Imagine you go on vacation to Scotland. It’s excellent; the food is fun, and you enjoy the sweeping views of misty mountains.
But then, when you try to return home, you find there’s no way to do so. You can’t get a plane, train, or automobile for love or money. Customer service can’t help you. The Scots look at you like you’re mad. You’re just … stuck.
This example is, of course, tongue-in-cheek. At the same time, however, there’s a serious lesson contained here. Many new customers feel that their outbound journey with you was incredible, only to find that, once there, they have nowhere to go and no one to help them.
Why? Because so many SaaS marketing and sales departments focus only on the first half of the customer journey – also known as the customer lifecycle. Companies spend all this time and money blogging, promoting their goods on social media, and engaging in other customer lifecycle marketing activities.
Or rather, activities they think count as customer lifecycle marketing but only cover half of that lifespan.
In reality, as soon as the customer actually signs up, it’s like they no longer exist. No real effort at onboarding is made, and no real attention to retention is paid. The software feels impenetrable to poorly trained customers, confusion and frustration mount, and they finally leave in a fit of resentment. As customer success careers wildly downhill, so do your metrics.
Conversely, churn only increases, which is a shame because these problems are so avoidable. It all comes down to understanding customer lifecycle marketing, the stages it comprises, and how to implement a thoughtful strategy today.
What Is Customer Lifecycle Marketing?
Customer lifecycle marketing is the idea that customer success depends on different messaging at different stages of their journey. How you talk to someone in the awareness stage differs significantly from how you should speak to them in the renewal or advocacy stages.
Your audience comes in all shapes and sizes, after all. Perhaps they’re new or loyal customers. They could be expert users of your CRM or starting out using your SaaS business for the first time. Some are just becoming aware of your product, and others are ready for cross-sell opportunities.
Maybe they’ve just seen your ad on social media, or possibly they’re pounding the pavement offering free advocacy for you because that’s just how great they think you are. Obviously, the latter situation is ideal … and you can get there by paying attention to customer lifecycle marketing.
The bottom line is that SaaS companies need to understand that no matter what, they’re constantly marketing to their customers. Yes, even after the sale. After all, renewing a software service or upgrading a product is nothing, if not another sale, so you’re technically marketing to that person the entire time they use your platform.
Companies that recognize this do better, plain and simple. They internalize these values not just in sales and marketing – while trying to get the customer to sign on the dotted line – but after, while they’re actively using the product. By moving away from pure pre-sale marketing and focusing on customer success throughout the entire lifespan, you can align your overall marketing strategy to decrease churn and increase profits.
Such a rosy outcome requires understanding the stages of the customer lifecycle.
Stages of the Customer Lifecycle
Customer lifecycle marketing comes in several distinct phases. From encountering your case studies through a LinkedIn ad to implementing new integrations into your software tool that they’ve happily used for years, it’s all part of your lifecycle marketing strategy.
This strategy should inform the SEO choices you make, the marketing channels you choose, the language you use, and more.
If you have many different kinds of potential customers – based on different buyer personas, pricing levels, referral statuses, upselling potential, or some other qualifier – then you will have several different customer lifecycles, each distributed across their own stages.
Overall, though, the customer lifecycle comes in six different stages. Let’s take a look now.
1. Awareness Stage
In the stages of the customer lifecycle, you don’t yet have a paying customer. Instead, the first stage involves identifying customer needs and making them feel seen. Perhaps you run an ad on LinkedIn or Instagram, send them to a landing page through a blog post, or pique their curiosity through a free eBook they find through a search engine.
2. Engagement Stage
Here’s where customer lifecycle marketing gets interesting. You can boost customer engagement through content marketing, email marketing, testimonials, workflow tutorials, webinars, and even phone or SMS touchpoints. All of these add to the sales funnel of the lifecycle marketing strategy. (BTW, marketing automation and templates can help here.)
3. Conversion Stage
The conversion stage – customer acquisition – occurs when your target audience is convinced that you understand their pain points and is ready to give your product a shot. Typically, a new SaaS customer will need to go through several rounds with the sales team before they’re prepared to commit, but you need to be prepared to move them to the onboarding stage as soon as they do.
4. Onboarding Stage
The onboarding stage is the most important one, hands down. However, it’s one of the most overlooked in meetings and marketing campaigns.
Why? Because the onboarding process comes right after software providers have nabbed the coveted prospect. They’ve transformed them from someone who might buy to someone who is actively paying, and the temptation to rest on one’s laurels at this point makes much sense.
However, it’s the very worst time to slow down your lifecycle marketing efforts.
When a new user starts putting your software to work, they need you the most. If they get your help, they’ll become a delighted customer and future promoter of your product. If they don’t, they can detract from your brand by complaining on social media and clogging up your customer support desk.
The very moment you take payment from them, you need to give them something of value in return: education. That way, they don’t have to wait 5 minutes after the transaction to use the product they’ve just purchased.
Instead, you walk them through getting started, then slowly begin adding new material in a scaffolded fashion over the days, weeks, and months to come. Your onboarding process needs to be flexible, responsive, predictive, and AI-led … all ensuring they get the best help they need when required.
5. Retention Stage
Success, retention, and advocacy are huge factors ensuring a high customer lifetime value. When you offer customers benefits such as a powerful LMS for customer training, many avenues for customer feedback (which are also ways to collect customer data), and customer loyalty programs, you’re likelier to stay together for longer.
6. Advocacy Stage
If you’ve done everything right, your customer relationships should be firm and customer retention high. You can continue to delight people with in-app extras, fantastic API integration, and rewards. You can also use them to create case studies, which they place on their channels – free advocacy for you.
Why Is Customer Lifecycle Marketing Important for Retention in B2B SaaS Companies?
We’ve discussed many of the reasons customer lifecycle marketing matters already. However, reticent stakeholders or marketing departments might have an easier time loosening the purse strings when they understand that a trueeven customer-focused strategy enables your company to:
Increase the level of customer success from before they even buy your product
Reduce churn and therefore prevent wasted onboarding dollars
Cross-sell and upsell more effectively
Encourage organizations to add more users to their subscription
Pay fewer refunds
Turn happy customers into raving superfans and get more word-of-mouth marketing
Enjoy a higher NPS (net promoter score)
Deal with fewer brand detractors and the fires they create
Since acquiring a new customer is about five times more expensive than keeping an existing one with you, ensuring your messages reach your audience in the post-sale stage is a no-brainer.
But … how do you do it?
How to Create a Killer Customer Lifecycle Marketing Strategy for a B2B SaaS Company
Here’s where the rubber meets the road. All the conceptual understanding of the customer lifecycle won’t save you if you fail to implement an intentional, thorough strategy to meet customer needs at every stage.
Excellent onboarding and continuous training are probably the best ways to ensure you turn more free trial customers and newbies into longstanding lovebirds.
However, each of the steps below is crucial if you want a well-rounded lifecycle marketing strategy that will work over the years and decades to come. You must integrate and implement these steps throughout your organization – not just a department or two. Let’s take a look.
Provide Thoughtful Onboarding and Continuous Training
As discussed, a good onboarding strategy is the very first step in creating happier customers who stick around and talk up your brand to others. Your onboarding process should include basic education of your product, deepening over time as customers “prove” their capabilities by leveraging more and more of the software’s potential.
However, it’s not enough simply to onboard them for a bit and then give them the ol’ bon voyage. Now you’ve just left the traveler stranded in Scotland with a bit more luggage than they had before, but it doesn’t change the basic situation.
Instead, your customers need to feel like, no matter what, you have their back. It requires you to implement a full-blown customer training program based on the academy model. To wit, you should:
Always offer a “next level” of learning
Hand out certificates of achievement at each level
“Gamify” the process of learning through quizzes, tests, interactive modules, and – yep – actual games
Support people through a ticketing system, live chat option, phone support, SMS, and so forth
Provide group interactions through chatrooms, Facebook groups, or – for the most elite users – special invitation-only opportunities
In doing the above, you will not only impress customers with your dedication to their success, but you will also learn where they get hung up. When they’re always on your platform learning, you have a much greater potential to understand which modules create confusion and which features are buggy. That’s fantastic free research!
De-Silo Marketing, Sales, and Customer Support
Too often, marketing, sales, and support all exist in vacuums. The right hand never knows what the left hand is doing … and that won’t work.
Instead, your internal training must ensure everyone understands everyone else’s role. How do sales troubleshoot problems after a prospect becomes a customer? How does marketing prepare people for sales? How can folks in the early awareness stage use your free options, and what kind of support will they get?
When everyone is on the same page, you can send people where they need to go much more effectively. And they’ll thank you for it.
Offer Loyalty and Affiliate Opportunities
When your customers do well using your product, you should reward them. You can do so in two ways:
Loyalty programs: These give back to customers in customizable ways. You can give them points for purchases, reward them the longer they use your service, or offer prizes as they move through your academy.
Affiliate opportunities: If your customers truly love you and have a platform, they can earn a commission by funneling customers through special links. Or you can give them a straight cash reward for each referral.
Let Raven360 Turn Your New Customers Into Loyal Fans Today
At the end of the day, a thorough customer lifecycle marketing strategy is your best bet for transforming your business from one that deals with the constant headache of churn to one that grows quickly and reliably and fosters an excellent public image to boot.
It all comes down to onboarding and training, however. If you don’t give people the tools they need to succeed, they’re much likelier to leave. That doesn’t mean constant handholding; it means a thoughtful training program, accessible 24/7 from anywhere with an internet connection, that acts as your customer’s teacher … while you don’t have to do a thing.
Sound too good to be true? It’s not. Let us show you how it works today.