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The Ins and Outs of Customer Lifecycle Marketing

Customer lifecycle marketing is a marketing strategy that businesses use to attract, convert,  and retain customers across the buyer’s journey. This approach relies heavily on understanding and personalizing customer interactions and experiences across the marketing and sales funnel. All messages, ads, and touchpoints will be personalized based on the funnel stage that the customer is currently in.

This strategy relies entirely on your understanding of the customer, your conversion funnel, and the steps required to get them to the end of the funnel. 

The end goal of lifecycle marketing is to create a brand advocate. Your advocates will then be the ones to promote your product or service, thus kickstarting the cycle all over again. 

In this post, we’ll go over all of the stages of customer lifecycle marketing and share some strategies that you can implement right away. We’ll cover the basics behind customer lifecycle marketing so that you can increase your ROI, all by understanding the stages and what your customers need. 

Let’s start with the question that’s undoubtedly on your mind.

What are the different stages of a customer lifecycle?

No matter who you are or what kind of company you work for, your customers go through a specific set of stages in order to reach customer status. 

Understanding the customer lifecycle is extremely important for creating tailor-made strategies for your customers that need it the most. 

Customer lifecycle funnel diagram

Bear in mind that depending on who you talk to, they will add stages to this list, take them away, or even call them something different. Some people will say that there are 7 stages: others, only 4. 

In order to avoid any confusion, I’ll be explaining each stage in the simplest of terms. Let’s start from the top.

Stage 1: Awareness

The awareness stage is the most vital stage, as it’s the start of the customer journey. In the awareness stage, prospects and leads will be made aware of your brand. 

The idea here is simple. The customer has an issue, want, or need, and your brand is presented as a solution — nothing more, nothing less. You want to get them thinking about your brand, product, or service. This is usually done through some strategically placed ads or organic campaigns that bring top-of-the-funnel traffic. 

Optional stage: Engagement

Let’s assume you run a real estate agency. Whenever someone makes a big purchase, they tend to reach out and voluntarily engage with the brand before following through with a conversion. Maybe the lead will follow you on social media, schedule a consultation, or even send an email asking some questions. 

You can see how making this effort beforehand is necessary for a larger purchase. However, it’s not always considered a part of the customer lifecycle with everyday purchases like an in-store product or a subscription to a company like Netflix. 

Put in other words, if you run a B2B business, you most likely will need to include this stage as a part of your customer lifecycle, but that might not be the case if you are in the B2C space.

Stage 2: Consideration

Now it’s time to really show the lead what you’re made of. The consideration stage is where they will take everything they’ve learned and evaluate which brand best suits their needs. The goal here is to nurture your leads and constantly but subtly remind them that you’re the best option. Typically, this is considered the middle of the funnel.

There are a few ways to go about this, but leads in this stage must be handled with care. One wrong move on your part, missed opening, or even poorly worded message can send the lead marching in the opposite direction.

To avoid that, here are some questions that your messaging should be answering for leads in this stage:

  • What is unique about your product?
  • What specific features set you apart from the rest?
  • What can you add to sweeten the deal and outshine your competition?

Here, it’s all about pushing the lead to pull the trigger. For a lot of brands, that means bringing out the big guns and doing whatever it takes. But, at this point in the funnel, your advertising strategy can either make or break you. This goes back to what we were saying before and understanding your customers through-and-through. Knowing precisely what leads need to see at this stage can end up saving you some big bucks in ad spend.

Stage 3: Conversion

Congratulations! You’ve just made another sale and gained a new customer. Your job is done. Or is it? 

In truth, the battle is only half-won at this point. Sure, you made a sale, and (hopefully!) your profit margins have gone up, but it’s not exactly over.

You still have to prove that what you’ve provided for the customer is valuable for them. After all, your customers are not just another dollar sign in the company’s bank account. You’ve started a relationship with this customer, and you need to make sure it stays strong.

How’s that done? 

Well, for a lot of companies, the end goal is always conversion. Although that’s not entirely wrong, you still have to think about a few things to knock off the customers’ socks. 

Things like:

  • How can you make the onboarding process as quick, easy, and enjoyable as possible?
  • How can you structure this relationship so that the customer can potentially make another purchase?
  • How can you improve the relationship and the customer’s experience with your product/service by upselling? (Keep in mind, this is not as simple as suggesting a more expensive option).

Again, some companies might view stage 3 as the bottom of the funnel, but that’s not the whole story. Although it is near the bottom and an incredible milestone, several things need to be done once the customer converts. The goal is always to build loyalty and advocacy through retention.

Step 4: Retention

The journey doesn’t end with a conversion. Conversion simply opens up the door to more possibilities. 

This all narrows down to retention, how you treat the customer after the sale, and what you plan on doing to maintain that relationship.

Car salespeople do a great job at this, and it’s worth taking a chapter or two from their book. If you’ve ever bought a car from a car lot, think about your experience there. Sure, there will be some horror stories, but the vast majority of people always mention the high level of service. Using the 3 points above, let’s think about how a good car salesman executes them.

  1. They always show you all odds and ends of the car, showcasing all the cool gadgets and features that you’ll get to enjoy.
  2. The salesman always makes sure you know their name, gives you their card and becomes your best friend on that lot. This ensures that you’ll think of them next time you want to buy a car or suggest where to buy a car to friends or family.
  3. A large majority of a car salesman’s job is making calls to previous customers and telling them about the new offers, trade-in deals, and end-of-the-year sales they have so that they can get more money out of you. If the experience is good the first time, why wouldn’t you want to buy a better car from a great salesman?

That might be a lot of information for a single point, but it’s all to prove that the funnel stages don’t necessarily stop with a conversion. 

Read more: 9 Customer Retention Strategies to Try in 2024 (+ Real Examples)

Stage 5: Loyalty

We’ve all heard it before. Companies thank their “loyal customers” and offer them the best of what they have to offer. Why? 

The simple answer is that a loyal customer, one that has stuck with your brand, made several purchases, and gotten to know you as much as you have gotten to know them, is not just a customer anymore. They are brand advocates.

What does this mean? 

Well, it means that you have someone that bleeds your brand colors, someone who would readily recommend you to friends and family, and someone that brings your company value in more ways than just money.

Customer lifecycle marketing is tricky at this point because you have to put in a ton of effort to get a customer to this stage. Few people will reach this point of the funnel, but that’s nothing to be upset about. They made it here because they’re fans of your brand. That means that their contributions need to be recognized, and they need to be treated like royalty.

So how can you use these brand advocates to improve your company? 

That answer is not written in stone. But, like many other stages in this funnel, there are some questions that you need to answer on behalf of your brand:

  • How can you use brand advocates to market for you? Do you have a referral or an affiliate program?
  • Are you doing everything you can to let them know their value and ensure that they remain brand advocates?
  • Are you keeping track of your customer health scores to see if they’re still loyal?

All of these questions and a lot more should always be running through your mind. Brand advocates are a rare breed and hold substantial value to any business. After all, they are the product of your customer lifecycle marketing.

Read more: 7 Customer Marketing Strategies for Sustainable Growth

The benefits of customer lifecycle marketing

Now that you better understand the stages, it will be easier for you to think about ways your brand can start utilizing marketing strategies based on what stage a lead is in. But, even after all that, if you’re still not convinced, let’s lay out why you might want to start implementing a customer lifecycle marketing strategy.

First and foremost, customer lifecycle marketing allows you to understand better how different customers react with your brand at various stages of the funnel. Having insight like this is what makes lifecycle marketing possible in the first place. Once these insights are harnessed, you can use them to build better brand awareness and even encourage more of those brand advocates we were talking about so that the cycle can start all over again.

More than that, using this marketing strategy allows you to pinpoint issues and potential hiccups in your own strategy, allowing you to further optimize your campaigns for better reach and effectiveness. 

And lastly, to summarize what we’ve already gone over, using a personalized approach like this brings incredible value to the customer. Tailoring the messaging and experience to the customer based on where they stand with your brand means that you’re able to focus on those that are more likely to convert, saving you precious time, money, and effort.

Customer lifecycle marketing strategies

Everything above might sound well and good, but what kind of strategies are best for each step of the funnel? Which stage of their lifecycle does a customer need to be in to warrant, let’s say, a Google ad versus a more personal touch with an email?

 Well, since the heart of many customer lifecycle campaigns is automation, let’s start there.

Automated email marketing campaigns

Automated email marketing campaigns drive engagement without having to send each and every email manually. Using an automated email campaign through a tool like Encharge, you can send out behavior emails that are triggered based on the stage of the funnel that the customer is in.

In Encharge, you can easily create segments based on the customer lifecycle stage of the person, so they can enter or exit a specific email automation flow as soon as they enter or leave a segment.

Building customer lifecycle campaigns in Encharge

These sorts of campaigns are best suited for mid-funnel lifecycle marketing or returning customers but have been known to work well no matter what stage the customer is in. After all, if you have the lead’s email address, the right kind of content sent at the right time could result in an easy conversion.

Display ad targeting for Google ads

Google is a robust tool that almost literally everyone on the planet uses or is at least aware of. That means that investing in some display ads for targeting and retargeting customers is an easy way to get their attention.

Display ads are great for most customer lifecycle stages, but they’re most useful at the top of the funnel in the awareness stage. This stage is where the lead is most vulnerable, influenceable, and potentially overwhelmed. A strategically placed display ad could mean the difference between making a sale and wasting your advertising budget.

Social media ads for retargeting 

Since we’re on the subject of ads, let’s not overlook probably one of the greatest innovations in marketing history — social media. Social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram have been on the frontlines of advertising space for the past 10+ years, and they aren’t going away anytime soon.

Facebook ads, for instance, can be used ideally across the whole customer lifecycle. From promoting your new blog posts to the top of the funnel audience to upselling existing customers with discounts for an annual upgrade and more.

Automating Facebook ads across the customer lifecycle in Encharge

Marketing automation tools like Encharge allow you to automatically add or remove people from Facebook custom ad audiences, ensuring that you are showing the most relevant creative for the customer lifecycle stage at any time.

Old-school cold calls

Although times have changed, cold calls are still effective. Whether it be an actual phone call or an email, it wasn’t too long ago that reaching out to a lead directly was the only method of getting their attention.

With this strategy, you have to be very careful. Not everyone wants random phone calls or emails. Even if they give you their lead data, it’s not always a good idea to pitch to them directly. That’s why the lead nurturing process was invented, and that’s why customer lifecycle marketing works so well. It’s all about balance and knowing what your customer wants and when they want it.

Final thoughts on customer lifecycle marketing

In conclusion, customer lifecycle marketing requires knowing your customer, what stage of the funnel they’re in, and the content that they need to see in correlation to that stage. It might sound complex, and that’s because it can be. How you choose to run a customer lifecycle marketing strategy will be unique to what you do as a business.

Luckily, there are some tools out there to help you with this, like Encharge. 

With Encharge, you can automate your whole customer lifecycle marketing. It has a visual Flow builder that empowers non-technical people to build automations across the marketing funnel. From lead to conversion, you can set up personalized customer journeys at the speed of thought simply by connecting different steps. Sign up for a free 14-day trial today and take it for a spin. 

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