Successful B2B organizations are dropping the traditional sales funnel approach and embracing a more fluid lifecycle marketing strategy as buyers evolve from prospects to customers and, ultimately, to advocates. Unlike the outdated sales funnel which focuses on new customer acquisition, the lifecycle marketing approach considers the value of retaining customers by providing communication and content after the sale as well.
Lifecycle marketing gives you the ability to provide the types of communications and experiences your audience wants as they move through the customer lifecycle. It follows how a customer is acquired, retained, and even lost, so you can better understand their journey with you, and finds opportunities to improve and continue that journey. With a bigger focus on customer retention, lifecycle marketing increases the chances of existing buyers becoming repeat customers, and grows their lifetime value with you.
Segment content for each stage of the buyer journey
A study by KoMarketing found that the primary reason B2B buyers don’t engage more with vendors is because they receive too much irrelevant content from them. Michael Deckman, Director and Principal Consultant of CoreOps Digital, says many marketers assume that all their content is of value to their audience. “The reality is only some of your content may be valuable to certain individuals within certain companies at the right moment in their buyer journey,” he explains.
If you want to provide more meaningful content to your audience, Deckman says you must pinpoint each stage of the customer journey and analyze their needs so that you can create specific content that informs, assists, and engages with buyers at each of those stages. Segmented content that speaks to an audience’s specific needs offers much more value and, as a result, will more likely get a buyer’s attention.
There are five main stages that make up the customer lifecycle: Awareness, Interest, Consideration, Purchase, and Retention. Each stage involves a different mindset of the buyer, which is why you need different types of content that speak to each mindset.
Stage 1: Awareness
As buyers set out to find a solution for their needs, they begin frequenting distributor websites as an anonymous visitor. They’re looking to see what they offer online, how easily it is to find and shop their products, and if they have a good understanding of their needs. Buyers in this Awareness stage want information and validation, so reach out to them with a follow-up e-mail that affirms your product expertise by sharing white papers, product videos, industry news, and other educational resource links tailored to their product search.
Stage 2: Interest
Next, buyers begin exploring different online resources to search for products and solutions to meet their needs. At the Interest stage, these buyers are more likely to register with a distributor site, attend a webinar, or download content in an effort to learn more. Here, it’s important to provide segmented content that focuses on providing solutions. Content in the way of product comparison guides, application videos, and training webinars that demonstrate features and benefits may encourage them to move to the next stage where they consider making a purchase.
Stage 3: Consideration
After buyers have pinpointed the product or products they are considering, they begin engaging more directly with the distributor. They may ask questions via an online chat or phone call, or add products to their cart. At this critical Consideration stage, offer them content that addresses the buyer’s specific needs and differentiates you in the marketplace. Direct people to your About Us page, which should provide the history, values, and purpose of your organization. Offer product and vendor comparisons with factual information that make you stand out from the competition. You may also consider providing discounts or introductory offers to help them transact with you.
Stage 4: Purchase
Once you’ve successfully connected with a buyer and they’ve committed to making their first purchase with you, it’s time to validate their decision. Thank them, welcome them as a new customer, and pass along relevant information related to their purchase like their tracking number, expected delivery date, and supporting documents such as FAQs, user manuals, and installation guides. Show them the attention and care they deserve for becoming a valued customer.
Stage 5: Retention
For some organizations, a product purchase is the pinnacle of the customer journey. But to truly reach the summit, your business must work to cultivate and retain customers, and develop them into loyal buyers and brand advocates. Maintain a regular communication cadence to keep them informed about new products, industry trends, and promotions. Make them aware of new or complementary products related to recent purchases to help them address future needs. Create and promote a loyalty program that offers discounts and incentives. This type of segmented content reinforces their trust and assurance in your business, helps drive repeat purchases, and fortifies a long-lasting customer relationship.
Keep the lifecycle going
The key to customer lifecycle marketing is to keep buyers from reaching the end of their journey and encourage them to circle back and continue being an active consumer. This cyclical vs. funnel approach can help save your business money and provide real ROI. The Harvard Business Review estimates that it’s 25 times more expensive to acquire a new customer than to keep an existing one. When it comes to ROI, a study by global management consulting firm Bain & Company finds that a 5% increase in customer retention can bring B2B organizations a 25% to 95% increase in profits.
Creating and maintaining segmented marketing content is a tall order for any size wholesale business, but it can be done efficiently and affordably with the help of marketing automation tools. Marketing automation technology helps streamline, automate, and measure marketing activities across sales channels and segments in a way no other marketing campaign software can. In addition to generating content campaigns, it provides deep analytics and reporting that help identify and cultivate leads, support customers, and pinpoint which campaigns have the most impact. Today’s B2B buyers want information available 24/7; as a result, businesses must employ an “always-on” marketing strategy, and marketing automation is the tool to make that happen.
For a more efficient and effective way to support your customers, forego the funnel approach and adopt a lifecycle marketing strategy. Lifecycle marketing taps invaluable opportunities – from influencing prospects to make an initial purchase, to converting returning customers into loyal buyers and advocates. Using the five stages of the customer lifecycle as guideposts and marketing automation tools to develop segmented campaigns and measure your efficacy, your business can provide the attention and support that each buyer needs at every step of their journey.