PART ONE: Defining your customer lifecycle

Academically speaking, the customer life cycle begins with a prospect: an interested party who may potentially need your product or service. Adept companies qualify their prospects to pinpoint their sales efforts on leads that are ready to buy, while using automated marketing tactics such as email campaigns and direct mail programs to continue to develop leads at the beginning of the buying process. Following a first purchase, a period of customer assimilation or on-boarding takes place. This is a prime time to start building loyalty and influencing ongoing purchases. Particularly adroit companies employ retention programs to continue to provide value and to educate their customers to improve cross-selling opportunities. The final frontier recognizes when a customer’s attention has waned, and alerts sales and marketing to deploy a winback strategy.

So what does your customer lifecycle look like? Consider:

  • How much of your marketing resources are devoted to lead generation?
  • Are you able to nurture leads to conversion quickly, or is this a long, resource-intensive process?
  • Once converted, how long and resource-intensive are their assimilation and growth stages.
  • What’s the overall average lifetime of your customers (in days, weeks or years)?

PART TWO: Aligning your direct marketing efforts to maximize revenue

While everyone knows that it costs 6-10 times more to acquire a new customer than to maintain a loyal customer, most direct marketing is heavily weighted toward lead generation and lead nurturing. Responsibility for improving the customer experience is largely a reactive tactic left to the sales and customer service departments, which usually means trying to appease a customer after they have become dissatisfied and have a complaint.

So what’s a smart marketer to do?  Take a moment to evaluate your customer life cycle in comparison to your direct marketing efforts. Where can your marketing dollars most impact revenue?  Creating a chart like the one below can be helpful in identifying where spending and effort need to shift.  And why not consider using some of those marketing automation techniques to trigger communications to current and lapsed customers?

Customer Life Cycle Graph

Example customer lifecycle with poorly-aligned direct marketing resources.

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