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Creating content just for the sake of it is a waste of time. If you’ve been creating content without a plan to support it, you’re in for an unpleasant surprise. That surprise is a lack of customers even though you thought you did everything in your power to attract them to your business.
Sure, you might still get some website traffic. However, content creation should be the result of a strategy that is meant to nurture your prospects so that they go from the start to the end of the customer life cycle at least once.
What’s the customer life cycle?
The customer life cycle is the process of taking your customer through different stages of their familiarity with your product or service. Unlike the customer journey, it’s the consumers’ path understood from the businesses’ perspective. It begins with a prospect becoming aware of your business and getting more and more familiar with it. Then it takes them to the point when they, ideally, become your brand advocate.
What are the stages of the customer life cycle?
The nomenclature of different stages of the customer life cycle will differ significantly depending on the source you look up. However, all the names that you’ll come across are alternative terms used to describe the same sets of customers’ behavior. Our guide to the seasonal ecommerce rush distinguishes five main stages of the customer life cycle:
Now, let’s take a look at the naming convention used by:
- Alexa: Awareness, engagement, evaluation, purchase, post-purchase, and advocacy.
- HubSpot: Discovery, education, purchase, post-purchase engagement, and advocacy.
- BigCommerce: Reach, acquire, develop/nurture, retention, and advocacy.
While you can instantly spot minor differences, it’s also easy to see the similarities between awareness and discovery that are both names for the first stage of the customer life cycle. For the purpose of this article, let’s stick to awareness, consideration, purchase, retention, and advocacy.
It’s the first stage of the customer life cycle marketing, and it’s crucial to your success further down the line. Bear in mind that your potential customers don’t know your brand at this point. However, they’re soon to find out about you. At this stage, you want to paint with a broad brush. Your prospects have a general idea of what their problem is. If you bombard them with too many details the first time they come across your brand, they’ll probably look for something less overwhelming.
Make your content memorable. If it’s dull and provides nothing more than raw data without context, your prospects won’t even remember your brand when they move to the consideration stage. Create content that answers real questions your customers might type into their search engines.
If you sell table tennis equipment, write an article or record a video that outlines the five best table tennis rackets and their pros and cons. Apart from remembering your brand, your prospects will keep in mind that you offer quite a few options to choose from.
As your prospects move further down the sales funnel, you want your content to be more specific. Your prospects are now well aware of the problem they want to solve, and they start weighing their options. Those who still want to buy a new table tennis racket will want to know more than just a list of rackets. Some of them will be determined to up their game. They’ll want to find answers to more advanced questions like, “How can I add more swerve to my serve?”
If your competitors stopped at creating entry-level content, you’re already a step ahead of them. When it’s time to make up their minds, your prospects will appreciate the time and effort you put into creating content that’ll help them solve their problems.
At this stage, you’re one step away from getting a new customer. They’re almost 100% sure they want to buy from you, but some of them will need one last nudge before they hit the “buy” button. The good thing is that, apart from owned content, you can also rely on user-generated content like testimonials and reviews. It’s unlikely you’ll have 100% positive reviews, but keep an eye on what people say about your brand online. You don’t want your potential customers to fall at the last hurdle because of a negative review that was handled poorly or wasn’t replied to at all.
When it comes to owned content, case studies or success stories work very well. They’re some of the best ways to illustrate to your potential customer how your product or service improved the lives of other customers that have already bought from you. Make them relatable so that someone on the verge of becoming your customer sees that it’ll also help them solve a problem they’re facing if it helped similar customers in the past.
Case studies take a lot of time to prepare. If you’re short on resources, you might lean towards less time-consuming pieces of content like a webpage pop-up offering a discount for signing up for a newsletter. Most people despise pop-ups. They also love discounts, though. With a pop-up like this, you kill two birds with one stone. You get a new customer, and you also open a new line of communication that will help you further educate your new customers in the retention stage.
You might intuitively think that the purchase stage is your end goal. Sure, your business won’t grow without getting new customers, but it’s retention and repeat customers that’ll be the driving force behind your business’s success. About 80% of a company’s future profits come from 20% of its existing customers, according to Gartner.
On top of that, increasing customer retention rates by 5% increases profits by 25% to 95%, says research by Frederick Reichheld of Bain & Company, the inventor of the net promoter score. The numbers will obviously be different depending on your industry. It would be a massive waste of your effort if you didn’t try to convince your newly acquired customers to buy more of your product or service. How can you do that?
Webinars are a great way to educate your customers about the benefits and features that they might not have been aware of until the purchase. Once they see the full value of your product or service, they’ll be more inclined to buy from you in the future. Also, think about in-depth how-tos that will help your customers make the best of your service or product.
Building a community around your brand can be another way to increase retention. Choose between an open community for everyone to join or create a closed group only for paying customers. A sense of belonging to a group of similar people will make your customers feel more attached to your brand. Being a part of a community ties in with advocacy, which is the next logical step in the customer life cycle.
At this stage, your most dedicated customers will start creating content for you. It’s called user-generated content (UGC). Apart from your customers raving about your business on their own, you can curate UGC on your own social channels. That’ll help you attract new prospects that are in the awareness stage. It’ll also help convince those still on the fence in the consideration stage.
While it’s great to have UGC, that doesn’t mean that you can stop creating content for your brand advocates. Create surveys that invite them to share their feedback on your product or service and offer rewards for that feedback. This will make them feel appreciated and realize that they influence your business. You can also think about setting up something similar to Dropbox’s referral program that catapulted them to 3900% growth.
There are many variables to take into account while planning your customer life cycle marketing. It’ll take different amounts of time to go through all the stages for a customer of a B2B SaaS than it will for a customer of a real estate agency, for instance.
We all hope our prospects will eventually turn into brand advocates. That’s an idyllic picture, but we don’t live in a fairy tale. In fact, only a small percentage of your potential customers will reach the last stage and become repeat customers. That doesn’t mean that you should neglect the content you create for any of the stages of the customer life cycle marketing. Most importantly, remember that marketing doesn’t end when a user signs up for a trial and buys your product or service. It continues way beyond that.