Updated: Jan 25
Over the past couple of years I’ve gone from customer success manager to automation specialist to email marketing manager to now lifecycle marketing manager. And, although it’s not explicit in my title, much of my work now revolves around servicing the whole funnel with email content and automation.
And I think all of these roles complement each other really well.
For a customer success manager, the role is about being able to guide customers through the sales process into the support phase. For a marketing automation specialist, it’s all about managing projects that are powered by data and use real-time insights to tweak and optimize campaigns. An email marketing manager takes the best of these roles, coupled with a strategic vision and deep understanding of the target audience, to create targeted, relevant, and contextual marketing campaigns for prospects and customers alike.
On the other hand, lifecycle marketing is all about educating new email subscribers and customers about your brand, eventually leading them to become advocates for your business. The best way to approach lifecycle marketing is by thinking about the process of providing your audience the kinds of communications and experiences they need, want, or like as they move from prospects to customers (and ideally) to advocates.
Companies use lifecycle marketing to increase the likelihood of purchase, increase retention, and lifetime value. When introducing lifecycle marketing into your business, one of the first things you should do is audit how well (or unwell) your email marketing program aligns with your customer’s lifecycle.
In this blog post I am going to talk about:
Why you should align your email marketing campaigns with your customer lifecycle,
Different ways to increase the quality (and quantity) of your lifecycle messaging,
How you can build a new (or improve an existing) email lifecycle marketing program for your business, and
How I would set up a lifecycle program if I was starting from scratch
So what’s the big deal about lifecycle marketing?
Lifecycle marketing is all about relevance. If you can understand and speak to where your prospects or customers are in the sales funnel - or in relationship with your brand and/or product (the lifecycle) - you will not only be able to send more targeted messages, but your messaging will be more relevant and you will see higher engagement from your audience.
It’s the practice of moving people through your lifecycle stages faster, whether it’s getting them in qualification or opportunity stage, to get them to purchase your products or services sooner.
Different customer lifecycle models
First things first: in order to align your marketing program to your prospect/customer lifecycle, you need to have a lifecycle model. Lifecycle models are different from customer journeys in that they are less granular and more focused on the different stages, rather than specific actions within the workflow.
The way I’ve built lifecycle strategies in the past have been about building the framework first, and then building more specific journeys on top of it. One way to approach this is by using the ERRA model: Engagement, Retention, Recovery and Advocacy.
It’s an extremely effective way of building the foundations of your email marketing program, and I’ve personally used it for clients in the agricultural sector, ecommerce, SAAS, and other industries.
As you can see, this lifecycle marketing model is not linear, so while some customers will move from the engagement stage to the advocacy stage as expected, others will bounce back and forth between stages.
Some might even go through the first three stages, settle at retention, and never make it to the advocacy stage. And that’s fine, since customers and prospects will move at their own pace through the lifecycle.
What this means for the lifecycle marketer though, is that each program will need to be customized based on stage, not just time. So, instead of having a drip-sequence that blasts 5 emails to your audience over a series of time and ends after a certain period, lifecycle marketing is about lead nurturing with specific email messages triggered on specific actions. It never really ends.
These campaigns however, will be much more relevant and contextual, and by implementing a solid lead nurturing sequence, you will start to see the true value of your lifecycle program.
Auditing your current program (versus your lifecycle model)
If I were to audit a current program against a lifecycle model like the one above, I would want to overlay my current marketing communications on top of it to see where it falls flat.
I’d look at past campaigns, who the messages are targeted to, and then look to identify which stages of the lifecycle these prospects or customers are in, and see here an email nurture can help fill these gaps.
Here’s an example of some campaigns I’ve run in the past in these different stages of the ERRA lifecycle model:
As you can see, there are email programs in all stages of the program, since I try to cover the lifecycle as much as possible. There should be just as much weight put on the communication post-sale as there should be in the engagement stage. This is because acquiring a new customer can cost five times more than retaining an existing customer. This is also why a lot of companies are now building communities for their best customers.
You might also notice that I have a lead nurture in every stage of the lifecycle, since this is an opportunity to provide valuable, contextual, and relevant content to the audience wherever they are in the funnel. If your communications are light or non-existent in one or more stages, it’s time to make a plan.
Making a plan (and executing)
There are some simple but effective ways you can quickly cover all four of your lifecycle stages. Here are some low hanging fruits I would implement immediately to cover the stages and set up the foundations of my program:
1. Monthly newsletter (with dynamic content)
An email newsletter shouldn’t be long and complicated, instead should be used to complement your brand with some good articles or blog posts, and promotional content.
Since articles and blog posts can be used to appeal to a broader segment of your target audience no matter where in the lifecycle they are, you can use dynamic promotional content to tailor your communications specifically to any of your lifecycle stages. Some examples for your CTA might be:
“Get started today” (Engagement)
“Join our community” (Retention)
“See why X company rates us 10/10” (Recovery)
“Tell the world about us” (Advocacy)
I’d consider a monthly newsletter the lowest-hanging fruit, since once you’ve put this in place, you now have a regular communications stream at each stage of your lifecycle model.
2. Promotional schedule
A promotional schedule is an opportunity to decide how often you want to offer special deals, and then putting together a calendar, including send dates and when you need to start on the creative.
Sometimes you might want to offer everyone on your list the same deal, but change the positioning based on your lifecycle model. For example:
“Try our service” (Engagement)
“Pick up where you left off” (Retention)
“Use our service again” (Recovery)
“Tell your friends about our service” (Advocacy)
3. Quality content
Just because you have an email going out to people in the ‘Retention’ stage of the lifecycle doesn’t mean it’s effective. Take a look at each email message you are sending and ask yourself:
Why are we doing this? What business goal (qualitative or quantitative) are we hoping it helps us achieve?
Does the content of this message support that business goal? Does it make the case and overcome any objections for the action you’re requesting?
Is there anything we might do to make this email more effective at meeting its business goal? Copy, design, timing, segmentation, your CTA, are all factors that come into play here. I’ve put together this infographic to help you be more effective with your email marketing.
Setting up automated triggered emails is one of quickest ways to cover your lifecycle stages with marketing campaigns, especially if you are short-staffed and already struggling to get your campaigns out.
Setting up triggered messages, based on actions which happen within each lifecycle stage, helps you deliver what people want to read when they need to read it. You can even use chatbots as part of your lifecycle flow to speak to your prospects and customers wherever (and whenever) they are in the funnel.
But don’t set it and forget it. It’s better to launch one well-thought-out campaign for one stage than to throw together triggered messages for each stage of your lifecycle without a plan. Automation can help you extend the life of your successful campaigns - but it can’t turn unsuccessful campaigns into winners.
So when are you done?
As a lifecycle marketer, you’re never really done. There will always be more campaigns you can add, more optimization opportunities, more tweaking, more reasons to sunset campaigns that have outlived their usefulness.
Here’s how I would put an initial lifecycle marketing plan together if I were starting from scratch:
The orange highlights campaigns that should be put into place first and foremost. After the foundations of your program have been put into place, the next step would be to focus on the blue highlights to improve your audience engagement.
Email is not dead, but the eBlast (batch and blast, mass emails) is. Since there's little strategy involved - no personalization or segmented lists - these emails tend to always fall on deaf ears and are ineffective. Email marketing is no longer about ad-hoc communications, but rather about building relationships with our prospects and customers to give them the best possible experience.
So look and see how your email marketing aligns to your customer lifecycle. See where there are gaps, and where existing messages can be improved. Once you’ve built your foundation, you’re set for success. Let me know how it goes!
Christian Baun is an email marketing specialist with a background in demand generation, lifecycle marketing and email automation.