Ignite the customer journey – where the lifecycle begins

Customer lifecycle marketing is built on an understanding of the journeys that customers take to discover your brand, purchase from you and make repeated purchases over the course of their life. In common lifecycle and journey models the stages of Awareness and Consideration come first. However, to form a clearer picture of how the journey begins, it’s best to rewind a little and see just what sets your customers on their way.

The journey really begins when the customer identifies a need (or want). Without need there is nothing! Learning exactly how these needs come into existence is the first step to understanding the kind of journey your potential customers will embark on. Begin by identifying the triggers and motivating factors that fuel customer needs for your product or service. Are there intrinsic or aspirational forces that drive a desire for you and your product or service? Or perhaps more tangible and immediate external factors have highlighted or accelerated that need. Through reflection and research you should be able to develop key insights into what sparks the journey for your customers.

Be the first thing that comes to mind
Upon recognising a need, what brands does the customer immediately think of as candidates to meet their needs? Is your brand up there? Brand awareness is shaped by many factors with advertising and word of mouth commonly doing much of the heavy lifting. You know your customers best, so focus brand awareness efforts on the channels that they are likely to see and respond to. As we’ll discover later in the lifecycle, your existing customers can be your greatest asset in driving awareness, so be sure you’re also providing a great experience from end to end to drive advocacy and positive word of mouth.

Know your touchpoints
With a recognised need and an existing awareness, customers begin their journey when they start seeking out and researching the various options and alternatives in what Google has recently termed ‘micro-moments.’ Gaining clarity on these moments means putting yourself in your customer’s shoes to understand their experience and what drives the steps they take to satisfy their needs. These moments of discovery and interaction involve valuable touchpoints across channels – from search and social to web and email. By knowing your customers and critical moments of their journey you’ll have a clear picture on how to be there on the right channels with the right content. Let’s take a closer look at some digital channels and how you can meet customer needs across touchpoints in the early journey stages of research and consideration.

Do you know what your customers are searching for? Use your site analytics to uncover the common search terms that lead customers to your website and be sure that you’ve optimised your site to display the most relevant results. Look into longer tail searches, particularly those posed as questions to gain insight into the thought process and intent of the customer. And pay attention to related terms that your competitors rank for – you may uncover some untapped opportunities by thinking creatively here. By aligning your onsite optimisation and paid search efforts with what you’ve learned about your customers, you’ll be better placed to show up when they’re looking for a solution to a specific problem.

Email marketing and automations can be invaluable to keeping potential customers engaged through their discovery process. Implement email marketing to both educate about your product and service offering and nurture towards a purchase. Think about the kind of information customers are looking for based on the interactions they have with you and provide them with content that’s valuable. For eCommerce, this could be a series of welcome emails that tell your brand’s story and provide useful content that will assist their purchase decision. For professional services, you could implement a lead nurturing series which answers common questions while progressively sweetening the deal to drive serious enquiry. Take advantage of progressive profiling and segmentation with your email efforts to learn more about your customers as they travel through their journey.

Beyond the pretty Instagram photos and funny Facebook videos, management of your social channels goes a long way to building trust and credibility as potential customers learn about your brand. How many times have you gone straight to the Facebook page of a cafe or local shop to check their opening hours? When you were there, what impression did you get about the brand based on their recent content? Alternatively, have you ever tweeted a company when in need of support? If so, how long did they take to reply? In all, consider what you’re customers are looking for in the early stages of the journey and how social channels can be utilised affirm your credibility.

Website Content
When a user reaches your website for the first time, do they find what they need? Based on what you’ve learned about your customers needs, the content you present on your site should help to answer their questions clearly and simply. Blog articles, how-to videos, e-Books and even well presented and detailed product listings all help the user to solve their problem. The more you help, the more likely they are to trust your brand and return when it’s time to purchase. Great content can also be the perfect hook to generate subscribers and leads, giving you the perfect opportunity to continue the relationship with email marketing.

Contact & Enquiry
Even the best content can’t answer every question so when a customer wants to make contact, be sure to make this process simple and hassle free. Contact points on your site should be easy to navigate to and provide customers with the details they expect. If you funnel enquiries through a form, strike a balance between what is quick and easy for the user and what information you need to initiate an informed conversation. A good experience at this stage of the game can be key to winning over a new customer.

For me, the customer experience is everything. The way a customer discovers your brand and the interactions they have with you along the way are the most valuable opportunities in marketing. Create a fantastic experience and you’ll have customers for life! My passions lie in exploring customer journeys with brands and uncovering opportunities to generate value while also optimising experiences. Striking this balance is motivated by the idea that a customer is for life. Great marketing works interactively with the customer through their lifetime, solving their problems and meeting needs along the way. When I’m not rocking out lifecycle marketing strategies, you’ll find me hanging out at cafes and record stores or playing guitar somewhere - always geeking out about the intricacies of music past, present and future. Otherwise, I’ll be pottering around in my garden attempting to grow some veggies!

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