How important is life cycle marketing for b-to-b marketers?

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Relevancy is a significant challenge to b-to-b email marketing effectiveness. Many marketers know they should be creating relevant emails by tapping into a 360-degree range of customer insights, but most are hindered by internal buy-in, know-how, financial resources or technical constraints. Creating relevance in your email marketing programs does not have to be rocket science. It starts with using customer insights—such as name, demographics, source of lead, purchase history, contact history and other behavioral data—to deliver customized communications that will resonate with your audience. Having this data is well and good, but the real punch comes when you are able to marry this information with the stage customers are in the buying process or product/service life cycle—and create robust email programs to address their movement and growth. This may seem overwhelming, but let's start with the basics. A typical life cycle marketing approach tracks the life of a customer through several stages: reach, acquire, retain, reactivate. This is not an exhaustive list but demonstrates that there should be clear, identifiable time frames that allow you to talk to prospects differently than new, casual, loyal or disengaged customers. Use key behavioral indicators—such as a request for information, sales demo, first purchase, renewal or lack of response—to place individuals in one of these categories. Each stage is an opportunity to create messaging unique to where customers are in the buying life cycle. The goal is to create messages that lead customers through different life cycle stages effectively and efficiently. To create movement and ultimately longer-term engagement:
  • Create messages that match the current thought sequences of customers
  • Seek to get the value exchange close to the peak of motivation
  • Communicate holistically through the entire process, striving for continuity and congruence
You know that you should be mapping customer insights to the customer life cycle to create high-performance email campaigns, but it sure sounds like a lot of work. Enter marketing automation—creating rule-based dialogs with your audience that are set up in advance and executed in real time. Good candidates for automated programs include welcome, abandon, post-purchase, “win back” and event countdown messages. These programs are tied to specific life cycle marketing stages and represent a good way to build value and trust with customers. Gone are the days of one-size-fits-all mass email marketing. Email marketing has proven to be the most effective tactic used in the lead and customer nurturing process when content is aligned with the recipient's stage in the buying process. While it may require some work upfront, marrying consumer insights and life cycle stages to create highly personalized emails improves response and conversion rates over typical batch emails. Amanda Hinkle is online marketing strategist at StrongMail (, a provider of email marketing solutions.
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