You probably spend a tremendous amount of time building and optimizing sales funnels for your business. And as long as you’re putting in the work, most funnels, even poorly constructed ones, will generate leads and sales. Build, test, optimize and repeat. The cycle never ends.

What if changing just one aspect of your sales process had the potential to dramatically and positively affect the results you were achieving? What if changing your approach to the sales process could lower your customer acquisition cost and help to build longer-term customer relationships? Would you be interested in learning more?

Those are two things that we’re going to help you understand more as we take a closer look at lifecycle marketing strategy explained in layperson’s terms. This is the closest thing to the holy grail of sales that ever existed.

Just last week we published an article that outlines how HubSpot can help redefine your sales and marketing process. As you’re reading through this post, although it can seem overwhelming, rest assured that tools exist to make this process relatively pain free.

Why Lifecycle Marketing?

Most online (and offline) businesses have a sales funnel in place and yours is probably no different. Although the names for each stage can vary slightly, most funnels are built around the concept of attracting as many leads as possible, converting them via some kind of opt-in mechanism and then once you’ve got their email address, trying to sell a product or service. Sounds familiar right?

There is nothing inherently wrong with this concept, in fact, it forms the foundation of what we’re going to talk about in this post. But there are a few subtle changes that need to be considered when adopting a lifecycle marketing approach. One particular issue that plagues many sales funnels is the tendency to paint all leads and all customers with the same color brush.

Most businesses treat their customers as one-dimensional beings. Expecting each one to enter the sale funnel at the same place and to follow the same path as the person before them. It just doesn’t work that way. Not all customers are ready to make a purchase the first time they visit your website. Quite often, they’re not even ready to share their contact information.

Unfortunately, that’s the assumption we often make. We build a sales page, drop in a contact or opt-in form and wait for leads to start falling out the bottom of the funnel. You’ve built a sales funnel that meets the needs of your company, but what about your potential customer? How do they feel about your sales process?

The minute you realize that every lead, every prospect and every customer is different, you open yourself and your business up to a whole new way of approaching the sales process. Every customer has different motivations and different needs and by being aware of them, you are better positioned to meet them head on.

The path each of your lead will follow is similar, but never the exact same. If you can build a sales funnel that meets the needs of most (not all) of your prospects, you’ll be able to help more of them to complete the sales process successfully.

The Stages of the Customer Life Cycle

Fully embracing a lifecycle marketing approach involves creating content that is appropriate for each stage of your customer’s buying journey. This is very different than creating content for your sales funnel. While many approaches like to narrow the process down to four steps, we’ll present a slightly more detailed approach that involves six.

Generating Traffic

The first phase of the process is obvious enough — generating traffic. At this stage, we’re not usually concerned with trying to discern which traffic is qualified and which isn’t, the more the merrier. Traffic can be generated organically or via paid search.

Generating Leads

When a visitor arrives on your website, the objective becomes converting the qualified traffic to a lead. This can be done through the creation of a lead magnet — an exchange of useful or valuable information for a visitors contact details, usually an email address.

Coming up with ideas for content can be as simple as making note of questions or objections that are presented by prospects and customers. Create content that addresses a wide variety of questions or objections. Every lead will be slightly different and content that converts one lead may not work for another.

Establishing & Nurturing Relationships

As soon as a visitor to your site opts to provide you with their contact information you have an opportunity to begin nurturing the relationship. This can be done through the creation of helpful or useful content. That could include written content, videos, webinars or in-person seminars. Provide the type of content that your leads indicate as useful. This is your first opportunity to demonstrate your responsiveness to their needs.

The most important thing to remember during the nurturing process is to avoid the inclination to close the sale too soon. You will almost always have more prospects who are not yet ready to buy than those who are. If you try to close a sale too soon, you’re demonstrating a need to fulfill your needs before theirs.

Closing the Sale

As your relationship with a lead strengthens, some will move further into the sales process while others will drop off. At this stage of the customer’s lifecycle, it’s ok to start making offers that hint towards a purchase or commitment. This might involve a one-on-one consultation or a trial offer. There is often a further exchange of contact information at this point as well — perhaps a name and phone number. All of these things are indicators that the level of trust is increasing.

Deliver & Exceed Expectations

One of the most critical parts of the sales lifecycles occurs during the delivery of your service or product. It’s an opportunity to under promise and over deliver, to exceed your customer’s expectations.

Anytime a customer trusts you enough to make a purchase, there is also an opportunity to foster a longer term relationship. How you achieve this will depend upon your particular product or service — the objective is to keep lines of communication open.

Upselling

Every new customer represents an opportunity to either upsell or generate a referral which is why our previous step of exceeding expectations is so important. Each time an existing customer purchases from you, your customer acquisition cost as a percentage of each sale decreases. Another benefit to upsells is that your sales cycle is always significantly shorter because you’re already established trust and a line of communication.

A Flexible Approach

Beyond the individual stages of lifecycle marketing, it’s important to remember that neither the strategy or tactics are set in stone. In fact, the best approach is a flexible one — experiment by trying new tactics. Refine what works, discard what doesn’t.

Above all, remember that the process you are creating is more about your customer’s journey than your sales process. Meet your customer’s needs and the sales will happen.

If your company has recently implemented a more robust lifecycle approach to marketing, please share your experiences and challenges in the comments below.

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