Buyers are bombarded by marketing messages at every turn, and they have become quite adept at ignoring them. Marketing professionals have learned that they must engage buyers and build relationships if they want their messages to get through.
The traditional view of marketing was a simple matter of supply and demand — with the marketer steering the boat to generate the demand. The idea was to convince buyers that they needed or wanted the particular product or service that was being marketed. The traditional view relied heavily on generating leads and then converting those leads. Progress tended to be linear; customers typically learned about a product or service at the same time they were told why they must have it. If they were convinced, they made a purchase and the marketer could move on to generating more leads.
Today, the buyers have much more power. They are wise to traditional marketing ploys and tired of feeling as if they are being lumped into an audience of millions. They want marketers to interact with them in personalized, meaningful ways, and they want to dictate where, when and how marketers are to reach them.
Engaging customers and nurturing relationships requires stepping outside of the traditional sales funnel and its linear path. Buyers today move to and fro as well as side to side as they travel along the road to a purchase. Therefore, marketing is no longer a matter of simply launching one campaign after another. Marketing has become a continuous cycle of interacting with buyers in what is referred to as life cycle marketing.
What are the stages of life cycle marketing?
No one agrees on the exact number of stages in life cycle marketing. However, although it is possible to have many subcategories, virtually all actions can be included in the following five stages:
- Awareness: The buyers become aware of a need or want as well as the possibility that Company A may have a solution.
- Evaluation: The potential customers evaluate how well what Company A offers meets their requirements compared to what other companies offer.
- Inclination: After careful consideration, buyers develop an emotional or logical preference for one solution.
- Purchase: The buyer orders or purchases the desired product or service from the selected company.
- Repurchase: The customer continues to interact with the company, which the company hopes will lead to making additional purchases.
Targeted content and life cycle marketing
In the world of life cycle marketing, content is king. However, content needs to be relevant to the stage in which the buyer is at the time. To illustrate, assume that a potential customer is interested in purchasing new printers for her office. Based on how the buyer might conduct searches in each phase, the following example illustrates the different phases and the types of content suitable for each phase.
- Printers: The buyer is in the awareness phase. Sample content for this phase includes an article explaining the different types of printers, a tip sheet that explains terms such as dpi or a chart listing all of the different manufacturers of printers.
- Color printers: The buyer could be in either the awareness or evaluation phase. Possible content includes data sheets on the different color printers that the company sells, a comparison of the operating costs for different color printers or a section of frequently asked questions.
- 1200 x 1200 dpi color printers: The buyer is in the evaluation phase and moving closer to making a purchase decision. Data sheets might be appropriate content, but videos or webinars discussing the features of the different color printers offering 1200 x 1200 dpi might be more helpful for moving the buyer along.
- Brand X 1200 x 1200 dpi color printer: The buyer is in the inclination phase. She has identified the particular printer she wants to purchase and is just one step away from making a purchase. In all likelihood, she will compare prices and availability at several different sites. Good content for this phase might be a coupon offering a discount on the purchase of the printer or an invitation to receive rewards points by joining the company’s preferred customer plan.
- Repurchase: The customer has made a purchase, so now it is time to entice her to make additional purchases. Content could be a coupon offering discounts on future purchases of ink, a page of tips on how to select the best paper for different jobs or a newsletter offering helpful advice on obtaining the highest quality or reducing ink consumption.
Naturally, it is important to engage customers on as many channels as possible. Coupons could be placed on social media sites or sent as either an email or a text message. Comparison charts could be placed on a landing page or within a website’s knowledge base. Newsletters and tip sheets could be available through an in-store kiosk or emailed. Certain content might be suitable for printed brochures that could be mailed to potential customers or distributed in the store.
Life cycle marketing is not difficult to master. About all that is required is learning everything possible about potential customers, tailoring efforts for each phase and nurturing relationships through engaging content.
Lisa Carolan is VP operations at EX2 Solutions, a software technology consulting firm. She has over 17 years’ experience in IT consulting. For EX2 Solutions, she has managed projects for Bank of America, Network Communications Inc., Lennar Homes, Standard Pacific Homes, Toll Brothers, TeleDynamics, Gulf Coast Power Association and Taylor Morrison. Projects varied from integration solutions to full website implementations. In her previous experience, she was product manager for business-critical websites of Sony and Hewlett-Packard.