You’ve spent countless hours setting up your business, from the very product that you sell to the site that you sell it on.

Now it’s time to come up with an effective marketing strategy.

You’ve likely done a bit of research and have found countless blog posts promising to bring in more organic traffic through content marketing or to boost sales through a complex sales funnel. With all of these fancy marketing terms, you’re certain that your marketing efforts will pay off, big time.

But where do you begin?

And what do all of these marketing terms even mean?

As much as I’d like to promise you that I know the absolute best marketing strategy for you and your business, the fact of the matter is that I don’t.

That’s because I don’t know your customer base or what the customer experience is on your site.

But you do.

And that’s the most important thing to understand as you employ your best marketing efforts.

There are many different models to understand your customer base, many of which are casually referred to all over the world wide web. The two most popular models are the Buyer’s Journey and the Customer Lifecycle, both of which can help guide your campaigns and create a solid lead generation strategy.

They are distinctly different models that can help you deeply understand both your existing and potential customer, giving you and your sales team a firm foundation to grow your marketing strategy from.

Once you understand both the customer life cycle as well as the customer journey, you’ll be better able to know where to focus your marketing efforts.

So, here is a breakdown of each model so that you can begin attracting the right customers to your shop – whether online or brick-and-mortar – right away.

What Is The Customer Lifecycle?

The customer lifecycle is basically just the process the potential customer goes through to discover your brand, to research your product or service, and to finally make a purchase.

There are tons of different articles that outline the process, using different terms for each stage of the life cycle. From Alexa’s version (Awareness, Engagement, Evaluation, Purchase, Post-Purchase, Advocacy), to HubSpot’s version (Discovery , Education , Purchase , Post-Purchase Engagement , Advocacy), to BigCommerce’s version (Reach , Acquire , Develop/Nurture , Retention , Advocacy), there are a lot of different ways to describe and delineate the customer experience or the buyer’s journey. Fundamentally, the different phases are similar to each other.

But before you get caught up in all of the terms and which model is the best, be sure to understand the general sense of the customer life cycle process. It begins with connecting with your prospective customer and ends with a purchase.

And if you’ve done an exceptionally good job with your brand or product, it evolves into customer loyalty too.

What Is The Customer Lifecycle?

1. Awareness/Discovery Phase

Every customer lifetime model begins with building brand awareness among your target audience. There are many different ways that a prospective customer can stumble upon your brand, all of which are fueled by their need for a solution to their unique problem.

Which, ideally, can be solved by your product or service.

To get your brand in front of your potential customer base, take the time to understand your buyer personas. Understand what their general interests are, where they are hanging out online, and what motivates them to make a purchase.

By deeply understanding your customer base through buyer personas, you’re more likely to catch your potential customers during their hunt for a solution to their problem.

And that is the first step in walking them through the sales funnel, all the way through each of the customer lifecycle stages until they are a satisfied paying customer.

A common approach for many booking websites, for example, is to provide a ‘Things To Do’ guide in their top travel destinations.

customer lifecycle marketing - buyer's journey awareness stages smb marketing

BookRetreats does exactly that by providing a travel guide for Bali, one of their top performing locations. The idea is to provide helpful information to anyone who is planning to visit Bali, or considering a trip to Bali. Note that while they might be considering Bali as a travel destination, at this stage, they aren’t even aware of BookRetreats as a brand or option to buy for.

But once they’ve read the guide, considered a few other options, and they are ready to book a retreat?

BookRetreats’ platform will be right there, ready for it.

Key Takeaway: Attract new customers through effective marketing strategies that meet your target audience in the initial awareness phase of the customer life cycle.

2. Engagement/Education Phase

The next step in moving your potential customers through the lifecycle stages is through customer engagement. This is where content marketing and social media marketing is especially effective as it gets prospective customer to your website and builds brand awareness.

So how do you do this?

By creating content that directly answers their questions about your particular product or service.

Let’s say you sell surf gear, from wetsuits to board wax, and your target audience is made up of sunshine chasing surfers. A major problem for all surfers is that surfboards can be quite slippery, which is a real pain when you’re trying to balance on top of it as you’re riding a wave.

The solution?

Hardy surfboard wax.

But your potential customers may not know that yet, or if they do, they’re not sure what to look for in a wax. So they head to the world wide web to learn more about how to create a stickier surface on their boards, which types of wax work best, and how to apply it. They might even just type into Google: How to make surfboard not slippery

customer lifecycle marketing - seo search questions

Teach a man to wax a surfboard, and he might buy from you tomorrow

And as a business owner that sells board wax, you are inclined to answer all of these questions through blog posts and social media.

It is how your target audience will first learn about your brand and learn to trust it. It is where customer engagement begins and how customer loyalty develops. This is the very basis of content marketing and is an extremely important part of the customer life cycle.

Key Takeaway: Develop content marketing strategies to meet your customers in this engagement and education phase.

3. Evaluation Phase

When your potential customers finally find a solution to their problem (in the example above, the solution would be surfboard wax), then they will begin the process of evaluating all of the different products that can serve as a solution.

This is when they will begin comparing different brands of wax.

By this point, you will have developed some brand loyalty with your audience, making your brand a top contender for your potential customer. At this point, consumers will be poking around your website, reading the product features and benefits to see if your product or service will satisfy their need the best.

Which is why it is super important to have well-written category pages and product descriptions. A solid product description can close the sales process, turning a curious shopper into an active customer.

Sivana Spirit provides a great product description that not only details the quality features of the product but also the beautiful story behind it, touching on all points that might sway the potential buyer into making a purchase.

customer lifecycle marketing - buyer's journey education evaluation stages smb marketing product description

Key Takeaway: Write solid product descriptions to increase the conversion rate of visitors to your site, or to encourage them to order from your menu

4. Purchase Phase

By the time consumers decide to make a purchase, your only job is to make the purchasing process as easy as possible. You can do this with a healthy website, clear calls to action, and secure processing.

After all, the easier it is to purchase a product, the more likely your customer will do it.

The best part?

The better the overall customer experience, the more likely your customer will return to make another purchase in the future. This is the core idea of customer retention and is perhaps the single most important aspect of sustainable growth for any business, both online and in a storefront.

Amazon, for example, makes it as easy as possible to make a purchase. Once you enter all of your details, you can make a purchase with just one click, making impulse buys a major source of revenue for the major business.

customer lifecycle marketing - buyer's journey stages purchased checkout amazon smb marketing

From Baymard Institute. The gold standard for easy of purchase is Amazon’s checkout process

Key Takeaway: Make the customer experience as easy as possible to increase customer loyalty and customer retention.

5. Advocacy Phase

The easiest way to grow your business over the long term is to create loyal customers out of your existing customer base.

Why?

Because they will tell their friends and family about your products and brand for free, increasing future sales and decreasing overall marketing costs.

They will showcase your product on social media, share their experience with others, and practice all natural (and free) word-of-mouth marketing.

ReferralCandy makes that exceptionally easy to do by providing an easy word-of-mouth marketing rewards program for businesses to use with their customers.

customer lifecycle marketing - buyer's journey stages customer lifecycle marketing advocacy

Key Takeaway: Provide a positive experience to your customers for long-term and sustainable growth.

Customer Lifecycle Marketing

Now that you know all about the customer lifecycle, from first encountering your brand to bragging about it to friends and family, it’s time to ramp up your marketing campaigns to support this process.

Why?

Because 80 percent of your future profits will come from 20 percent of your existing customers, making customer retention an easy way to grow your business steadily over the long term.

Understanding the customer lifecycle stages will inform your marketing tactics, making your marketing efforts way more efficient. It will help you increase conversion rates and develop long-term relationships with your active customers.

After all, it is far easier to improve customer retention than it is to bring in new customers.

Coming up with a customer lifecycle marketing strategy to support all of your marketing tactics will help you do just that.

What tactics do you use to move your customers along the customer lifecycle? Let us know in the comments!

Marquis Matson

Posted by Marquis Matson

Marquis Matson is an SEO analyst, content marketer, and writer. She specializes in search engine optimization for ecommerce sites in the yoga and wellness niche. She lives as a digital nomad, spending time in Ecuador, California, Thailand, India, and more. You can find her on LinkedIn