One of the ambitions shared by many businesses is to boast a happy, loyal, regularly purchasing customer base.
But let’s be honest, that’s easier said than done.
For many brands, competition is fierce, consumer expectations are ever-increasing, and costs are rising. Making loyal customers feel like a near-impossible goal to achieve.
Fortunately, customer lifecycle programs can simplify the goal of growing your loyal customer base. Dividing the process into a step by step program to help brands and marketers plan and execute the right strategy, at the right time.
In this post, we will delve into exactly what a customer lifecycle program is, the steps involved, and the most appropriate marketing activities at each stage.
When referencing ‘customer lifecycle’, marketers are referring to the process that consumers go through, from being prospects to becoming loyal customers.
This process isn’t as straightforward as simply visiting a website and making a purchase, instead, consumers need to become aware of a brand and product, go through the purchasing journey, and be engaged enough to purchase time and time again.
To help marketers engage with consumers throughout the customer lifecycle, the process is split into a number of stages: reach, acquisition, conversion, retention, and loyalty.
These stages benefit marketing teams as they can gain a complete picture of the journey, highlighting areas where they are lacking engagement, and identifying the activity that can support these stages.
A customer lifecycle program is the marketing activity that can be utilised to influence and control a customer’s journey with a brand, utilising the stages mentioned above.
Within a customer lifecycle program, marketers can identify the needs, desires, and challenges consumers are experiencing within each stage, and tailor their marketing activity accordingly.
This enables marketers to ensure their activity is as relevant and personalised as possible, increasing the likelihood of moving their consumers through the lifecycle stages, from potential customers through to loyal brand advocates.
A customer lifecycle program can consist of multiple channels, depending on what is best for a brand’s specific audience at each stage. However, email marketing is the glue that holds these channels together, ensuring a consistent conversation with recipients that can be monitored, analysed, and built upon.
Below we have outlined the typical stages that should be incorporated into your customer lifecycle program. We have paid special attention to email marketing as a channel, however, our advice can be applied to other marketing channels that are likely to engage with your audience.
The initial stage in the customer lifecycle is a brand’s opportunity to ‘reach’ a potential customer at the moment they will be most engaged.
During this stage, customers are aware they have a challenge that they want to solve, and are exploring potential solutions.
This usually involves researching and comparing various products and services offered by different brands. They will explore product details, pricing, customer reviews, and utilise multiple channels such as email, social media, search, and PPC.
At this stage, identifying common challenges and being able to address them through your brand,content, and communications is key.
Consider regularly sharing case studies, reviews, and user generated content (UGC) to improve your brand awareness and achieve the above.
Once a potential customer engages with your business, then they have hit the acquisition stage.
The goal of this stage is to sell your brand and products to the potential consumer so that they convert and make a purchase. However, this can look significantly different depending on the channel they have come through. For instance, they may have signed up to your email communications, called up via telephone, or messaged over social media.
Whatever the channel, marketers need to focus on communicating as many benefits of the brand and product as possible.
For instance, if they have handed over their email address, brands can begin by offering a welcome campaign to introduce themselves, then progress to sharing educational and promotional content that is likely to pique their interest, reassure them about the brand, and offer them a nudge to convert.
Congratulations, your prospect has made a purchase and turned into a customer!
But the hard work isn’t over. Once a consumer converts into a customer, brands need to continue to provide value and focus on building the foundations for a long and loyal relationship.
Key to a successful conversion stage is keeping the customer updated and engaged regarding their purchase. For instance, sending regular order and delivery updates, and utilising this new data to offer suggestions for add-on items and other relevant products.
Once the initial excitement of purchasing from a new brand has faded, it can be easy for a customer to be lost to competitors offering a different and enticing experience.
Key to retaining customers is building on engagement, making them feel valued, and offering them what they want when they want it.
Data is essential for achieving the above. Alongside behavioural and purchase data, additional data on demographics and preferences can be captured through the use of surveys and questionnaires. Both of which can identify potential customers who are most engaged and those that might be at risk.
Using all of this information you can further personalise your communications. This could include VIP campaigns to your most engaged, re-engagement campaigns to customers who may be at risk, and generally ensuring that products, services, and content promoted are relevant to each and every individual.
Customer loyalty refers to a consumer choosing your brand over all other brands, even if they are offering a more competitive price or product.
All of these previous stages will have influenced a customer to the point of becoming ‘loyal’. However, efforts need to be made throughout the business to always provide a seamless, positive experience to maintain this loyalty
The benefit of loyal customers is that they are highly sticky, they don’t require you to undercut competitors, and they are a fantastic source of positive brand awareness. So, make the most of this group by asking them for reviews, setting up a referral or loyalty scheme, and encouraging them to create and share their own content.
By following our step by step customer lifecycle program, your brand will soon be on its way to growing your happy customer base.
However, we appreciate that building the right strategy and executing the right activity can be resource intensive. If you’d like some support getting started, or even expert guidance throughout the process, then our friendly team can help.