What is Lifecycle Marketing?

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P.S. – I originally published this post about Lifecycle Marketing to my team’s internal P2. I’ve made some changes to better adapt this content to my blog as well as to remove any sensitive bits or Automattic-specific details.

Got questions about P2 or working at Automattic? Feel free to ping me on LinkedIn!

Broad Strokes

Depending on the organization and its structure, exactly where direct Lifecycle Marketing responsibility begins and ends can be a gray area. In some cases, Lifecycle Marketing is entirely or in part referred to as Customer Marketing. This discipline largely overlaps with Lifecycle but, in practice, is often much narrower in scope—focused more on the product or its specific features versus the whole of the customer experience. Some schools of thought include pre-conversion audience touchpoints under Lifecycle, while others view pre-conversion as a completely different (though related) area.

ℹ️ For this brain dump of a post, I’m focusing on Lifecycle in terms of post-signup touchpoints, only.


So, What is Lifecycle Marketing?

⭐️ Lifecycle Marketing encompasses the strategy and tactics employed to engage and retain customers. These efforts comprise timely nudges and relevant messaging that meet customers where they are. The tactics used coalesce as a seamless complement to the product experience. 

Once someone becomes a customer (always paid and arguably free customers), then from a communications point of view, they’ve entered the Lifecycle domain. From this point on, your collective business objective is to increase revenue from existing customers in a manner that aligns with your brand and values.

Central to the success of any Lifecycle effort is a deep understanding of and empathy for the customer, starting with a keen awareness of:

  • Who are your customers? (ever-evolving personas & archetypes)
  • What are their jobs to be done? Their pain points/problems? Their passion points?
  • What are the core outcomes desired by your customers?
  • What is the product experience happy path for each of your core customer archetypes?
  • What does success look like for your customers, and what is your measurable proxy of this for your product experience? (the customer’s success = your success)
  • Given the landscape, what are your competitive advantages in helping them achieve those outcomes? 
    • Hint: If you’re having trouble answering this question, you probably need some perspective. A business- or department-level SWOT analysis is in order.
  • Given the answers to the preceding questions, what messaging and associated medium(s) of communication would best serve our customers’ needs along their journeys?

⭐️ Value for value should always be top of mind, and in this v4v relationship, the customer should always come out ahead.

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Customer-Centered Strategy

In executing on Lifecycle Marketing strategy, we tend to view work through the following lenses:

JTBD aka Jobs to be Done

Do you understand why customers decide to hire your product(s)?

Activation

Are you providing value to the customer, and are you communicating effectively?

Retention

Are you supporting an integrated, sticky, and satisfying customer experience?

Build Relationships

Are you improving customers’ perceptions of our brand and products? Are customers proud to be associated with your brand?

Performance

Are you working in a way that supports and welcomes continuous improvement as customers’ needs evolve?

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Core components of Lifecycle Marketing

The core components of a basic implementation of Lifecycle Marketing include:

  • a welcome email that is separate from a purchase receipt
  • a follow-up nurture sequence (aka an email onboarding sequence)

It seems simple, right? That’s just the beginning.

More mature implementations add increasingly sophisticated measures. These could include general post-signup remarketing campaigns and personalized messaging selectively delivered based on simple action-oriented behavioral triggers to Machine Learning-enhanced sequence triggers based on customers’ propensity to do-a-thing.


Lifecycle Marketing Mission & Purpose

  • The mission of Lifecycle Marketing is customer success. Full stop.
  • The purpose of Lifecycle Marketing is to maximize revenue from existing customers through work that serves to reduce churn, facilitate expansion, and enable referrals.

Objectives: Maximize Revenue from Existing Customers

Via your Lifecycle communication strategy, you and your team work toward this objective of continuously maximizing collected revenue by:

  1. reducing churn
  2. facilitating expansion
  3. enabling referrals/WoM

Incremental & Measurable Goals

Reduce Churn, Increase Average Customer Value, Accelerate Referrals

And that’s it. Kind of.

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Because I heard y’all like flywheels.

  • The Reach phases include your ToFu, MoFu, and BoFu efforts. Though not strictly a Lifecycle phase, there may be overlap depending on the audience targeted or the tactic utilized.
  • During the Activation phase, the customer continues to evaluate the product, and the onboarding experience is optimized to encourage validation of the customer’s initial decision.
  • Engage and Retain include continued (relevant) communications, product suite upsells and cross-sells, and other activities that enhance and further integrate the customer’s experience.
  • Once retained, loyal customers often serve as brand advocates whose referrals amplify your customer acquisition efforts.

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All of the above is heavily underscored by the following:

Customer-first mentality

How does this advance the customer’s journey? They are the hero—not the company. Not your developers. Not your sales or marketing team. Not your customer service team. Not your brand. The customer is the hero. Period.

Are you presenting useful and relevant information, and how does this content improve the customer’s experience with your product(s) overall?

Systems thinking

How does this cog align with the whole machine? Does this approach/tone/strategy contribute to a more cohesive experience? If not, is the potential misalignment worth the compromise? (Contrary to what one may think, a perceived misalignment isn’t always a bad thing—though they should be approached as experiments with caution and caveats galore.)

Brand and values alignment

Does this reflect your brand vision and uphold your company values? 

Agile & modular implementation

Does this strategy/tactic/implementation allow for responsiveness and flexibility as factors surrounding the business inevitably change? These factors may include product changes, specific goals, the competitive landscape, etc. Are we avoiding the introduction or continuance of unnecessary bottlenecks?

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The Strategy ≠ The Medium 

The medium will vary depending on the purpose of a specific campaign or piece of communication. It could include (but isn’t strictly limited to) emails, in-app nudges, and remarketing/retargeting ads. Heck, this means TV spots, IRL experiences—all sorts of things. If we want to go old school, this could even mean phone calls.

But let’s be real: in the world of SaaS, we tend to focus on email comms and in-app nudges. (And sometimes, remarketing.)

If that’s all you’ve been focused on, it’s time to think bigger.

💡 While the medium can, will, and should serve to refine your messaging tactics (including tone and “feel”), your actual marketing strategy is (and always should be) independent of the medium. Lifecycle Marketing is often delivered via email, but not every email qualifies as Lifecycle content.

Tactics

This is a (non-exhaustive) list of some (general) ideas that (could) constitute Lifecycle Marketing tactics.

  • integrate customer education resources with action-based triggers
  • implement an inline project-based learning experience
  • improve outcome/activation-focused onboarding, starting with the product experience
  • introduce a cohort-based “customer success” program
  • upsell/cross-sell relevant products based on behavioral triggers or propensity scores
  • implement audience-specific engagement campaigns
  • integrate automated campaigns to decrease churn propensity (as measured by predictive churn) of identified at-risk customers
  • … etc

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In Summary

  • Lifecycle Marketing comprises the strategy and tactics employed to encourage customer activation, retention, and loyalty.
  • Lifecycle refers to the strategy (e.g., personalized automation) and approach (e.g., product education) rather than the medium (e.g., email).
  • Lifecycle Marketing is all about making it easy for the customer to connect the dots between their JTBD and our solution(s).
  • The three primary purposes of a Lifecycle Marketing program embedded within a larger Marketing function are to:
    1. reduce churn
    2. increase expansion revenue
    3. increase customer referrals/WoM.

In Addition . . .

  • As Lifecycle Marketing is inherently focused on the customer journey, such programs are often heavily in favor of an educational approach to activation.
  • Lifecycle Marketing components are best implemented in a modular fashion to allow for flexibility as factors demand amendment of the approach.
  • Lifecycle Marketing requires diligent cross-functional collaboration to ensure alignment across organizational disciplines. 
    • e.g., Brand drives your general tone. Evolving business objectives and feedback from the finance team refine your strategy. Customer research informs your approach and tactics. Martech resourcing heavily defines your execution capabilities. Etc.

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Tools to check out

Reminder: all tools are not created equal. Some are well-suited for startups and bootstrapped situations, while others are more appropriate for the enterprise crowd. Here’s a list of potential Lifecycle Marketing options to check out:


What’s your take?

How does your approach to lifecycle marketing align or differ from what I’ve described above? Got thoughts, comments, or maybe grievances? 😅

Let me know!

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