Acquisition, Activation, Cultivation And Conversion

This is a common sales lifecycle for most marketers from a business perspective.  A closer look at today's definitions of these categories shows that some have changed from past seasons.

Acquisition:  The art of generating new customer business, right?  Some define this by a conversion or sales event.  Many in the email marketing space are redefining this to mean acquiring a permissible engagement.  The net is, millions of consumers are online, most use email, and organizations are trying to engage as many as possible through email so they can bridge and lengthen the sales cycle. When you get three seconds to communicate your product, make a connection to a customer value set and creative enticement, that's becoming more and more expensive to do these days.   The art of acquisition is defined by the "consideration cycle" involved in buying, and the channel chosen for acquisition changes how much you can move the needle during this cycle. Redefining the term acquisition through all channels will help keep you sane in today's world.  Comparing all channels equally and only valuing a conversion event will keep you running in circles.



Activation:  This used to be defined as re-engaging old customers or dormant customers. Today it is being defined as maximizing the first purchase.  Whether you are selling car insurance, hotel bookings, women's apparel, automobiles or business software solutions, your goal in the activation phase is to maximize the first purchase and move people down the "ready-to-buy" scale. Many marketers are taking an extended view of the sales cycle and are trying creative ways to activate a customer through promotional, seasonal and targeting content and offers through a multi-step program.  Anything to help the customer "actualize" the purchase event and amortize the initial acquisition cost.  We call this lead incubation or lead funneling, and it can even be categorized for cross-sell -- but requires you to leverage all touch points to be successful.

Cultivation:  In the days of CRM, cultivation was about customer relationship management.  Today it has evolved to touch point management.  The cultivation of a customer relationship has evolved channels and emerged into "discrete experiences." Yes, this seems soft, but much focus has been put on optimizing email to balance offline and online experiences in cultivating a client's relationship with your brand.  In layman's terms, this is about identifying your highest value, lowest value, and channel value customers and optimizing programs, testing and analysis to your programs.  This can include loyalty programs, content programs, advocacy programs, cause marketing -- anything that ties the brand and the consumer to a common experience.  The last mile of this phase is to monetize these events through database value sets.

Conversion:  Intuitively, we all understand this.  It's about maximizing the conversion event.  Yesterday this was the endpoint in the dialogue.  Today it's the fourth step in the sales cycle, and never-ending.  Yes, businesses are taking a longer-term view of the customer and willing to invest more.  If you believe it costs more to engage a new customer than to market to an existing one -- that's yesterday's thinking.  Today's thinking is about creating the most commercially valuable program for your business.  Some customers may have transactional value to you, some may have content syndication value, and some may just be monetized "eyeballs" for your site advertising and newsletter programs.  While acquiring new customers is costly, so is growing a database and marketing in mass without responsible quarantines of non-responder customer segments, which can make up 40% of your email file today. 

While this is a business view of the sales lifecycle, it's important to recognize that we have less control over this cycle today than we did in the past.   It can/will vary dramatically by product, customer segment, and multichannel influence.  Your recognition of this -- and program balance -- will be the catalyst to your success.

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