Understanding the Customer Lifecycle & Critical CX Touchpoints
What drives customers to make a purchase? Is it their perception of your product’s value, your marketing and branding, your price? Or is there more to it than that? More than any other factor, convincing someone to hand over their hard-earned income is a matter of trust. And according to the Edelman Trust Barometer, trust in brands around the world is on the decline.
Without trust, it's not easy to move through the steps between initial brand awareness and eventual purchase. Mapping out the customer lifecycle helps you see which touch points in the customer journey build confidence in your product — confidence that consumers need to make their final purchase decision.
When you combine that confidence with a winning product experience, it gives potential customers the motivation they need to choose your product over competitors. But creating that experience requires deep insight into how customers engage with your company throughout their journey.
Understanding each stage of the customer lifecycle makes the journey clear — and your team can use this information to communicate product value throughout product discovery, company engagement, and brand advocacy.
The 6 Customer Lifecycle Stages
The customer lifecycle is the journey a potential customer takes from gaining awareness of your product or service all the way through to purchase and retention. Mapping each stage of the lifecycle helps you position your product and communicate its value effectively.
There are six core customer lifecycle stages, each building on the previous one as people become leads, leads become customers, and customers become advocates.
The awareness or discovery stage of the customer lifecycle is where you make a first impression. People in this stage have a problem to solve and have started looking for the right solution. But your goal isn’t to solve that problem right now; your goal is to help them see your product and your company as knowledgeable and helpful resources during their search.
People in the awareness stage of the customer lifecycle are just starting to understand their problem, so they need help to figure out what solutions are available. They tend to prefer free help, which they can use to identify next steps and come up with a plan for how to move forward. You want them to see your product as one of those solutions when the time comes to make a purchase.
Use marketing content, like a blog post about best practices or a rundown of available solutions, to connect with the largest possible audience of potential customers. One way you can gain an understanding of your target audience is to survey your current customer base and learn how and where they found your product. Then, you can build personas based on any shared characteristics.
You probably won’t talk about your product at all in this kind of content; the primary goal is to position your product or service as a useful resource that helps potential customers accomplish their goals.
The engagement stage of the customer lifecycle signals a shift in how consumers interact with your company — passive knowledge in your product gives way to active participation with marketing campaigns and product-focused content. Your goal is to deepen your relationship with these potential customers and talk directly about your product’s value.
Customers in the engagement stage of the customer lifecycle probably follow you on Twitter and read your newsletter. They have joined webinars to learn more about your company and shown an interest in your product as a potential solution.
It’s no surprise, then, that your content at this stage needs to be solution-oriented. In the previous stage, you built brand and product awareness. Now, you have the opportunity to speak directly about the problems your product solves. Focus on core customer objections, as we did with the build-versus-buy debate. This will give your team the opportunity to showcase aspects of your product at a high level without going straight for the sale.
Think about the engagement customer lifecycle stage as the time to solidify your position in the market as a go-to resource for educational and helpful content.
At this stage of the customer lifecycle, potential customers have narrowed down their list of solutions and are weighing options prior to purchase. It’s important to highlight why your product is the best possible choice for these customers by doubling down on the solutions your product provides.
Revisit customer surveys from earlier in the lifecycle, and dig into why people chose your product over your competitors. This gives you important information about customer perceptions of your product’s unique value, which you can use to frame how you communicate with potential customers.
People in the consideration stage have signed up for product demos, reached out to your sales team, and read through your pricing page. Use content from your interviews to create customer testimonials that speak directly to the product experience, and share them during these conversations.
It’s also important to speak to potential customers about their pain points and goals during the consideration stage. This not only shows your investment in their problems but also helps you tailor solutions directly to their needs. There’s no better way to highlight your product’s value than positioning it as the exact solution for the customer’s problem.
At this point in the customer lifecycle, leads become customers, and you transition from talking about the value your product provides to showing it. The goal here is to onboard new customers quickly and set them up with the knowledge they need to get value from your product or service.
Your customers need two things: education and guidance. Build out your product onboarding processes to help new users set up their accounts and start using the product without any friction. Any issues they run into will create a negative customer experience that detracts from the value they’ll gain.
One way to optimize the onboarding experience is to speak with stakeholders on your customer support team. They, better than anyone, understand the common problems new users face and can help develop solutions. As product people, we’re too close to the things we build. Stepping back and seeing it from someone else's viewpoint builds empathy and keeps your team connected to strategic product goals.
Use the onboarding process to build on your relationships with the customer as well. Thank them for choosing your product or service, and offer them targeted support via in-app suggestions or live chat. This shows them you’re invested in their success past the point of just making a sale.
Once customers enter the experience stage of the customer lifecycle, your goal is to retain them as long as possible. The product experience is the most important part of this process — understanding how customers evolve as they gain experience helps you develop new products to support customers along the way.
By this stage, you’ve already convinced users of your product’s value. They understand how to use it and have actively incorporated it into their daily workflows. Your goal is to deliver on the promise of this value with real-world results. Make sure to celebrate important account milestones, like sending their first email or running their first report. Acknowledging these wins helps strengthen your relationship.
And you can build on this relationship even further by asking for feedback directly at this stage of the lifecycle. Then, and this is the important part, incorporate that feedback into your product development process and road map. Customers are one of the best sources of targeted product feedback, and they just want to feel heard.
Use product analytics tools like Amplitude to understand key points in the product experiences, andcreate experiments that add value. You’ll never be able to grow current users into brand advocates without data.
When you help users solve a problem and continually add value to their experience throughout the relationship, you foster trust and loyalty in your brand. These loyal customers are the people who become brand advocates — your most valuable assets as both a company and a product team.
But advocates aren’t just great customers because they understand the value of your product. Advocates spread awareness of your product and add credibility to your brand. These advocates are also the customers who are easiest to retain long term.
According to Bain Capital, increasing retention rates by 5% can increase profits by more than 25%. So the longer you retain these customers, the more successful your business will be. Building loyalty also boosts customer lifetime value (LTV), which means each customer you have becomes inherently more valuable over time.
Building relationships with these advocates through targeted outreach or social engagement also helps you refine the customer lifecycle over time, creating a strong base of engaged, high-value customers who are more than happy to provide you with targeted product feedback.
How the Customer Lifecycle Helps Product Teams
When every member of your team understands the customer lifecycle, it helps you communicate your product’s value more effectively throughout the customer journey. It builds empathy for the real-world problems customers face, increasing team engagement with the product-development process.
Your team needs to understand how to communicate value at each step of the process. People interact differently with brands before they become customers, after they make a purchase, and once they’re established users.
The customer lifecycle also connects each member of your team to the real-world problems your product solves, which builds empathy with the customer and their issues. You can use that knowledge to refine and improve the ways you address problems as your company and product evolve over time.
When you know how people move throughout these various processes, it helps you ask for feedback at the right time. You don’t want to ask a new user about a complex process, or an established brand advocate about their first days with your product. Targeted product feedback, collected at exactly the right time, is your key to unlocking new value streams and expansion revenue.
Mapping the Customer Lifecycle Helps Your Product Team Mature
Mapping out the customer lifecycle helps you scale team knowledge and connect with customers at key points along their journeys from awareness to advocacy. Speaking with customers at these different points in the process ensures that every member of your team stays connected to the value they create. This promotes a more customer-focused and data-driven culture and helps you mature as a product team.
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