Do you remember learning about the Customer Life Cycle in your college marketing classes? Well if you haven’t thought about it since then, you might want to refresh your memory. At our firm, we utilize a streamlined version of the customer life cycle to architect our clients’ long-term marketing plans. The phases in our version include: Attract, Convert, Retain, and Engage.
We realize that all consumer-facing communications should be (at varying levels) entertaining, helpful, and educational. However, since the customer mindset is very different at each stage of the cycle, we intentionally ideate and implement marketing tactics and messages to fit within each stage. We also use a set of criteria to determine the appropriate tone, content type, and vehicle for each individual tactic.
Developing a seamless integrated marketing program around each phase of the customer life cycle can be intimidating, which is why we use (and recommend using) the following parameters to guide our strategic thinking for our clients’ brands:
In this stage, potential customers are often unaware of your brand or are unsure about your exact product/service offering. They probably have no concrete thoughts or feelings about you and therefore can be thought of as a blank canvas waiting to be painted with your marketing efforts. Here, we aim to create awareness and start building brand affinity.
The tone of the messages in this category should be welcoming, attention-getting, and easy to digest. You don’t want to turn away any potential customers by “screaming at” or confusing them.
Oftentimes, broad-reaching media outlets like television, radio, out-of-home, newspaper, PR, social media, and word-of-mouth are some of the best attraction-worthy vehicles. Your message should also be arresting in order to grab your target’s attention. Apple’s “1984” television spot is the ultimate example of the right way to “attract” your audience.
At this point, we can assume that your target is probably aware of your brand, has at least a basic understanding of your offering, and has formed an initial impression of you. Now, we focus on encouraging these potential customers to make a transaction. What that transaction is depends on your brand’s specific needs. Likely, there will be multiple transactions or tiered transactions that ultimately lead to a purchase.
For example, if you are a retail clothing store, in this stage you might use a targeted web video ad to drive them to view your latest product line on your website. Once they’ve visited your site and looked at a shirt, you could use retargeting (a.k.a. remarketing) to serve them a banner featuring this shirt that links directly to your online store. Or if you are a B2B brand, you might use a newspaper ad to introduce your new software offering to prospects, then proceed with a cold-calling blitz designed to get face-to-face meetings scheduled.
Marketing communications that are designed to convert prospects should be motivating and informative. The vehicles that tend to be best suited for this stage — because they can be moderately targeted — are direct mail, email, telemarketing, search engine marketing, online and mobile advertising, and promotions or offers (although I believe these last two tactics should be used strategically and only occasionally).
So, by reconsidering the importance of a fundamental marketing principle — the Customer Life Cycle — you can see how marketing elements can be tailored to meet customer needs at the various stages of their journey with your brand. Hopefully, you now have a better understanding of how brands should craft their messages and tactical plans carefully to reach their target in the Attract (awareness) and Convert (first transaction) stages. In part two of this article, due out next month, I will discuss the Retain and Engage phases of the customer life cycle, which are designed to foster relationships with existing customers to not only drive ongoing transactions, but also to encourage them to evangelize about your brand.
Emily K. Howard, a marketing strategist since 1997, developed her skills at some of the country’s top marketing firms including DDB Worldwide, while working on brands like American Airlines, Pepsi, Bloomberg and Merck. Now as Vice President of Esparza, Emily’s integrated communications approach helps clients find order in marketing chaos. She’d love to hear from you and can be found on LinkedIn or @ekhoward on Twitter.