Once a new customer is on board, many marketers believe their job is done, and they move on to finding as many more new prospects as possible – as quickly as possible. But this outlook really focuses on only a portion of the overall customer opportunity, and ignores equally important milestones that can lead to even more incremental business revenue.
Here are four phases of the customer lifecycle where email can play a central role in acquiring, serving and building trust with customers, while increasing business for your firm:
- Acquisition: While this phase traditionally requires the lion’s share of marketers’ time and budget, starting from square one by attempting to reach those who have never heard of you or your products need not be your sole focus. That’s because, in today’s information age, the vast majority of purchasers are doing more research on their own before ever reaching out to a vendor. A recent survey by the Consumer Executive Board found that corporate decision makers can be up to 70% of the way through their purchase decision processes before contacting a potential supplier. Leveraging data to track their digital behaviors, marketers can approach these self-initiated prospects more intelligently and with a greater understanding of their interests and preferences. Such data-driven email campaigns can be a powerful engine that can accelerate – and even automate – the customer acquisition process. In fact, by 2020, Gartner predicts that 80% of the buying process will occur automatically without any direct human-to-human intervention.
- Onboarding: I’ve written previously about the importance of leveraging email for customer onboarding, including key steps such as the welcome, getting started, activation and completing customer profiles. But it’s equally important for marketers to evaluate consumption data to understand how their customers are using their product to identify untapped capabilities that can improve their experience and overall success. Once again, email can be the vehicle to deliver such communications, either via personalized messages to help customers navigate functionality (e.g. “we notice you haven’t used the ABC feature… did you know this could increase processing capacity X% and allow you to automate XYZ….”)… or more general FAQs, tips and tricks, common troubleshooting issues, etc. Ensuring your customers are set up for success is critical – a study by ServiceSource says that if you haven’t created a loyal customer within the first 90 days, there’s only a 10 percent chance they will ever become one at all. This stage is dedicated to ensuring that your customer extracts the most value possible from their purchase, as this will increase their satisfaction and drive the next two important lifecycle milestones.
- Expansion: Once successful and satisfied with your product or service, your customers will be open to your business expansion communication. Here, cross-sell and up-sell messages should deliver helpful guidance to increase customer satisfaction even further through complementary solutions. Such communications should, however, not be overly “sales-y” – spamming customers with obvious promotional messages will only annoy them. Instead, utilize product use metrics to drive the content and illustrate how incremental products can improve their overall user experience. Recommend only the most applicable products and services – with a pitch sent via email at the optimal time in their customer journey.
- Renewal: The last stage in the customer lifecycle is where the company informs the customer (via email) that their warranty, use period or subscription is about to end, and offers a compelling and easy method for continuing the relationship. Thus, this phase is really about perpetuating the relationship, and restarting the customer lifecycle relationship from step one in an ever-repeating loop. After all, engaging customer relationships really have no end, and it is incumbent on marketers to continually nurture such interactions to maximize lifetime customer value. Indeed, most marketers know about the costs of keeping clients vs. obtaining new ones. According to Bain and Co., a 5% increase in customer retention can increase a company’s profitability by 75%, while Gartner says that 80% of a company’s future revenue will come from just 20% of its existing customers.
As more consumer and business purchases are moved online, digitized selling approaches are required to be successful. And yet despite this transformation, tried and true email continues to stand front and center in the digital revolution. Combined with insightful data and email automation, marketers can track the digital behaviors of their prospects and customers, and approach them via email more intelligently with offers that meet their specific interests and desires. Email then serves as the engine of a continuous sales cycle along every phase of the customer journey.
Powerful stuff indeed.
Email marketing can be a key driver for business growth throughout the customer lifecycle. If you need to expand your email list to engage more effectively with your ideal prospects and, ultimately, drive more leads for your business, consider giving Outward Media a try. Also, take a look at our complimentary new e-book on building a successful email marketing database.