It’s been a long time since marketing was considered nothing but the process of encouraging sales. In the modern world, companies do more than just offer products and services. There’s so much competition in every industry that it’s not enough to simply make something and explain why it’s worth buying. You need to develop customer relationships, so they keep coming back. That’s the premise of customer lifecycle marketing.
In lifecycle marketing, you consider every stage of the customer journey with your brand. Your goal is to build a relationship, not just make one sale. Keep reading to learn how lifecycle marketing works, the stages and pillars of the lifecycle marketing process, and examples of how this approach works in the real world.
What Is Lifecycle Marketing?
The customer lifecycle marketing model is built on the idea that it’s better to win customer loyalty over individual sales. In lifecycle marketing, you nurture your relationship with customers from the moment they’re aware of your brand to long after their initial purchase. This improves customer lifetime value, as they are more likely to make repeated purchases.
There are three pillars of lifecycle marketing:
- Personalization: Marketing methods use research, data tracking, and automation to provide personalized recommendations and messages to each customer.
- Utility: Beyond personalization, lifecycle marketing also ensures that every marketing message is valuable to the recipient.
- Customer Orientation: All lifecycle marketing is based on what the customer wants and needs. You need to approach things from your clients’ perspectives to effectively market to them in each stage.
Basically, lifecycle marketing is the process of making customers happy to buy from your business by marketing with their point of view in mind.
Customer Lifecycle Stages
The customer lifecycle has stages, just like every other lifecycle model. However, unlike lifecycles in the natural world, there’s no necessary end to the cycle. Here’s how the customer lifecycle works and what each stage includes.
The cycle begins when you first introduce your company to the customer. Awareness is all about catching first-time customers and standing out from the crowd. Awareness covers everything from advertising to when someone chooses to follow you or give you their email.
Once your potential customers know your business, it’s time to start building a relationship with them. Engagement is the process of encouraging potential buyers to interact with your brand and build a relationship with them. People are more likely to buy from a company they trust. Working to engage customers with your site and content is key to making them more likely to buy in the future.
Conversion is the moment when someone buys your product or service and becomes a customer. The conversion stage is dedicated to making the sales process as simple and thought-free as possible. It’s focused on customer carts and the checkout process. It's a vital part of any marketing strategy as an increase in conversion rate shows how well your company handles customer acquisition.
Once someone has bought from you for the first time, you know they appreciate your brand and offerings. Now, you want to keep them coming back. The loyalty stage is about rewarding your customers’ choice to buy from your brand by providing content, community, and other valuable resources that make them feel special. Strong customer loyalty can lead to loyal advocates, who are people that talk about your brand either locally or through social media.
The customer retention stage is the last part of the customer lifecycle, but that doesn’t mean your relationship with the client is over. Retention is the process of reaching out to customers who haven’t interacted with your brand in a while and bringing them back into the fold. This stage focuses on reminding clients why they liked your brand and tempting them with offers to return. If the retention stage succeeds, you return to the loyalty stage.
Lifecycle Marketing Examples and Strategies
To make the most of lifecycle marketing, you need to have specific strategies for each stage. Here are some lifecycle marketing strategies for each step and examples of how businesses have implemented them in the real world.
Awareness Stage: Welcome Email Campaigns
The first and most straightforward lifecycle marketing strategy covers your initial point of contact with the customer. Once you’ve added them to your email list, you can send them a welcome email campaign. This type of campaign helps build a relationship with the customer by making them feel like they’ve joined a community and gained access to valuable resources.
Welcome campaigns can be as simple as a single informational email or as complex as an automated series of emails introducing customers to your brand. An example of a great welcome email is this one by the Four Seasons. It offers a personal touch while also giving the recipient a quick way to learn more about different aspects of the business.
Engagement Stage: Email Newsletters
If someone has signed up for emails from you, make the most of it by offering customized, engaging promotional emails and newsletters. A good newsletter gives potential customers a reason to think about your brand positively. You can share product suggestions, seasonally relevant tips, and advice, plus highlight customer testimonials or social media posts.
A great demonstration of using an email newsletter to increase customer engagement is this one sent by Ben & Jerry’s. It has fun content, recipes, and news, all within a well-branded format.
Customer Conversion Stage: Abandoned Cart Reminders
Many people will go “window shopping” online, filling their virtual cart and then leaving the site. Others will find what they want, then get distracted before they finish their purchase. In both situations, they have a full cart but leave the site without buying. You can encourage prospective customers and convert with abandoned cart reminders.
An abandoned cart reminder is an email or SMS message letting the recipient know they forgot to finish checking out. A simple reminder is often enough to encourage purchases from people who genuinely forgot. However, you can get even more conversions if you go further by offering a coupon or free shipping in your reminder messages. These offers can convince people who were on the fence about an item to commit to the purchase.
This email by ELO demonstrates how to reach out to people who’ve forgotten items in their cart without checking out. It’s simple, shows the items the person left, and provides a sense of urgency.
Loyalty Stage: Birthday and Anniversary Celebrations
Once someone has become a customer, you can continue to build their loyalty to your brand. An effective way to do that is to send messages and offers that are truly personalized for them, like birthday or anniversary rewards.
If you collect your customers’ birthdays or track the day they joined, you can send them emails with coupons or free product offers on those special days. This creates happy customers because they’re getting an offer no one else receives that day. Those positive emotions lead to loyal customers and encourage them to keep buying in the future.
Starbucks is excellent at building loyalty with birthday messages. The company offers free drinks to members of its Stars program. The email below gives the customer something for nothing but builds customer appreciation for the brand that will pay off every other day of the year.
Retention Stage: “We Miss You” Messages
If a customer hasn’t made a new purchase in a while, you can automatically send them a reactivation campaign message. This type of email, also known as the “We Miss You” message, reminds lapsed customers about your brand and potentially turns them into return customers. Many reactivation campaigns consist of several emails: a simple “We Miss You” message, a message offering a discount to inspire them to come back, and a final message with a more significant discount.
Zazzle has developed an excellent retention email. It’s cute, memorable, and gives an obvious reason for the reader to return to the site with the $10 offer.
Some other lifecycle marketing strategies that you could try include:
- Advertising in niche spaces that your audience segments care about, like podcasts or influencers
- Developing strong SEO practices with content marketing to bring in organic search engine traffic
- Running interesting or fun social media accounts
- Offering interactive social media activities like giveaways or livestreams
- Posting valuable and exciting content regularly on your site
- Offering free trials or free returns for new customers
- Sharing customer testimonials about the product
- Streamlining the checkout process
- Offering loyalty programs, like the Starbucks Gold membership
- Sharing personalized product suggestions through email and your website
- Providing incentives for referrals and testimonials
- Targeted ads for people who have purchased from you in the past
- Offering exclusive early access or preorders to past customers
Developing Customer Lifecycle Marketing Strategies that Work
The strategies above are just a small selection of lifecycle marketing tactics you can employ. Implementing all of them at once may seem overwhelming. It’s easier to start small, with only a few strategies, and expand as you track their performance. Here’s how to choose the strategies to implement in your business and build a sustainable lifecycle marketing plan.
Research Your Customers
Every company’s customer base is a little different. While all customers will fall into one of the five stages of the customer lifecycle, the way they behave in that stage may be different. Furthermore, your audience will likely consist of different types of people with unique habits.
Researching your customers lets you monitor how your particular customers act in every stage of the lifecycle. There are two different types of research you can perform: activity tracking and demographic collection. In the activity tracking stage, you collect data about your customers’ browsing and buying activities and look for trends in their behavior. In the demographic collection stage, you ask customers to give you details about themselves. Both give you valuable information about who’s buying from you and why.
For instance, a business selling cocktail ingredients and tools might discover that its customer base ranges from bars and restaurants to home mixologists to people looking for gifts. Each of these groups will have very different buying behaviors.
- Bars and restaurants will probably buy in bulk and won’t be hugely influenced by sales
- Cocktail enthusiasts will buy regularly and are more likely to be tempted by new releases and loyalty discounts
- Gift-givers will purchase irregularly and benefit from suggestions for things they might want to buy
Treating all three of these segments the same in your lifecycle marketing will lead to generic messaging and lose the personalized touch this method offers. By taking the time to research and understand who’s buying from you, you can genuinely customize your marketing.
Understand Customer Groups
Once you’ve grouped your customers, you can start to shape your marketing based on why they’re buying from you. A great way to accomplish this is to write customer profiles for each segment of your audience. In the cocktail supplier example above, you’d have three segments: hospitality businesses, home mixologists, and gift-givers. Give each profile the demographics of that segment, and write a brief backstory.
For instance, the gift-giver might be a 30-something woman who’s looking for unique gifts for bachelorette parties, weddings, and holidays. Right there, you have some crucial details you can use to make your marketing stand out.
Develop Targeted Campaigns
With your customer profiles in place, you can start developing targeted lifecycle campaigns. You should have one or two strategies for each stage of the lifecycle of each customer segment. You may use the same strategy for different segments and steps, but not always. For instance, you could use the same abandoned cart reminder for everyone, but your welcome emails should probably be customized based on the segment you’re targeting.
For each segment, consider what they really want from your brand. Your customer profiles will give you a hint. The gift-giver above will probably appreciate a welcome email that suggests “get something for yourself, too” or recommends other gift solutions. Meanwhile, a home mixologist is more likely to enjoy a welcome email that offers new recipes they can try.
Make Data-Based Decisions
Once you’ve implemented your first lifecycle marketing strategies, you should start tracking how they perform. There’s always room for improvement. By recording metrics like click-through rates and conversions, you can identify which strategies are working well and which need to be tweaked.
Once you’ve collected data about your lifecycle marketing performance, A/B testing is a helpful method for guiding your future decisions. You can test two slightly different versions of the same welcome campaign against each other to see which is more effective. Over time, you’ll be able to refine your lifecycle marketing messages to maximize your conversion rates and keep your client relationships strong across all audience segments.
Get Started with Lifecycle Marketing
Your clients appreciate the personalized touch they get from a well-made lifecycle marketing campaign. By implementing customer lifecycle marketing, you can create deeper engagement with your customers and guide them through every part of the sales funnel. That’s an excellent way of winning first-time buyers while keeping current customers engaged with your brand for a long time to come.