If you want someone to buy you an ice-cream you don’t just walk up to them and say “Hey you buy me an ice-cream”. You would first introduce yourself and strike up a conversation. The aim would be to develop a relationship with points of common interest, you would then introduce the right messages at the right time about how hot it is say, or perhaps invoke a happy childhood memory of having ice-cream and then when you can see his mouth is watering for an ice-cream you mention that the little gelato shop on the corner makes the best ice-cream in town and just happens to be having a two-for-one special. And hey presto! You have your ice-cream.
Lifecycle marketing works in much the same way.
What is lifecycle marketing?
Lifecycle marketing focuses on each customer’s unique journey through the buying cycle. This includes every interaction they have with the business along the way. It aims to provide meaningful communication and information to customers to help them move to their next stage in the buying process.
Because of how easily today’s hyper-informed consumers can conduct product research, access price comparisons, and make purchases online, the goal of “getting the customer through the door” isn’t as important as it once was. Lifecycle marketing emphasises that the buyer’s journey doesn’t end when they make their first purchase. Instead, it emphasises the nurturing of customers with the goal of forming long-term relationships with them and improving lifetime value to the company.
By creating unique messages based on where the client is on the sales funnel, brands demonstrate their appreciation to customers and show that they prioritise each customer’s unique buying needs. This makes customers feel valued and encourages them to keep coming back, turning them into loyal, repeat customers that will, ideally, become brand advocates over time.
Lifecycle marketing therefore has to focus on each customer’s unique experiences and interactions, as well as the content they interact with while engaging with the brand. It’s all about grooming the customer, nurturing and helping them to reach their desired goal – just like getting someone to buy you an ice-cream. It’s no longer about putting the business first ahead of the customers’.
So how does it work?
A series of stages have been identified in the consumer buying process. Each of these has a different type of communication that is most appropriate. These stages and related communication for each are as follows:
In the first stage, the prospect discovers the business – either through SEO, paid ads, or social media. The best way to be discovered is to create content that relates to what people are looking for, as well as what the brand has to offer. Here the focus needs to be on the target’s informational needs rather than only creating sales messages.
The customer considers their purchasing options. This is where the brand needs to make purchasing its product or service seem like the obvious choice. Content types such as welcome campaigns, customer reviews, and detailed product descriptions are effective.
At the conversion stage, businesses need to persuade prospects to take action and purchase their product (instead of a competitor’s). They can achieve this by providing access to content such as product recommendations and calls-to-action.
This stage focuses on keeping the customer and bringing them back to purchase again. It encourages brand loyalty. This is the stage where loyalty programmes and exclusive discounts (based on the behaviour of the customer) make sense.
Here, the necessary steps are taken to turn loyal, long-term customers into brand advocates. The best way to do this is by encouraging brand followers to create and submit user-generated content on social media. This in turn provided ‘word-of-mouth’ or as some say ‘word-of-mouse’ which helps other customers through the consideration stage.
Lastly, the reactivation stage requires brands to employ strategies that get in touch with their “lost” or inactive customers by sending re-engagement emails to past, once-off customers to encourage them to “come back” to the brand.
It is important to note that a customer’s journey may not be linear and they may not pass through all the above stages in order. To make things even more complex these contact points can occur across multiple channels. An effective lifecycle marketing strategy takes this into account and develops communication based on each customer segment’s journey.
Advantages of lifecycle marketing over traditional marketing
Brands that employ a lifecycle marketing strategy will be able to attract and retain new customers or turn existing customers into life-long buyers and advocates.
This means that brands will save money by focusing on existing customers, rather than periodically targeting new ones.
By sending customers a tailored message once they reach a new stage of the buying process, brands will make them feel valued knowing that the messages they receive are unique, rather than automated.
Brands can gain a better understanding of the target audience – who they are, how to reach them, their likes and dislikes, and how to keep them coming back.
Lastly, it saves time. By having a clear idea of exactly who the target customer is, lifecycle marketers are able to send messages to prospects who are genuinely interested in what the brand offers, rather than wasting time trying to appeal to “browsers”.
The bottom line
Lifecycle marketing shifts focus from selling products or services to developing long-term relationships with consumers by providing unique communications with individual clients at key points in the buying process and guides them from prospects to advocates, who will not only be loyal customers but also become an enthusiastic reference to new prospects.