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Customer lifecycle marketing

Getting back to basics: 5 tips for successful relationship-based marketing

Ani Mkrtschjan | January 12, 2015

You’ve probably heard of customer lifecycle marketing, or CLM. It’s a frequently tossed around buzzword, yet few really know how to implement it, never mind implement it well.

When it comes to CLM, it’s time to get back to basics. Let’s take a moment to consider what CLM truly is to help guide successful relationship-based marketing.

In The Customer Life Cycle: A Blueprint For Customer-Obsessed Enterprises, Forrester defines the customer lifecycle as the enterprise's view of the phases that a customer passes through over the course of their ongoing relationship with a company.

But that marketing jargon is meaningless to a customer. The average customer is only concerned with being served at their point of need and the ability to conveniently interact with brands on their own terms—whether to shop or to advocate. So the brand’s job becomes building relationships to meet its customers’ needs.

If the customer lifecycle is a set of phases in a broader a relationship, then automated programs can deepen and maintain that relationship. That’s where CLM comes into play.

True CLM enables marketers to efficiently deliver meaningful content and experiences to customers, helping them to more readily and conveniently meet their needs and desires throughout their brand relationship. And it doesn’t stop there. Meeting these customer needs translates into real business successes with improved customer satisfaction and increased conversion rates.

  • 54% of marketers say lifecycle marketing drives increased customer satisfaction. (Source)

  • CLM can increase customer retention by as much as 25%. (Source)

  • Marketing automation yields 53% higher conversion rates. (Source)

Customer lifecycle marketing

So … how we get there?

Successful CLM uses a framework approach to deliver targeted messages and content to the customer (or prospect) in the channel(s) where they are present, and where marketers have permission (where required) to engage with them.

A word of caution: Applying a framework does not mean implementing an impersonal checklist of standard customer lifecycle marketing strategies.

Delivering relevant content and information within your marketing programs requires a deep understanding of your customer and a relentless focus on customer experience. Focusing on the customer across the onboarding, engagement, retention, and loyalty phases will help you target the strategies and content that’s delivered during the various lifecycle phases.

Of course, that’s easier said than done. Successful customer experience driven CLM requires five key elements.

1. Strategic alignment. Alignment across your organization establishes a baseline for your CLM strategies. It sets expectations and identifies challenges in designing and implementing optimal customer lifecycle experiences, such as gaps and efficiencies in people, process, and technology.

Great CLM experiences rely on organizational and technology enablers working together to create a strong customer experience. It provides an understanding of lifecycle objectives—from acquisition numbers and customer satisfaction to channel utilization and profitability. It establishes key reporting and performance indicators for future-state programs.

During this process, your organization should examine program governance policy (project request processes, deployment SLAs, etc.) and enforcement to enable new and optimized strategy execution.

2. Activity segmentation. Segmentation based on customer recency and frequency of engagement activities (email clicks, site browse, mobile engagement, etc.) will help you identify where your customers are within the customer lifecycle; in turn enabling your marketing organization to target customers with specific CLM strategies. It informs the focus for implementation and optimization of lifecycle strategies based on segment size and expected size of opportunity.

3. Customer journey mapping. This often overlooked element of CLM strategy development identifies the key moments in the customer lifecycle that make or break customer engagement with the brand over time. It enables a marketing organization to understand customer thoughts, feelings, and beliefs during a customer’s lifecycle to develop strategies that meet expectations.

4. Personalization. Life-stage targeting and program development alone don’t equate to 1-to-1 marketing. That’s where personalization of content and channel marketing initiatives come in. Understanding trends and identifying insights around personalized content will help your organization prioritize the development of targeted content based on customer needs.

In this email example from Nordstrom, the retailer not only showcases some of the items that the customer viewed at the product page level, it also provides similar items for the customer to consider—enriching the buying decision process.

Alternatively, personalization should also be used to ensure that content is delivered to the channel(s) where the customer is present. For instance, if a customer begins their shopping journey on a mobile device but is a known desktop shopper, testing should be conducted to determine the channel that cart abandonment messages should be triggered in: email, mobile push notification, or a combination of the two. Knowing whether a customer has push notifications enabled can inform the permission marketing channels used to engage with them.

Customer lifecycle marketing

5. Tools and technology. Marketing tools are key to scalable CLM strategies. From marketing automation tools to content management systems, careful technology evaluation and consideration is required to create a segmented, channel and content optimized, timely, and dynamic customer lifecycle strategy. The ecosystem that these technologies produce determines just how well an organization can create scalable programs that drive enhanced customer experiences.

Each of these elements require significant time and energy investments in order to properly design and deliver great CLM experiences. Though no one organization has CLM completely figured out, if you take the steps required to build a solid foundation, you’ll be on your way to building strong relationships with your customers.

Slalom Consulting's Ani Mkrtschjan

Ani Mkrtschjan is a digital marketing consultant in Slalom's Customer Engagement practice. Ani is passionate about delivering data-driven strategic recommendation for cross-channel customer lifecycle marketing programs and automations. Follow Ani on Twitter.


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