Can you decide to get married to someone on the first date? The answer is no as there’s an order to relationships as everyone needs time to process and nurture things.
The same goes for your customers. Your potential customers can’t decide to buy after the very first interaction with your brand. Learning to understand and respect the order of your customer’s relationship with your brand is crucial. It helps you to convert customers faster and more efficiently through targeted messages sent at opportune times.
Most marketers leverage emails as the primary marketing tool to communicate directly with customers.
But if the emails you are sending are not bringing any value to your business in the form of conversions, new subscribers, or additional purchases, then you are doing something wrong.
And this is where lifecycle email marketing comes in.
In this comprehensive guide, we will differentiate between the emails to send to customers at different stages of the lifecycle, until they transform from strangers to brand advocates. But before that, let’s discover what customer lifecycle and lifecycle email marketing mean.
What’s a Customer Lifecycle?
The ultimate objective of any business is to convert its audiences into customers by leveraging relevant marketing tactics. But conversions shouldn’t be the only metric for judging your company’s performance. What if, for example, the leads that you have converted into paying customers end up purchasing your products one time only and never come back.
This is where the customer lifecycle comes into the picture as it helps you optimize all the stages a customer goes through during the conversion process with your brand.
It begins from the moment when you first grab the attention of a quality lead and encompasses all the stages of their interaction with your brand before, during, and after making the buying call.
You can define the customer lifecycle for your business the way you want because it’s unique for every business.
For example, the customer lifecycle of big brands like Walgreens or Starbucks is short where every purchase sets up the buyer to circle back quickly.
However, if you take the example of real estate agents or auto dealers, their customer lifecycle is considerably longer. In this case, the goal is to turn your one-time car or house buyers into brand ambassadors for driving word of mouth that will bring in more leads rather than trying to win over their business again immediately.
Despite the variations in the customer lifecycle of different business verticals, the ultimate objective of every customer lifecycle is to prevent customers from reaching the endpoint in their buyer’s journey and pulling them back to being a repeat customer.
To achieve this goal, businesses must stay relevant and continue offering value to their customers.
The customer lifecycle is composed of five different stages:
- Awareness – This is the discovery phase when a potential customer becomes aware of your brand’s existence.
- Consideration – At this stage, the prospect starts thinking that your brand is worth their attention, and they might even start following you on social media or subscribe to your mailing list to know more about your products and services.
- Purchase – At this point, the prospect finally becomes a paying customer by making their first purchase.
- Retention – After your prospect turned into a paying customer, it’s your turn to make efforts to deepen your relationships with them. Make them feel appreciated and valuable so they become a loyal customer rather than a one time buyer!
- Advocacy – Once you have retained your customers, the goal is to turn them into brand advocates. Such loyal customers won’t only purchase your products, but they’ll recommend your brand to their family members, acquaintances, friends, and colleagues.
Why Base Your Email Campaigns On Customer Lifecycle?
“Lifecycle Marketing isn’t just about sending messages customers might like—it’s about positively influencing their behavior.” – Anthony Nygren (Executive VP At EMI Strategic Marketing)
Lifecycle email marketing is all about understanding the specific stages of the customer journey and tailoring your email campaigns with the intent of delivering content aligned with those stages.
It will help you in refraining from bombarding your potential customers with email blasts. And instead, help them move through the funnel in a streamlined manner.
Remember, whenever one of your prospects gets an email that isn’t relevant to them, you are pushing them closer to unsubscribing.
Lifecycle emails are effective as they let you speak to your customers at the most important times and help in engaging with them to create a personalized experience. The biggest advantage of lifecycle email marketing is that it allows you to send segmented emails for different groups of your target customers.
As evident in the statistics above, lifecycle emails facilitate conversions and business growth. If done well, these emails can help in building a long-lasting relationship with potential customers.
With lifecycle emails, you can build customer relationships that lead to higher open and transaction rates. They empower your business with opportunities for personalizing your email campaigns according to the products purchased or other store interactions done by your customers and let you send the right message to the right person at the right time!
Tailoring your email campaigns based on the customer lifecycle has many advantages :
- The email content is tailored to suit individual customers and target their specific needs which increases the chance of conversions.
- Personalized emails are relevant to your potential buyers and the specific customer journey stages they are in hence they feel understood and valued as an individual.
- Even if some of your prospects don’t convert, they still find your email content valuable and informative as it’s tailored to suit their requirements.
So, to create tailored email campaigns in alignment with your customer lifecycle, you must master the art of implementing lifecycle email marketing campaigns.
How? Let’s dive in.
Types of Lifecycle Emails with Examples
Companies use lifecycle emails to increase sales, optimize customers’ lifetime value, and boost retention. There are two types of lifecycle emails:
Automated lifecycle emails
Sent automatically. Onboarding emails, welcome emails, special offers/discounts or coupon emails, order confirmation emails, cart abandonment emails, transactional emails, re-engagement emails, etc. are a couple of examples of automated lifecycle emails.
Manually sent lifecycle emails
Personalized emails that are sent based on different situations and tailored according to the specific requirements of the customers. Referral opportunities, surveys, marketing newsletters, product updates, etc. are some examples of manually sent lifecycle emails.
Lifecycle marketing campaigns aren’t one-size-fits-all tactics. Marketers must learn to adapt each campaign to their industry, buyer personas, and specific business goals. To send targeted lifecycle emails, it’s crucial to keep the different stages of your customer lifecycle in mind and tailor your message accordingly.
Let’s explore a few examples of lifecycle emails that marketers can leverage at different stages of the customer lifecycle, as well as suggestions for who should be in charge of creating these emails.
The Awareness Stage
At this stage, your prospects aren’t your paying customers but have the potential to become so as they’ve taken some sort of action to engage with your brand such as visiting your website or clicking one of your Facebook posts, or subscribing to your newsletter!
Here, you have to push these prospects so they make their first purchase with your brand. Sending lifecycle emails at the awareness stage is the toughest as usually, you don’t have the email addresses of your prospects. However, many times they give their emails while subscribing somewhere on your website or through a promotion or giveaway.
Moreover, you can use an email validation solution that’s one of the best sales tools marketers must have in their email marketing arsenal. These tools help them in verifying the email addresses and sending emails to the right prospects as many of them will turn into paying customers after a few months!
You can begin the process of building a healthy relationship with your prospects by offering them some value such as free content or a coupon. Also, you can request them to explore your best selling products. Although, you’d want to personalize your product offerings based on the preferences of your prospects but don’t have that information at this stage.
Moreover, harnessing the power of social media can be the game-changer for you at grabbing prospects’ attention at the awareness stage. Today, 67% of marketers believe that social media channels can contribute to their organization’s revenue. Social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn allow you to increase your contacts’ awareness and engagement with your brand.
Once you have loyal followers on social media channels you can get their email addresses and start sending them emails to make them aware of your blog and offerings for nudging them into the research or consideration stage.
Some of the most common emails at this stage are the Free trial and subscription activation emails. However, welcome emails and emails containing announcements like an upcoming sale or a new product launch, and emails having educational actionable, impactful content are perfect for this stage. These emails should ideally be sent by marketers.
For example, for welcoming free newsletter subscribers The Economist includes an upsell for their premium subscriptions. Such warm welcome emails confirm the subscription of the premium subscribers and allow them to start discovering new articles right away!
Similarly, the free trial email by BigCommerce offering a 15 days free trial is a part of their automated lifecycle nurturing campaign having a link to an educational guide:
This approach lets companies allow prospects to get to know their product better. The moment when a prospect fills in more personal details, BigCommerce has an opportunity to create personalized offers to lead the potential buyers to move down through the marketing funnel and get converted into customers.
Besides, at this stage, you can embed email popups to give your sign-up forms improved visibility. Email popup helps you in pushing the targeted messages in such a way that potential customers feel excited to opt-in for your offer. For example, here is an email popup by Guiltysoles.com:
Their target audience is women and they’ve designed the popup by keeping them in mind. After all, how many women would say no to a free pair of shoes!
The Consideration Stage
At this stage, you know that the prospects are interested in your products and services but not completely ready to click the “Buy Now” button. The challenge here is to create a buzz about your brand in the mind of these prospects without sounding too salesy!
As per professional blogger and internet marketer Jeremy Noronha:
“The middle of the funnel also gives you an opportunity to understand your customers goals and interests. You can then leverage this to recommend suitable solutions for them to solve their problems.”
So, once you have identified your potential buyers now your job is to create exciting offers around your offerings. Your emails at the consideration stage should introduce your products and services to these quality leads and tell them why they should care about them!
Case studies, personalized product recommendations, relevant testimonials, research results, and webinars, slide decks, eBooks, white papers, instructional videos, etc. are some of the most effective emails at the consideration stage and they should be sent by whosoever is handling the onboarding process in an organization.
Let’s take a look at the consideration stage email from Visme which is a visual content solution for enterprises, businesses, and individuals:
Visme’s email is perfect because it has a relevant case study, high-quality resources, and a pre-recorded tutorial where each one is explaining the product and persuading the prospects why they should care about creating visual content!
Moreover, the email is crisp and has a well-designed email button with a punchy CTA (Call-to-Action) for encouraging the leads to take the desired action leading to higher conversion rates.
Another example of an ideal lifecycle email for the consideration stage is the email by Throne:
Thorne is giving an offer to its newsletter subscribers by encouraging them to take the “Take 5 Daily” quiz to help them in determining which of the company’s supplements is the best for them. Ultimately, the goal of the Throne here is to move the subscribers from consideration to the buying stage. Also, they’ve included a very engaging CTA “Learn More”.
With the help of the quiz Thorne tries to address the pain points that potential buyers have when searching for supplements. As they aren’t sure which ones are right for them the quiz will help them find the best with the help of a fun process.
The Buying Stage
This is the most crucial stage of your customer lifecycle because now the qualified leads are on the verge of making the final buying call and are weighing the pros and cons of your offerings.
An email from your end can make or break their decision as 59% of customers believe that marketing emails influence their buying decisions! So, better keep your emails at the buying stage top-notch otherwise you’ll lose your potential buyers.
Emails at this stage must have the power to encourage your leads to pull out the money from their wallets which is quite a challenging task. However, it’s also true that by now you have already built a strong relationship with the potential customers so it all boils down to your offer and their final call.
TIme-based offers, free trials, order or payment confirmation emails, shipping notification emails, and customer feedback survey emails are some of the most common lifecycle emails at the buying stage.
“A great order confirmation email can help you grow your list, generate additional revenue, capture customer feedback, and make your customers happier. Think of your order confirmation emails as an important part of your customer’s journey instead of as that ugly email that IT is in charge of.” – Andrew King (Email Marketer, Author, & Senior Competitive Strategy Manager At DocuSign)
Emails at this stage should be sent by the product managers, and customer feedback survey emails should ideally be handled by the department of the customer success team.
A great example of a lifecycle email at the buying stage is the email by Grammarly which is a freemium online writing assistant. Every user of Grammarly gets their weekly writing stats in their inbox.
Grammarly sends these emails to highlight their premium time-based offer that works as it has many interesting stats for the users and makes them realize what opportunities they are missing.
The email asking for a review by Just Eat which is one of the largest online food delivery companies in the world is another amazing lifecycle email at the buying stage. This is a clever move, as reviews are one of the most effective content types for influencing other people to make a purchase:
Moreover, adding a little fun with animated GIFs to your lifecycle emails with the help of animation software to make your emails stand out from the crowd. Sending emails with animated content to your buyers will make them feel special. For example, the below email by Monica Vinader where they want to draw the audiences’ attention to a video by animating the play button:
The Retention Stage
At this stage, you target the customers who have made either one purchase from your brand or are regular buyers. Depending on your customers you can divide this group into multiple smaller ones according to their shopping habits. For example, you can keep the customers who purchase weekly consumable products in one segment and the ones who buy your yearly gifts in the other for better targeting.
Your job as a marketer or entrepreneur at this stage is to keep your customers engaged and the best way to do this is by sharing personalized content with the customers regularly. Also, keep your email subject lines crisp as the best subject lines can boost your email open rates and get your message in front of the right people:
Abandon cart emails, follow-up emails, cart abandonment emails, upselling and settings update emails, re-engagement emails, replenishment campaigns, product review request emails are a few examples of what you should send to your active customers for retaining them. These emails should be sent usually by the product managers.
For instance, cart recovery emails are crucial to attract and maintain the interest of your potential customers in your brand. You can use them as a notification to alert the buyers of the products they’ve left unattended in their shopping cart.
Let’s look at how Huckberry sneds cart abandonment recovery emails to their active customers:
The email is well-designed and it creates a sense of urgency in customers’ minds by mentioning the limited stock. That’s quite a smart move by Huckberry to win customers!
Another excellent example is the customer service email by Jilt which is an innovative way of doing cart abandonment recovery by gaining valuable insight into the customer’s reservation. Jilt asks consumers about their online experience and if they faced any issues with completing the purchase. This feedback is crucial as it helps them in improving their bottom line:
Cart abandonment emails don’t annoy your customers but remind them of what they’ve left in their shopping carts and entice them to come back and make the purchase!
Besides, you can send discount emails to such customers who want a little extra nudge to make the buying call for generating more revenue. However, refrain from offering discounts on products that don’t suit your customers. Segment your customers’ list and tailor your offerings based on the products in which customers have shown interest earlier.
For example, Sephora’s reminder-to-buy email plus money-saving offer is the best example of how you should offer a discount to your customers:
They’ve analyzed the wishlist of their customers and based on that they’re offering them a deal which is an amazing tactic to boost sales!
Another amazing lifecycle email example at the retention stage is behavior-based milestone emails where you celebrate milestones with your existing customers such as their birthdays and anniversaries and show that you care about their special moments!
“It can be an email celebrating the customer’s one year of being an email subscriber. It can also be an email for celebrating an order purchased one year ago. And similar to birthday emails, include a gift, such as a discount on their next purchase.” – John Komarek, conversion expert and founder of Pixelter
The objective of milestone emails is to keep your brand on the top of your customers’ minds. By optimizing the buying experience, you persuade customers to purchase your products and services to boost sales! Milestone emails should be sent by the product managers, marketers, or customer success professionals.
For example, the milestone birthday email by Rent the Runway is unique! As their shipping process takes a couple of weeks they send birthday emails to their customers almost a month ago so they get a bigger lead time. This allows the customers to make their birthday plans in advance which includes planning the attire as well! I’m impressed, Rent the Runway!
The Advocacy Stage
The advocacy stage is a proud stage for you as by now you have won customers who not only purchase your products or services regularly but they actively promote your brand and refer it to their acquaintances. They regularly share your content on social media, spread word-of-mouth for your brand, and take advantage of your referral marketing campaigns!
Here, your job is to nurture and reward such loyal customers so they continue promoting your brand and stay engaged with you. You can do this by keeping them in the lifecycle email loop and send special content that acknowledges their valuable contributions.
For example, you can opt for something more personalized and tailored instead of your typical branded HTML designs. It adds exclusivity to your emails and makes your advocates feel special!
You can send brand advocates free samples of your products to try and encourage them to create content around it and share it on social media. Also, if you have a service-based business such as a beauty/grooming salon you can offer your loyal customers free service like a free makeup lesson!
Gratitude emails, referral email programs, special discounts/coupon code emails, free sample trial emails, etc. Are the most commonly used lifecycle emails at the advocacy stage. These emails should ideally be sent by the customer service team.
Here is an example of how Aerosols rewards their VIP club:
The email offers a time-based promo code to the VIP members to lure them to purchase by creating a sense of urgency! Another excellent advocacy lifecycle email example is the one by Never Fully Dressed:
This thank you emails remind shoppers how many points they’ve earned and also has a clear CTA (call-to-action) that drives customers directly to the sign-up page.
The advocacy stage is all about nurturing your relationships with loyal customers. So, if you want to retain your brand advocates, not only do you have to fulfill their expectations but you have to go beyond it.
Lifecycle Emails For At-Risk Customers
Along with taking care of your active and potential customers it’s equally important to re-engage and win back at-risk and lapsed customers!
These are the customers who were actively involved with your brand at one point but they missed on some point when they were about to make another buying call. Although, it depends on you to determine when your customers switched from “active” to “at-risk” based on your offerings.
For example, if you sell an aftermarket car accessory a customer might purchase it once in the life cycle of the car that could be every five or seven years! However, if you deal with a big line of consumable products such as makeup you can consider a customer at-risk if they fail to buy every 30 days.
Reengaging with cold email subscribers is quite a daunting task because you are unsure why they’ve lost interest in your brand. But with the help of an engaging email you can win back inactive customers as Sephora did:
Sephora offers a special discount for inactive customers to win back their interest and turn them into paying buyers again which is an intelligent tactic!
For winning lapsed customers you have to make them feel that your brand is the best and they’ve made a mistake by not considering your products! This you can do by being available to them 24*7 with the help of an instant messaging app so if they come to tell you their pain points you can fix them instantly.
Lifecycle Emails For Lapsed Customers
Lapsed customers are the ones who have gone past the point where they were about to buy your products or services. Also, these people never respond to your outreach efforts such as emails or retargeting advertisements. Here your job is extremely tough and more difficult than winning back at-risk customers!
Italian-American restaurant chain Buca di Beppo has designed an amazing win-back email for lapsed customers:
The caption and image in the top half of the email are visually appealing. Also, they’ve leveraged a color scheme with red, white, and green to establish the restaurant’s brand. Plus, the offer they provide allows customers to choose from several options which makes the $20 gift certificate even more interesting!
What Are Some Dos & Don’ts Of Lifecycle Email Marketing?
Lifecycle emails are the most effective ones as they speak to your customers at specific and the most crucial times and drive them to become paying buyers and brand advocates! Let’s look at a couple of “dos” and “don’ts” keeping them in mind can lead you to the path of lifecycle email success:
Lifecycle Email “Dos”
Do Create A Sense Of Urgency
Lifecycle emails must create a sense of urgency to drive potential customers to take immediate action. So, persuading customers to act via time-based offers or short-window promo should be your priority.
Do Keep A Track Of Your Lifecycle Email Campaigns KPIs
Track key performance indicators (KPIs) such as email open rates, click-through rates, bounce rates of your lifecycle email campaigns is a must because. It allows you to set OKR (Objectives and Key Results) of your lifecycle email campaigns, determine the specific objectives, and measuring the KPIs lets you keep a tab on your performance.
Checking key metrics helps you in analyzing how recipients are consuming your content. Using key analytics will enable you to effectively set up and manage your lifecycle campaigns. Also, it allows you to manage your lifecycle email campaigns, fill the gaps, and structure your future campaigns effectively!
Do Give A Try To Non-financial/Experiential Incentives
Your customers indeed expect discounts but try something out-of-the-box such as free consultation with a personal shopper, sneak-peek access to new products, and free shipping upgrades. Being a little experimentative can help you in finding what works best for the different segments of your customers.
Lifecycle Email “Don’ts”
Don’t Try That Hard On Day One
It’s better to start simple and gradually refine your lifecycle email campaigns as you proceed and find what’s working and what’s not! Getting all fancy on day one can be quite expensive sometimes. So stay away from that!
For example, if you never send win-back emails and start sending suddenly when you think that a customer might churn wouldn’t be a great idea! Similarly, you can’t switch from universal discount codes to personalized serial codes in a blink of an eye.
Don’t Let Your Lifecycle Email Strategy Get Overshadowed By Assumptions
The business economy is extremely dynamic and what works for one company might not work at all for the other! So, refrain from believing assumptions and work with your instinct to get the best results.
For instance, there’s a belief in the marketing landscape that the only successful win-back email program is an “escalating call to action” (i.e., each win-back offer should provide customers with a larger discount).
However, this isn’t the case every time as many retailers have seen better results by offering a larger promotion in earlier stages so shoppers don’t switch brands and stick to the one offering heavy discounts for long.
Don’t Over-segment Your Customers Right From The Start
Customer segmentation is required for tailoring your lifecycle emails but starting broader can be better for you. As you move further let the data guide your teams to target which specific customer segments and in what ways through iteration and experimentation.
The Final Say On Lifecycle Email Marketing!
Lifecycle campaigns are the most effective email marketing strategies because they foster trust with new buyers and build personalized relationships with clients that drive brand advocacy.
Setting-up a lifecycle email campaign might be daunting. However, by starting broad and gradually segmenting your customers it’s easier to attain success.
Lifecycle email campaigns are a must for any marketer’s digital arsenal but like every other marketing strategy, you need patience and iteration for achieving better outcomes!