We’ve created 90% of the world’s data in the past two years, but unless we do something with it, it doesn’t quite matter. The same goes for understanding customer analytics. All the customer analytics in the world are unless you know how to turn those insights into smart lifecycle marketing, and have the data tools to implement your strategy.
What sets lifecycle marketing apart from other marketing strategies is its focus on people, rather than just the initial sign-up. And when it’s guided by sharp, data-driven insights this focus leads to loyal customers who are not only more likely to repeat and increase their business, but who will also help your brand grow through invaluable feedback and word of mouth.
What is lifecycle marketing? #
Lifecycle marketing is an approach to marketing that factors in the entire experience of a customer, from lead to sign-up and beyond.
According to HubSpot:
“Lifecycle marketing is the mix of strategies a company uses to positively influence customer behavior as they move through each touchpoint of the marketing cycle, from the initial attraction to becoming a brand advocate.”
Lifecycle marketing acknowledges that the customer journey doesn’t end after a purchase is made. It prioritizes a continually engaged and supported customer, and it offers the benefit of growing your business in a way that fosters brand loyalty and better utilizes your existing customer base.
What are the benefits? #
When done effectively, smart lifecycle content can increase your company’s KPIs throughout the funnel. While many marketing teams are focused on leads or signups, a lifecycle approach looks at activation, engagement, and even lifetime value (LTV).
Obtaining repeat, loyal customers is key to creating sustainable growth that’s less cost-intensive. “Maintaining a strong relationship with your existing customer base is far more effective for scaling your business”, reports Sumo.
A holistic funnel approach not only affects the experience your customers have and your KPIs, but also how your team works and thinks.
As stated by GrowthHackers:
“Understanding your customer lifecycle helps you optimize your business processes. For example, streamlining the SaaS customer lifecycle allows you to cross-sell and upsell your SaaS. As a result, you’ll be able to create lasting customer relationships and increase brand loyalty.”
The stages of lifecycle marketing #
Learning how to interact with and tailor messages to customers at different places in the marketing cycles starts with getting to know the various stages involved. One of the best ways to Influence customer behavior is to understand where they are and meet them there with your content.
Top of the funnel #
The top of the funnel (TOFU) stages are when potential customers first learn about your company and are starting to get to know your brand. You’ll find the Awareness, Interest, and Consideration stages here.
Awareness: Where customers are drawn in and leads are generated
Interest: When brand positioning is first introduced
Consideration: When leads become prospective customers and begin receiving more targeted content
Middle of the funnel #
The middle of the funnel (MOFU) is home to Intent, Evaluation, and Purchase. These are the stages when potential customers are exploring your brand offerings more in-depth, with potential intent to buy, and where your lead becomes a customer.
Intent: When customers have shown direct interest in the brand’s product
Evaluation: When the customer is making a final decision
Purchase: When the transaction is made
Bottom of the funnel #
At the bottom of the funnel (BOFU) is where Engagement and Activation stages occur, and it’s a key focus of lifecycle marketing. It’s the place where your customer moves beyond ‘customer’ and becomes a brand evangelist. They’re fully onboard, satisfied, and ready to recommend you.
Engagement: Where customers develop a preference for the brand and identify with it
Activation: When customers become advocates for the brand and activate new leads
Once you’re aware of the stages, you can start to dial in the content and strategies that work best for reaching customers wherever they are in the process. So your messaging and marketing efforts are amazing and delightful enough to gain that increased customer lifetime value.
Because, as Seth Godin puts it:
“When you amaze and delight, your fans will pay it forward.”
The tools, tactics, and data for every stage of the cycle #
Every stage of the cycle offers different opportunities to connect with leads, and the best tool for making a connection is the tool that meets a prospective customer exactly where they are, which includes being able to trigger emails and content based on customer interactions with your domains and app.
The content you’re looking for at any stage speaks to what the customer needs at that moment and it builds on your relationship with them.
Top of the funnel: Establish trust #
In the TOFU stages, the tools and tactics you use should be heavily focused on value and less promotional. Think high-quality content to build brand authority and establish understanding and trust.
At this stage, consider:
Using keywords that make your brand easily discoverable
Creating and sharing blog posts or other guides that walk customers through solutions to common problems
Going to where your audience is: Cross-promote and collaborate with influencers your audience pays attention to
Designing landing pages that communicate your values clearly and are easy to engage with
The data you need
Keyword research: Most marketers get excited about keyword research. Knowing what keywords your brand wants to rank for but also how to rank for them is important as you build website pages and draft blog posts. A smart SEO strategy also looks at how competitive keywords are and how expensive ads for these phrases might be.
Visits: Looking at how many visits you get to your website domains tells you how your brand and marketing efforts are working. Looking at the ebb and flow of visits over weeks and months also helps you figure out when to launch marketing campaigns, when to expect revenue dips, or when more marketing efforts are needed.
Bounce rate: Looking at bounce rates on your websites can tell you if people find your content engaging. It can also point to a gap between what customers expected to find on your site, and what they discovered. Paring bounce rate with customer interviews gives you answers to these key questions.
Middle of the funnel: Offer solutions #
In the MOFU stages, you want to create marketing assets with more targeted, personalized content that makes converting easy. Be direct and human. Nothing about the process to get them through that last push to purchase should feel difficult or distracting. This is the part where you should be striving to offer solutions, answer last questions, eliminate any possible roadblocks, and supply that final nudge that takes them from lead to customer.
At this point, you can try:
Sharing positive reviews and testimonials
Making pricing information easily accessible with pricing pages
Offering demos or free trials
Providing live chats and other forms of accessible customer support
Creating onboarding checklists that guide them to and through sign-up
The data you need
When you’re looking at the middle of the funnel, you’ve got to know how people are interacting with your website and checkout flows. It’s crucial to understand where exactly customers are dropping off from visit to payment. It’s also important to understand what signup routes are converting better than others.
For example, you may find that users that visit your pricing page are much more qualified than those that signup via the homepage. This could lead to testing where CTAs on your homepage point to: signup or to your pricing page. Looking at these routes and how they affect LTV can have a big impact on your business.
Key data insights at this stage are:
Website interactions: To look at conversion rates from a visit to signup, a visit to account creation, and a visit to payment across your pages, you’ll have to know how many people visited your domains and the actions they took.
This information can feel hard to get, especially when you have finite engineering resources. That’s where a tool like Freshpaint can come in handy. Freshpaint is a customer data platform (CDP) connecting clicks on your website to your marketing and analytics tools without engineering support. Think: no-code event tracking. Implementation is done automatically through a one-line JS snippet. It works retroactively and is entirely HIPAA compliant. Other alternatives include Segment.
Signup data: When someone signs up, that’s a marketer’s cue to send an email, cue the welcome wagon, and support new interested customers (or potential customers). It goes without saying then, that signup information must be passed to your email tool, any in-app tools, your sales team, and more.
Heatmaps: Heatmaps on your website tell you where eyes are looking, interested, or uninterested.
Payment data: Knowing how customers interact with your checkout flow can reveal low-hanging fruit and easy wins for more revenue. It’s important to track how many visitors abandon carts, create accounts, and how many do actually checkout.
Bottom of the funnel: Provide consistent support #
The bottom of the funnel is where the added value of lifecycle marketing really comes into play. It’s where customers can be guided to repeat or increase purchases, and even generate new leads for you. The tools you utilize here should be all about providing consistent support and guidance, as well as helping you to continue emphasizing value.
In these stages consider:
Incentivizing customers to share testimonials
Creating emails or in-app notifications that provide information on all content updates
Providing continuous, easy to access support
Offering exclusive features or rewards for continued engagement
Implementing reactivation campaigns for lapsed customers
The data you need
In-app interactions: The first interactions with your product are essential for engaging new customers. Knowing what customers click on, and triggering communication is key to improving these interactions.
You can use a tool like Chameleon to help users discover your product’s value more quickly. It provides tools that make in-product engagement easier to manage–from onboarding and feature discovery to support and feedback. For example, you can guide customers with Tours by creating product walkthroughs, or with Launchers by building onboarding checklists. Or you can support your customers with Tooltips that offer additional information and help unblock them, while Microsurveys can help you keep customer feedback flowing.
Payment information: You can’t run a business unless you know when people pay you! That’s obvious, but again, you need to pass this information to your marketing stack so you can remove paying customers from nurture campaigns and other conversations. Use a CDP to help with managing this.
Cancellation information: As it goes with payment information, you also want to be mindful of cancellations and churn. Canceled customers offer an opportunity for re-engagement campaigns, but it’s also essential to be mindful of GDPR guidelines.
What KPIs should you track to guide your messaging? #
After all is said and done, you’ll want to look at core metrics to understand if all of your marketing efforts are working. Knowing what messaging and content is the best fit for your leads and current customers comes down to what you see in the data. So what data you track is key.
Here are the KPIs that make great starting guideposts.
A number of signups tell you how well your top-of-funnel content is working and how many people are hearing about your product. This also hints at how many customers are recommending your product.
Activation rates #
Knowing your activation rate can give you an idea of how effective your onboarding process is—if your activation rate is low, it might be a sign that the current onboarding setup is difficult or confusing, and could be an indicator to re-think it or implement additional kinds of customer support along the way.
Churn rate #
Is your retention low? This could be an indicator of whether you’ve implemented the right tools to support your customers, and it might lead to the creation of a survey to find out other opportunities to alter or grow your offerings in the future, or the implementation of a reactivation campaign to try to win back lost customers.
Customer Lifetime Value (LTV) #
Finding out the lifetime value of a customer can speak to your overall customer experience. Happy, healthy customer relationships throughout the customer lifecycle grow LTV. If LTV is low, look to implement solutions and content that build loyalty, whether that’s by increasing trust-building early on via testimonials and customer support, or through the addition of rewards programs down the line that keep them engaged.
Get the data insights you need to support your customers every step of the way #
Now that you have a better idea of the data you need, it’s just a matter of getting it. Use data tracking to gather the information you’re targeting to determine where customers need more support so they don’t miss any of the benefits you’ve put at their fingertips and they can be confident they’re working with the right brand.
There are many options for connecting your customer data from your site or app to your marketing and analytic tools.
But if you’re looking for a way to get started without involving your engineering team in the implementation of all your tracking asks, or you want an option that allows you to collect data retroactively (so you can always go back and check a metric—even if you didn’t realize you’d need it at the time), Freshpaint’s HIPAA compliant data platform offers no-code event creation with a visual editor that non-technical teams can use to create events. So you don’t have to deploy code for every single interaction you want to collect data for. Just point and click.
Ready to reexamine your strategy? #
If you’re looking for a way to create more loyal, engaged customers for your brand and improve lifetime value, examining your marketing lifecycle and the data that guides it is a great place to start.
Here are some guidelines to begin with:
Not seeing much adoption of a new feature? It could be time to add an in-app notification, create a blog post, or send out an email to engage users.
Wondering where you’re losing customers during the app set-up process? You might need to add in some additional guidance along the way.
Notice that you’re getting lots of clicks but not a lot of follow-throughs when it comes to your free-trial sign-up page? It might be a clue that the sign-up process comes too soon in their customer journey and you might want to try directing them to a more informative landing page or providing other foundational resources earlier on.
Putting people at the center, thoughtfully evaluating the tools you use at each cycle stage, and making sure your messaging meets customers where they are can go a long way in making sure brand values are effectively communicated and that customers are supported, satisfied, ready to recommend, and around for the long-term.
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This article is written by Ray Mina who heads up all things marketing at Freshpaint and has built and executed on the go-to-market strategy for several early-stage startups with successful exits.