In both B2C and B2B industries, marketing plans tend to emphasize the early phases of a customer relationship – Awareness and Evaluation – at the expense of the later phases, such as Usage and Advocacy. Yet research shows that customer retention is critical to long-term success.

What if you delivered relevant customer experiences every step of the way?

This is the promise of customer lifecycle marketing, a term that encompasses all the activities you will plan and execute over the entire lifespan of a customer’s relationship with your brand.

If you aren’t taking a cyclical approach to your marketing efforts already, customer lifecycle marketing almost certainly is in your future. The buyer’s journey has never been a straight path, and with the proliferation of digital channels available today, it’s more important than ever to understand when, why, and how each customer interacts with your company. This insight can help you support each phase of the lifecycle with content and services that drive loyalty and increase customer lifetime value (CLV).

Embracing a customer lifecycle marketing strategy

To get started with a customer lifecycle marketing approach, you’ll want to map the key phases of a typical customer journey, and then layer in the context of customer segments, marketing channels, and engaging content for each touchpoint.

For example, at Sitecore we define the major buying decision points as follows:

  • Awareness – The first impression, identifying a need
  • Research – Considering the available solutions
  • Evaluation – Developing a preference for a specific solution
  • Purchase – Making the decision
  • Usage – The post-purchase phase, when support is paramount
  • Advocacy – Retention and loyalty
 

Once the phases of your customer journey are identified, consider which customer segments are most important to current business objectives. As Elan Bair, Managing Consultant, SBOS Marketing Consulting, explains, “What distinguishes the pacesetters is their ability to prioritize which customer segments are the strategic drivers of the business; craft experiences tailored for these segments; and align content to the decision stages in their priority segments’ journeys.”

For more insight into this methodology, see “Creating personalized customer journeys for your most important user segments.

When the overall journey is mapped against key audience segments, you can anticipate the many different paths that will unfold. Are you making a first impression with someone who has just discovered your brand? Or are you dealing with a long-term, high-value relationship that you should nurture in a different way? Customer lifecycle marketing enables you to deliver all the right experiences at just the right moments, for maximum impact.

 

Rescuing the customer experience At Sitecore Symposium 2020, Southeast Toyota Finance demonstrated the power of the customer lifecycle marketing approach in a featured breakout session called, “Rescuing the customer experience.” The presentation focused on applying customer experience best practices to a segment of consumers who are at the lowest part of their journeys, in late-stage debt collection. In a four-week pilot, the company proved its hunch that marketers can be problem-solvers who drive revenue and long-term loyalty. Read the blog.

Creating personalized content for customer lifecycle marketing

As you get ready to craft those special moments, personalized content is going to play a critical role. Customers expect businesses to anticipate their needs and respond accordingly, across many different channels.

Every organization needs a coordinated way to deliver meaningful experiences, whether it’s through websites, emails, social media, phone, or in-person conversations. A digital relevancy map can help with this endeavor by providing a template for delivering authentic content that guides each unique customer segment toward the next phase of their journey.

“Effective personalization is the key to differentiating and adding value to your customer experiences, enabling you to focus their attention, deliver value, and build trust,” said Zarnaz Arlia, VP of Corporate Marketing at Sitecore. “Personalization goals can often seem unachievable but, in reality, there is no big secret to success. Personalization begins and ends with high-quality, customer-centric content.”

Read more on how to map customer journeys with relevant content in her blog post, “It’s content that truly powers your personalization.” And for more help navigating the content-driven world, download the guide, “Understanding the end-to-end content lifecycle to succeed in a digital world.

If personalized content is the way to form real connections, having a platform to manage that growing repository of content is mission-critical. The Sitecore Experience Platform is a powerful content management system (CMS) that combines customer data, analytics, and marketing automation capabilities to nurture customers throughout their journey with personalized content in real-time, across any channel.

Benefits of customer lifecycle marketing

When you apply marketing know-how throughout the entire customer journey, you can identify issues sooner, engage customers longer, and reactivate those who may be on the brink of fading away. This kind of intervention results in more loyal customers and a higher overall return on marketing investments.

Teams that spend most of their energy on awareness and new business may miss valuable opportunities to engage customers in the later stages of the lifecycle. Those who truly understand the needs of their customers will strengthen existing relationships, accelerate the time it takes to move through the buying cycle, and generate repeat business.

Jill Grozalsky is a Product Marketing Director at Sitecore. Find her on LinkedIn and Twitter.