It's about the customer lifecycle, not just closing the deal

A shortsighted focus on closing the deal can cause a company to come up short of its real goal of nurturing consumers throughout the customer lifecycle.

While companies have come to understand the importance of the customer experience to revenue, they still struggle with the concept of nurturing customers over time.

Some are overly focused on securing a onetime sale rather than forging long-standing customer bonds and loyalty. But this focus is shortsighted.

Companies have, unfortunately, been too preoccupied with closing single deals rather than cultivating the customer lifecycle -- that is, nurturing a relationship with a customer from the time that a prospect learns about a company as a product, to when he makes his first purchase, to the time following the sale -- when companies have opportunities to convert a onetime customer into a repeat customer.

According to a Forrester report on the customer lifecycle, chief marketing officers (CMOs) need to take specific lifecycle actions to win, serve and retain customers:

  • CMOs must match specific customer activities with tailored marketing actions to deepen engagement and enhance customer relationships.
  • CMOs must use the customer lifecycle to reorient measurement and analytics approaches -- from measuring specific touch points and transactional activities to calculating the value of the complete customer relationship.

Generic messaging is no longer effective for consumers who want companies to create interactions and experiences based on their history with a company. Companies need to be able to enlist that all-important customer account data in the course of new interactions. In addition, an Accenture study found that 55% of consumers want a personalized experience on all engagement channels.

Here are two examples of brands that are getting it right -- and how.

Automation and dynamic personalization

Women's fashion company BCBG Max Azria Group Inc. has been in business for more than 25 years, but it lacked a customer lifecycle marketing strategy. It understood, however, that its customer base had three segments, and each group required unique actions to become interested and engaged. It used marketing automation software to capture customer browsing behavior on its website and send triggered email messages to the right customers at the right times.

Companies have, unfortunately, been too preoccupied with closing single deals rather than cultivating the customer lifecycle.

"We had one welcome email and then maybe they bought or didn't buy, and we would just batch-and-blast marketing emails to them," said Tommy Lamb, former manager of e-commerce marketing at BCBG Max Axria. The company came to recognize that generic conversations didn't work, so it used automation to help achieve more personalized connections with customers.

  • BCBG Max Azria identified four key "triggers" and developed associated triggered email messages to deploy according to a customer's actions or inactions.
  • Additionally, notification messaging based on shopping behaviors were sent. The messaging referenced not only clothing items that had been viewed or new arrivals, but also related clothing items that might be of interest.

The company reports that triggered email messages averaged a 525% increase in clickthrough rates when compared with nontriggered sends. In addition, open rates saw a lift of more than 220% when compared with the brand's nontriggered sends. The company is now working on customized landing pages so that when consumers click through an email, they will be taken to a page with the BCBG branding that also is dynamically populated with a personalized product assortment.

Data for greater understanding

AMResorts, a luxury leisure company, needed a better way to view its guest lifecycle across its 37 upscale resorts in order to deliver more personalized guest engagement. It used a data solution to study consumer actions and gain insights that drove new tactics.

Guest data from all six AMResorts brands was integrated into one central data warehouse. This enabled guest segmentation to drive rules-based decisions on personalized marketing content and communications to three key life stage consumers: prospects, reservation holders or recent guests.

By delving deep into its data, AMResorts was better able to understand the impact of its campaigns throughout all digital channels. This, in turn, enabled the company to fine-tune specific messaging and actions relevant to each segment, thereby driving more personalized and meaningful communications, according to Erica Doyne, senior director of marketing at AMResorts.

In summary, customers will continue to expect greater relevance and higher-quality brand experiences. The only way to keep them and deepen engagement is to provide increasing levels of relevance and value across their ongoing customer lifecycle.

For more on marketing engagement strategies, see Ernan Roman Direct Marketing.

Next Steps

Customer engagement: the path to building customer loyalty

The importance of personalization to retaining customers

Better customer engagement through CRM

Dig Deeper on Customer loyalty and retention