Every successful business owner eventually hits a plateau in their lead generation and customer conversion rates at some point during their growth, and that can be a scary prospect. When a dry spell happens, business leaders tend to opt for cranking up demand generation channels in a highly competitive market, but this might not be the best use of their hard-earned marketing dollars. If you don’t have a working customer lifecycle, your advertising spend is likely being wasted.
The problem that many smaller businesses have is that their marketing funnel is either not established, poorly designed, or hasn’t scaled to the real-world needs of the business and customers alike. This gap stems from a belief that their customers are “ready to buy” when they contact them, which is an empirically false hope. Unless you’re Amazon, it’s rare for potential customers to have their credit card in hand to make a purchase right then and there.
Strengthen your marketing funnel with Lifecycle Marketing
The most significant mistake small businesses make is when they attempt to close on the sale too quick. This impatience leads to many consumers not being personally invested themselves to learn more about the benefits of your products or your company’s values. By simply asking people to buy right away or providing a coupon directly on your website, you’re telling the world that your product is a commodity and too expensive. As a commodity, people will shop you around to other more established, trusted, and affordable competitors – and you won’t hear a thing about it.
Small businesses can adopt a strategy known as Lifecycle Marketing to build out their customer lifecycle. Simply put, small businesses have a vested interest in making calculated, wise investments in marketing. Every lead should become educated and primed to purchase from you, not competitors. Lifecycle Marketing works for businesses large and small, virtual, brick and mortar, location-based business, B2B, B2C, and everything in between.
Lifecycle Marketing cures a leaky marketing funnel by adopting a methodical process to attract targeted traffic, nurture people into leads, and ask for the sale at the right time. Businesses that implement a comprehensive customer lifecycle identify working lead sources sooner and have full confidence that every lead they generate is going to receive a welcoming, personalized experience, so leads become ready to buy and purchase from someone they trust – you. And the best part is, you can activate a customer review campaign later if they had a fantastic experience or you can offer personalized help if they need some attention.
Example of Lifecycle Marketing
Smart Insights has published some research on lifecycle marketing, including these two examples that demonstrate the concept of building a customer lifecycle. In the first one below, you can see a model that would be appropriate for a retailer with many different customer interactions and stages. While this is not typical of a small business lifecycle, it does a great job of illustrating how to think about the customer lifecycle.
Going beyond basic drip campaigns
You can’t only look at one side of your marketing funnel. You have to deliver a remarkable customer experience after they buy, helpful resources to fully benefit from your products, and make the ask for referrals. From day one, this can be daunting, but as your business becomes successful and proves its legitimacy, lifecycle marketing becomes a necessity to maximize your marketing investments.
A lifecycle marketing campaign should account for all the various stages of the customer journey. From driving awareness all the way to referring new customers. For many businesses, this journey is unique for each person. Successful marketing campaigns are ones that adapt to all the possible user experiences, lead sources, past activities, potential upsells, and developing customer intelligence along the way while delivering a personalized experience. Going beyond the drip is not only desired, but it’s also necessary.
Imagine if you had a killer response to one of your Facebook ads campaigns. You have your prospects getting your helpful product messaging and customer stories over email through your traditional drip campaign. Not bad. Now, imagine that one of your marketing campaigns on Facebook is a remarketing campaign offering a 40% off coupon. How would it feel to that prospect who receives your emails offering 5% off? They might even just unsubscribe because it sends a strong signal that you can’t be trusted. The solution for this “channel conflict” is to ensure that people who are in various stages of your campaign receive your promotions at the right time AND that those tightly integrate with your custom audiences on Facebook, so you provide a consistent offer no matter how they see your message.
Before the drip campaign is developed, the business owner needs to adopt and commit to a mindset of patience in their marketing and sales tactics. You can’t go for the one-click-close. People are more empowered than ever to conduct their research into their buying decision. Embrace it. Be resourceful, not a nuisance, to help solve your customers’ needs.
Building your Lifecycle Marketing campaign
It might sound intimidating to implement a dynamic lifecycle marketing campaign that adapts to your customer’s behaviors. I’ll be candid with you: it’s not for beginners, but it can be done with a little patience and learning.
The first step is to map out your existing processes. Not what you want them to be. Not what would be great “if”… but what the marketing and sales processes are today. By starting with what’s happening from the top of the funnel all the way to dormancy at the end, you’re able to develop a sustainable and high-performing customer lifecycle campaign.
Next, take a full accounting of all your data systems and CRM software. The ignition behind any customer lifecycle campaign is real-time data. If the information is stale or requires manual imports of data, your success will be hindered by manual, often technical barriers. If you know your data sources, you can begin to integrate all of them into triggering events to start and stop dynamically.
Either you can dive right into a marketing automation platform yourself, or you can partner with an expert to do it for you. The benefit of jumping right in is that it’s a great learning experience, but will often come at a cost later when you need to hire an expert to complete the implementation. The benefit of hiring a lifecycle marketing pro is that they have an intimate understanding of high-performance marketing campaigns, they think with scalability first, and they will be able to launch your lifecycle marketing campaign in a shorter time so you can achieve a higher return on investment.
When implemented successfully, a lifecycle campaign will help small businesses confidently advertise to acquire leads knowing that they receive helpful and persuasive marketing messages, so they become better customers and have an experience they share with others. Business owners have to adopt a mindset of patience when it comes to contacting customers if they expect to maintain and scale their customer relationships. While it’s not possible that a customer lifecycle solves all campaign ills, it can help elongate the customer nurturing process so activities can be measured, validated, and implemented for the optimal customer experience for every customer.