Understanding the Customer Lifecycle & How to Manage It

By
Maddy Osman
February 15, 2023
11
min read
Updated
February 22, 2024
Photo credit
The customer lifecycle describes various stages consumers go through to complete a transaction. Learn how to understand and manage customer lifecycle stages.
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Introduction

Increased competition and customer acquisition costs (CAC) are pushing brands to improve the customer lifetime value (CLV), or the total revenue earned from a customer over time.

The easiest way to increase CLV is by building customer relationships. With the help of tools like the customer lifecycle, you can turn prospects into loyal brand advocates.

In this guide, you’ll learn about the customer lifecycle stages and how Scribe can help you with them. 

Keep reading to find:

Wh‎at is the customer lifecycle?

The customer lifecycle refers to the process leads or prospects undergo to become long-time customers. The lifecycle is divided into five different stages: reach, acquisition, conversion, retention and loyalty.

The customer lifecycle is non-linear but also cyclical.

Stages of the customer lifecycle.

You can skip some stages, but the customer lifecycle always happens in a sequence. 

After a purchase, follow-up with your customers to encourage upsells and cross-sells and incentivize them to be brand ambassadors.

Customer lifecycle vs. sales cycle

Sales teams use two different strategies to convert leads into loyal customers: the customer lifecycle and the sales cycle (or sales funnel).

While their strategies are different, the two cycles do share some similarities, such as steps and terms. 

Let’s briefly go over their differences:

Differences between the customer lifecycle and sales cycle.

As you can see, both cycles want the same outcome: Lead conversion and customer retention.

The difference is in the approach. The sales cycle only focuses on the sales teams, while the customer lifecycle considers multiple teams — sales, marketing and customer service.

Wh‎y is customer lifecycle management important?

Customer lifecycle management helps translate digital footprints, such as website visits and clicks, into tangible metrics like sales and profit.

The customer journey looks different for everyone — especially those who run online businesses. Website clicks and visits mean nothing when you don't know the user or intent behind them. 

With customer lifecycle management, you take the reins and guide customers through the buyer’s journey instead of leaving it up to chance. Enhancing a customer’s experience encourages brand loyalty and retention, potentially leading to a high CLV and an increase in profits.

The customer journey starts with reaching out to your target market to growing a loyal customer base.

St‎ages & best practices of the customer lifecycle

  • Reach.
  • Acquisition.
  • Conversion.
  • Retention.
  • Loyalty.

Stages of the customer lifecycle: Reach, Acquisition, Conversion, Retention, Loyalty

Reach

Reach (or the awareness stage) is the first stage of the customer lifecycle where you aim to gain the interest of potential customers.

At this stage, customers have a problem and are looking for ways to solve it. They’re researching, comparing products and reading customer reviews.

As a business, the goal is to be at the top of the customer’s mind. You want them to associate your brand with their future needs. 

Here are some questions to help determine if you're on the right track:

  • Are customers finding your company? If so, what channels are they using to find it?
  • What are competitors doing (that you aren't) to reach customers?
  • Where do prospects hear about your brand?

Tips to manage this customer lifecycle stage: 

  • Identify your target audience. A more focused audience helps you speak better to your customers’ needs. It can also result in lower ad spending and a higher return on investment (ROI).
  • Create targeted content. Valuable search engine optimized (SEO) content speaks to your audience’s problems and pain points. It establishes you as a thought leader and keeps your brand top of mind.
  • Tailor your inbound and outbound marketing campaigns to include a mix of social media marketing, SEO, search engine marketing (or paid advertising) and word-of-mouth referrals.
  • Track your progress by measuring metrics, such as impressions, branded searches and website visits. You’ll know your efforts are successful when customers reach out to ask for information.

Acquisition

Once customers have interacted with your ads and content, they reach the acquisition stage.

Customers at this stage have a deeper awareness of a company’s products or services. They’re interested and regularly reach out to you. They just need an extra push.

Give potential customers the resources to learn more about your company’s offerings. For example, offer high-value content in exchange for contact information. Store these details in customer relationship management (CRM) software and track the number of leads and inquiries you receive.

If you aren’t getting enough leads or inquiries, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Are you providing content on your website and social media platforms that pushes a customer to a decision? If so, what content and do you have enough? What can you do to improve?
  • Is your website usable? Is it fast-loading, readable and easy to navigate?
  • Are the call-to-actions that lead to the contact page visible? 

You know you’ve been successful at the acquisition stage when customers have reached out or tried your product or service.

Tips to manage this customer lifecycle stage: 

  • Consider every interaction a customer service touchpoint. Ensure every experience is seamless. A little friction, such as a slow-loading website, can turn customers off.
  • Provide as much information as possible to help new customers make the right decision. 

Examples include:

  • Publishing high-value website content like e-books, case studies and reports.
  • Leveraging third-party web content like product reviews and testimonials.
  • Providing self-service resources like knowledge bases and FAQ pages
  • Start building relationships with customers. Sales reps and customer support teams should reach out to those still on the fence. Consider chat tools that help customers browsing your website or use the contact information you collected to reach out.
  • Offer freemium items, such as gated content and limited trials, so customers have a taste of what you can offer.

Conversion 

If you do the first two stages right, customers move to the third step, conversion (or the purchase stage). That’s where they finally buy your product or sign up for a service.

When customers buy something, it’s usually because they find you trustworthy or your product compelling enough.

If customers visit your website or interact with your brand but aren't purchasing anything, they may be encountering friction or find you untrustworthy. If that’s the case, audit your process by answering the following questions:

  • Is the onboarding or purchasing process straightforward? If not, what blockers are there?
  • What can you improve to make the process easier?
  • What have you done to protect your customers’ interests?
  • Do you have a privacy policy and secure payment methods?
  • Do you have a refund policy?
  • Do you offer product guarantees?

If you find anything worth changing, record changes on a process documentation tool like Scribe.

Scribe uses AI to auto-generate step-by-step guides for any workflow — complete with text and annotated screenshots.

And all you have to do is click a button.

For example, this Scribe teaches you how to view your marketing path so you can analyze user behavior around that activity.

By understanding exactly what a customer wants before they make a purchase, you can increase conversion rates. Plus, you’ll show that your products have a clear advantage over competitors.

Besides conversion rates, monitor other metrics, such as the number of cross-sells and upsells. 

Tips to manage this customer lifecycle stage: 

  • Proactively help customers in case they hit a snag during the checkout or onboarding process. Have live chat tools available for those that need assistance. 

According to HubSpot’s Customer Acquisition study, investing in customer service opens new revenue streams and increases the customer lifetime value. That’s backed up by a Qualtrics XM Institute study which found that 89 percent of companies that offer “significantly [above-average]” customer experiences perform better than competitors that don't. 

  • Be clear that you’re providing value. Think of it this way: When a customer makes a purchase, they’ve entered into a relationship with you. If you want the relationship to work out long-term, give them reasons to stay.
  • Make the checkout or onboarding processes as seamless as possible. Long and confusing checkouts and website crashes are among the top reasons for abandoned e-commerce shopping carts. The good news? A Baymard study found that businesses increased their conversion rates by 35.26 percent when they optimized their processes.

Having a documented process makes it easier for customers to follow instructions. Take this LinkedIn Sales Navigator onboarding example by Scribe:

“Scribe has made my job way easier for me. It allows me to create user guides in a matter of minutes by just clicking my mouse on a screen.” — Jess M., Head of U.S. Implementation at a software company 

Retention

After getting the customer to make their first purchase, the next challenge is to turn those first-time customers into repeat customers. 

Sure, you want them to buy more products, but there’s an even bigger reason why you want this customer to keep coming back: It costs less to keep existing customers than to get new ones.

At the retention stage (also known as post-purchase engagement), companies ask for customer feedback, which they can later use to address any issues and improve their offerings. 

The motivation behind this is to build trust and deliver a consistent experience. If customers know they can expect high-quality products and services, they’re more likely to keep coming back.

Common feedback-gathering methods include online or in-person surveys and post-purchase landing pages. Your social media pages, email newsletter and websites are also excellent channels to ask for feedback.

Use customer success tools to measure customer behavior and track metrics like renewal and repurchase rates and churn.

If you’ve had trouble retaining customers, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do you ask customers if they’re enjoying their purchase?
  • Have you offered assistance to customers to navigate their new product?
  • Have you made it easy for them to repurchase?

When your customers repurchase or renew their subscriptions, you know you’re moving in the right direction.

Tips to manage this customer lifecycle stage:

  • Offer incentives for completing surveys. Surveys let you know which parts of your process are good and which need work. Encourage responses by offering incentives like discount codes, coupons and vouchers.
  • Ask customers to visit your website and follow your social media accounts. Often, prospects need to hear an advertiser’s message multiple times before it sticks. With social media, businesses can reach out to customers several times a day. 
  • Ask for testimonials. Testimonials are a form of social proof and give customers a chance to do their own research.
  • Share user-generated content (UGC). Consumers often consider UGC an unbiased customer review. A 2022 TINT study found that 72 percent of consumers find reviews and testimonials from fellow customers more credible than brands talking about their own products. 

Loyalty

The loyalty stage (or advocacy) is a step up from the previous stage because customers continually choose your product over competitors’. They renew subscription-based services, buy more expensive options or get extras. They also tell their friends and family about your business.

If your customers make it this far, be grateful — loyal customers and brand advocates can be hard to come by.

According to PwC’s 2022 Customer Loyalty survey, 30 percent of customers, especially those from younger generations, are willing to try new brands. But they'll walk away from a business if they aren’t satisfied. 

Measure customer sentiment by looking at net promoter scores (NPS) or customer satisfaction (CSAT) scores, conducting surveys and checking review sites. If your scores are much lower than you thought, ask yourself the following:

  • Do you engage with your customers on social media?
  • Do you offer special perks like discounts, referral programs and loyalty programs?
  • Is your company easily accessible through multiple channels (phone, email, website or chat)?

Tips to manage this customer lifecycle stage:

  • Offer referral incentives. Loyal customers give you their business and spread the word to their network. Give back by offering incentives for successful referral program ideas. These incentives can be discounts, store credit or promo codes. 

According to the PwC survey, 30 percent said they regularly patronize a business because they like the benefits, rewards and privileges they get from the loyalty program — second behind getting good value (53 percent).

  • Offer a personalized experience. Ask for data to personalize your customers’ experience. While customers are concerned about data privacy and security, the PwC survey shows that 82 percent are willing to share some type of personal data for a more personalized service. 

For instance, 48 percent of respondents say they appreciate discounts and rebates on products they regularly use.

Fi‎nal thoughts: Managing customer lifecycle stages

With tight business competition and increasing customer acquisition costs, it’s more important than ever for brands to keep their customers.

The customer lifecycle is a holistic approach to attracting and keeping customers that considers inputs from different teams. It’s cyclical, which means the work never stops once you reach the last stage. Instead, it calls for constant retesting and experimentation, which can be a pain in process documentation.

Instead of creating these processes manually, let Scribe handle the work for you. Our automatically generated step-by-step guides are the perfect tool for making customer lifecycle management a little bit easier. Try it out for yourself, and see what Scribe can help you achieve.

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