By Kanayo Okwuraiwe.
According to Brian Halligan, the CEO of HubSpot, the traditional sales funnel as we know it is obsolete and does not work as well as it once did. One reason for this is the flaws that are inherent in the system. Instead, Brian recommends using the better and more evolved Flywheel methodology that holds better promise for businesses over the traditional marketing funnel.
This article will go one step further. I will discuss why the Flywheel methodology, while a great one, can never really achieve its full potential without help and input from the Inbound marketing methodology. I will, therefore, argue as to how and why it is important to first get the Inbound part of the equation right before you can begin to fully benefit from the Flywheel way of thinking.
It is for this exact reason that the title of this article is “Why the Inbound + Flywheel marketing methodologies can be revolutionary for your law firm.”
Before I discuss the Flywheel marketing model, it is important to lay the foundation to help you understand the power and potential that the combined methodologies hold, by discussing and explaining what the Inbound methodology is all about.
What Is Inbound Marketing (Plus its History.)
The same previously-mentioned Brian Halligan is the one who is credited with coining and popularising the term Inbound Marketing in 2005. The fact of the matter, however, is that the concept had been in existence before that. I’d say pretty much for as long as search engines have been in existence, or at least since they have been popular.
Before the advent of the internet, the world wide web and search engines, the primary method that law firms used to try and reach their potential customers and advertise their services to them, was via the concept of Outbound Marketing, which is considered to be the exact opposite of Inbound Marketing.
Outbound Marketing, as the term implies, was and still is the outward movement of a business owner or its representative in their attempt to put their product or service in front of a potential customer. In the old days, this was pretty much the only way to do it. Outbound marketing, therefore, consisted of things like print advertising in newspapers and magazines, billboards, banners and flyers, radio and TV advertisements, and cold calling.
While all these mediums still exist today and are still used by law firms, their effectiveness is in serious doubt, not to mention the often exorbitant prices that some of these mediums command, putting some of them beyond the reach of most (small) law firms.
Today, Outbound marketing has evolved insofar as it has tried to take advantage of, and join the digital revolution that has characterized our 21st-century world. To this end, the digital version of outbound marketing today includes things like banner advertising on websites and (some types of) email and social media advertising.
Outbound marketing mediums are beset by a multitude of problems and inefficiencies, but if there is one that stands head and shoulders above the rest, it would perhaps be its very low rate of conversion.
Inbound marketing, on the other hand, happens when your potential customer initiates the move (inbound) towards a businesses’ product or service. Or it might be a piece of information they are looking for. And because businesses know that these potential customers are out there, they would have already created the necessary content to ‘pull’ them in, hence why inbound marketing is sometimes referred to as “pull marketing.”
Such is the double-edged benefit that the digital revolution brought about to both customer and business.
The Advantages of Inbound [Over Outbound] Marketing
There are several benefits that Inbound marketing has over Outbound marketing for both business and customer, but we will look at things from the point of view of a business. Some of the more obvious ones are:
Much wider and larger reach: The target audience for a business can practically or potentially be anyone on the planet who has an internet-connected device.
The fact that the potential customer is the one who initiates the initial move towards the business means that in most cases, perhaps as much as half of the work of convincing them to purchase your product or service is already done.
Generally speaking, it has a higher conversion rate over Outbound mediums. Plus, you are better able to track and verify these conversion rates.
It is generally cheaper and more sustainable.
What does Inbound Marketing Consist of?
Generally speaking, we know that Inbound marketing happens when it is the customer who initiates the inward or inbound movement to the business and the business has created the necessary information that they might be looking for. However, different terms have been used to describe the various phases that the customer goes through from initial contact to the end of the journey. Some refer to it as Attract, Engage and Delight. Yet others have referred to it as the Attract, Convert, Close and Delight. Whatever names these phases are given, they all infer one thing; taking the customer through a linear process. Aka a “Funnel.” This is the same funnel I described at the beginning of this piece as being flawed.
The flaw in the funnel system perhaps stems from the fact that the process assumes the customer journey is linear, but time and experience have taught us that it is probably not always so.
There is also the assumed inefficiency in the model which seeks to loop in one new prospect or lead after another through the top of the funnel, without taking into consideration the cost and time it can sometimes take to acquire a new customer or to take them through the funnel.
Yet again, perhaps another problem with the funnel is that it does not consider and fully utilize and maximize the Customer’s Lifetime Value (CLV,) or even the Lifetime Value of whatever task or effort that you put into any phase of the Inbound process.
This is where the Flywheel model begins to approach things differently.
Transitioning from the Funnel to the Flywheel
The Flywheel, which is circular in shape, has one distinct advantage over the funnel—it’s circular and/or potential for continuous motion.
One of the main reasons why the flywheel concept is such a powerful tool when applied to your law firm business lies in its ability to capture, store and release energy and then use that energy to generate more energy or momentum. This is true both of the actual physical flywheel device and the specific ways in which you decide to implement this capturing, storage and releasing of energy in your law firm business.
This might all sound like theory, but let’s take a few practical examples of how this can be applied in your law firm.
In transitioning from the funnel and its linear motion to the flywheel and its never-ending circular motion, think about practical ways in which each element of your business can be used and maximized to obtain more energy.
A few practical examples:
Attract/Awareness Stage: Given that the inbound methodology assumes that the prospect always initiates the search for a product, service or information, can you use (various forms of) content to provide in-depth and comprehensive information (think several different, or cluster articles covering several aspects of just one topic) around what the searcher might be looking for? And moreso, making sure that they can easily find that additional information by placing (visual or hyperlinked) references to related content on the same subject. This might, for instance, involve creating content that covers the 5Ws and 1H, (Who, What, When, Where, Why, How) of your product, service or information, and perhaps even covering information like why you and not your competitors. The thinking here is how that comprehensive and in-depth information in and of itself, can be a mini Flywheel whereby the more energy you produce (I.e. the number, depth or comprehensiveness of your content) the more it works for you by helping to better convince the searcher or prospect that your product, service or information can satisfy their need. The above scenario might be in contrast to publishing a scanty piece of article on a subject matter and hoping it is enough to adequately attract and/or inform the searcher or prospect.
Convert, Close & Delight Stages: The degree to, and success with which you have in attracting and/or making the prospect aware of your business can go a long way in helping you to convert them. In the same way that I used the example of comprehensively covering a topic in the Attract stage as a mini flywheel, are there several things or elements that you can put together that can serve as a mini flywheel that combined together can greatly increase your chance of achieving an objective? E.g. Converting a prospect or lead, getting a past customer to be willing to refer new clients to you, etc. Can you:
Provide a free trial of your product/service and/or a ‘freemium’ version, and/or a money-back guarantee?
Provide free consultations and/or a certain percentage off the sale price of your product/service and/or ___fill in the gap.
Provide testimonials of past clients and/or contact details of past clients so that potential new clients can independently confirm their (positive) experience with your business and/or ___fill in the gap.
Ensure that all calls to your business are answered promptly, instead of going to voicemail or being missed because missed calls often equal missed business opportunities or sales.
Ensure that your customer reps are properly trained to deal with public inquiries and sufficiently informed about your business and its products and services, as poor customer service can be detrimental to a business.
Ensure that your sales team, if you have one, is in sync with your marketing team, and is able to “speak the same language.”
Run remarketing ad campaigns to people who have visited your pricing page or contact us page or any other relevant page on your website?
Do you continue to provide fantastic customer service to your customers long after they have paid for your product or service?
Randomly reach out to customers and ask them if there is anything you can help them with? And more so reach out to them via several mediums (Email, Instant Messenger like Whatsapp Business, Facebook, etc.)
Any of the above specific tasks can fall into either one of the stages of Convert, Close or Delight, depending on the specific type of product or service your business provides, which is why they were all lumped into one group.
The list of examples can go on and will vary from business to business and the type of product or service you provide. For example, the specific ways in which a business attorney will implement this flywheel methodology will differ drastically from how a Software as a Service (SaaS) implements it. The idea here is to provide you with a broad general outline that can be used to guide your thinking towards looking at how one element of your business can be linked to several others and used as an impetus to add more energy to the (mini) flywheel of the business, keeping it turning and generating more energy.
Once you have set your business up to take advantage of the Inbound methodology, which can involve a combination of one or more digital marketing components like Search Engine Optimization (SEO,) Content Marketing, Social Media Marketing/Advertising, Search Engine Marketing (SEM) and more, all of which increases the chances of your law firm being found by people when they initiate that search for the type of legal service that you provide; then your business will arguably be better able to benefit from the Flywheel methodology when implemented because you potentially will have a (steady) flow of inbound prospects, leads or clients that you can experiment with implementing one or more aspects of a mini flywheel and seeing how it can be used to grow whatever metric of your business you are trying to grow.
In Conclusion Most business owners know that starting a business is relatively easy. It doesn’t take a lot to create an LLC or any other business entity that you choose and start running your business from there on. The real challenge will come when you start looking into growing the business. The 2020 State of Small Law Firms report by Thomson Reuters says as much when it lists ‘acquiring new client business’ as one of the biggest challenges that small law firms face.
The Inbound marketing methodology is a surefire way to solve this client acquisition problem, but moreso in a sustainable way. However, there will potentially come a time when simply implementing and taking advantage of it will not be enough to take your business to the “next level.” It is at this stage that you might want to consider implementing the Flywheel methodology to one or more aspects of your business.
About the Author Kanayo Okwuraiwe is a digital marketing professional with 17 years of experience in the industry. He is also the founder of Telligent Marketing LLC, a digital marketing company that provides lawyer SEO and other services to help law firms grow their law practices. Connect with him on Linkedln