Everything You Need to Know About Lifecycle Marketing
Lifecycle marketing is not a new concept. Yet many companies struggle with how to delight their prospects at each stage of the journey.
The trouble is, there isn’t a one-size-fits all approach. Some companies have a much shorter marketing lifecycle, while others have a longer and more complex one.
Despite these differences, there are general steps any SaaS company can take to ensure your prospects and customers have a positive experience with your brand.
In this article, we look at the common stages of lifecycle marketing, and present actionable steps and tips to help your lifecycle marketing strategy become a success.
What is customer lifecycle marketing?
Lifecycle marketing is the step-by-step process in which prospective customers are moved down the buyer’s journey. Each step serves to target prospects’ needs at the specific stage in the cycle.
Broadly speaking, lifecycle marketing requires an understanding of who your prospects are, their needs, and how you can best guide them towards becoming and staying a customer.
Marketers tend to create a lifecycle marketing strategy when they want to:
- Grow their customer base growth
- Improve the buying experience
- Increase sales and repeat customers
- Foster brand advocacy
- Improve marketing ROI
Lifecycle marketing steps
There are six common lifecycle marketing steps that, if approached correctly, can help marketers successfully convert their prospects into loyal customers.
Top of funnel
Step 1: Awareness
Awareness is the first step in the marketing lifecycle. If your prospects aren’t aware of your brand, your product or your value proposition, the rest of your marketing lifecycle strategy won’t succeed.
Although you want to build awareness amongst as many prospects as possible during this stage, targeting everyone is rarely effective. Instead, get to know your buyer persona and see how you can raise awareness amongst those who fit it.
For instance, if we look at Monday’s website, we can make a fair assumption that their ideal buyer is someone who works as part of a collaborative team. This team generally works remotely, is part of a small-medium sized business or enterprise, and requires a robust SaaS platform that facilitates work.
Monday, then, probably wouldn’t focus their efforts on building awareness amongst solopreneurs, independent consultants or freelance contractors.
Some effective awareness-building strategies include:
Running social media ads that are targeted to each buyer persona. Try testing different messaging to see what gets the most engagement.
Taking advantage of SEO by researching and using keywords so your prospects will find you when they’re searching online. By providing answers to common questions your audience is asking, you can provide value while also creating awareness.
Writing high-value blog posts that lets your prospects know that you have authority on the subject matter. This could include how-to blog posts, content roundups and/or opinion pieces.
Creating or becoming active in communities where members are looking for answers to problems your product solves. Again, by offering value to your audience, you can build awareness without being too sales-focused.
Engaging in partner marketing through guests or influencers that your prospects follow. This will allow you to reach a larger audience, quicker.
The key is to ensure your awareness-building content is engaging, actionable and buyer-centric. Although you’re aiming to get your brand’s name out there, you’re also aiming to create a positive experience for your prospects. And that means offering them value.
Once you’ve raised awareness, you can start working on the next step: engagement.
Step 2: Engagement
At this point, prospects are aware of your brand, but they may not have investigated your product or website yet. Now is the time to begin engaging them.
Engagement involves sharing information about your offerings so your prospects can see how your product will solve their problems (or do so better than your competitors).
Since your prospects are still near the top of the funnel, it’s important to ensure information is buyer-centric and provides value. This will help you establish a relationship based on trust as you nurture prospects towards the middle of the funnel.
There are many ways you can engage prospects, including:
Creating email newsletters that provide useful, unique or personalized information. Email newsletters could share your recent blog posts, provide content roundups or offer exclusive insight into a topic your prospects care about.
Running webinars that provide answers to a problem, or valuable information on an issue, prospects are facing. You can weave your product into the webinar, but try not to be too sales-focused at this stage.
Implementing search engine marketing (SEM) strategies that target prospects when they’re searching for your brand or keywords related to your product or service. These should lead to landing pages that are engaging and customized to each campaign.
Middle of funnel
Middle of funnel marketing is when you have your prospects’ attention and they can see how your product can solve their needs. Now it’s time to demonstrate why your product is the best solution to fit their needs.
Step 3: Retargeting
At this stage, your prospects are aware of your product and have engaged with your brand, but they aren’t ready to buy.
Retargeting is about keeping your product top of mind while your prospect evaluates their options. Retargeting typically begins after your prospect has exited your website or provided their contact details.
These efforts are most successful when they’re personalized to each buyer persona, and will most likely involve multiple strategies including:
Pixel-based retargeting that uses a tracking pixel on your website to track the IP address of the visitor and then serves them display ads across various social media platforms, search engine results pages (SERPs) or website banners.
Email retargeting that uses an email address your prospect has given you (along with consent to market to them) to initiate a drip email campaign. These campaigns typically provide additional information about your product, discount codes, special offers or exclusive deals.
Using a retargeting strategy can increase your website traffic, begin to develop a loyal customer base and ultimately promote conversions. Which takes us to the next step.
Step 4: Conversion
By this step, you’ve successfully piqued your prospect’s interest and brought them to your website at least once or twice, if not more. Now, they’re at the stage where they’re researching your brand or evaluating the particular features and solutions your product offers.
At this stage, then, the goal is to help move them from prospect to buying customer.
In order to do so, your focus should be on overcoming objections, solidifying credibility and making the buying as easy as possible for your prospects.
Some tactics to consider including:
Showcasing testimonials and reviews. Your prospects are already doing research on you and your product anyways. Be forthcoming about those testimonials to build trust and confidence. Resources like Capterra and G2 allow verified SaaS vendors to list their products in a place where users can offer feedback and reviews.
Provide an interactive demo. These give your prospects hands-on access to your software product and help experience how it will solve their problems. They also increase confidence in your brand and product since you’re showing your product upfront. Interactive demos allow companies to go more product-led, without needing a free trial or freemium model.
Offer a free trial. A free trial lets prospects try your product for a period of time before they purchase it. There are several things you can do to improve your free trial conversion rates, including unblocking friction points and encouraging faster feature adoption.
Provide case studies that highlight the benefits of your product and how it’s being used across different industries. If you don’t have case studies yet because your product is new, consider writing example use cases instead. Although they don’t provide the same level of social proof, they can help prospects imagine how your product will work for them.
Bottom of funnel
In the buyer’s journey, the bottom of the funnel is the ultimate destination. After spending time and effort getting your prospects to convert, the goal now is to provide a positive onboarding experience, retain your customers and foster brand champions.
Step 5: Onboarding and education
At this point, your prospects are now either buying customers or have signed up for a free trial or freemium version of your product.
This is the point where customer success should be engaged to ensure customers have a smooth onboarding experience.
By getting your customers to value and providing necessary education, you’re helping them become independent users of your product and reducing the chances that they’ll churn in the first days, weeks or months.
Some ways you can support onboarding include:
Providing interactive product demos that offer customers the freedom to learn on their own schedule and at their own pace. Self guided product demos can also be used as a train-the-trainer tool to empower and support an enterprise champion.
Delivering an in-app onboarding experience. This experience was made popular most notably by Apple. Right at launch, Apple guides users through their products, allowing them to navigate at their own pace. This includes tutorials and quick ways to ask questions.
Focusing on the “aha” moment. If your customers are signed up to a free trial or freemium version, there is additional pressure to keep them as customers beyond the trial period or upsell them to premium versions. Rather than overwhelming them with all of your product’s features, you can instead focus on creating “aha” moments. On this topic, Sandy Mangat, Head of Marketing at Pocus, says:
”[It’s] not about telling [customers] about every single feature…[it’s] about trying to drive them to that core a-ha moment. Then afterward you can layer in more complexity and tell them about more features.”
Providing starting points in the form of templates or playbooks. For instance, Asana offers dozens of project templates that users can easily import into their workspaces. Similarly, Accord offers customizable playbooks that help customers get started quickly using best practices from industry experts.
Step 6: Nurturing
After your customers have onboarded, the final step in the marketing lifecycle is to nurture the relationship. Nurturing not only helps with promoting upselling and reducing churn, but it also creates the ideal conditions for brand champions to emerge.
Brand champions are users who are passionate and educated about your product. Building brand champions within an organization creates more opportunities to get buy-in organization-wide. They also tend to refer external people or organizations to your company.
Some ways to nurture customers include:
Running email drip campaigns. These campaigns should be strategically targeted to remind customers of other features they may have started exploring or those that you know they’ll benefit from. Try multiple email drip campaigns depending on your end-user. Plus, when creating drip emails for free trial or freemium subscribers, demonstrate the possibilities available to them with upgraded features or licenses.
Creating educational videos or webinars. Just as you aimed to provide value during the top of the funnel steps, you’ll want to continue providing value now. This can come in the form of exclusive videos or webinars.
Growing a community. Establishing a community for your customers can help them feel a sense of loyalty and belonging. These communities can be a place for customers to share user-generated content and connect with one another, as well as a place for you to promote webinars, videos, events or other exclusive content.
Tips for better lifecycle marketing
Here are four tips to help strengthen your lifecycle marketing strategy in 2022.
1. Hire a subject matter expert as a full-time employee or as a consultant
The marketing lifecycle isn’t about selling to anyone and everyone. It’s about focusing on an experience that’s meaningful to prospects and that will foster lasting relationships.
Prospects want to be reassured that you recognize their problems and can provide solutions that work for them. To do this, you need to get to know your prospects intimately.
A good way to accomplish this is by hiring a subject matter expert either as a full-time employee or as a consultant.
These experts will know the ins and outs of a prospect’s problems, workflows and lifestyle and will be able to advise on solutions and approaches. Subject matter experts will also know when and how to access prospects in a way that is natural to their routines.
Chris Walker, CEO at Refine Labs explains this approach well when he says:
“The key is that if you’re a marketer and you’re selling to CIOs or CFOs and you don’t have the subject matter expertise to create information those people want, then you need to acknowledge that. Then figure out how to get those people to be able to do it underneath the brand, maybe through personal profiles or influencers.”
2. Let prospects experience your product earlier in the buying cycle
As prospects move down the funnel, they’ll be doing their own research on your product or company. In many cases, this includes reading product reviews on websites like G2 and Capterra or asking their own networks for recommendations.
Rather than wait for your prospects to form their own opinions, try showcasing your product earlier in their journey. This will help make a good first impression and let your prospect experience features for themselves.
Doing this doesn’t have to be complex. It can be as simple as including videos, GIFs or clickable interactive demos in your outreach.
You can showcase your product throughout the lifecycle by creating what’s known as product-led content. Here are some ideas of the types of content you can create:
- Top of funnel: Blog posts, social ads, PPC ads, email campaigns
- Middle of funnel: Retargeting ads and emails, product tours, interactive calculators
- Bottom of funnel: Educational content, interactive templates, post-demo leave-behind videos, sales enablement content
To learn more about creating product-led content for all stages of your marketing lifecycle, check out our webinar on the topic.
3. Give prospects more options
Trying to force all prospects into a single buyer’s path is often too simplistic. Not all prospects have the same requirements, and not all want to purchase in the same way.
Natalie Marcotullio, our Head of Growth, explains this in an interview, saying:
“Everyone in this day and age has been a buyer at some point. I was a heavy buyer at my old company, and I get so frustrated by the two options given. You can either do a free trial, which takes a lot of work for you to set it up, get your data in there, and finally see value. Or, you have to talk to sales, wait three days to connect to a real salesperson, get qualified by a BDR, and then when you finally see the product maybe realize it does nothing you want.”
Rather than offering just a “free trial” or a “book a demo” button, for instance, it can be worth experimenting with multiple call to actions (CTAs) or go-to-market (GTM) motions.
We’re entering the era of letting prospects choose their own path or their own adventure. As Andrew Capland explains in his Growth Essay blog:
“To solve the historic pitfalls in product-led growth strategies, the next generation of SaaS products are giving new users multiple ways to explore. No longer are these companies forcing every user down a one-size-fits-all onboarding checklist. Instead, they’re asking new users how they want to explore the product, and then customizing the user experience based on their preferences.
4. Leverage your personal brand
Lastly, there are few people who want to be “sold to.” Instead, prospects want a buying experience that feels authentic, personalized and delivered by real people.
With social media providing opportunities for people to connect like never before, seeing, speaking and interacting with the people behind the brand is the brand.
As a result, try leveraging your personal brand at each stage of the marketing lifecycle to create genuine and meaningful relationships with prospects and customers. Doing this allows prospects to reach out in real-time via direct messaging with questions.
Consider becoming more visible on the social media platforms your prospects use – such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram or even TikTok – and post videos and GIFs, or host your own Q&As to offer value and make more connections.
Darryl Praill, CRO VanillaSoft, has extensive experience building a following on LinkedIn. He offers up his advice on this topic, saying:
“You’re spot on when you build a personal brand and you do that honestly by consistently adding value and educating or entertaining or informing or challenging in a way that connects and resonates with your target audience. When you do that and they choose to intentionally follow you, there’s a bond there. That first following is saying that they like you and what you’re doing.