Creating and sustaining customer relationships is fundamental to your success as a brand. In an increasingly competitive market space, the race is on for brands to deliver unequaled value through customer experience.
Marketers must continuously strive to deliver improved services to their customers, which entails creating a hitch-free, unwavering value-added experience for customers.
Have you ever thought of the steps your customers go through before making their first purchase from your company? Customer lifecycle plays a pivotal role in establishing a brand identity.
What is the Customer Lifecycle?
Customer lifecycle refers to the stages customers go through during their relationship with a brand. It refers to potential customers’ steps to become new and loyal customers. It is cyclical and never truly ends. It describes the process of considering, buying, using, and remaining faithful to a particular product or service.
The goal of every business is to convert potential customers into paying customers. However, conversion rates are not the only metric marketers should consider. This is because some converted customers may end up being low-quality customers that patronize your business just once—as such, having a solid understanding of the customer lifecycle is important.
A customer life cycle should be tailored to your company’s specific needs, and everything should be meticulously planned to avoid missing any critical touchpoints. It is essential to stay in touch with potential customers from the moment they first interact with your brand until they become valuable customers.
You want to avoid losing a customer to acquire a new one at all costs. Marketers make the majority of their money from repeat customers, particularly those who become loyal.
The customer journey starts with the first point of contact, where traffic is anonymous, and potential customers get to know your products or services. The leads are most likely browsing your website at this point.
As a marketer, you must entice them to leave this stage and become real traffic engaging on your website. From engaging leads, they become a repeat customer.
At this point, gathering information on your leads is critical to guide them to the point where they can engage with the marketing you are putting out to generate a positive response. They are now considered prospects, and staying in touch with prospects and cultivating an ongoing relationship with them until they are ready to make a purchase is critical.
When a potential consumer makes their initial purchase and becomes a new customer, you must treat them as such: answer their questions, explain things to them, and encourage them to become repeat customers. When end-users are treated well, the purchase process is smoothed out, your products and services add value to them, and their entire relationship with the brand is not based solely on sales; they are more likely to become repeat customers.
Rewarding repeat consumers can prevent them from becoming lapsed (leads that drop out of the purchase journey) clients. Re-engaging lapsed clients can benefit your business. Recurring customers grow loyal, and loyal consumers are one step from becoming brand advocates who refer others to your company. The tier progresses from one customer who has become an advocate to many others who later become customers themselves, and so on. This is the ideal business model for any marketer to develop.
What are Its Stages?
Market analysts Jim Stern and Matt Cutler developed a matrix that divides the customer lifecycle into five stages: reach, acquisition, conversion, retention, and loyalty. Let’s take a look at them.
This is the initial phase of the customer lifecycle, as it generates awareness. Digital marketing and search engine marketing should raise client awareness of your brand. A potential consumer becomes aware of a problem they need to solve and begins searching for a solution. In pursuit of information, a potential consumer examines and tests products from multiple rival companies, including yours, and reads reviews from other clients.
This stage allows you to get the client while they are still deliberating. The step is successful when a prospective purchaser contacts you for additional information to educate themselves, determine the path to purchase or inquire about the pricing.
This stage is crucial. Understanding your products and services is essential in determining your target audience. Reaching potential customers won’t yield much if you can’t offer relevant content.
When a potential customer contacts you by logging into your website or calling over the phone, they have entered the acquisition stage.
Depending on the acquisition channel used by the customer, this stage may look different. Suppose the customer logs into your website; in that case, the content should provide adequate information, which is enough to educate, answer possible questions the customer might have, meet their needs and drive them to purchase.
If they call, you must react to their queries, address their concerns, assuage their fears, and inquire about their requirements. In addition, you must recommend the appropriate products and services to meet their needs, keeping in mind that tailored communication increases the likelihood of a subsequent interaction.
Some content should be gated to get information on the customer. Your service team should always be available to respond to urgent inquiries and provide top-notch customer service.
The prospective customer makes a purchase after getting the necessary information and being satisfied with your company’s services. Once the purchase is made, they’ve automatically converted into your customer. At this stage, it has to be clear you’re providing value, and the customer is delighted with their first transaction. This stage transcends making sales or purchases alone.
This is where you form a relationship with and retain the buyer so they can continuously patronize you. In addition, you can use back-end analytics to predict what else the buyer is likely to buy based on their initial purchase and browsing so that it can be made available. Customers like to see that you value their opinion, so asking for customer feedback can strengthen the relationship.
Customer retention begins with satisfying a customer’s needs and building the relationship that has been formed. It is essential to find out how the customer feels concerning the purchase journey and if they are enjoying the new offerings. If you are continually in contact with a customer, sending them relevant messages, there are higher chances that such customers will return to make more purchases.
Furthermore, assess your brand by conducting a customer service survey and measuring the customer satisfaction score. This can help you identify loopholes and figure out areas that need improvement.
Using customers’ feedback to improve your brand’s offerings can make them feel like they were part of the process. This leads to stronger customer relationships and builds trust. This type of trust is significant to customer retention.
Also, at this stage, you may want to offer privileges exclusively to customers, such as product discounts, referral bonuses, personalized customer interactions round the clock, rewards for the most loyal customers, and sending personalized free gifts. This way, customers will stay tuned to avoid missing out. These perks can change a buyer from a one-time customer to a brand advocate.
Maintaining loyalty towards your brand is ultimate. At this stage, the customer becomes a vital asset to the brand by making continuous purchases and recommending the brand to their families and friends. Spreading awareness among social circles by word of mouth recommendations, doing positive reviews to direct potential customers in the reach stage, or even making posts on their social media to express their encounter with the brand all stems from loyalty.
To get to this point, a customer must have gone through the four stages mentioned earlier. Brand loyalty is developed and nurtured in customers through seamless experiences that meet their needs and prove the value of your product or service.
What is the Difference Between Customer Journey and Lifecycle?
It is easy to confuse the terms customer journey and customer lifecycle; some people may even use them interchangeably. However, each term means something different, though they work together to create seamless experiences for the customers and profit for the business.
Let’s attempt to comprehend each term, highlight their distinctions, and investigate how they contribute to a brand’s success.
Customer lifecycle refers to analyzing and comprehending a business’s customers’ experiences. It enables organizations to learn precisely how customers feel about their products and the customer experience.
This tool describes the experience of the majority, if not all, customers who have had contact with the brand, phase by phase: from being aware of a product to the point where they develop interest to making an effort to obtain information about the product, and finally to using the product, how customers feel after using the product or service, and the relationship that continues to exist between the customer and the marketer.
This provides a rich understanding and paints a clearer picture as regards the entire experience of propositions and how people value them. This knowledge is used to establish customer hotspots and potential interventions.
Viewing the business through the eyes of the customers can bring tremendous value and massive business impact to the brand. On the other hand, the customer journey helps companies understand what to do. Customer journeys describe the step-by-step activities of customers as they interact with the organization while on the path to purchase and how to deliver the perfect experience to each customer. It visualizes how a customer navigates through a range of channels to a retail point and describes the experience in each interaction.
A customer journey is specific and is determined by the customer’s choices. A customer lifecycle, in contrast, is the generalized view of the customer attitude created by a business based on their total observations of all customers.
Customer lifecycle is usually driven by business actions and is a cyclical process, not a linear one. Instead of focusing solely on winning and converting a potential customer to a paying customer, it encompasses the entire customer relationship, including repeat business and the interactions between the customer and the business.
Customer lifecycle also helps you understand customer behavior and business potential. This provides you with a detailed understanding of what influences customers’ behavior and decisions.
Watching customers’ behavior throughout their relationship with the business provides a perfect view of the customer pain points, highlights the areas that need improvement, and reveals opportunities to correct them. This provides businesses with compelling strategies for engaging with buyers. The customer journey is all the touch points that a customer interacts with a brand from beginning to end.
Unlike the customer journey, the customer lifecycle is a process actively driven by a brand’s marketing team. Like all other lifecycles, it separates potential customers into various stages that are observed and used to adjust marketing plans and sales methods to achieve the greatest possible conversion.
Now that you grab the concept of both terms let us look briefly at how they can work together to make your marketing strategy rock. The buyer’s journey details a user’s experience with your brand as the buyer moves to identify, seek information, understand, and proceed to make a purchase or utilize services to solve a problem or fulfill an opportunity.
The customer lifecycle gives you complete insight and allows you to create informative content that fulfills the buyer at any stage of the customer journey, be it awareness, consideration, or decision. It gives room for you to put out your best to gain the customer’s trust, and you intentionally give prospects what they are looking for and provide value.
If you make the right moves, providing a solid experience at each step, the potential client will become repeat customers. It may also earn you a new lead. All these together prove that you are reputable and have the best interest of your customers at heart.
What is Customer Lifecycle Management?
Insight and tools help businesses to increase the satisfaction of their customers. To optimize the customer lifecycle, it is vital to take a step back and analyze the circle as a whole. This way, you can understand the proportion of customers at each stage of the lifecycle and look for possible trends as people move between the stages of the lifecycle. There is no better way to access this than by applying customer relationship management.
Customer lifecycle management refers to tracking the stages of the lifecycle by assigning metrics to each stage and using these metrics to assess business performance over time. It monitors and analyzes a company’s progress and success by utilizing metrics such as cost per acquisition, ad impressions and conversions, transaction value, transaction frequency, and engagement metrics. To attract and retain customers, brands must prioritize customer relationship management.
This management evaluates the performance of a business over time by measuring multiple customer-related variables. It aims to collect static and dynamic data, marketing processes, and value-added services from all organizational domains to build a unified decision-supporting platform for the repeated phases of customer acquisition, retention, cross-selling, upselling, and lapsed customer win-back.
Detailed lifecycle management models divide the phases above into acquisition, product introduction, customer profiling, customer base expansion, customer loyalty, and relationship termination.
Customer lifecycle management uses customer data to create campaigns specific to each customer to provide a terrific user experience. If done skillfully, it helps to ensure that customers receive top-notch personalized service at all times throughout all the stages of the customer lifetime.
Why is It Important?
A thorough understanding of the importance of excellent customer service delivery is key to surviving competition in an environment where customers have plenty of other options they can latch on to. Customer success teams must be attentive and monitor closely when understanding and tracking lifecycle metrics and checkpoints to avoid losing customers. This highlights the importance of customer relationship management.
Customer lifecycle management is an excellent way to understand the position of a business with other similar businesses and how customers rate your brand in the face of competition.
Furthermore, it is an essential tool that lets you follow up on the customers’ journey and guide them towards purchasing, brand loyalty, and advocacy. It helps you maximize the potential of existing customers and prospective customers by improving their experience, leading to greater profits, brand visibility, and reputation.
In addition, customer lifecycle management creates a greater chance for you to successfully cross-sell and upsell to happy consumers.
How to Analyze Your Customers’ Cycle of Life
Knowing how your business performs at every stage of the customer lifecycle journey is essential to improving the customer experience. To effectively analyze the customer journey, you need to identify problems or pain points in the customer experience. This way, you can create solutions that enhance customers’ overall experience.
Customer lifecycle analysis is simply growth accounting. One of the most common metrics used by digital marketing teams is tracking the growth of the customer base. However, recording growth without fully understanding how the growth is happening is incomplete. Marketing teams track the number of active customers, which is the number of users that perform a specific action to experience the product you are offering.
This analysis involves breaking down the total active customers into new customers, retained customers, resurrected customers, and dormant customers to understand the impact of individual customers, how they contribute to the overall user base and how the customer base is growing.
Dividing customers into different groups and tracking their purchasing paths is a great way to understand your customers better and find opportunities for further growth.
All customers are not equal. Therefore, paying attention to each customer’s experience is pertinent and making it worthwhile by providing excellent customer service to retain customers and keep them from drifting away.
Customer lifecycle analysis creates a platform to ask more profound, meaningful questions by segmenting the customer base to help you understand what is contributing to the growth or shrinkage of your customer base.
This helps marketing teams to build more sustainable user growth. It focuses mainly on customer behavior and understanding purchase decisions to enhance customer experiences. It also allows businesses to make informed decisions and develop customer retention strategies. In addition, it lets you upgrade your product and services based on data obtained.
The following stages explain how to do a customer lifecycle analysis.
Analyses at this stage aim to determine how well you reach out to customers. When analyzing this stage of the customer lifecycle, you need to figure out the ease with which potential users can locate or find out about your brand’s offerings.
To measure the effectiveness of your marketing campaigns, you need to answer the following questions:
Where are prospects finding out about your business? How is the business performing on every channel? Are you regularly posting content on social media that amplify your reach? Are there any different methods your competitors are employing?
When you have answered these questions, you can optimize your efforts.
It is during this stage that prospects become leads. This happens because a prospective customer has found content that interests them. When analyzing the acquisition stage, you need to determine the type of content on your website and whether it is helpful to leads trying to make a decision. If the website is easy to reach, whether the customer service is readily available to answer questions and give information, and finally, if the pricing information is directly available.
After a customer makes their first purchase, it is important to maintain your relationship with them. It is essential to continue making their experience as positive as possible, and this is the only way to get customers coming back.
To do this effectively, you need to check how customers feel about your business and products if there is support available for customers having issues with using your products if customers can place repeat orders easily, if the customers feel valued and if you have a loyalty program in place.
While it is challenging to influence customer loyalty, you can increase the chances of customers returning to make more purchases if you properly analyze your activities at the loyalty stage.
This can be done by proffering answers to the following questions: Are referral programs in place? Do your current customers have benefits? Do your social profiles communicate directly to customers? Do you have the proper channels in place to communicate with your customers? And very importantly, have you included social media follow buttons on your site?
How to Manage Your Customers’ Cycle of Life?
Follow the steps below to manage your customer lifecycle.
Determine Your Target Audience
Before customers discover your business, you need to identify the specific customer base you want to reach and target your content specifically to them. The easiest way to do this is to create buyer personas. These customer personas represent the demographic and purchase behavior of your target customer base and everything you need to know about your customers. Keep in mind, though, that the needs of customers constantly evolve.
Share Relevant Content
You need to gain customers’ trust before they can invest in you, and you have to deliver engaging, practical, and search-engine-optimized content. This way, your brand will appear more frequently when customers check for related topics. By constantly popping up, your brand will come to mind once customers need certain products or services.
Provide Self-Service Resources
Customers like to handle the purchasing process independently as much as possible. In line with this, you should make all information available to make customers’ lives easier once they get acquainted with your brand.
Use Motivating Customer Service
Even if people have not purchased your product, they may have questions that, if not attended to, could make them walk away. Instead of letting them rely solely on self-service tools, your sales team should work proactively to offer the information needed and guide customers having difficulties by providing them demos through which they can familiarise themselves with your products.
Eliminate Difficulties in the Purchase Stage
Build a simple online ordering system to remove friction from the purchase stage.
Provide Support Options
The purchase stage can pose a stressful moment for the buyer. As much as possible, you must provide support options during the purchase decision phase such that buyers can quickly contact your team when they have questions to avoid buyer’s remorse.
Personalize the Buyer’s Experience After Purchase
Your relationship with a customer should go beyond the purchase, which is how you keep them returning. Customers should be cared for after purchase just as they are before purchase. One way to do this is to reach out to customers after purchase to ensure they got what they wanted and are pleased with your product.
Expand on Automation
It is easy to personalize your relationship with customers when they are few. As the customer base grows, you will need to upscale your efforts to keep up with customer demand. This is where marketing automation comes in.
Imbibe Customer Reviews and Encourage Them to Refer You
Encourage happy customers to share their experiences with others by making the process simple. You can also offer them discounts for referrals and bonuses for repeat purchases, giving customers the lush to go all out for your brand.
You should ensure the best practices to get the most out of your efforts at every stage.
The Best Customer Lifecycle Software Programs
It can be tricky to decide what type of software your business needs. You may be wondering if you need to try them all. Don’t stress; we’ve reviewed the best.
Customer lifecycle software is a tool that provides data-driven insight into the interaction of customers with your business at various customer lifecycle stages.
The best software for customer lifecycle management varies based on the nature and size of your business, the marketing software’s affordability, and the software provider’s reputation, among other things. However, your preferred customer relationship management software should meet these essential functions:
Easy data gathering
Retention and reactivation tools
Efficient customer support
Some popular tools are:
Salesforce Marketing Cloud
This software offers tools to help you create personalized buyer instructions across various channels. These include analytics, marketing automation, and segmentation tools. It is best suited for B2B and B2C product and customer service companies and nonprofits.
Although it focuses on inbound marketing, it qualifies as a lifecycle software because it collects, stores, and analyses client data on its CRM software. It also tracks metrics for marketing, sales, and customer-relationship interactions.
This cloud-based software is the most affordable of all customer lifecycle software. It has a range of features that make it easy for CRM, email marketing, social media marketing, lead generation, and marketing automation. Aside from integrating several marketing apps, it allows you to collect and manage customer data from a single dashboard.
It is best suited for small businesses, companies of all sizes, e-commerce, and enterprises.
This platform is web-based and optimizes complicated customer lifecycle journeys for enterprise-level users. It also has features that help you personalize buyer experiences and deliver specific content to your target customers.
This cloud-based software is used to boost the customer satisfaction rate of subscription businesses. It also manages onboarding, customer engagement, product use tracking, segmentation, and reactivation.
It is crucial to take your time to pick the most suitable software.
The customer lifecycle never really ends. The ultimate goal is to build a powerful brand that stays relevant and continues to build loyalty while delivering value to customers.