as well as drive people back to your website.

    If you have content already, consider repurposing it - you'll be amazed at the benefits of doing so

  • Video marketing
    This allows you to present important information in a way that is easier for the customer to follow and digest.
    Video marketing has a number of benefits for B2B marketing and sales - find out by reading our blog. 

  • Live events
    Events are really good for businesses that want to generate local awareness and qualified contacts (as those that visit events are often more invested). Use events to showcase your business’ expertise and help people solve problems.

  • Webinars
    Webinars provide educational content that is tailored to helping a particular audience solve a particular problem or pain point.

  • Advocacy, lead scoring and nurturing
    Get influencers, customers and your own spokespeople to speak about your company. The best way to generate business in 2019 is through word-of-mouth. People are much more likely to people – including friends, family, colleagues and acquaintances – over corporate spiel broadcasted from a company social media account.

    In addition to getting advocates, score leads based on how they interact with your business (this will help you to prioritise those who show more signs of being ready to buy) and nurture leads over time.

You can use the follow metrics to measure success: 

  • Content performance data e.g. CTA click-through rates, chat conversions, total social shares.

  • The number of blog subscribers, comparing this overtime (e.g. this month vs last month) will provide a clearer assessment of the impact.

  • Webinar registrants and attendees (this month vs last month).

  • Top five videos. This will give you an idea of what customers want to see more of.

  • CTA conversion rates. e.g., you may have a CTA on your blog post about a new eBook.

  • New customers who viewed educational assets (this month vs last month).

  • Sales qualified leads generated via content assets.

  • Returning visitors, this is particularly important for lead scoring and advocacy.

4. Consideration stage

Now that the buyer has educated themselves on the options available, they then enter the consideration stage. During this stage, the buyer will look at several potential suppliers and evaluate their options.

Buyers are no longer thinking about alternatives but actually looking at possible solutions – this could potentially include those your company provide.  

At this stage, ensuring you create and publish content that helps buyers to understand your product and service is essential. The goal is to persuade the buyer to choose your products and services – and to show that you are well ahead of the competition.

Here are a few tactics and techniques you can employ: 

  • Influencer marketing.

  • Blogging and guest blogging.

  • Content marketing.

  • Lead nurturing and email marketing.

  • Video marketing – e.g. customer stories.

  • Content published on social media.

  • Content marketing (making or buying content, or outsourced content).

  • Advocacy (previous customers telling other people).

  • Reviews and directories.

After using these tactics, it is important to assess what content is most effective in drawing in potential buyers. You can then repurpose this content to use elsewhere on your website (or the Internet) to increase its exposure.

You can use the following metrics to measure success: 

  • % of highly qualified leads vs total leads based on lead score.

  • No. of sales qualified leads (SQL).

  • The conversion rate of marketing qualified leads (MQL) to SQL.

  • Email click-through rate (CTR) and open rate.

  • Lead nurturing CTR and open rate.

Next up, evaluation.

5. Evaluation stage

At this point, your prospects have already compiled a shortlist of options out there and are sifting through a wide variety of suitable solutions. You’ve managed to push them towards the type of product or service you have to offer during the consideration stage.

What are your next steps?

Stand out against the crowd and get the prospect to choose you as a supplier. Show them that you can provide them with what they are looking for and solve their problem.

Here are a few tactics and techniques you can employ: 

  • Let your website do all the talking
    Your website should feature high-quality content, be easy to navigate and tailored to the needs of your website visitors.

    If you want to create a website that's easy to edit and manage, why not consider HubSpot website design 

  • Create high-quality content
    It’s important to cater for each stage of the flywheel. During the evaluation stage, you should aim to break through all the noise in the market and stand out against your competitors. You can measure how well this is doing by looking at the number of downloads or click-throughs to blogs.

  • Use case studies and testimonials on your homepage
    Case studies and testimonials play a huge role in building credibility and trust. Case studies show prospects that you have solved issues similar to theirs for other businesses in the past. Make sure you have a variety of case studies and testimonials on your website. These can be written or recorded as a video.

  • Lead nurturing and email marketing
    A prospect may have previously engaged with your website or clicked on several product/service pages or downloaded ‘consideration’ content.

    Why not send them some additional content through promotional email or lead nurture workflows based on their history and get them to consider your company as an option?

    HubSpot's lifecycle stages can help you segment your audience for easy lead nurturing and marketing. Check out our blog for more information.

  • Reviews

    • Prospects will look at external websites to sometimes make a final decision. Make sure you think about your brand image not just on your website but externally – perhaps embed reviews from third parties on the homepage.

    • The remainder will revolve around sales i.e. sales process design, sales content, sales email templates, sales training and coaching and lead scoring.

You can use the follow metrics to measure success: 

  • of sales opportunities.

  • of evaluation content downloads.

  • Email click-through rate (CTR) and open rate.

  • Lead nurturing CT and open rate.

  • The conversion rate of evaluation content.

  • The conversion rate of opportunities to proposals.

  • The conversion rate of SQLs to opportunities.


6. Rationalisation

Following the evaluation, the stage is rationalisation – the stage at which your potential customer looks to start getting buy-in from other key stakeholders or the final decision-maker. This person might have made the emotional decision to work with you, but needs to go through a few formalities, such as payment terms or contract details to ensure they make an informed decision before signing on the dotted line. 

For example, a business director may be sold on your product or service but needs approval from the board before moving forward with you as their supplier. So how can you help move this forward?

The goal of this part of the B2B buyer journey is to work with your prospect (your advocate on the inside) to justify the investment in your product or service to their directors or board.

Here are a few tactics and techniques you can employ: 

  • Sales process and advocacy
    Taking a look at your sales process, as well as how you build rapport with your prospects throughout the sales engagement, can impact how your prospects relate to you. By creating that emotional connection from the first sales call onwards, you will build trust and turn prospects into advocates, which is invaluable at the rationalisation stage

  • References
    Providing references to your prospects can help build greater trust with key decision-makers. Having current and previous clients ready to take time out of their day to say great things about the work you’ve done for them is invaluable and a testament to the quality of your product/service.

  • Return on investment (ROI) models
    Creating models of the ROI that you aim to deliver to your clients, as well as some use cases where you have achieved significant return on investment will help provide a ‘bigger picture’ view of what a prospect’s director or board would want to see. By illustrating how your product/solution delivers with proven, quantifiable results, the board and upper management will have confidence that you will solve their problem.

  • Project timelines and deliverables
    Consider how you can show your prospect a little more about how your business works and will deliver the product/service. For example, a timeline of delivery of a project to set expectations will ensure both you and your prospect are on the same page and agreed on what will be completed in a set time frame.

You can use the following metrics to measure success: 

  • No. opportunities are due to be closed.

  • No. proposals/agreements that have been submitted (this will help to work out the percentage of sales opportunities that have been generated from a proposal).

  • No. deals that request references.

7. Decision

We’re all familiar with the decision stage. Though it takes a little longer to get here, the B2B buyer journey is now far more detailed, accurate and representative of what your prospects go through.

At the decision stage, paperwork is in progress. A service or product has been selected and contract details are being discussed and agreed upon.

The goal at the decision stage is to “win” over your prospect. They have essentially chosen your business so you want to make sure that their purchase/engagement process is as frictionless as possible to quickly close the deal.

Here are a few tactics and techniques you can employ: 

  • Sales process design
    Make sure the process is seamless for our leads who have to go through it.

  • Sales content
    Make sure all content that is shared during the sales process is of the highest quality, addresses the contact’s pain points for this stage of the funnel. 

  • Proposals
    Make sure proposals are clear, easy to digest, no hidden fees/things like that. 

  • Sales training & coaching
    To ensure that your sales team is working optimally and able to help the lead. 

  • Advocacy
    If your existing customers are saying great things about you, that’s definitely going to help!

You can use the follow metrics to measure success: 

  • Close rate on proposals/agreements submitted.

  • The average length of the sales cycle.

  • The average value of new customers.

  • New revenue vs new revenue goals.

8. Ongoing delivery

Even after the decision stage, you need to think about how you engage with prospects after the sale. Just because a prospect is a customer that doesn’t mean you can’t market or sell to them.

Chances are that there are other ways for you to help your current customers. For example, if you provide website design and a current customer needs help with website design – why not market that service to them? As they are working with you they have already known (hopefully) how great you are, so why not highlight that you can support them with other activities, too?

Marketing and selling to your current customers is a great way to generate additional revenue. Securing new customers is much harder than retaining existing ones, so think about how you can market and sell to your existing customers as well as generate new ones.

As well as refining your marketing and sales activity, help your existing customers become advocates for your brand. If they feel you’ve done a good job for them, ask them if they would be willing to write a case study or review that can be hosted on your website.

You should also run surveys to understand how customers feel about your business and your products and services. This will help you to improve your activities overall.

Here are a few tactics and techniques you can employ: 

  • Knowledge base creation for customer service
    Create a repository of high-quality content that answers all of the questions customers (and prospects) have. Customer service teams can then quickly redirect customers to relevant articles on your website, streamlining the engagement process and reducing the amount of friction. No customer wants to be passed around endlessly to someone else who can “help”.

  • Upsell and cross-sell customer marketing programmes
    If there are opportunities to upsell or cross-sell marketing programmes to an existing customer, do so. As with the example previously, if you find a customer is in need of a particular service (and has been vocal about that fact), highlight how you can help.

  • Active referral programmes
    To drive new business – particularly referrals – setting up referral programmes (i.e. getting customers to write case studies, reviews and testimonials) can help to increase referrals. Reward your customers who act as advocates for your business by providing them with discounts, free trials or other useful services. 

  • Customer service communication
    Rapid communication with customers and interested parties is key to keeping a sales opportunity hot. Your prospects are time poor and want answers as quickly as possible. Make sure you have content in place to direct them to for the answers they need.

  • Customer surveys
    To understand just how customers view your business, you need to conduct customer surveys. Using the results of these surveys you can then refine your activities to better attract, engage and convert new prospects, as well as re-engage with existing ones.

You can use the follow metrics to measure success:

  • Net promoter score

  • No. of references from customers and number of customers willing to provide references

  • % of customers who buy multiple products or service lines

  • Renewal or churn rate

  • No. of referral-based leads

And there you have it - the cyclonic B2B buyer journey in all its glory. Taking into account these stages as you market and sell to prospects, leads and customers will enable you to get more value out of your activities. Don't forget your existing customers. They can do so much for your business. 

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