“Customer lifecycle marketing” and “customer journey marketing” are often used interchangeably by marketers and other growth-focused teams (e.g., customer experience, ecommerce) responsible for interacting with customers in some way.
In short, they shouldn’t be. And the reason is simple:
- Marketers and other growth teams own the ongoing customer lifecycle management geared toward niche, target audiences (see: segments) of existing customers.
- Customers — and only customers — own their individual decision journeys (i.e., when those customers buy, research, or engage with companies).
Allow us to clear up this common misunderstanding — and help you and your company build out your lifecycle marketing (i.e., individualized customer engagement) strategy.
Customer lifecycle marketing strategies: Informed by your customers’ journeys
Every interaction your prospects and customers have with your organization (both online and offline) is part of their distinct customer journeys.
For the sake of brevity (and presumed knowledge), here’s a basic example:
- Customer touchpoint #1: Someone visits your website for the first time. If you have a customer data platform (CDP) like BlueConic, an anonymous, unified customer profile is automatically created for this individual immediately following this visit. This includes how she initially engaged with you: pages viewed, forms completed, and so on.
- Customer touchpoint #2: She later returns to your site to sign up for your newsletter, in turn becoming a known prospect. She also views several site pages. Her profile is updated once again based on product interests and previous behaviors.
- Customer touchpoint #3: The prospect comes back to your site a week later, this time to research a specific product of interest. She clicks a call to action for a particular item and adds it to her shopping cart, putting her in a pre-conversion customer lifecycle stage. However, she abandons the cart and leaves your site before purchasing.
- Customer touchpoint #4: Because a CDP enables you to recognize cart abandoners across marketing channels in real time, she is immediately sent an offer email with a 10% discount to incentivize her to complete the purchase. Once she buys, she’s put in a new, post-purchase lifecycle stage as a recently converted customer.
For individuals to take this customer journey and ones like it with your company, your digital presence — from your site and content marketing collateral to your social media presence and email marketing messaging — needs to be a well-oiled machine.
But remember: Only the customer owns her buying journey — and no one else.
Even if your online presence is well-optimized, it doesn’t guarantee the journey will end with a purchase, let alone greater brand loyalty or positive word of mouth. For example, you don’t know what other competing brands are also on a given customer’s journey.
All you can and should focus on is orchestrating the right marketing at the right stage.
Optimizing channels for CX a big part of customer lifecycle marketing
To enhance your odds of converting this prospect, you need a well-coordinated customer lifecycle marketing strategy that is built around the individual and encompasses all of your channels and touchpoints simultaneously. (That is, not just one at a time.)
“Customer lifecycle marketing, or orchestration, is recognizing and meeting the individual where she is in her customer journey,” says BlueConic Director of Demand Generation Lauren Pettiglio. “You need to be proactive with your strategy, but prepare to react when individuals tell you where they are in their respective journeys.”
Lauren added it’s vital for marketers to define what the ideal customer looks like at each and every stage so you know how to market to her accordingly:
- “The best customer lifecycle marketing strategies are responsive in real time.”
This means you must leverage your first-party data to recognize an individual and her lifecycle stage so you can always deliver the right message. (And suppress the wrong ones).
Translation: To ‘leverage’ your first-party data and implement an individualized customer lifecycle marketing approach that leads to lots of conversions, you need to define your customer lifecycle stages and make sure you have the right systems in place to take action.
A customer journey map can help you define stages.
But you can’t force an individual to follow a prescribed journey. Instead, you and your marketing org must be able to respond to — and try to predict — her chosen journey.
Customer lifecycle stages vs. customer journey stages: A breakdown
“But aren’t customer lifecycle stages and customer journey stages the same thing?”
It’s a fair question to ask — and a common one among digital marketing professionals. The short answer? Sort of. (Not very helpful, we know. Allow us to elaborate.)
The closest comparison we can provide to the typical customer journey stages companies map out are the commonly known inbound marketing funnel stages:
- Awareness: “I want to learn more about X product or service.”
- Consideration: “I’m looking at brands to help me with X.”
- Decision/Conversion: “I’m ready to buy X from a top brand I researched.”
You can market to prospects at each stage as they move through your funnel. But first, you have to be able to recognize their stage, along with their other individual behaviors, preferences, and interests.
Once their journey is over — they remain leads (good), turn into customers (great), or exit your funnel altogether without converting (c’est la vie) — you can persistently store their data in a CDP profile and plan how to reengage or upsell them down the line.
Your organization’s specific customer lifecycle stages may differ from those of other companies, even ones with the same or similar business models.
There is no one definitive set of customer lifecycle stages, per se. Rather, the “stages” are really on your business and growth-focused teams (including marketing) to define.
To succeed with lifecycle orchestration, you need a single view of the customer and ongoing changes to her attributes, like updates based on her most recent online behaviors.
In other words, you can’t have data silos in your martech stack. All first-party data needs to be in a single source of truth for your customer lifecycle efforts to resonate with prospects, convert those prospects into customers, and enhance your customer retention strategy.
For example, your ESP may know an individual’s name, email, and what they clicked in an email. However, it may not know other crucial attributes about them (i.e., their lead engagement behavior) your other solutions have (or should have, at least), including:
- If they’re a new prospect or past customer
- If they’re a one-time buyer or repeat customer
- If they’ve purchased in store, online, or both
- If they’ve visited your website in the last X days
- If they’ve filled out one or more forms on your site
(There are obviously countless other data points you can track. But you get the picture.)
The point is you need a single customer view with all of this activity — not just some activity from part of the journey — for your lifecycle marketing strategy to succeed.
What’s more, your customer service team needs this view to provide a stellar CX for these buyers and subscribers and maintain strong customer relationships.
Building better customer relationships: Your ultimate marketing goal today
While you need tech that unifies all your customer data, it’s really on you to make the most of such a solution to realize better marketing (and, in turn, business) outcomes.
Turning prospects into paying customers is one thing. Turning them into loyal customers with high CLV who continually return to your site and/or stores to buy is another.
How can you realize this effective, scalable customer lifecycle marketing? With a concerted focus on providing an amazing customer experience from the start of the journey to the end:
- Conduct A/B tests for your core engagement channels — your website (forms, CTAs, copy), emails (timing, frequency, segments), app (user flow/experience), and any other touchpoint you use to move individuals through your funnel.
- Learn from mistakes and miscues you’ve made with personalization and individualization in the past, like not sending the right messaging instantly following prospects’ and customers’ interactions with your business via digital channels.
- Don’t overwhelm your audience with too much messaging. For instance, BlueConic customers who use our Lifecycles capability can set up rules and thresholds to ensure their customers only see the most relevant messaging at the most ideal times and on the most applicable channels.
Another way to put it: Ensure your marketing works as it should by regularly inspecting your customer data (preferably in a CDP) and steadily fine-tuning your approach.
Customer lifecycle marketing: An ongoing process that requires constant analysis
Our advice for marketers and other teams that engage customers is simple: Stop trying to ‘own’ the customer journey today — because you simply can’t.
Instead, orchestrate individualized engagement activities for every lifecycle stage.
“When there are as many journeys as you have prospects and customers, you need to rely on your first-party data and systems to recognize the individual and her lifecycle stage in real time,” Lauren noted. “No one marketing approach will help convert all of them.”
Rather, Lauren stated you must constantly think about and adjust your lifecycle marketing to orchestrate individualized experiences at every relevant touchpoint.
Watch our customer lifecycle marketing webinar to learn how you and your marketing team can orchestrate engaging, individualized experiences to your customers.