Every one of your customers has a story — and every interaction they have with your brand becomes a part of that story, or a step in that customer’s journey.
These customer journeys are a treasure trove of insights into how prospects discover and interact with your brand, what messaging resonates with your current customers, and which of your marketing tactics are effective with your customer base.
Lifecycle marketing is the process of understanding these journeys so that you can provide your audience with the kinds of messages and experiences that move them from prospects to brand loyalists.
What is Lifecycle Marketing?
All customers go through a journey as they interact with your brand. If you graph these experiences on a timeline, you get a user journey map.
Another way to describe the journey is by calling it the customer lifecycle, where a user passes through various stages on the path from prospect to superfan.
By focusing not just on customer personas but also on what stage a user is in, you can target your marketing campaigns and hone your message to hit exact pain points. This is the essence of lifecycle marketing: communicate at every stage with relevant offers or support, and encourage customers to actively use your app.
But first, let’s define those stages.
What Are the Five Stages of the Customer Lifecycle?
There are various progressive steps (or stages) a customer goes through – from researching to purchasing, from light engagement to loyal use.
While there are many approaches to naming these stages, one of the most useful is laid out by marketing analysts Jim Sterne and Matt Cutler in their paper E-Metrics: Business Metrics For The New Economy.01 Their five customer lifecycle stages are:
The Goals of Customer Lifecycle Marketing
The goals are really simple – attract and retain your customers. In the process you also want to:
- Nurture prospects into first-time buyers
- Nurture first-time buyers into repeat customers
- Nurture repeat customers into long-term customers
- Win back churned users and make them active again
- Support and engage with all users
- Increase the Customer Lifetime Value of your users
- Increase your ROI
Lifecycle Marketing Campaigns & Strategies
To help you create your own lifecycle marketing model, we’ll go through each stage in detail as well as provide lifecycle marketing examples you can use in your campaigns.
Reach is about building awareness and getting in front of prospective customers. This is the beginning of any customer journey. Social media, paid ads, and word-of-mouth provide the initial boost that brings you to the attention of a user. But then there are many other avenues to gain a better understanding of a product or service. Use the channels that your prospective customers are on. Get the word out!
- In this stage, it is crucial to invest in an omnichannel marketing strategy. You want to capture potential customers no matter what channel they come in on. But at the same time, provide them with a seamless experience of your brand.
- You’ve got to reach out to prospects and find them where they congregate. This means everything from display ads and social media ads to influencer marketing and even guest blog posts.
- This is also the stage where a solid content marketing strategy comes into play. Provide shareable content that people will want to spread: infographics, quotes, stories, bite-sized videos. This content is for the top of your funnel.
- Plan (and hope) for virality in your marketing campaigns. But always in the service of creating materials that are useful to your prospects and that answer their questions.
- Focus also on building website traffic as well as strengthening organic SEO so you can be found on search engine pages.
With lifecycle marketing, acquisition is all about attracting those prospective customers and getting them into the sales and marketing funnel so they can be nurtured to the next step: conversion. At this step, it’s about giving them the information they need to make a buying decision. So, blog posts, whitepapers, ebooks, templates, webinars, and anything else that solves a pain point for your customers.
- In order for you to market effectively in these first two customer lifecycle stages, you need to set up compelling lead magnets and landing pages that offer valuable content to users in exchange for their information. This exchange is what triggers the formal start of lifecycle marketing. Typical offers include: downloads of ebooks, reports, and subscription to your email newsletters.
- And to support those landing pages, it’s integral to have a solid email marketing strategy that you can refine and improve using analytics. The emails are there to drive people to your website and your app.
Conversion is the stage where you’re convincing the customer to purchase. These prospects are already in your funnel and are receiving your nurture emails, your blog posts, even your in-app notifications and push notifications.
But they may need more than just content to nudge them to buy. According to research, more than 80% of customers need some type of support when making a purchase. And more than half of them will give up and go away if they don’t get that support.02
- Your prospects will be reading reviews of your app or service. Make an effort to incentivize your loyal fans so they leave reviews in app stores or other marketplaces.
- At this stage also, your content marketing strategies should be comparison-based to prove your value: How does using my app differ with the competition’s app? In a product shootout with 4 other competitors’ apps, how does my app excel?
- If you want to market to users at this lifecycle stage, you need to have a fully fleshed-out support team and a knowledge base that can assist and answer any of your prospects’ questions.
This is the stage where you want to keep the customers you already have and upsell to them. Your customers have purchased from you and are using your app. Your main concern is engaging them so that they use your app and services on a regular basis. The more you can persuade users to return to your app, the better your chances at retaining them and increasing their Customer Lifetime Value.
As product expert Nir Eyal says, the most successful mobile apps are habit-forming. Hooking them into your app so that they use it habitually is key to retaining your users.
- At this stage, you should already be concerned with turning customers into loyal users. And it all starts with an effective onboarding process. If you get them started in the right direction, you immediately show the value of your app from the beginning of the relationship.
- Use push notifications to establish a connection with your app users. These notifications can help users see the value of your app so they use it more regularly.
- Use deep linking in your notifications to drive users to specific pages or locations in your app. This tactic has been proven for user retention not just in quantifiable metrics, but also in intangible benefits such as a memorable user experience.
You want to transform each paid user into a brand advocate and an influencer in their individual networks. Done correctly, your own users generate buzz via word-of-mouth marketing. Instead of you proclaiming your own app’s value, they do it for you.
But before you ever get there, you need a stellar product and you have to win customers over with excellent service.
More than 70% of customers become loyal to a brand based on how well their customer service performs.03
- Use machine learning to assist in your efforts at retaining users and making them even more loyal.
- Track what percentage of your customers make repeat purchases. Also, compare new buyers with repeat buyers. This is one way to measure loyalty.
- As in the acquisition stage, investing in an effective customer support team will pay off in the long run. They’re there to make the user experience more pleasant and to answer questions and any difficulties that users encounter.
- But it’s equally important to establish a relationship with loyal users. Show appreciation for their business, treat them well, and nurture that connection in order to boost retention rates.
Other Tactics for Your Lifecycle Marketing Strategy
A few more tactics that don’t belong to any specific lifecycle stage:
Leverage Your Loyalists
If you want to use influencer marketing more effectively, then don’t just limit yourself to the obvious choices – those influencers with large networks on Twitter or LinkedIn.
Remember that you have loyal advocates already in your user base who are tweeting about your service or posting photos of your product on Instagram. And they have immediate family members and friends who can be reached more easily by their influence than by any of your marketing campaigns.
These loyalists are primed to promote your product to their networks. All they need is a little incentive. And don’t forget to include your own team in this list, plus any external partners you work with.
Document Interactions in Your CRM
There’s a reason why organizations use a customer relationship management (CRM) tool. There are far too many channels and possible touchpoints where a user can engage with your brand. And it’s up to you and your reps to keep track of them.
Say a user downloaded your app, used it for a few days, then uninstalled. But several win-back campaigns reignited interest and got the user to reinstall, and a sales call finally nudged them to buy. You will only be able to trace a journey like that if you keep track of all of your lifecycle marketing campaigns and customer touchpoints via your CRM.
Connect your systems so you have one dashboard for all important metrics. Document those interactions so you have a trail of engagement. Check all those customers who have a high possibility of purchasing and market to them.
See How Your Marketing Campaigns Impact the Customer Lifecycle
Remember that customer lifecycle marketing is an ongoing effort. It’s never linear, it’s cyclical.
As users evolve from leads to paying customers, their needs change and their experience engaging with your brand undergoes a shift. If we do our jobs right as marketers, then we’re constantly trying to address those shifting needs. Every campaign is an opportunity to engage and retain users, increasing Customer Lifetime Value and bringing them closer to becoming brand advocates.
Our Lifecycle Optimizer helps you break down your entire user base into defined lifecycle stages, then create automated marketing campaigns that draw customers into deeper engagement with your brand. Learn more about this feature or schedule a personalized demo to see it in action.