What is Customer Life Cycle Marketing?
In an ideal world, customers buy your products the first time they come in contact with it. However, this is far from the truth. Seasoned marketers know that customers go through a customer journey or life cycle before making a purchase.
The basic premise of the customer lifecycle is that the customer will go through several milestones before making a purchase. For instance, a Fashionable Shoe Brand might not see all its window shoppers convert the first time. His customers might see a shoe he likes on the window display, goes home to see an ad that reminds him of the shoe. The next day, he asks his friend if Trendy Shoe Brand carries good shoes. After careful consideration, the customer comes back the day after to buy the shoe.
In this example, the customer goes through an awareness – attraction – Research – Sale.
Why do marketers need to be aware of the customer life cycle?
The Customer Life Cycle is a means to understand the customer better. In this process, we come to terms with the fact that the customer has separate needs at each stage. He has objections or hurdles that need to be overcome to get to the next stage and he needs a distinct message in each stage of his journey. Marketers should align their strategy, budget, media planning and messaging with each stage of a customer’s journey.
Are Customer Life Cycle and Customer Journey one and the same?
For all intents and purposes, the customer life cycle and customer journey can be dubbed as two sides of a coin. In the customer journey, the marketer is more of an observer. He sees how the customer behaves and learns from it. Here, the customer decides when to move on the next stage, if at all. Skip a few stages. He might have a few more stages than other customers don’t have. The Customer Life Cycle, however, is more defined. It is a derivative of the customer’s journey that tries to map common paths clients must take.
The key difference between Customer Lifecycle and Customer Journey is that the Customer Life Cycle defines each stage and has actionable steps for marketers to gently nudge the client to the next step of the Lifecycle.
While we’re at it, how is it different from sales funnels?
Back in the days, Sales Funnels was all that marketers talked about. It was a great framework to understand how customers go from awareness to conversion. However, it makes a few wrong assumptions along the way.
First, the Sales Funnel assumes that a customer goes in a linear fashion along the funnel. We have seen that some customers don’t necessarily need the awareness-attraction-research-sale path. For example, Uber cuts down the customer journey by sending referral codes with free credits. This worked in its early days to bring the user to the app. In this method, it went Referral-Awareness-Conversion, one step shorter than the regular funnel.
The Customer Life Cycle is a more updated framework that understands that customer choose their own path, not marketers. It extends the customer’s relationship with Brands beyond just purchase and acknowledges that customers are also advocates and returning customers. So a customer’s relationship with the brand ideally doesn’t end with the first purchase.
Also, the Life Cycle journey simply works under the notion that you may have people entering and exiting at any stage of the journey and even skipping steps altogether. This makes the Life Cycle Management process much more effective.
Here are the 7 stages of life cycle marketing
The first stage of any customer journey is awareness. This is where he first hears about the brand. We can get customers at the awareness stage in several ways:
- Paid ads
- Blog visitors
- Word of Mouth
- Website/Store Visits
During this stage of the customer’s relationship with your brand, it is important to understand that the customer might not be interested in buying at all. He might be a window shopper or someone who simply enjoys your content.
Continue to build your relationship with the customer. You should be able to carry a conversation with the customer without providing sales messages every now and then. Instead focus on creating Trust, Expertise, and Authority during this phase. Eventually, your customer will move to the interest stage or even become an advocate for your brand.
What is the interest stage and how can you tell that a customer is there? At the interest phase of the journey, your customer has come to an understanding that your product can solve his problems. You can validate this when you receive queries from the customer about your product or visits to your website’s product/pricing pages.
Help your customers learn more about the brand by creating strong communication materials that outline the benefits of your products when they are at the interest stage. The customer should be left with a sense, that your product solves the problem after seeing your communications.
In recent times, advertising has lost its luster a little. With Google, Yelp, and Youtube providing the users with reviews, the customer has more information at their fingertips. Today customers add the research phase to their customer journey before making their decision.
Brands should ensure that their products have good quality reviews on sites where their customers frequently visit.
While most reviews are outside of your control, you should still provide your customers with excellent content that helps them with researching your products. Here are some executable ideas to help with research:
- Create testimonial videos
- Share online reviews on your Social Media and Marketing Emails
- Share Case Studies
Satisfied with your Testimonial and the research that went into learning about your product, the customer is now ready to buy your product. However, it is also likely that he has chosen a few other brands and is weighing his options.
Brands and marketing managers should act swiftly during this phase by providing strong communications and Call to Actions. Try sending these messages to the customer via Social Media or Email:
- A Free Trial
- New Product/Features
- Product Demo Webinar
- Discount Coupons (if applicable)
In traditional models (such as the sales funnel), Conversion was the last stage of a customer’s journey. However, it is also true that 80% of our sales come from returning customers. This is why marketers are careful to incorporate this stage into their strategies.
After Conversion, it is upon the marketer to build upon a relationship with the customer.
Here’s how to build your relationship and get more returning customers:
- Provide loyalty points
- Send personalized emails with special offers
- Invite to members-only webinars, events and/or clubs
- Send Customer Feedback Forms and Solve customer complaints
Satisfied customers become advocates for the brand in the long run. They provide social proof in the form of reviews and word of mouth referrals. However, before clients reach the point where they feel compelled to talk about your product or service, he must have confidence in your brand. Brands should work hard to provide excellent customer service and develop their brand, so existing customers feel like they belong to a tribe.
The exit is perhaps the most painful stage for the brand. But it is also the most inevitable facet of a customer’s journey. All customers will eventually end their relationship with your brand. Whether it’s for a better substitute or simply, their needs are met for the moment. All customer abandon ship at some point.
We can, however, delay the exit or at least bring back a good part of this customer base back to the loop. Try using these methods to bring your customers back:
- Provide a welcome back discount
- Talk about new updates/bug fixes
- Introduce new products in your catalog.
But how do you track customers through their journey?
Setup Google Analytics on your website
Analytics is Google’s official web tracker. The small snippet of code is attached to your website and can track your users as they navigate through your website. Google Analytics lets you keep a record of who’s visited your website and keep tabs of the pages they’ve seen as well.
The analytics tool can also be used in conjunction with Adwords. You can measure the effectiveness of your ads, see which ads convert, track user behavior and more.
Install Facebook Pixel
The Facebook Pixel tool is similar to Google Analytics. It also provides a snippet of code to put inside your website and track users. What it adds to your marketing is the ability to track users through your social media pages as well.
After installing the pixel, you have access to a wide body of insights as well as the ability to retarget your customers and display upsell ads.
Create triggers on your Webpage and Social Media
A trigger is an event that you expect the user to take on your website or Social Media Handle. If you have your Analytics and Pixel code inserted into your page, you should be able to learn when a user performs an assigned task.
For example, you can automatically set up a check out event through Facebook’s Business Manager. This option allows you to create a database of people who have successfully converted. In the future, you can use this data to retarget upselling ads or send new updates to existing customers.
Some triggers you need to set up on both pixel and analytics:
- First time page or website visitors (Awareness)
- Product or Pricing Page Visits (Interest)
- Query or Contact Us Message (interest)
- Testimonial videos or content Views (Research)
- Webinar/Product Demo Visits (Conversion)
- Checkout Page (Customer)
A few parting words
The customer life cycle is a unique model to understand customers. It is different for each customer and needs nuance and personalization at each step. All businesses should take careful consideration of how they define buyer personas and choose a journey to focus on.
Thankfully technology aides us in this quest by tracking our users in every step and establishing buying patterns. In order to create an effective strategy, brands must figure out what user behaviors to focus on and what to ignore. The Life Cycle Journey is trying to tell a story, and businesses need to listen.