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Customer Lifecycle Marketing: The Complete Guide

11 minute read

Marketers who take a long-term view on their relationships with customers achieve greater ROI on their efforts. Instead of constantly trying to bring in new prospects, those who use customer lifecycle marketing to keep their existing consumers coming back again and again will reap the rewards. This approach helps save and make money as existing customers typically spend more and are easier to sell to than new customers.

In this post, we will cover:

  • Why customer lifecycle marketing is so effective
  • How you can execute this long-term strategy to keep consumers coming back
  • What to consider for each stage of the customer lifecycle
  • Examples of marketing tactics at different lifecycle phases

What Is Customer Lifecycle Marketing?

To develop a strategy for customer lifecycle marketing, you need to grasp the lifecycle marketing definition.

A customer lifecycle is the journey an audience takes as they buy from a brand, become a loyal customer, and then stop using the product or service. No one wants to think about losing customers, but the exit is an unfortunate and common part of the customer’s journey.

Customer lifecycle marketing attempts to stop customers from reaching the end of their buyer’s journey and instead, gets them to circle back and continue being an active consumer.

The customer lifecycle of every business is unique. Some companies like Starbucks or Walgreens have incredibly short customer lifecycles where every purchase sets up the customer to return soon after. Other companies, like auto dealerships and real estate agents, have longer cycles with different goals. Once a customer buys a car or house, the goal is to turn them into brand ambassadors to drive word of mouth which will ultimately bring in more business instead of trying to win over their business again immediately.

Understanding the behavior of your customers and aligning it with your goals can help you create an effective lifecycle marketing strategy. Consider this customer lifecycle chart.

customer lifecycle marketing stages

The journey starts as customers learn about the business (awareness) and become further connected with your brand (engagement). It continues as customers research your offerings and features and compare it with other options to see if they want to buy (evaluation). Once the customers buys (purchase), the cycle uses additional promotions and re-engagement campaigns (post-purchase) and customer engagement (advocacy) to keep them coming back, starting the cycle again.

The post purchase section is when people often start to leave and exit the customer lifecycle.  

They ignore retargeting efforts, unsubscribe from content, and eventually ignore promotional messaging. Without a concentrated lifecycle marketing effort, your business may leak customers throughout the buying process instead of re-engaging them and bringing them back to buy.

Remember, the journey doesn’t end when the customer makes a purchase.

The goal of customer lifecycle marketing is to treat the customer’s journey like a cycle that repeats itself and evolves, not like a marathon that has a concrete start and endpoint.

The Benefits of Customer Lifecycle Marketing

If your business follows a linear marketing plan that ends at purchase, converting to a customer lifetime marketing strategy may require changes to your strategy. However, all of these changes have an impact on your bottom line and are worth the extra effort because of the benefits they bring to your marketing and sales goals.

You Improve the Lifetime Value of Your Customers

One of the main flaws in treating the customer’s journey like a marathon instead of a lifecycle is that it assumes the customer’s value ends after they make a purchase. You don’t account for the full value of the customer over their lifetime of doing business with you.

Consider this from a fashion retailer’s perspective. If a customer takes advantage of a dress sale, then they might be worth $50 to the brand. However, if the customer returns four times per year and spends an average of $50 each time, then the customer is worth more than $1,000 over five years.

Kissmetrics shared an infographic on the lifetime value of a Starbucks customer. If the average weekly value of a customer is $24 per week, then a loyal customer could be worth almost $15,000 on average over 20 years.

This data helped the coffee chain understand how much they should invest in their customers. From the acquisition process to building loyalty and recruiting brand ambassadors, Starbucks can plan its long-term marketing efforts to maximize profits.

You Improve Your Marketing ROI

You may think your marketing efforts are allocated in a way that achieves the highest ROI and maximum value for your brand. But you could be wrong. Many companies focus too much on customer acquisition and getting new business instead of looking at the journey as a whole.

A recent report from Salesforce explored the value of customer lifecycle marketing. The researchers found that few companies actually use it. Some of their eye-opening statistics include:

customer lifecycle marketing statistics

In all likelihood, your brand is great at getting your name out there. You promote yourself on social channels and blast your name through mass media efforts, but you struggle to move customers deep into the funnel, keep them coming back, and turn them into brand advocates.

You Grow Sales Through Retention and Repeat Business

It’s shocking that so few companies invest in customer retention and advocacy when they could see significant financial growth if they focused on the back half of the customer lifecycle.

Focusing on customer retention and advocacy can improve your conversion rates, save money, and increase overall sales for your business.

  • It can cost anywhere between five to 25 times more to acquire a new customer than to retain an existing customer (Harvard Business Review).
  • You have a 60% to 70% chance of selling to an existing customer, whereas you only have a 5% to 20% chance of selling to a new customer (Marketing Metrics).
  • Repeat customers spend an average of 67% more than new customers (Bain).

Instead of pushing customers to the top of your funnel and hoping they reach the bottom, brands can win with full customer lifecycle marketing.

They can focus on customer lifetime value and understand what various buyers need throughout their journeys. Instead of marketing blindly, brands have the power to market strategically and tie their sales directly to their promotion efforts.

How to Use Customer Lifecycle Marketing

To engage in customer lifecycle marketing, plan your content and promotional strategies around the purchase funnel. Develop a strategy for each of the customer lifecycle stages, and make sure you don’t have any gaps in the following process.

customer lifecycle stages

Awareness Phase

Marketers who target new customers and want to expand their audience often focus on awareness-style tactics at the top-of-the-marketing funnel. While this is certainly an important part of the sales cycle (you can’t move through the rest of the process without it), you don’t want to focus so hard on the awareness phase that customers are left to fend for themselves throughout the rest of their journey.

Awareness Phase Marketing Strategies

Advertisers often use mass-market strategies in the awareness part of the funnel. These may include non-digital tactics like TV ads and billboard displays, or digital outreach in the form of social media promotion, display ads, and sponsored posts. Depending on the business, it may also include outreach and an influencer marketing strategy to expose the brand to key target audiences.

From a content standpoint, you want to create highly shareable pieces. Graphics that are easy to read, posts that people laugh at and want to share, and short videos all fall into this category. If you want to go viral, this is the stage to try for it.

You also need to create content that targets low-competition keywords that audiences would be searching for at this time. Help potential customers discover your brand during this phase of the buying decision process by researching and finding the best keywords for bringing new audiences to your site.

Also consider looking for guest blogging opportunities that allow you to create content that will get in front of your ideal audience. Publishing guest posts on other sites that share your target audience helps you get more exposure in this phase of the customer lifecycle marketing.

Questions to Address in Your Awareness Phase Content

The questions in the awareness stage are very high level. Your goal in the awareness stage is to increase the number of people who are aware of your brand as an option during the purchase process. A few essential questions to address include:

awareness questions in customer lifecycle marketing

By answering these questions, you can move customers toward your brand and why it is the best option on the market.

Engagement Phase

The engagement stage of the funnel is more active. Engaged leads and audiences know about your product and will consider buying it, but they want to know more about your offerings.

For example, from a B2C perspective, an engaged customer might know what a home assistant is. But they may want to know how to use an Echo Dot or Google Home before they buy. From a B2B perspective, an engaged customer might want A/B testing software on their website but need information to help them sell upper management on the investment.

Engagement marketing is still relatively high in the funnel, but the focus shifts to helping the prospect envision the qualities, experiences, and benefits of using your tools.

Engagement Phase Marketing Strategies

For MOFu marketing (middle-of-the-funnel marketing), focus on blog content and website traffic-driving marketing tactics. You want to bring people to your website and present interesting and valuable content to keep them there.

The call to actions can be stronger and more direct than in the awareness stage, as customers are drawn to connect with your brand on a deeper level.

Engagement Phase Case Study: Vircom

The anti-spam software company Vircom developed a white paper called “Why Spammers Spam,” addressing the tactics and motives of spammers. They spent roughly $1,700 on writing and promoting the white paper to move their leads down the funnel. The goal was to increase engagement and inform people on spam practices and why they need Vircom’s tools.

The results were overwhelming. The white paper was downloaded more than 2,200 times, generated major media coverage (helping with awareness marketing), and generated more than 21 sales valuing a total of $96,500. While not all white papers will be this successful, this story highlights the mid-funnel value of the content for moving people through the awareness stage to buying.

Questions to Address in Your Engagement Phase Content

Increasing customer engagement through lifecycle marketing means helping people understand why your product is valuable to them and why they can’t live without it. A few questions to address include:

engagement questions in customer lifecycle marketing

When done well, your audience will dig deeper to learn about your brand and approach the purchase process.

Evaluation Phase

Evaluation is the bottom part of your marketing funnel and the closest part of the customer’s journey to buying. During this time, customers are comparing your brand to others and confirming that your brand is the best choice possible.

Customers are likely reading reviews to make sure your products are high quality and checking different features before making a purchase.

Lifecycle marketing examples in this stage might be customers reading about Nikon versus Sony cameras and making sure they both have Wi-Fi options. Or shoppers making sure clothes that a retailer sells fits as they say. From a B2B perspective, this could be management teams meeting with different vendors and seeing which ones offer the most features for the lowest prices.

This part of the funnel involves niche marketing where you get as detailed as possible and do your best to push people to purchase.

Evaluation Phase Marketing Strategies

Bottom-funnel content is often when brands turn to outreach strategies for their marketing efforts. If third-party blogs endorse them and highlight their benefits, then customers have valued sources they can trust before buying.

In this phase, brands also create detailed blog articles, in-depth evergreen content, and customer-generated media like reviews and testimonials that help customers decide if they’re making the best choice. Brands also help customers find evaluation phase content by targeting buyer keywords and that connect shoppers with content that helps them learn, compare, and read reviews.

Questions to Address in Your Evaluation Phase Content

During this part of the marketing process, you want to leave no stone unturned. Any potential roadblocks or hang-ups before buying need to be addressed. Otherwise, you risk losing sales to your competitors. Be sure to include:

evaluation questions customer lifecycle marketing

As you address these questions, test your call to actions. Some companies might focus on purely informative bottom-funnel content that seems unbiased, while others will push customers to buy with each evaluation-focused content piece they create.

Purchase Phase

The level of marketing you do at the purchase phase is less than what you need to do at other stages. The customer has already decided that they want to buy. Your job isn’t to convince them to make the purchase; it’s to help them make the purchase.

Purchase Phase Marketing Strategies

At this time, make it easy for prospects to know exactly what they need to do to make their purchase. Use clear call to actions that advise what steps to take and remove any friction in your purchase process. And target buying keywords like “where to buy ___ online” or “____ stores near me” or “cheap ____.” These are examples of keywords users search for when finding the correct pages and sites to use to buy.

Post-Purchase Phase

Brands often struggle with doing either too much or not enough post-purchase marketing. Customers are either inundated with marketing messages to get them to buy again or met with radio silence. Striking a balance between the two is ideal.

Post-Purchase Phase Marketing Strategies

Engage customers after they buy with follow-up surveys and customer care content. Use social media and blog content to give customers advice to maximize the value of their purchase. For example, a travel company may send personalized content for what visitors can expect at their destinations.

You also want to use post-purchase content to move customers back into the sales funnel. If a customer buys a pair of running shoes, that brand can promote running shorts, water bottles, and other accessories.

You spent a lot of time and effort landing a customer. You can’t afford to lose them after they buy.

Questions to Address in Your Post-Purchase Phase Content

Your post-purchase goals serve two purposes: positioning your business to sell again and making sure your customers become repeat buyers. This means addressing questions about additional customer needs and how you can make it easier for them to choose your brand. A few questions to consider include:

Even companies with the best products can lose buyers with poor buying processes or by ignoring customer needs after they buy.

Post-Purchase Phase Case Study: Mattress Firm

Mattress Firm knows you’re unlikely to come back in six months to replace your mattress, but they also know you’re likely to wait for 15 to 20 years before you get a new one. To connect with customers after they have purchased, they started the “Replace Every 8” campaign. This lets people know to replace their mattress every eight years.

post purchase marketing example

This campaign has significant awareness features, moving customers to the top of the funnel. You may not have engaged with Mattress Firm for several years, but this campaign reminds you that it’s time to buy again.

Advocacy Phase

As customers move through the buying process and develop loyalty to your brand, the ideal goal is to turn them into brand advocates who drive leads and sales through word of mouth. This concept was discussed earlier in the guide, where real estate professionals generate leads through the people who they previously worked with.

Advocacy Marketing Strategies

Brands that tap into advocacy marketing develop a cult following of vocal customers who have strong opinions about the brand. They communicate clearly with customers and show that their feedback is valued.

To stimulate brand advocacy, you can’t think of a customer as someone who simply buys from you. You have to think of them as a person who forms a relationship with you.

Build this relationship by doing things that make customers feel special and connected to your brand. That strategy may include offering customer loyalty programs, exclusive experiences for active customers, rewards for customer feedback, referral programs, or even affiliate marketing opportunities.

Advocacy Phase Case Study: Instagram

Instagram relies on loyal brand advocates to grow its brand and keep it afloat. Not only do influencers drive sales through promotion programs, but they also drive users to sign up and stay on the platform. Without these advocates, Instagram would suffer the same fate as Myspace.

A few years ago, Instagram changed its algorithm to show “popular posts” first. This was a tremendously unpopular move. Posts from a week ago were at the top, and people missed important updates. The social media platform listened to its users and switched its algorithm to move newer posts to the top.

As long as Instagram listens to its customers and caters to its top influencers, it can continue to grow. Always remember, your loyal customers have the loudest voices and biggest influence.

Use Alexa to Guide Your Customer Lifecycle Marketing

To improve marketing ROI, consider moving away from linear buying funnels and focus on creating cyclical customer lifecycle marketing strategies. This process helps you save money and time, earn more from your existing customers, and spend less on marketing tactics.

To improve marketing ROI, trade linear buying funnels for cyclical lifecycle marketing strategies. Click To Tweet

Use the ideas in this post to launch your customer lifecycle marketing strategies, and get insight to help you form the content plan to support it with a free trial of Alexa’s Advanced Plan. Our marketing research suite includes tools that help you execute strategies for the beginning, middle, end, and circle-back of your customer’s lifecycle. Try it today to access in-depth keyword, target audience, and competitor research tools and custom reports.

Customer Lifecycle Marketing: The Complete Guide