Five Steps for Implementing A Lifecycle Marketing Plan

The concept of lifecycle marketing has been around for some time, and most marketers do it to some extent, even if they don't call it "lifecycle marketing," per se. It goes hand-in-hand with segmentation -- and unfortunately, just as with segmentation, we still see a lot of marketers who do not leverage this strategic imperative, or do it poorly. Here are five key steps for making lifecycle marketing work for you, whether you are a beginner, or want to take a step back and evaluate your current program.

Step 1. Focus on your data. Lifecycle marketing, like segmentation, requires good data or its success will be limited. One of the hallmarks of lifecycle marketing is that it is based on customers' previous behavior, and is thus a great candidate for the inclusion of triggered messaging programs based on customer data. You'll want to identify those database elements that can be used as a basis for sending automated messages. A good example would be an airline that automatically sends out an email when a traveler is 10,000 miles from reaching the next elite level, in an effort to encourage the person to complete that goal. Everyone sends an email once you've hit the goal, but hardly anyone sends this type of anticipatory message. Having the right data to create this type of message is critical.



Step 2. Understand and define the stages of your customers' lifecycle. You may have different names for the various stages, depending on organizational language or what your college professor called them, but the five stages are generally called Acquisition, Conversion, Growth, Retention, and Reactivation. Our goal is to answer the question "What do we do at each stage to move the customer to the next stage, or keep them in a given stage?" You'll also need to answer the question of how you define each stage. What constitutes a first "conversion" in your business? When has someone lapsed and entered the "reactivation" stage? The answers will vary by customer segment and industry. This lifecycle identification exercise should be undertaken for each business unit within the organization, since different groups may well have different customer types.

Step 3. Identify and plot your current programs. Write down each one of your email programs and mailings. This includes promotional, transactional and service-related emails. Don't worry about where they fall in the customer lifecycle initially. This is intended to be a brain dump to identify all the marketing messages out there. After you've listed all your programs, plot them on a lifecycle continuum chart so that you can see the spectrum of coverage. Some will span multiple stages. Identify areas of high concentration and areas for opportunity. Seeing this visual depiction of your current state should give you ideas on how to address your efforts in each stage. You should also perform this assessment across all channels, as lifecycle marketing does not apply only to email. The customer 's interaction with your brand is not usually limited to a single channel.

Step 4. Modify and optimize your marketing programs. Based on the results of the previous step, you'll likely want to modify current programs or define new ones. Few marketers have it exactly right, and so now is the time to identify areas for improvement. New triggered programs may be called for. Certain segments may need additional, or reduced, messaging. Offer tests might be defined. The possibilities are endless, so don't be shy about trying out new ideas.

Step 5. Test and validate. A key element of any marketing program is validation of your efforts, to make sure that you're on the right track. With that in mind, make sure that you include test and control groups for your programs, so you can show that lifecycle marketing is working as it should.

1 comment about "Five Steps for Implementing A Lifecycle Marketing Plan ".
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  1. Jared stivers, January 19, 2009 at 4:33 p.m.

    Excellent article Richard. I especially like step 5, test and validate. Don't forget once the testing is complete to record the results to build up a body of knowlege about your customers and prospects.

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