Picture this ideal lifecycle marketing situation:
- A customer walks into your store, knowing exactly what they want to buy
- They make a beeline to the product, bring it to the register, and fork over their money
- “See you next time?” the cashier asks
- The customer happily replies: “You know it!”
Sounds like a dream come true for any business owner, doesn’t it? To have a customer so satisfied with the services you provide that you don’t even have to lift a finger to impress them anymore.
Of course, this scenario is essentially the endgame for all business owners and entrepreneurs. But you shouldn’t expect to get to this point overnight.
You need to nurture your relationship with your target consumers at all stages of the customer lifecycle.
What Is Lifecycle Marketing?
Lifecycle marketing is a marketing approach that targets individual customers where they currently exist within the customer journey.
By knowing exactly what they’re looking for at any given time throughout their engagement with your brand, you can provide just the right value that will coerce them to the next stage of the journey.
A proper lifecycle marketing strategy can:
- Increase consumer trust in your brand
- Increase customer retention and loyalty
- Reduce instances of customers abandoning shopping carts
- Reduce customer churn rate
Ultimately, all of this leads to a major increase in profitability. Not only is it inherently profitable to have a solid base of recurring customers spending their money on your products or services, but retaining customers is also much more cost-efficient than acquiring new ones.
That being said, let’s take a look at how you can tailor your marketing initiatives to each stage of the customer lifecycle.
Using Lifecycle Marketing to Boost Profitability
We’ve said it before:
Each one of your customers is an individual, with unique needs and unique expectations of your company.
Along with segmenting your customers based on their personalities, demographics, and other such data – and using this information to individualize and optimize their experience with your brand – you also need to consider where they are in their own personal buyer’s journey.
According to Digital Trends, 76% of consumers prefer brands that personalize their shopping experience.
In the next section, we’ll discuss the main goals and best practices of marketing to consumers at the following stages of the customer lifecycle:
- First-Time Customers
- Repeat Customers
- At-Risk Customers
- Lapsed Customers
Let’s get started.
As we alluded to earlier, getting a consumer to move past the prospect stage is one of the more difficult processes you’ll undertake as a marketer.
When a consumer is in this stage of the customer lifecycle, you’ll need to:
- Welcome them to your company and brand
- Woo them and set your brand apart from the competition
- Engage with them to determine their needs
- Provide them with added value however possible
At this point in their journey, the consumer has shown at least a passing interest in your services. They may have “liked” your Facebook page or began following you on Twitter, or signed up for your mailing list.
Once they take this first step, you’ll want to immediately welcome them with open arms. Send your new prospects an email that thanks them for hopping aboard your bandwagon and sets their expectations moving forward.
At this point, though you’ve given your prospects a warm welcome, you still need to give them a little extra to keep them locked in on your brand (and away from your competition).
Here’s where you want to start delivering exemplary content to your prospect quickly and often. It may sound cliche, but you need to show them you can walk the walk. Consider sending them materials that showcase the effectiveness of your products such as:
- Instructional videos and webinars
Since you currently don’t know much regarding your prospect’s preferences for specific content, you want to communicate the value of your services in as many ways as possible. As a prospect becomes more engaged, you can provide the option for them to pare down the content they receive.
Speaking of engagement, it’s never too early to get a prospective customer to take action – even if that action doesn’t yet relate to making a purchase.
Rather than simply providing content to your prospects, encourage them to join in on the conversation. This might mean asking them to leave a comment on a blog post you’ve sent them, or asking them to reply to an email regarding what they’re looking for from your brand.
By getting your prospects to put into the relationship even a small fraction of what they’re getting, you create a sense of investment within your future customer. Of course, you’ll need to give your prospects much more than you should expect them to give you.
To make your prospects even more likely to become paying customers, you’ll need to give them a gentle nudge in the right direction.
Hopefully, by now you have a much better idea of what a specific prospect is looking for. At this point, you might choose to provide information regarding products or services that would best meet their needs, or ask if they’d like to schedule a call with a representative from your company.
When a consumer is in the prospect stage, you’ll need to work hard to prove that your main interest is in providing them with value. Once you’ve put in sufficient effort and have convinced a prospect to convert, you’ll have a relatively easy time keeping them around for some time to come.
…but that doesn’t mean getting your first-time customers to stick around will be a cakewalk.
In fact, once you get a prospect to convert, you’ll have a whole new set of challenges in front of you.
Now, you’ll need to:
- Further solidify your relationship
- Live up to the expectations you’ve set
- Exceed these expectations
- Provide additional value
If you’re able to successfully meet all of these goals, you’ll be in great position to transform a first-time customer into a loyal fanatic of your brand.
Your first order of business is to deepen your relationship with your new customer. As you continue to collect information about their persona, behavioral tendencies, pain points and needs, you can use this data to connect with them on a more intimate level.
By determining which customer segment they fall into, you can begin contacting them with meaningful messages regarding their situation, the products they purchased, and the goals they hope to accomplish by engaging with your brand.
You might also consider soliciting additional information regarding your new customer’s wants, needs, and expectations. Find out if they have any questions about how to use the solutions you’ve provided, or if they are completely satisfied with the results your solution provided.
Whether your new customer is 100% satisfied or has unfortunately been left wanting more, you’ll want to provide further options to keep them fully engaged with your brand.
But all of this is essentially par for the course by today’s standards.
If you really want to create engagement and increase customer loyalty, you’ll need to provide some unexpected value to your first-time customers.
It’s the little things, like surprise bonuses and supplemental offers, that will show your new customers you care about their satisfaction – and that you see them as an individual with needs, and not just a sale to be made.
At-Risk Customers and Lapsed Customers
Though there are many nuanced differences between an at-risk customer and a lapsed customer, your goals when targeting these individuals are the same:
- Re-engage your relationship
- Reinforce the value you provide
- Reignite their buying button
While your goals pertaining to at-risk and lapsed customers are the same, the ways in which you should go about approaching them are quite different. This is mainly because at-risk customers have more passively fallen to the wayside, while lapsed customers will likely have explicitly stated they no longer wish to do business with your company.
Re-engaging with an at-risk customer requires you reach out as soon as you realize there’s a problem.
Side note: Use past customer data to pinpoint these vital moments in the future. Also, even if an at-risk customer doesn’t return, you can at least use this information to prevent others from churning in the future.
For example, if a customer who usually makes weekly purchases goes AWOL for a month, it’d be a good idea to shoot them an email and probe for more information. In doing so, you can determine exactly why a specific customer has stopped coming to you for your services – and can work on providing solutions that better suit said customer’s needs.
As with Amazon’s recommendations, you can leverage your customer’s purchase history to determine an offer that would resonate with them and get them thinking about purchasing from you again in the near future.
It’s essential that you don’t let too much time go by before reaching out to an at-risk customer. Wait too long, and your at-risk customer will have all but officially become a lapsed customer.
However, before a customer officially churns, you have one last chance to reinforce your value and reignite their buying button.
Fair Warning: The cutesy “We miss you!” email doesn’t cut it. It’s boring, and it insinuates that your ready-to-lapse customer owes you their business for some reason.
If a customer hasn’t engaged with your company in a while, you may be able to surprise them with recent updates and upgrades you’ve made to your products or services. This tactic will work especially well if it’s used in-line with communications you had with that customer when they were still considered “at-risk” (and if your upgraded services align with the needs they reported at the time).
If you truly are unable to meet the needs of a specific customer, you’ll have to swallow your pride and admit defeat.
But, you can still leave a good impression as you and your customer part ways, in the hopes that you’ll one day be able to provide value to them once more. The people over at Groove understand that some customers come and go – but they’ve figured out how to squeeze valuable insight out of those who have churned.
Again, though you may have lost that customer, you can still use the information gleaned from them to improve your services in the future.
Okay, enough about the customers you’re losing. What about the customers who love your services?
Even though you’re not necessarily struggling to keep them aboard, this doesn’t mean you can just take them for granted. There’s always more you could be doing for your most loyal customers – and more they could be doing for you in the process.
When it comes to repeat customers, your main goals should be to:
- Increase longevity
- Increase loyalty
- Turn them into brand evangelists
Increasing longevity essentially requires you to never let up in terms of providing top-quality service.
Sure, if you make a mistake here or there with a customer who is otherwise overwhelmingly pleased with your services, they’re more likely to let it slide than a first-time or dissatisfied customer would be. But that’s their prerogative, not yours.
Since your long-time customers inherently have a more intimate knowledge of the products or services you offer, you might also consider allowing them sneak peeks and previews of upcoming changes, improvements, or additions to your offerings. By soliciting advice from your most loyal customers, you show them that you truly care about what they think, and are dedicated to giving them what they want from your brand.
And, of course, never underestimate the value of a “just because” gift for the customers who you can consistently count on for revenue. It doesn’t have to be anything huge – just something that will make them say “See, this is why I love this company!”
All of these actions can drive loyalty in one way or another. But you can also be a bit more overt in your loyalty-driving campaigns, too.
There are a ton of ways to implement a customer loyalty program:
- Amazon Prime allows members to pay an annual fee to receive free shipping and other perks
- American Express’ Plenti program allows customers to collect points and use them to get discounts at various stores and online services
- Starbucks lets customers earn points by making purchases and playing “games” through the company’s app, which in turn can be traded in for free food or drink items
When a customer signs up for your loyalty program, they’re “officially” saying they love your brand. On their end, they’ve made a conscious decision to continue giving you their hard-earned cash. On your end, this means you owe it to your loyal customers to provide the best service possible.
After a customer has “officially” become loyal, there’s still another step they could take that can provide ultimate value to your brand:
Becoming an evangelist.
These are the customers who are so in love with your products or services that they can’t help but share their experiences with others.
Needless to say, having satisfied customers sing your praises can have major benefits for your company. A recommendation from an evangelist can lead to:
- Increased brand awareness
- Increased conversion rate
- Increased retention rate
Such recommendations can take the form of online reviews and testimonials:
Or less-structured manners, such as word-of-mouth. Evangelism can even occur in a previously-dissatisfied customer – if you play your cards right.
Let’s be serious: it takes guts to admit when you’ve done someone wrong. And it doesn’t happen often.
If, as a company, you’re able to swallow your pride and correct a mistake you’ve made with a customer, they’ll likely be so surprised that they won’t be able to help but share their positive experience with their friends and family.
If this happens, not only have you saved a customer from churning, but you also have potentially increased your customer base in the process.
And all you had to do with deliver the value you promised in the first place!
One of the biggest mistakes fledgling entrepreneurs make is they focus all their energy just on making sales. Of course, sales are important – it’s the official mark in which all your other efforts pay off.
But, if you don’t put in all that other effort in the first place, you don’t stand much chance of actually reaching the point of conversion (and, if you do make a sale, you still aren’t doing much to ensure your customer returns).
On the other hand, if you focus on providing value to your customers from the moment they reach out to you to the moment they make a purchase – and beyond – they’ll be much more likely to return to you the next time they’re in need of your services.
In turn, you continue to generate revenue without having to increase your customer base.