Imagine taking a bicycle to jaunt through your neighborhood for a ride. You kick along a pedal to start with, a few initial strong strokes followed by some more pedalling.
You see an uphill, you push even harder and drive through it. You are driving fast through the woods. You build the momentum, gain the balance, and are already gliding it well through the wind.
Now, if I were to ask which pedal made it possible to slide through the road, can you tell which pedal it was? Was it the fifth stroke? Or probably the eleventh?
You cannot tell that, right?
Since the momentum that you gain from pedaling is not because of a particular stroke but a collective action of stroking and pedaling.
This pretty much explains what the flywheel effect is all about.
Origin of the Flywheel model
Flywheel is a concept termed by Jim Collins in one of his books, ‘Good to great,’ adapted from one of the most significant inventions that paved the way through the industrial revolution— the steam engine. James Watt used a flywheel to store and release energy.
The energy stored by the flywheel helped to spin the wheel (Ok, there is more physics to it, which I don’t want to get into now). But this science behind flywheel represents how a typical customer journey is or probably should be.
We have seen a huge evolution in the modern world of selling. By selling, I mean the experience that you give the customers for purchasing from you.
Businesses have been explaining the customer journey with funnels for some time, from attracting them to your product or service to pushing them through the funnel and converting them to customers. But it turns out “the funnel” does not help your business grow today.
Because this is the customer journey represented by your funnel:
You put in efforts to attract the customer to the top of the funnel and make them travel through it to the bottom, where they “convert.” But this momentum that you tried hard to build ends there.
So you repeat this process all over again to attract new customers, build momentum and convert them. And we have different functional teams in place to attract and help the customer along the journey to sail through the bottom.
But this funnel appears to be flawed for two reasons. One is that the funnel represents a very linear approach to a customer journey and does not reflect the dark journey that a customer goes through before and after the purchase.
And another, the output from the funnel does not wholly represent what it can do to attract new customers to your business.
So, what happens?
In an ideal world, people don’t discover X, visit Y, and do Z. The journey is much more random, where you cannot track the breadcrumb trail of all things done.
Convoluted actions like word of mouth and invisible influence make the realm of this journey. They undergo a cycle of three important stages, which are attract, delight, and engage, represented by a flywheel model.
And what makes the flywheel spin and build momentum is mainly these two things: force and friction.
- Applying force to these areas that give a huge impact
- Reduce the frictions that are detrimental to your business
Forces are the thing that helps you spin the wheel better and faster. Let’s say you discover your knowledge base helps customers clear all their inhibitions to make the purchase. Then you should probably work on the content marketing efforts to enrich this knowledge base.
Also, let’s say the majority of your customers do not want interference for a salesperson to demo your product. Eliminating this friction again makes the wheel spin faster.
In order to build momentum, every team should be part of the flywheel and work towards improving their competitive advantage and weeding out things that affect their growth.
And when this happens, it is not just the company that helps to spin the wheel, but the customers help build the momentum and help the company grow.
At Mobius, when we wanted to implement the flywheel model in our business strategies, it wasn’t very easy initially to find the right momentum.
But with a lot of experimentation and observations, we were able to articulate what drove us and what stopped us. And this was possible only with each team contributing to spin the wheel along.
How Amazon adapted the flywheel model?
Amazon has always been a customer-centric company, driving each function of its business with the customer as the cornerstone. Amazon’s approach to building customer-centric products brought the flywheel model to life even before Jim Collin’s ‘Good to great’ came out.
The first thing that amazon focused on was the ‘selection’ and ‘convenience’ of purchasing a product. When this availability factor was improved for the buyers, it allowed people to not settle for less and choose from a variety of products, leading to a better customer experience.
And better customer experience resulted in better traffic, which in turn led to sellers wanting to list their products in a marketplace where they had a larger audience whom they could sell to. This led to the wide availability of products which increased the selection.
While the above cycle goes on and on, they also focused on the second foundation, which is bringing a low-cost structure leading to lower prices. This propelled the customer experience to spin the wheel and brought momentum to the flywheel.
Amazon orchestrated the momentum with the success of sellers, and their sales and profit contributed to the growth of Amazon.
Every organization has its own sweet spot and bottleneck (or ‘pain swot,’ if that’s what you call it) that needs to be improved.
Designing the flywheel comes with a lot of experimentation, but when rightly done and figured out, it could bring great momentum to your business growth.
And not just that, experimenting with the flywheel model can open up a plethora of previously unnoticed opportunities and bring in many Eureka moments that you wished you had identified earlier. So, what are you waiting for?