Putting the Life Back in Your Customer Lifecycle


Catherine Magoffin

If you take the time to establish a customer lifecycle blueprint, you will be able to understand your consumers better and more effectively market to them.

In case you haven’t heard, marketers – we have arrived! We now have the opportunity to develop sophisticated lifecycle marketing strategies that deploy the right message at the right time in the channel of choice for each and every consumer. Marketing is yielding greater influence over corporate budgets and IT initiatives, and we’re leading the charge to deliver on heightened consumer expectations.

However, many marketers haven’t had a chance to catch up with the rapid advancements in email and cross-channel marketing technology. To get there, they need to quickly navigate and prioritize opportunities and accelerate planning and execution.

No pressure, eh? Even with the abundance of available data and marketing solution capabilities, getting the gears in motion requires a clear focus on attainable goals and a tiered approach to climbing toward contextual marketing nirvana.

One important first step in this direction is to focus on the human beings at the receiving end – our customers. Take some time to carefully think about how the end consumer will experience the output of your combined marketing tech stack, analytics insights, strategies, and tactics. Examine your customer lifecycle with a lens toward injecting some life back into it!

This process begins with establishing a customer lifecycle blueprint and understanding how your consumers traverse it. Of course, lifecycles are business- and consumer-specific, and very non-linear these days. Many organizations, large or small, don’t have a clear sense of the lifecycle experience their consumers receive. This is due to a variety of factors, the most prominent one being time – it simply takes time to stop and document a current state of any program or process, and time is a resource that is in short supply on many marketing teams.

However, taking that step back to document current lifecycle communication elements is a foundational investment that paves the way for future program optimization. This process is the only proven way to better understand the different communication touch points across the lifecycle process and how the consumer experiences the process, from initial acquisition to conversion through to various customer engagements: key milestones, transactions, and any other customer experience paths deployed across the lifecycle.

Just a warning – this process often gets very messy before it becomes clear. The ultimate goal here is to understand the current touch points and outline opportunities to add or optimize communications to drive better customer experiences (and business results).

Once you have a blueprint of your customer lifecycle in hand, you can begin to examine ways to craft a better design. Here are some of the types of questions you’ll want to ask to begin to uncover insights and define opportunities:

  • Is the customer lifecycle consistent and integrated across channels – email, mobile, social, display, in-store, and more?
  • Are the programs aligned and customized to key segments and maximizing different lifecycle stages?
  • Are there also programs dedicated to highly engaged individuals, as well as initiatives in place to re-engage disengaged audiences to improve their experience?
  • Are communication touch points consistently deployed across the channels of choice?
  • Is data organized to drive the right experience at the right time in the right channel?
  • Are there obvious data points on hand that could be used to communicate more contextually with customers (location, likes, life-stage, device used, etc.)?
  • Conversely, are there data points that need to be gathered, or implied data that needs to be captured and put into action?
  • At the beginning of the consumer relationship, are expectations being set clearly? And are new acquisitions being maximized early on, when they are most engaged?
  • Do you understand your consumers’ known attributes, activity levels, social influence, and other differentiators?
  • Are there gaps in your cross-channel communication strategy that result in missed opportunities to drive consumer action and conversion?
  • Is testing and optimization taking place to drive stronger program performance?

I would venture a guess that almost every marketer out there would answer “no” to one or a few of these questions. The end goal of all this work is to come up with a list of amazing and innovative opportunities to act upon in order to generate stronger engagement and conversion – i.e. put life back into your customer lifecycle!

Once you have a foundational understanding of the current lifecycle experience and a “blue sky” list of optimization opportunities, the next step is prioritization. Prioritization should be based on the level of expected impact and the level of effort required. This prioritization exercise should lead to a clear, simple, and attainable strategic initiatives roadmap, including testing elements.

And then the fun really begins. So pivot your organization in the direction of your customer and put some life back into the lifecycle as you head into 2015!