Every good customer service professional knows that these days, business is about much more than merely closing a one-time deal with a customer. The best companies build mutually-beneficial relationships with their customers that equate to a higher customer lifetime value -- meaning, these customers are going to stick around for a while.

Brand loyalty is of the utmost importance today. For instance, in the automobile industry, there are hundreds of brands, many of whom sell similar models for similar purposes. So, what helps a customer distinguish an SUV from, say, Toyota versus Chevrolet?

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Most likely, brand loyalty. A customer's first car was a Toyota Lexus back in the 90s. The car was reliable and their trusty partner in crime throughout their college years. Now, as a middle-aged customer looking to invest in a new SUV, which company are they going to go with? The brand that has been there for them for the past three decades, or the one that is completely new to them?

However, loyalty is only the final step in the complete customer lifecycle. There are several steps preceding that are essential to building these long-term relationships with customers.

Typically, the customer follows these steps:

Source: Blake Morgan

1. Discovery

This is when a customer begins searching for a product. They'll compare products across competitor brands, as well as read customer reviews. Eventually, the customer will reach out to a certain brand with questions and concerns.

2. Education

The brand will respond to the customer's questions and concerns, as well as inquire for more information on the customer's needs. Following that, the brand will offer the best products or services to satisfy the customer's needs, as well as educate the customer on the uses of those products or services.

3. Purchase

Having gained all necessary information, the customer makes a purchasing decision. Post-purchase, the company follows up to ensure that the purchase went smoothly for the customer.

4. Post-Purchase Engagement

The company checks in with the customer later, asking how their experience is with their new product or service. Using information directly from customers, as well as social media engagement, the company continuously makes improvements to their products, services, and customer service experience.

5. Advocacy

The customer feels like an important asset to the brand and makes additional future purchases with the brand. In addition, to help influence others, the customer posts on social media about their experiences with the brand and writes their own product reviews, which later inform a future customer in their discovery phase.

Although these are the typical steps -- albeit, sometimes, with different titles -- that a customer follows in their journey with a brand, this process can be very fluid. With an excessive amount of media in existence today, customers can come to learn about a brand in several ways: family or friend recommendations, social media, advertisements, research, etc.

This is why it's essential for a company to be very aware of the customer lifecycle and, more importantly, customer lifecycle management.

Most customers follow a similar set of steps when it comes to choosing a brand's product or service and, eventually, becoming loyal to that brand. Rather than leaving that to chance and hoping that customers will choose you, you can guide them in your direction. This isn't manipulation; instead, this is putting out the kinds of content that consumers are already searching for. By providing them with value, you can prove to customers that you are a reputable, transparent brand that has their visitors' and customers' best intentions at heart.

For each aforementioned stage, a company can plan the best ways to strategically lead strangers to their business.

How to Use the Customer Lifecycle

1. Discovery

By putting out lots of useful, engaging, search-engine-optimized content, your company will pop up more frequently when customers are searching for related topics. Content can include original blog posts offering industry information, templates for email, infographics, and other marketing tools, and online courses, such as those offered by HubSpot Academy. Give your customers a reason to trust you before they invest in you.

Then, when customers are looking for certain products or services, your company will be the first that comes to mind against other competitors. This is the basis of the inbound marketing methodology.

2. Education

You can make potential customers' lives easier by offering as much information as possible that limits their need to reach out to your customer service team. Create a knowledge base -- a centralized, online database offered by your company containing extensive information on the uses of your products and services and answers to FAQs. Customers like to handle as much of the purchasing process on their own, so providing them with a means to educate themselves will further attract them to your brand.

3. Purchase

Build a simple, online ordering system to ensure that the most difficult part of the purchasing process for a customer is having to write out their credit card number. It's obvious; the easier it is to add items to an online cart, add your shipping and card information, and press submit, the more likely it is that a customer will make a purchase.

4. Post-Purchase Engagement

Don't forget about your customers after they've made a purchase! That will confirm that they become a sad, one-time customer. Make the customer feel just as cared for post-purchase as they are pre-purchase. Set up an automated email system that immediately thanks customers for their orders post-purchase. Personally reach out after their product has been shipped or downloaded to ensure that they got exactly what they purchased and are happy with the purchase.

5. Advocacy

A customer will need that final push to encourage them to go above and beyond for a brand. Encourage happy customers to share their experiences by making it simple to do so. Email them brief surveys, link them to your Yelp or Google Reviews sites, and offer them discounts or compensation for referring friends.

Now that you understand the importance of the customer lifecycle and of managing it to guide customers to your brand, you can follow these steps to ensure you're always maximizing the effects of customer lifecycle management in each phase of the customer lifecycle.

To learn more, read this post on customer engagement next.

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Originally published Dec 4, 2018 8:00:00 AM, updated October 30 2019


Customer Experience