For the longest time, most services businesses including corporate learning and development (L&D) have centered around the concept of the traditional sales funnel. Under the old sales funnel dogma, sales were generated by the following image. Focus on delivering awareness on the product or services and ultimately funnel people or leads until they convert into customers.
The process was relatively simple to understand as it implies that any potential customer has to go through these few steps before the organisation can derive value or revenue from the lead.
The inherent flaw in the sales funnel was the fact that a lot of effort and time was required to continue to ensure that the funnel was always “wet” with awareness stage folks all the way down to customers. If one step of the sales funnel was weak or inherently slower, it would create gaps in revenue. If you think of pouring water down a funnel, it implies that there is a constant need to pour more water into the funnel at all times.
In services driven businesses, this implies that organisations need to invest in a lot of demo sessions, social media awareness ads, organising product awareness session in the hopes that a percentage of the viewer would convert into the later stages of the sales funnel. This requires effort, time and money. Attention spans across the world are dropping so more effort is required to move people from the awareness stage to the interest or consideration stage. Fortunately, HubSpot came along and changed the way we can view the usual customer journey.
HubSpot understood that by using the traditional sales funnel approach, there was an inherent weakness and the main weakness is that it ignores the impact of the customer on the success of the organisation. They believed that there was another path to growth and success and its pivotal aspect was that they needed to align all their strategies to “delight” the customer.
“Companies that align their success with their customers, not only scale, but create delight, loyalty, and love from the people who matter most. When companies grow better, they meet even the highest of customer expectations, and the result is a better business, better relationships, and a better path to growth”. Using the power of customer momentum, they created the Flywheel.
If you refer to the Flywheel below, you will notice that growth is driven by the momentum of happy or delighted customers. This can be a powerful force to essentially build an army of happy customers that can eventually drive referrals and repeat sales. In essence, the business keeps spinning and that drives even more momentum and the flywheel keeps on spinning and spinning.
The impact of the flywheel really depends on 3 key factors:
- How fast the Flywheel spins
- How much friction is there is in the Flywheel
- How big the Flywheel is
Impact on the Corporate L&D Industry in Malaysia
Since we have a brief understanding of the flywheel and I highly encourage you to read HubSpot’s article on the model, let’s apply it to the L&D industry in Malaysia.
Step 1: How Fast the Flywheel Spins
The speed of any flywheel increases as you add areas of impact. For example, as a corporate L&D provider, one big aim is to establish your organisation as a thought leader in the industry. Along those lines, one area could be to focus on building high quality content that is available on social media that attracts strangers. The content has to be relevant but more importantly accessible and helpful to a wide range of users. One great example of this is HubSpot’s own academy where there are tons of content available for any entrepreneur or professional.
The content is not geared to push customers to buy their products but to educate and to really provide “stranger” value. The process is extremely easy to use as all their content can be easily accessible and all that is required is a simple email signup and off you go. In the L&D context, the objective could be to help strangers understand the importance of upskilling or reskilling for the future.
Content is king in the digital age and creating content that is deep and freely available is a welcome addition versus the multitude of content marketing that is readily available in the online world. We often underestimate the value of great content as we optimise content for SEO ranking and breaking the mould on this is a breath of fresh air for most users. As readers, we don’t think in terms of SEO ranking and delivering content for the user rather than Google should be the primary aim.
Step 2: Remove Friction from the Flywheel
Make the process as simple as possible for the potential customer. Allow them to sample your offerings without pressuring them to take offers that they later regret. Great products or services sell themselves and sometimes the best thing to do is to get out of the way of the natural sales process. In the context for L&D, it could be achieved in the below forms:
- Let potential customers learn about your offerings by having as much information about your services or products online.
- Reduce the need to sign up and creating barriers to this information.
- If possible, post your typical pricing online. With services, this can be difficult but allowing customers to understand the variables gives them more control.
- Make the process of communication and purchasing as simple as possible.
In the world of proposal and custom pricing, the additional friction removers can be as simple as integrating Calendly into your scheduling process so that customers have an easy mechanism to reach out to you or your organisation.
Proposals can be automated so that if a client needs a proposal, one can be generated in minutes rather than days. If the product or service is expensive, provide them easier opt-in methods by creating pricing options that serve different customer price points.
In essence, the goal is to make the process as simple and as frictionless as possible. If you put yourself in the customer’s shoes, does the entire experience make you feel that you were in control or do you feel out of control? Delighting the customer should be the aim, to enable them to continue spinning your organisation’s flywheel.
Step 3: How big is the Flywheel
In corporate L&D, sometimes we forget about the main customer we serve and it’s not the HR or L&D departments but the participants in any learning program. They also tend to be the largest segment to focus on as they provide a numerical advantage over the person in charge of the event. Focus on where it matters to spin the flywheel faster. Using the largest segment of the customer experience is critical to ensuring a fast-spinning flywheel.
For example, in learning sessions, the emphasis of the experience should be solely on the participant where their experience should be fantastic. Small increments are all that is needed to improve the experience which might include having ongoing communications with participants prior to a learning session, creating an engaging environment for learning during the session and having a very strong follow through post session. SuperOffice, a CRM provider recently interviewed 1,920 business professionals to share their top priorities in the next 5 years and the result is clear: customer experience (CX).
It was less about product pricing and quality, and more about the experience people had with the product or service. They also determined that 86% of buyers were willing to pay more for a great customer experience. In the context of the flywheel, using participant experiences can lead to a bigger flywheel that spins faster. As a result, the business grows by attracting new leads and eventually converting them into paying customers.
Another approach to delight customers could be to design products or solutions that are very easy to use. Having how-to guides allows the right customer segment to clearly understand the value your product or service offers and take each engagement as a long-term commitment to the participants rather than a one-off session. The goal of any interaction is to turn users into fans and they then will end up recommending the product to their peers, friends, families and sometimes to complete strangers.
As a result of the above, a simple approach for any L&D organisation can be summarised as below:
- If you’re selling a product, allow users to buy, not the reverse which is to sell the product.
- Price the product or service for volume and to make the pricing as clear as possible (think about the friction of understanding pricing plans).
- Make the process to interact with your product or service as simple as possible. How-to guides help a lot in this regard and should be easily accessible.
- Engage your users or participants in a genuine and non-salesy manner to drive real customer or user experience.
- Avoid the concentration on key customers and focus on the masses, in order to grow the flywheel, you also need a volume component of your business.
- Focus on delivering customer and user value rather than force fitting products or solutions on clients. Develop a great reputation for honesty in delivering solutions.
- Help whenever possible. Customers don’t have all the answers and providing some practical (and free) advice can go a long way in build credible relationships.
In the end, the purpose of any organisation is to deliver value to its stakeholders, be it customers, employees, investors or the general public. When looking at the L&D industry, the core aim is to deliver value to participants and they can be a huge momentum boost for your growth in your organisation. Emphasising the key concepts of the flywheel drives more growth but ultimately delivers the most value to the L&D ecosystem too.
In a world where there is so much data and information, trust in traditional sources of information has eroded. Social proof and word of mouth has become the currency of trust among users and understanding that shift will allow your organisation to grow and capture a larger revenue share in the market.