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What is Customer Lifecycle Marketing?

Lindsay Tjepkema
Lindsay Tjepkema , Global Head of Content , Emarsys

Whether your role is digital marketer, business owner, or anywhere in-between, you’ve likely heard a lot about the importance of managing customer relationships. It should come as a surprise to no one that the most successfully-run businesses often have the most loyal customers. But before you can start to create brand allegiance, you need to first understand your customers and the journey they take. Brainstorming session with post it notes on desk

In its simplest terms, we can define customer lifecycle marketing as the process of tracking the buying stages of customers while simultaneously working towards maximizing their overall buying experience. 

The beauty of the customer lifecycle journey is that it’s a non-linear process. Just like your favorite Christopher Nolan film, the customer lifecycle journey follows a cyclical pattern, meaning the journey is constantly cycling and potential customers could be on completely different ends of the spectrum. The goal of this process is to increase customer retention by developing strong brand loyalty. In order to turn one-time buyers into loyal customers, the messages you send must remain consistent and relevant to your target audience needs.

To help break down the true meaning of customer lifecycle marketing, we’ve taken a closer look at a few of the key challenges, along with insider tips for successfully overcoming them.

Key Challenges of Customer Lifecycle Marketing

Keep in mind that before embarking on a customer lifecycle marketing plan, you need to establish your goals. Customer satisfaction, loyalty and an increase in sales should be at the top of your list. Easier said than done, right? Here’s a look at 4 key challenges and obstacles to overcome.

Defining a Clear Strategy

As we briefly touched on earlier, before you can start the customer lifecycle marketing process, you must first determine your brand’s strategy when establishing your tone of voice and what’s going to separate your brand from competitors. By laying the foundation of your strategy before-hand, you will have rules and plans to follow for any action that occurs, and be better suited to handle and improve the customer lifecycle marketing process.

Organizing Cross-Channel Customer Knowledge 

Effectively and efficiently gathering customer data across all channels is a must. In order to utilize this information to its fullest extent, there needs to be a centralized operation in place. Once you’ve gathered all the sales and communication data across channels, you need to then make it available in a way that allows both the sales and marketing teams to analyze and utilize it to the best of their abilities.

Personalizing the Customer Journey

Creating a personalized marketing approach for every consumer can be difficult, but highly rewarding. Every customer journey should be accurately and clearly defined when determining the best method of outreach, whether it’s brick-and-mortar, online, or a combination of both, making sure your message is reaching your audience at the right time and the right place is a must. Brands benefit greatly from effectively analyzing data, while customers benefit from the added value they receive.

Defining Sales & Communication Across Channels

Remember earlier when we defined what exactly customer lifecycle marketing is (The process of tracking the buying stages of customers while simultaneously working towards maximizing their overall buying experience”)? 

Well, that’s not exactly true. Defining the actual journey every single customer goes through during the lifecycle is nearly impossible. The challenge itself is defining the key journeys, more specifically ones that properly align with your brands objectives, and then focusing on the right implementation methods needed. Your goal should be to create an effective business plan that can simplify the cross-channel customer lifecycle marketing process.

Tips for Successful Customer Lifecycle Marketing Strategies

Now that we’ve covered what customer lifecycle marketing is and a few of the potential challenges that come with it, we’ll take a look at how you can align your next customer lifecycle marketing strategy for success.

The More the Merrier: Create Multiple Channels

When your organization builds out its offline and online presence, it determines which channels it will invest in and where it will build its presence. When doing so, it’s vital that the organization considers each channel as a united front of the brand and not a separate outlet. The experience a consumer gets while engaging via an app, in a brick and mortar store, or through a brand’s website, should all be a cohesive journey for the consumer.

Organizations that add channels ad hoc, or have a separate team overseeing each channel without a unified strategy, will suffer. Consumers expect organizations across all industries to present their brands as a united front across all channels, without exception. Anything less could result in confusion, a disjointed experience, and consumers that abandon an experience or brand altogether.

It’s Time to Reach Your Audience on a Personalized Level

No matter your organization’s industry or size, consumers have become accustomed to being treated like unique individuals, no matter what. While many brands still have a long way to go in terms of advanced personalization, it’s crucial that they start somewhere, begin collecting data on each of their customers, and take the plunge to conduct basic segmentation on their audience.

Organizations and brands that use the ‘cookie cutter approach’ to treat every customer exactly the same will inevitably fall far behind their competition and eventually alienate their customers and prospective customers in the process.

Continue to Add Value Through Call-to-Actions

What action does an organization want its audience to take? Whether it be a current customer, prospect, vendor, or partner, brands should use customer lifecycle marketing strategies to promote an action or a value-add to its audience.

Organizations should consider what it is that they want their consumers to be aware of, or what action they should take, whether in store, online, or via any other channel. Many organizations and brands miss out on educating their audience and providing real value, simply by neglecting to include an appropriate call-to-action or value-add throughout each phase of the customer journey.

It’s all about adding value with every touchpoint or communication along the customer lifecycle. Whether it’s a call-to-action with a specific ask, or a simple value message, brands need to consider that their consumers have very little time, and therefore every touchpoint should matter and add value to their customer journey.

Read and React: Learn How to Evolve Your Campaign

Just because a consumer has purchased something or has engaged with a service or product offering once before, that doesn’t mean your organization or brand should suddenly stop communicating with them. Likewise, it also doesn’t mean that your brand should take the purchase or interaction as a cue to increase the communication level, or to change the messaging altogether.

In fact, once a consumer does business or engages with an organization for the first time, they are beginning a journey, even if by just taking a small first step. Organizations and brands of all kinds need to be sensitive to consumer expectations and should approach the new relationship just like any meaningful relationship: with cautious intent.

Once a prospective customer begins engaging with an organization in a new way, whether they actually purchased something, completed a transaction, or simply downloaded an item, that doesn’t mean that an organization’s communication strategy should radically change overnight. Consumers shouldn’t sense that a brand has “flipped the switch” after they’ve taken an action. Instead, organizations should carefully consider how the entire customer journey should evolve from that point forward.

Final Thoughts

The customer lifecycle journey can be chaotic, but that doesn’t mean you can’t take control of it. Organizations and brands across all industries understand that it can be incredibly challenging to manage the customer lifecycle the right way, but that doing so is vital in order to keep consumers engaged with their communications and offerings.

By establishing ways to utilize purchase data, identify automation opportunities, and redefine reporting, you’ll be on your way to creating a better journey for your customer – no matter what stage.

Additional Customer Lifecycle Marketing Resources: