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Every successful business knows that to survive in today’s increasingly competitive market, it’s not enough to secure a one-time sale. Brand loyalty is the ultimate currency — the ability to get customers to stick around and keep buying from you in the future. Accomplishing that requires a good understanding of customer life cycle and how to create mutually beneficial relationships that add value to your business over the long term.
Customer Life Cycle — Why it Matters?
Think about it — there are many players in the smartphone industry, selling products with similar features and price points. All else being equal, what prompts most customers to choose, say an Apple product over Samsung? The answer, of course, is brand loyalty! Perhaps they’ve bought similar products in the past and were pleased with the results? This is where a good understanding of the importance of the customer life cycle can prove invaluable.
For example, let’s say that you are looking to buy a new smartphone. Which brand would you likely choose? A brand that you’ve never dealt with before or one that has served you well for many years? For most people, the answer would probably be the latter, even if it means spending a bit more money on similar features.
Of course, while we can all agree that brand loyalty is a precious commodity, it’s not something that businesses can attain easily. A good following from loyal patrons is a hard-won reward that only comes effectively managing the customer lifecycle.
So what exactly is the customer life cycle?
Simply put, the customer life cycle refers to the different stages that a consumer goes through after entering the marketing/sales funnel. A good understanding of the customer lifecycle in eCommerce enables businesses to paint an accurate picture of their prospect’s journey and identify opportunities for nurturing conversions (sales).
The stages that make up the customer life cycle include the following:
The discovery stage
The point where customers find themselves in search of a product or service to address a need or problem that they’re having. They might look up reviews on different products or services and compare them against multiple brands. In any case, this interaction ends with customers reaching out to a particular brand to get more information.
The education phase
Once a customer reaches out to you with questions or concerns about your product or service, the stage is set for the education phase. This is your opportunity to educate leads about what your product or service can do to address their needs or solve a problem that they’re having.
The buying stage
Assuming that a customer has all the information that they want, a buying decision can then be made (or none at all). In any case, a business that is focused on building brand loyalty will not stop with just one conversion. For one thing, you can follow through with customers (provide precisely what was promised) and take steps to ensure that the buying process goes as smoothly as possible.
Follow up with customers to ask them what they think about the products or services that your business had provided. At this point, you’re practically soliciting feedback directly from customers. You can then use the information to improve your product or service and marketing process.
Assuming that you’ve gone through all of the stages mentioned above, then you’d have succeeded in letting customers know that what they think and feel matters. As a result, they’re more likely to trust your company or organization and keep your brand in mind for future purchases.
If you’re lucky, some customers might end up advocating for your business by writing or posting videos about their positive experiences on social media. This, in turn, will lead to more people finding out about your brand (discovery stage).
Managing customer life cycle
Now that you’ve learned about the different stages of a customer’s lifecycle, you might be wondering — how do you go about effectively managing it? The steps might sound straightforward, and businesses can call them different things depending on their niche — sales, retention, telemarketing, etc. That said, the stages can be highly dynamic due to the massive amount of media circulating today.
People can discover, compare and get in touch with brands in a myriad of ways. This makes effective management all the more difficult. Nevertheless, it’s crucial for businesses to mindful of the different stages that customers go through as they engage with one’s brand.
Simply put, customer lifecycle management is the process of designating quantifiable metrics for every stage in a customer’s lifecycle. The goal is to identify opportunities for controlling and guiding prospects as they journey through a marketing/sales funnel (customer lifecycle segmentation).
Strategies for customer life cycle management
Again, the exact process can differ across various types of businesses. Customers looking to buy a new SUV will no doubt have a different thought process compared to people looking to purchase a new smartphone or laptop computer. That said, the stages of discovering a brand and building loyalty towards it are similar. This means that businesses can implement concrete steps to manage the various customer lifecycle stages instead of leaving it all to chance.
Don’t get us wrong; customer lifecycle management is not about manipulating customers into buying your product or service. Far from it, you are merely providing information that customers are already looking for as they go through your sales/marketing funnel. In doing so, you are providing leads with excellent service by letting them know that you are a reliable brand and transparent in all your dealings with customers.
Consider the following strategies that you can implement for better customer lifecycle management:
Build your marketing strategy around a highly targeted audience
One thing that brands with terrible customer lifecycle management practices have in common is that they don’t have a specific target audience in mind. They sort of market to everyone thinking that it will provide them with the most significant reach. On the contrary, this makes creating brand loyalty incredibly tricky as most of your marketing material won’t be relevant to everyone.
An excellent way to create a highly targeted audience is to come up with what’s called buyer personas — a fictional group of people built around demographic and behavioural traits of people who’ve engaged with your brand. These personas contain their background, hobbies and everything else that would set these people apart from the general population.
Provide customers with relevant content
Now that you have a specific target audience in mind, it will be easier to share relevant content that customers will find useful. In doing so, your brand is bound to show up more often as customers search for content that is relevant to your niche.
Relevant content can come in the form of blog posts, Youtube videos, emails, online courses, infographic and anything else that you can use to show the world that you know your stuff. The goal is to give customers a compelling reason to trust your brand and only then can you expect them to spend any amount of money on your product or service.
Help customers help themselves
As a brand, you would want to provide as much information as possible to customers and make their lives easier. Unfortunately, you won’t always be around to address questions and concerns in all stages of a customer’s lifecycle. Hence you would want to provide a means by which customers can get access to the information that they need even without the option of getting in touch with your brand directly (self-help resources).
The easiest way to provide a self-help resource for customers is to build what’s called a knowledge base — an extensive collection of information related to your product or service. This likewise includes answers to frequently asked questions and concerns that customers can access and implement on their own.
Take a Proactive approach in customer life cycle management
Always assume that even with a knowledge base, many of your customers will still hold out on purchasing because they still have questions or concerns about your product or service. Hence, it’s always a good idea for the marketing and sales team to adopt a proactive approach when dealing with leads. This can be as simple as reaching out to potential customers with free trials and product demonstrations.
Doing so will not only promote your brand but also make relationships seem more personal to customers. After all, you’d have done something that many businesses tend to overlook — provide customers with a solution that works even before money changes hands.
Streamline the buying process
At this point, you’d have poured an enormous amount of time and money into your marketing campaign. The last thing you want is to leave barriers that make the buying process inconvenient to customers.
Remove anything unnecessary and ensure that the most work that your buyers have to do is fill in their payment information (credit card numbers, Paypal, etc.). The simpler and more streamlined the buying process, the more likely it is for customers to complete their purchase.
Reassure customers of your support before check out
One barrier that might prevent customers from making a purchase decision is buyer’s remorse or the fear that your product or service may not be worthwhile and that they’ll regret their decision to buy into your brand. Depending on what you’re selling, this can be a highly stressful moment for customers. You can help mitigate this by reassuring customers that you’re available to help should the customer run into any problems following the purchase. You can do this by putting up links for a live chat session or a support ticket system that is available 24/7.
Continue engaging customers even after the purchase
As mentioned earlier, if you want to build brand loyalty, then you must not be content with a one-time purchase. Always assume that you can get a customer to buy from you in the future. To do that, you must make customers feel that you care about their purchase and whether or not they found it useful. This can be as simple as setting an automatic email a few days after the purchase to follow up with customers regarding their experience.
Start automating what you can
Speaking of automatic emails, your business might be able to do without it if you run a small business that only caters to a few customers each day. As your business grows, this will eventually be no longer the case, and you’ll need to consider automating many of your marketing processes to keep up.
You can start with a good CRM (Customer Relations Management) tool that would allow you to sync your contact list and start publishing highly personalized content. For instance, let’s say that you are in the software business. You can set triggers that automatically send emails or push notifications to customers every time you release an update. This would enable your brand to touch base with customers regularly, and they’ll likely keep your business in mind should they require similar solutions in the future.
Support advocacy for your brand
You can expect that only a few of your customers will take the time to advocate for your brand. That said, you can make it easier for them to do so and reward them for their trouble. This can be as simple as asking them to fill out surveys and reviews in exchange for a discount or store credit.
Likewise, you can start an affiliate program and pay customers a commission for every referral that turns into a sale. It’s another marketing resource that you can tap into and one that does not require an additional investment of time and advertising capital.
So there you have it — everything that you need to know about customer lifecycle management and why it matters to your brand! Keep all the stages mentioned above in mind and what you can do to guide your leads if you want to make the most out of every step in your sales/marketing funnel.