The customer lifecycle and the buyer journey describe the same process from two different perspectives.
Management of the customer lifecycle is what you, the business owner, do to move your prospective buyer to the point of purchase, whereas the buyer’s journey is what the buyer does to move herself to the point of purchase.
Both the buyer and the business want the same thing: to purchase/sell a product that solves a problem.
What is Customer Lifecycle Management?
Customer lifecycle management (CLM) is the marketing process of engaging with a buyer from the moment she first interacts with your business to the point of purchase, and beyond.
The big idea is to turn a prospect into a satisfied customer, and a satisfied customer into an evangelist who enthusiastically advocates your brand and product.
To do this successfully, your business must optimize the process a prospect moves through when she interacts with your business. You will find that the more consistent and personal your interaction is across each marketing channel, the more likely a prospect will give you the benefit of the doubt.
Understanding the Customer Lifecycle
To better understand managing the customer lifecycle, we’ve broken down the process into five parts. Although every organization has a unique customer lifecycle, the following aspects are most likely present in yours.
Attract New Prospects
The first part of the customer lifecycle involves making contact with your prospective buyer. Today, this is done with content marketing, search engine marketing, and traditional advertising, such as direct mail.
As you attract new prospects, you will want to ensure the prospects fit your ideal customer profile.
Acquire New Leads
The next part starts when a prospective buyer hands over her personal data, and is entered into your sales pipeline. At this point, the prospective buyer becomes a new lead and should be added to your remarketing lists, like your social media list or your email marketing list.
This is where businesses struggle with customer lifecycle management. They fail to move new leads along their sales pipeline and start selling too early. You must first develop and nurture the relationship with your new prospect.
Develop and Nurture Relationships
Once a potential buyer has entered your sales pipeline, it will likely take time for her to purchase. Even if she trusts your brand, it may take up to 7 interactions with your marketing materials before she converts into a paying customer.
This step is about nurturing that relationship using valuable content marketing, demonstrating product value, and addressing concerns until she feels comfortable enough to make a purchase and become a paying customer.
Develop Buyer Retention
Once a prospect has become a paying customer, you must continue nurturing the relationship so she stays a paying customer. One of the reasons buyers turn to a competitor’s product is lack of engagement; apathy on the part of the company.
So this next step is about making every buyer feel special. Make her feel like she is the only buyer you care about. The more personal your interaction after a purchase, the more likely your buyer is to return for a second purchase.
Analyze the data you have from purchase history, personal interactions, social media to create a more personalized customer experiences. Personally ask for their feedback, send an email or a gift in the mail, and show them they are an important part of your business.
Cultivate Brand Loyalty
Most businesses fail to have repeat customers because they don’t cultivate brand loyalty.
Those buyers who are truly satisfied with your product are most likely happy to tell others about their experience with your business. But they won’t do so until you ask.
Develop a loyalty program to reach new prospects using your existing buyers.
An effective loyalty program should reward your existing buyer with free products, personalized gifts, or with “customer of the month” spotlights within your marketing materials. The idea is to cultivate a sense of loyalty that removes any desire to consider a competitor.
What is a Buyer’s Journey?
The buyer’s journey describes the process your buyer moves through to purchase a new product or service.
The main difference between customer lifecycle management and the buyer’s journey is that the buyer’s journey describes actions a buyer makes before making a purchase. On the other hand, customer lifecycle management describe the process your business follows to supports that buyer’s journey.
Although a buyer’s journey varies across products and industries, the framework below remains the same:
- The buyer becomes aware of a problem
- The buyer considers alternative solutions
- The buyer decides to purchase a solution
Breaking Down the Buyer’s Journey
The buyer realizes she has a problem or a need. She begins to research and learn. She wants to understand what others like her are doing to solve the problem or meet the need.
Research at the awareness stage usually begins with general search terms. As the buyer spends more time researching, she prioritizes her pain points. She understands how to describe her problem. And she moves to considering possible solutions.
At this stage, the buyer considers solutions to her problem. She may or may not be comparing products, but by the time she moves into the consideration stage, she has narrowed her available solutions.
Once she has identified solutions that work for her situation, she will research which companies best address the specific pain points she identified in the awareness stage.
This final stage is where the buyer chooses her most preferred solution. After identifying the problem and evaluating possible solutions, she looks for a company with the best product reviews, the best price, or the best quality.
By the time a buyer decides to purchase from your company, she has already moved through the first two stages of the buyer’s journey. Do your marketing campaigns help move her along the awareness and consideration stages? Considering the buyer’s journey and managing points of interaction along the customer lifecycle is where CLM intersects with understanding your buyer’s journey.
Content Marketing for the Buyer’s Journey
To help your product be the one a buyer chooses, create marketing materials and valuable content to support the awareness and consideration stage of the buyer’s journey.
Content Marketing for the Awareness Stage
Create valuable content and place it where you know a potential buyer looks when she need to diagnose a problem. In most cases, your buyer will turn to the following resources:
- Search engines
- Review sites
- Blogs or vlogs
- Friends and family
In order for your content to appear in among these resources, it must provide some value to somebody. The reason most businesses fail at creating valuable content is because they ignore the buyer’s journey, and jump directly to the decision stage, selling their products before the buyer has identified her solution.
Here are some content ideas for the awareness stage of the buyer’s journey:
- Helpful video content to diagnose a problem
- Guest posts on relevant blogs and appearances on relevant vlogs
- Articles that describe the problem and outline possible solutions
- Audio content about a specific problem
Content marketing for the consideration stage
In the consideration stage of the buyer’s journey, outline all possible solutions to the buyer’s problem. Remember that when you buyer is considering alternatives, she wants to hear from others. She wants to know how others successfully solved this problem.
Create content that features the experiences of others who solved this problem. Consider the following alternatives:
- Present your content using a micro-site dedicated to solving this pain point
- Use video content to story tell the experiences of others
- Review the pros and cons of possible solutions
At this point, your content should be entertaining, educational, even inspirational. Its purpose should not be to sell just yet.
Marketing materials for the decision stage
By the time a buyer lands on your website, she is most likely in decision stage of the buyer’s journey. Here is how you can help her find the information she’s looking for:
- Highlight the features of your product
- Compare it to competitor products
- Incentivize purchase using a discount or a deadline