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How to: Take lifecycle marketing to the next level with customer insight [Part 1]

The concept of customer lifecycle marketing has been around a while, and it’s effectiveness as an approach to marketing comms is typically well-accepted. Yet in a recent survey, only 50% of marketers were actively doing it.

Of those who were taking a lifecycle-based approach, the majority experienced greater customer engagement, and 72% reported increased revenue as a result.

Although it’s more common among B2B marketers, a lifecycle-based approach is useful for B2C as well – especially as customers expect tailored marketing that meets their needs, wherever they are in their relationship with a brand.

So if you are taking a lifecycle-based approach – or are ready to start – how do you make sure it’s as effective as possible?

To start with, you’ll need to pin down the exact lifecycle stages you’ll be using – for most businesses it will look something like this:

Customer Lifecycle

But it’s not as simple as sending new customers a welcome email and about-to-lapse customers a re-engagement campaign. To really connect with different types of customers at each stage, it needs to be more personalised than this.

An effective lifecycle marketing plan requires customer insight. This means not only being able to identify what lifecycle stages your customers are in, but also what persona they are, how valuable they are to your business and how they feel about your brand.

In this post, we’ll look at what messages you should send – and the insight you’ll need to do so – for the first two lifecycle stages: New and Active customers.


New Customers

The goal at this stage is to grow loyalty and encourage repeat purchases – especially as some studies have shown that 70% of first-time customers never buy again.

The key here is to provide relevant content and keep your brand front-of-mind, without overwhelming customers.

Think of it like the start of a relationship – after a successful first date, you (hopefully) wouldn’t badger the person with lots of phone calls and texts every day, but at the same time, you wouldn’t wait two weeks to speak to them again.

What to send them:
The classic ‘welcome series’ is a good starting point here. It keeps your brand front-of-mind, continuing the relationship – but it needs to be balanced towards informative / interesting content, rather than purely sales-focused.

For example, you could start with an email inviting them to follow you on social media and mentioning a few benefits of doing so. You might follow this with a text encouraging them to download your app, and another email about how to get the most out of the product(s) they’ve purchased.

In addition to a welcome series, a value-add offer, like free shipping with their next purchase, can help encourage a new customer to buy again. Of course, to make sure that these messages really resonate, you’ll need to make them feel a bit more personal.

For example, let’s say a retailer knows that one of its key personas is particularly active on Instagram, more so than other social networks. If the retailer wants to invite customers who fit this persona to connect on social media, they’ll want the message content and call-to-action to feature their Instagram account predominantly.

instagram promo snip

This tailored content tells these customers that the brand “hangs out” in the same social space as they do – creating greater affinity towards the brand and making them more likely to engage.

What insight you’ll need:
By asking a few key questions you can glean helpful insight that enables you (or rather, your marketing automation software) to assign customers to the right persona.

For example, restaurant brand Zizzi ask would-be subscribers two simple questions during the e-news sign up process:

Zizzi e-news sign up

It’s likely that the answers to these questions correspond to some of Zizzi’s customer personas – frequent diners and families, for example.

Questions like these can help you begin to group customers into personas and determine the types of content and offers to send (or not send). And they can easily be incorporated as optional questions during e-news sign up or in a feedback survey following a purchase.

Knowing which customer persona each individual falls into should give you insight about what motivates them to buy, what their goals and needs are (in the context of your brand) and how they prefer to interact. (If you haven’t yet created customer personas for your brand, check out our tips here).


Active Customers

After a customer has bought from you more than once (and received all the comms in your ‘welcome series’), they can be classified as an active customer. You’ll hopefully know more about them at this point, so personalisation should be a bit easier.

Your marketing comms now should aim to maintain a positive relationship with these customers and encourage continued purchases, with more of a focus on added value and personalised service.

What to send them:
More sales-focused content is appropriate now, but make sure it stays relevant to what you know about each customer. Give them the option to tell you what they’re interested in, and update your personas (and content) accordingly.

You’re likely already sending active customers your e-news or regular updates, as well as informing them of sales and promotions. The key, though, is to show these customers they’re valued and “known” by sending them relevant content based on what they’re interested in and what their needs or goals are likely to be.

This helps keep them engaged and coming back – according to one survey, customers who are highly engaged with a brand typically feel that the brand “knows” who they are and what they’re interested in.

Another goal at this stage will be to get customers spending more or shopping from different departments. Value-add offers, such as free shipping or a free gift with a purchase, are great for encouraging this.

For example, if you have a group of customers who never spend more than £50, give them free shipping if they reach this amount. And for customers who regularly spend more than £50 but less than £100, offer free shipping if they spend £100 or more.

free shipping comparison emails

This is also the time to increase advocacy (sometimes considered another lifecycle stage in itself). If a customer has given you a good review, encourage them to share their opinion – and make it easy for them to do so. If they’ve got a particularly strong social media presence, you might even want to throw in an incentive, to improve the chances of building an influential brand advocate.

What insight you’ll need:
Once customers are in the active stage, you should be able to assign them to the right persona fairly accurately based on their purchase history, demographics and answers to survey questions. This information will continue to be key to tailoring the content you send.

You’ll also want to have some idea of their value to your business – in our Horizon platform, we score value (and other relationship metrics) with a four-star system. However you do it, identifying which customers are low value and which are high value will inform your cross-sell and upsell campaigns.

Understanding customers’ social influence will help you be more effective in creating brand advocates. Use a metric like Klout score to determine how influential they are – this is usually based on how active they are on various social networks, how many followers they have and how much interaction their posts receive.

To apply this information effectively, you’ll need a marketing automation or data management platform that can pull in their score and assign it to the right customer profile.
By applying a bit of insight to your comms at each stage of the lifecycle, you can create content that really resonates with customers, and meets their needs.

As you’ve probably guessed, to do this at scale does require some tech in the background – but with the right data and systems in place, it’s certainly feasible. To learn more about taking an insight-driven approach across the customer lifecycle, download our four-step guide.

Ready for part 2? Check out our follow-up post to see our tips for the remaining lifecycle stages.

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