Hi. Sit down. Let’s talk about Marketing. Don’t worry, I’m not going to sell you an Ah-ma-zing $1.000 marketing course. I wrote this because all the misinformation and ‘advice’ about marketing makes me sad. It’s like nobody has a clear view of what tools to use for which effect.. I see a lot of sources on how to use tools (which is awesome!) but no mention on how this fits into a marketing strategy for your business. How can you use tools if you have no idea if they’ll fit your market or have the desired effect on your business?
I’ve run my own company for the last 5 years. We create online software products to make our customers lives easier. I studied international marketing and am a software engineer. The past year I have focused on developing a process to create/execute marketing strategies. The goal of this post is to explain that process and to show that it’s easy to do marketing. You’ll be able to create a marketing strategy and have a clear idea where to grow your business.
If any of you can chime in on the ideas I’m presenting, please respond below. The process will always be a work in progress, any feedback is welcome! Most of my marketing experience is online but the ideas also apply to ‘the real world’.
Let’s begin, grab some coffee, this’ll take around 10 minutes to read.
Customer Lifecycle Marketing
The process involves a CRM principle called Customer Lifecycle Management. It’s nothing new. It’s been around longer than the internet. And there have been many books written about it. The idea is that by using CLM you become a customer-centric business. In other words the customer is king. Your main focus becomes building long-term customer relationships. I think we can all agree focusing on nurturing customer relationships is a good thing.
The main idea of CLM is that every (potential) customer fits into one of five stages;
A clear marketing strategy will have an answer for every stage of the customer lifecycle. Each stage has a measurable goal you’re trying to achieve.
For example, Reach focuses on reaching your customer. Making them aware of your business. Every customer starts in the Reach stage. The goal is to push them through to the Acquire stage.
How are you going to achieve that? That’s completely up to you. If you want potential customers, you should focus on ad clicks/website visits. All your activities and selected tools should be about reaching that goal. Every potential customer who completed the goal progresses to the next stage. Which has it’s own goal and different tools.
How you determine which stage a customer is in is important and specific to your business. Make sure to write down which metrics you analyse for every stage. We’re going to go over each stage and look at the goals you can set for them. I will also mention tools you can use, so you have an idea where they fit into this framework.
NOTE: Searching online for ‘Customer Lifecycle’ can be misleading. Images often show the lifecycle as a loop. This is confusing and doesn’t make a lot of sense. In my experience Loyal customer don’t progress back to the Reach stage.
Try to think of the Customer Lifecycle as a timeline. Everybody starts out at Reach and your marketing strategy will push them to Loyalty. You can find visualizations of this by searching for ‘Customer Funnel’ or ‘Customer Journey’.
The Reach stage is all about getting your potential customer’s attention. In case of an online product/service you’re going to be looking at website visits. With that in mind it becomes easy to visualize how to become better at reaching people. Just increase the amount of website visits!
There’s a whole host of ways you can grab people’s attention and direct it to your website. When selecting tools for this stage keep in mind that every tool needs to help you achieve the goal. This means you have to track how well each tool performs. Discard any that don’t create more website visits, or figure out how to make them more effective.
It can help to do research before starting. I call this the Pre-Reach stage. You can develop a Persona or Customer Archetype based on your customer segment. If there’s interest I will post how I create Personas. For now I encourage you to use one of the many online resources. I’ve included some links below.
Thinking of tools with a goal in mind makes it easier to select which ones work for your business. It also gives you a clear way of determining which tools you should continue using and which ones need to go. Think about which tools would reach more of your potential customers. Instagram could drive traffic for your sunglasses store but won’t work for airconditioning repair.
Goal: Get your potential customer to notice you and get them to your website.
Metric: Website visits/Ad Clicks.
Tools: SEO, Facebook Ads, Google Adwords, Instagram, Twitter, Blogs, Podcasts, Content Marketing, Youtube.
Now that you have the customer’s attention you need to start focussing on building trust. On average it takes around seven interactions before a customer trusts you. Only then do customers feel comfortable enough to buy anything from you. An interaction can be anything from receiving an e-mail to visiting your website.
The Acquire stage is all about getting your customer to make that first interaction. You can think of interactions like;
- Signing up for a newsletter
- Taking a survey
- Joining a discussion
- Requesting a demo
After their first interaction potential customers move on to the Convert stage. Establishing trust starts in the Acquire stage and concludes in the Convert stage with a sale.
Visiting your website is an interaction but doesn’t have to be an expression of interest. You should find a different interaction that you can track. As a rule, the end result should make the customer known to you. They should give you some form of personal information, an e-mail address for example.
Since the name of the game is building trust you should include trust elements on your website. These will also work well in the Convert stage.
Goal: Get the customer to interact with you for the first time.
Metric: Newsletter/Email signups, Twitter Retweets, Instagram Comments. Tools: OptinMonster, HoldOnStranger, Intercom
The next stage is a two-part’er. First you’re going to have to solidify trust then you have to make your sales process as easy as possible.
As discussed in the previous stage it takes seven interactions to establish trust. You need a plan on how every potential customer is going to have those interactions.
A beautiful example is a Nurture email campaign;
- Potential customer gives you their email address.
- You send them an email every day.
- Talk about something interesting to them.
For example, you’re selling a book about traveling through Asia. You send them 7 emails about your favorite places to see. Which are also included in the book. Link to your website in each email and that’s seven interactions.
It is also possible to start a blog, create videos or have an active social media presence. Do everything to make yourself known as an authority in the field. When a potential customer looks at your business they should perceive you as ‘the real deal’.
It’s all about making potential customers associate your company with the product.
Another way of gaining trust is by having a great website. Design can have a noticeable effect on what potential customers think of your business. There’s 1.001 resources you can find about how to create websites that are awesome.
If everything goes well your potential customer is now ready to buy from you. It is vital(!) that you make the process to buy from you as easy as possible. Focus on creating the perfect buying experience.
For an e-commerce website reduce the clicks/actions potential customers have to make. Look at information you don’t need to collect and remove it from your forms.
Potential customers that don’t convert into paying customers will abandon your business. This means that somewhere in your process the customers are not engaged. It is your responsibility to find these ‘trust leaks’. Fix them and come up with a ‘last resort’ to convert almost abandoned customers.
On e-commerce websites you can do this with Cart Abandonment campaigns. When a potential customer forgets to checkout their cart. You can send them an automated email to remind them to come back later. Reminding potential customers will give you a better conversion rate.
Goal: Get the customer to trust you and make a sale.
Metric: Revenue, Cart abandonment.
Tools: Shopify, Woocommerce, Magento, InfusionSoft, Mailchimp, Klaviyo
Congratulations! Your potential customer has converted and is now an actual customer. Your goal now is to stay at this level of trust and get the customer to come back. This stage is harder to track since we’re going to have to include a timeframe. When do you expect the customer to buy again? This depends on what kind of product/service you offer. Someone who buys a car isn’t likely to come back within a year. While someone who bought cleaning services from you is likely returning soon.
Since the customer is now familiar with your business he/she might make direct contact. This is the first time in the Customer Lifecycle where communication will go both ways. It is a good idea to have some form of Customer Service to keep that level of trust.
Next to that we can adapt our Nurture campaign from the Acquire stage, and use it to keep customers. This campaign will show customers that we care about them. And haven’t forgotten that they bought from us.
In the case of the Asian travel book, you might write about your next adventure in a weekly email. Or send them beautiful new pictures of places described in the book. When your new book comes out, you are sure to keep some of those customers.
The idea is that you keep your customers interested in interacting with you.
When a customer doesn’t come back it means they went to the competition or they don’t need you anymore. It’s completely normal to lose a few customers this way but it is possible to minimise the effect.
Goal: Keep customer trust and get another sale within a given period.
Metric: Amount of purchases per customer.
Tools: InfusionSoft, Klaviyo, Mailchimp, Zendesk
The final stage of the Customer Lifecycle describes customers who keep coming back. This stage is only attained when all the other stages work well.
These customers are passionate about your business and are willing to promote you. They’ll post on their social media and tell their friends. Make sure you interact with them! Think about organizing events. And creating merchandise so they can show appreciation for the company. Your branding can go a long way to help these customers express their loyalty.
How you measure who your most loyal customer are is up to you. Is it after five sales? or maybe after two? Or maybe you want to look at time spent on your website. Pick a metric and find those customer that are special.
With the Asian travel book you could interact when your social media accounts are tagged. Instagram and Twitter are great channels to do this on. It shows your customers that you care. And it exposes you to more potential customers.
If done well these customers will become customers for life and help you grow your business.
Goal: Make customers feel valued.
Metric: Amount of purchases per customer, amount of time spent on site.
Tools: Meetups, Events, Merchandise.
With these pointers you can create your own marketing strategy. It is also a great framework by which you can determine the bottleneck in your business. Are you reaching enough potential customers? or are you just not converting them? Are you tying people to your business or losing them to your competitors?
I hope this gives you insight into how you can improve your own business.