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What is Lifecycle Marketing?
The Circle of Life
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Illustrations by Alejandra Céspedes.
What we talk about in this piece:
Overview of what Lifecycle marketing is and how to think about it for those who are just getting started
It takes a village! Considerations you’ll need to have in place and people you’ll need to talk to before you get started.
Foundational steps you can start taking today to start planning your own function.
When thinking about the customer journey, we have to understand the touch points & milestones they go through - and that's where lifecycle marketing as a discipline comes into play. The more you can customize everything to match your customer’s needs across those milestones (your offer, your messaging, etc.) the easier it would be to provide value - and, grow your revenue.
Lifecycle marketing focuses on reducing friction between the customer and product to drive revenue. But, even though lifecycle marketing makes a lot of sense and it is so fundamental, like most marketing jargon, thinking about journeys and life cycles can mean ten different things for ten different people. And it all sounds easier said than done, right?
Below we discuss what lifecycle marketing actually is, and how it is much more than sending the correct email at the right time.
NOTE: we do not do a deep dive on experimentation. This is just a general overview of lifecycle marketing.
So what is Lifecycle marketing anyway?
Life + cycle + marketing. As an anthropologist, this is a fascinating term to define. It has to do with something alive (your customer), a cycle (some repeatable pattern), and marketing (not even going to try to define marketing, you know what it is).
When I think of lifecycle marketing, I cannot help but think about Donella Hager Meadows. You probably have not heard of her; I had not until very recently that a friend from a foresight group shared her video on how to create models from scratch with me. In the video, she creates, together with her students, a model to express the relationship between epidemic diseases and mosquitoes. It is a theoretical exercise that allows them to understand what happens in a system (ecosystem) and how everything is connected.
Lifecycle marketing, just like the model explained by Meadows, is a way to operationalize the entire experience your customers have with your product.
In other words, lifecycle marketing is not just sending emails, In-app notifications, events, content marketing, socials, etc. Instead, it is absolutely everything that happens in the system you create to help your customers use and love your product.
Sometimes, it might be sending the correct email at the right time, or activating a push notification right when needed. But, in some other cases, it might be an actual call, a billboard, or shipping swag to the right segments at the right time.
Therefore, lifecycle marketing promptly operationalizes value (aka the JTBD your product solves).
We recently came across a great piece by Kristina Quinones about this very same topic. Among the many ideas she shares, we loved how she describes the mission of lifecycle marketing:
As a lifecycle marketer, your job is to embody your clients where they are and do your best to position your product as the ideal solution to their problems. To do so, just like Kristina mentions, it is vital to have a customer-first mentality, a systems thinking approach, understand the brand and values in depth, and implement changes in an agile and modular manner.
To summarize, in a team where everyone is obsessed with business growth metrics, your obsession should be customer satisfaction throughout their entire product experience. All the way from awareness to referral, your focus should be on making sure customers receive as much value as possible.
The pillars of Lifecycle marketing
It seems relatively intuitive to do lifecycle marketing; after all, it improves the interaction between your customers and your product (what every marketer wants to do). However, as logical as it may sound at first, it is much more complex.
However, there are five primary tenets that, if orchestrated, will allow your company to improve your customer's entire journey:
1- Focus on your Audience
If you are genuinely interested in doing lifecycle marketing, taking wild guesses as to what people's experiences with the product are, is not enough. You need to do the work. Talk to your customers, and not just via in-app notifications and surveys; pick up the phone or set up a video call to find out what pains are you missing and how to fix them.
Doing this process will inevitably lead you to find behavioral and psychographic patterns among your customers. Once you see these similarities and differences between your customers, create segments to run experiments that make sense for people who have similar behaviors later on.
2- Operationalize your data
We live in the information age, where everyone is obsessed with amassing massive data sets to exploit them somehow and find gold. The truth is that data by itself, without any analysis or context, is far from being the holy grail.
To avoid that, be sure you operationalize your data to gain value in relation to your audiences. To do so, be sure you have the following figured out:
Capturing your data
Do you have the proper infrastructure to capture datasets?
Is it connected with other systems?
Is it as automated as possible?
Analyzing your data
Is the information captured being presented in an actionable way?
Do you have the correct data points?
Do you have enough context to transform data into information?
Using your data
Is there a way to experiment based on the data you have?
3- Personalization / automation
Given that you have identified the segments and understood their behavior concerning your product, it is crucial to personalize an experience per segment. Another aspect to keep in mind is to think about where the person is in relation to your product; are they learning about it? Using it? Loving it? That would dramatically change how you interact with them to improve their experience further.
Once you have personalized the touchpoints you plan on deploying, be sure you have an automated way to do it. In lifecycle marketing the objective is not to be busy talking to customers, but to focus on understanding them further by using as many automation tools as you can.
This one seems a bit redundant, but it is crucial to highlight it. Timeliness is the critical component of a successful lifecycle marketing strategy. Identifying where a particular customer is in your product experience and how to communicate at the right time helps you create a WOW effect instead of a spam effect.
5- Measurement and Metrics
All this effort is futile unless it can be measured! You’ll need to align your work to key metrics that will help guide you on where to focus your work and how to move the needle. This is where experimentation plays a critical role in understanding how your work impacts your baseline conversion. Having a full understanding of how your business is performing and where problems arise in the funnel will allow you to both understand the problem and set up experiments to validate a solution.
Lifecycle and Business Models
Once you have clarity of the pillars mentioned in the previous section, it is often suggested to break down lifecycle marketing in the traditional funnel stages: Awareness, acquisition, activation, retention, revenue, and referral.
However, lifecycle marketing can greatly vary according to your business model strategy. A self-served/product-led solution greatly differs from a sales-led solution: and, therefore, the lifecycle strategy you implement must accommodate the overall business model as well as the Go-To-Market motion your company has in place.
For example, if the company is largely product-led (Calendly a couple of years ago, Dropbox, etc), the onboarding is going to be largely focussed on making sure there’s an “aha moment” in the least amount of time possible. For a more mature organization that loops in sales into onboarding (think Zapier today), the objective is to get people to get on a demo call.
Lifecycle Marketing takes a village
Most of us intuitively think lifecycle marketing is exclusively about the customer. However, critical business functions like Product, Sales & CX will have an important input in lifecycle strategy to inform and align outputs. Remember Lifecycle Marketing is a systemic process, not a set of disconnected experiments.
In terms of execution, it is critical to have the support of the product team in case you need to add additional features/communications across the product. Likewise, the lifecycle marketer can provide feedback regarding the pain points and possible improvements the product can have.
Having a balanced relationship between the two is key to fully taking advantage of lifecycle marketing. Beyond identifying key milestones and communications needed to help customers move forward, it is also possible that the lifecycle lead identifies issues with the existing product. Working in harmony will guarantee that both the product and the customer experience improve, but not having a healthy relationship between both areas can be the root of discomfort.
Setting up Lifecycle Marketing Foundations
To have a strong understanding of your customer’s current journey and how to improve their experience there are a series of techniques and tools that will help you uncover how your offer adds value to them. Here you will find a couple that can help you level up your
Customer interviews: Perhaps the most essential part of lifecycle marketing is to talk to your customers to understand their pain points and journey in depth. It does not have to be an hour-long conversation, nor does it have to be a large sample (50+ interviews). What matters here is to understand the customer's stage at the funnel, what the JTBD there looks like, and what it takes for them to move towards the next step with your product. To learn more about the JTBD framework, please check out this link.
Surveys: Running surveys that are tailored to your customer and their location on the funnel are a great way to capture information about the value your solution is providing. There are plenty of tools that can help you do this, and, unlike interviews, they are less time consuming for customers (be sure to keep it short and sweet). The only downside is that they might not be as in-depth as a regular interview.
CRM: We are tool agnostic when it comes to CRMs, but, regardless of the provider it is crucial to have clarity of where your customers are and the previous touchpoints that have occurred across teams (marketing and sales). Doing so will allow you to successfully communicate to them why your solution is adding value to their processes.
Be sure everything you communicate is timely, and avoid being redundant.
Email automation and SMS marketing tools: Having the right email automation tool (and in some scenarios the right SMS tool), can make a massive difference between planning to execute a lifecycle marketing value-add touchpoint, and actually executing it. In some cases an SMS provider might also be needed, in order to help your customer understand the value you add with your solution.
Seems super simple, right? We get it, there are a lot of moving parts to consider here. We’re here to help you. To learn more about Lifecycle Marketing and B2B SaaS marketing join our community on Twitter here - and, please be sure to let us know your thoughts in the comment section below.