Lifecycle Marketing: 5 Steps to Take Customers From ‘Suspect’ to ‘Advocate’

Marketers have the opportunity to get closer to customers by focusing on the customer lifecycle. It’s a sweet dance:

  • Suspect, when the hoped-for customer is only a gleam in your eye; to
  • Prospect, when there’s interest and preliminary interaction; to
  • New Customer, with that first purchase; to
  • Repeat Customer, as loyalty is built; and, finally, to
  • Advocate, where marketer and customer dance on indefinitely.

While transaction value is the most common measurement of a customer relationship, advocacy from a customer is marketing gold. Engagement deepens the customer relationship and creates opportunities to secure connections with new prospects in your customers’ networks.

Here is a real-life example that may inspire you to engage in deeper customer lifestyle analysis. A medical device manufacturer knows that the value of the first purchase by a clinic or hospital is $3,000. Huge, right? But for this manufacturer, data show that if the second purchase is made between 30 days and 60 days after the first, the increase in lifetime value of that customer is significant—more than $21,000 over other customers. If the second purchase occurs after the 60 days has elapsed, the future value is not there. These early second-purchase customers are also 50 percent more likely to be a customer a year later. So while a lot of effort goes into acquiring the customer, this medical device maker is investing in making sure the customer is happy, engaged and satisfied with the product immediately after the first purchase.

There’s a special high-octane fuel needed to nourish this type of lifecycle analysis and marketing program from start to finish: It’s called data.

Here’s a series of actionable steps for navigating the process:

1. Data capture. Acquire and organize valuable customer data with increasing depth at each stage of the customer lifecycle. Data capture should start with the earliest, most basic terms prospects search online to collect information about products or brands in your category. At each successive step of the customer lifecycle, glean new data from various customer interactions to categorize a customer or potential customer into a particular phase on the lifecycle continuum and guide them on to the next step.

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