Conversion Funnels & Flywheels, SMART Goals, Objectives, and KPIs

Build a successful digital presence by articulating your business, including its conversion model, goals, and KPIs.

Understanding your business model and strategy is essential if you plan on thriving on the market. They are also the basis for key questions your web designers should ask before starting any work on your digital presence.

Even more important for success in either of these endeavours is the why. Why your business does what it does is at the heart of the relationship with your customers, since why they buy always matters more than what they buy.

It is also the soul of your digital marketing. It’s the type of qualitative input that distinguishes a truly representative website reflecting its company’s personality from a mediocre, template-born one.

From an internal perspective, knowing why you’re in business also enables you to attract top talent and keep them motivated and energized. If you succeed at aligning your company’s culture with its purpose, you will, without a doubt, manage a team of professionals who don’t work for your money, but towards your ideals.

While your business model and strategy are the foundational blocks to understanding your business, the “why” is the glue that holds everything together. With everything correctly welded in place, you’re bound to sell the story of your company to your prospects, rather than just the product or service, turning them into loyal customers. And if you succeed at that, there’s no doubt you will achieve your goals.

But how do you set goals? What’s the difference between goals and objectives? And how exactly do you turn prospects into customers?

While the answer to these questions seems straightforward, let our experts humor you with some analysis and advice. We first delve into why the traditional funnel is obsolete and propose an alternative metaphor, more suitable to the interconnectedness of the 21st century.

Then, we discuss a few ways to go about setting targets in ways that are quantifiable and measurable. With this system in place, you will know exactly how far you moved towards achieving your objectives, and how those bring you a step closer to achieving your goals.

You may wonder why a digital marketing agency is schooling you on business basics. Well, here’s a piece of advice. If the digital marketing agency you are working with does not ask you about your company’s goals and inner workings, you can be sure they will not build you the best digital presence you could possibly have. And it’s very intuitive why.

Your website shouldn’t be there because that’s just how things are done since 2005. You shouldn’t create a social media page just because you saw your competitors have one (although it’s great if you’re market-aware). If you start out without knowing why you’re building a digital presence, it might end up just making matters more complicated for your customers.

Instead, your digital presence should drive your agenda forward. By articulating your business specifics in systematized ways, you’ll be able to use this essential information to inform your digital marketing plan. With the tools we outline below, you’ll be able to carry out a more fruitful discussion with a digital agency and ensure you devise a strategy that plays to your business’ advantages.

Consider Your Conversion Model 🔗

An important step to take as you prepare to create an online presence is considering your company’s conversion model. As a visual guide to the process of turning prospects into customers, having a comprehensive understanding of your company’s conversion model is critical for a few reasons.

A conversion model helps organize your company’s sales and marketing efforts. Sales and marketing success - and therefore, business success - is never the result of “one-size fits all” solutions. After all, you wouldn’t use the same tactics on prospects that haven’t even defined their problem as you would on those trying to decide between your product and a competitor’s.

A conversion model makes it easier to gauge where potential customers are in their purchasing process (i.e. the buyer’s journey) and what your business is doing at each step of the model to move potential customers towards a purchase.

For existing businesses going online for the first time, reassessing your conversion strategies is especially important because your online conversion strategies are going to be executed differently from your offline strategies.

Conversion models vary from business to business and should be tailored to fit your company’s unique characteristics. That said, there are a few classic models that provide a solid basis for constructing your custom conversion model.

Traditional Sales Funnel 🔗

Chances are you’re familiar with the archetypal conversion model: the sales funnel. Otherwise known as the “conversion funnel,” the sales funnel maps a customers’ progression towards a purchase using, naturally, a funnel shape.

The basic idea beyond the traditional sales funnel is that the earliest stage of the sales process targets a large segment of potential customers. As target customers enter the “top of the funnel” and turn into leads, they are strategically guided through, the batch of leads becoming smaller and smaller until, ultimately, a portion of them successfully convert into paying customers.

Different strategies are adequate to target each segment of the funnel to minimize 'leaks'.

The sales funnel operates as follows:

  1. Awareness: target a select but broad segment of consumers with marketing campaigns to make them aware of the solution your company offers to a problem they may have.
  2. Consideration: as potential customers turn into legitimate leads, nurture their interest by establishing a dialogue and further educating them on the solution you offer.
  3. Evaluation: express the benefits of your solution as your customers evaluate their options ahead of a final decision.
  4. Purchase: Congratulations! You’ve successfully converted your lead into a sale.

While the largest number of prospective buyers will be part of the Awareness group, it’s possible that you engage with prospects during any stage. However, the core feature of the traditional sales funnel is also its most prominent flaw - the customer journey ends when they make a purchase.

Inbound Flywheel 🔗

The traditional sales funnel has been the standard conversion shape for decades. However, a somewhat recent modification has gained substantial traction as the new, go-to template for building a conversion model.

For some, the most glaring hole in the traditional sales funnel is that it situates your business to drive towards an outcome: converting the prospect and making a sale. Considering the mountain-moving effort that is usually required to convert a lead into a customer, it’s extremely inefficient to view conversion as the end of the process, especially when we know that happy customers have the biggest potential of becoming brand ambassadors and advocating for your product down the line. Letting the energy generated from a conversion dissipate at the bottom of the funnel is simply a waste.

The remedy to this perceived problem in conversion modeling is the inbound flywheel.

The flywheel essentially dismisses the classic, vertical shape of the sales funnel in favor of a circle.

Thus, rather than driving towards one-and-done conversions, you organize your business around a constant loop where the momentum of conversions catalyzes further conversions.

Attract 🔗

The equivalent of the prototypical awareness stage, the attract stage aims to reel in interest to your business and the solution it offers.

However, the designation of this initial phase as “attract” rather than “awareness” is important in regards to your company’s marketing strategy. Whereas “awareness” implies peppering a passive audience with messaging to force awareness, “attract” emphasizes potential customers deliberately turning to you. The key here is creating something of value for your target customers. For example, rather than banner ads or email blasts, create a free piece of informative content - such as a video tutorial or a blog article - about a topic relevant to their interests.

Engage 🔗

The engage stage overlaps with both consideration and evaluation stages of the funnel, but with a few slight differences. While providing useful information and further educating about how your solution fits in, the primary goal of this stage is to cultivate a connection with your leads. By creating an authentic experience through personalized messaging or “try before you buy” programs, you’re not aiming for a sale - you’re proving value and building trust, increasing the potential of a lasting relationship that could create many sales.

Delight 🔗

The bridge between a present conversion and future conversions, delight is about far more than simply closing out a sale and wishing your customer well. While the goal is to delight your customers throughout the entire buyer experience, this stage is especially about going above and beyond in post-sale service. While the customer will most likely be pleased with the product or service they’ve purchased, the objective here is to exceed their expectations with attentive, informative, and empowering customer service. This could mean checking up on how they like their purchase, offering feedback surveys, or perhaps loyalty programs.

By not simply halting the relationship with a customer the moment they make their purchase, you sow the seeds of loyalty and, more important, advocacy. Not only is a delighted customer more likely to become a return customer, but they are also more likely to recommend your company to others, leave glowing online reviews, and be an all-around champion for your brand.

Thus, a delighted customer spurs further attraction to your company - directing others into the flywheel and adding to the momentum that leads to business growth.

Flywheels and Funnels? 🔗

But is it worth the effort of replacing the funnel you’ve probably been using for years with the flywheel? Yes, yes it is. A couple of reasons for that.

First off, the world has changed a lot since the funnel metaphor first came about. The founding fathers of sales process engineering brought the concept about in the early 20th century, during the Fordist era. Things were a lot more unidirectional back then. Everyone was selling at consumers. Reviews were done by professional reviewers and published in traditional media. As we have previously explained, the internet has fundamentally changed our lives.

Social media and C2C disrupted that unidirectionality. Now, when people are looking to go out on a family dinner, they don’t go to the local paper for restaurant reviews. Instead, TripAdvisor and the reviews on Google Maps enable potential customers to decide in advance whether they want to eat somewhere, based on the menu, photos of the place and food, pricing options, and comments from fellow diners.

In the 21st century, a bad review is not only one less customer. Depending on their network, it could be thousands. It goes the other way too.

An influencer who had a wonderful experience with your product or service can generate more interest in a small business than a year’s worth of traditional marketing investments.

Simply put, the sales funnel cannot account for the fact that customers interact with each other. A lot.

So in a world where Michelin stars are less important than Google review stars, you really want to make sure you take your time to delight your clients at every stage of their buyer’s journey.

Secondly, you don’t have to throw all funnels out the window altogether. Sure, your sales process will keep looking like a funnel, since there will be fewer people in each successive stage from prospects to clients. And that’s okay. The funnel metaphor is useful to help you see where a stage is disproportionately smaller than the previous one i.e. where you lose the most prospects. This enables you to restructure specific bits of your sales strategies.

However, the key is to understand that your business is far more than a conical sales process. Instead, think of your business as a flywheel, where each section is powering the next one. While some individual sections produce funnel-like patterns, you mustn’t lose sight of the big picture. Now that you have an idea of how your business should look like, presumably you set that as an objective in your mind. Pause. Rewind. If you’re serious about reaching a destination, you mustn’t let any ambiguities stand in your way. This is how you dispel them.

Setting Goals for Your Online Business 🔗

No matter what you’re trying to accomplish, few successful endeavors begin without at least a few goals. But setting goals for your online business requires more than having an abstract vision of success floating around in your imagination.

While goals are certainly successes to work towards, you should also think of goals as the foundation stones that support your business as it builds towards success. They are both lofty aspirations to reach for, as well as anchor points to keep your business pointed in the right direction. You can approach goal-setting from four major perspectives:

Financial - this traditional perspective focuses on the monetary results of your actions.

Customer - this perspective looks at the impact your decisions have on the people who buy your products.

Operational - this perspective aims to optimize internal processes and streamline cooperation.

Learning & growth - this perspective revolves around employees, helping them gain the skills, and providing them with the cultural environment needed for success.

Each of these foundation stones is composed of other, finer tuned elements: objectives and KPIs. Let’s break it down.

Objectives are statements that define the qualitative outcome of your goal, while KPIs are a way to benchmark and monitor how you get to the objective.

Goal: a specific accomplishment a business aims to fulfill over a particular time frame. Usually broad, big picture aspirations, goals can be explained as what you want to accomplish with your business.

Objectives: a series of clearly defined, measurable, and actionable steps that, when taken, allow you to reach the big picture goal. Objectives essentially describe how you will reach your goal.

KPIs: Key Performance Indicators are measurable values used to gauge your business’ progress towards fulfilling specific objectives.

Looking at it from micro to macro, KPIs are set to help meet objectives, which are created to help reach goals. A single goal generally includes several objectives, each of which requires at least one KPI to monitor your progress towards hitting the objective.

Here’s an example of a goal broken down into objectives and KPIs.


Increase your online sales by 10% over the next six months.


  1. Improve SEO performance for decision stage articles.
  2. Improve social media presence.
  3. Improve user experience and accessibility on your website.

KPIs to measure progress in hitting objectives:

  1. SEO page rank for target keywords.
  2. Engagement with social media posts and response time.
  3. Dwell time on the website and conversions on the pricing and contact pages.

SMART Goals 🔗

When setting goals that will help guide the direction of your business for sizable periods, simply saying you want to be rich as soon as possible isn’t going to help the cause. While objectives and KPIs provide further detail on how to move towards your big picture aspirations, a goal itself must be well-defined. Better yet, a goal should be SMART!

SMART refers to the criteria a goal must meet to maximize its effectiveness as a tool for business growth. The acronym stands for the following:

Specific: Your goal is clearly defined and expresses exactly what you want to accomplish.

Measurable: Your progress can be monitored by either quantitative or qualitative metrics.

Attainable: Your goal is realistic and actionable.

Relevant: Your goal has an impact on what you’re trying to accomplish.

Time-bound: Your goal is bound to a certain period.

Without SMART goals, it’s incredibly difficult not only to achieve progress, but also to measure it. As such, your goals will always seem out of reach.

Here are a few example goals - a few that are SMART, and a few that are not so SMART.

Dumb Goal: Make bank as fast as possible!

SMART Goal: Improve conversion rate by 5% over the next quarter.

Dumb Goal: Have a totally kickass website for my scaffolding business!

SMART Goal: Rank on the first page of Google for “exterior scaffolding instructions” and a few other target keywords within the next six months.

Dumb Goal: Travel the world in the lap of luxury off my brand new fashion blog!

SMART Goal: Double the dwell time on my core content pages to improve SEO performance and attract three new sponsors by the end of the year.

Using this method already puts you ahead of 80% percent of American small business owners, who don't keep track of their business goals. When you use the method above to set objectives that help you achieve your goals, and KPIs to measure if those were achieved, your business is bound to either grow or increase its profits, depending on your vision.

Conclusion 🔗

An Indian parable tells the story of 6 blind people who encounter an elephant for the first time in their lives. They can only touch it to understand what they’re facing and learn about the creature before them. However, once they start talking to each other, they swiftly jump to accuse each other of lying. How can it be that one of them describes it as a war machine with spears and another saying it’s a rope tied to a wall?

Unable to perceive the whole simultaneously, they all had limited inputs to go off when trying to conceptualize the elephant. The former person was touching the elephant’s tusks, while the latter - its tail. Understanding your business is a similarly daunting task. Without a set of tools to enable you to understand what, how, and why your business does what it does, what its model and strategy are, as well as where it’s headed, it’s impossible to have a clear picture that fully captures all of your company’s work.

Here, we suggest some formulas to help you visualize your conversion model and the hierarchy of goals and objectives, as well as measuring progress towards them using KPIs. These are the immediately most important steps after defining the core of your business. These methods can help you comprehend your business in a systematized and organized way. Such an understanding is essential for thriving in the market, cultivating a company culture that motivates your staff and fosters growth, as well as helping your clients build a true, positive emotional connection to your brand.

If you plan on maximizing the benefits of having an online presence, understanding your business is also one of the first crucial steps in building one. At, we take pride in going above and beyond to ensure our clients get more than “a pretty website”. Our expertise in digital marketing provides you with support in using these tools. By getting these initial steps right, we ensure you make the most out of your investment. We’re excited to learn about the specifics of your business and deliver the most useful package of solutions for you. Get in touch with us to find out more.

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