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What Does Your Customer Lifecycle Look Like? (Free Tool)

In sales and marketing, it’s helpful to think of funnels and lifecylces to illustrate how people move towards first becoming a customer, and then becoming a successful customer.

Using each stage of the customer lifecycle, we can design a strategy to deliver highly personal, relevant messages.

How many lifecycles do you have?

The first part of lifecycle design is defining how many lifecycles you have.

  • Do you market to both B2C and B2B customers Do you treat business/organisation customers differently to individual consumers?
  • Do you serve just one set of users/customers? Marketplaces like Uber and Airbnb have at least 2 lifecycles for both sides of the marketplace (supply and demand).
  • Do you have separate sales pipelines Do you have a sales team
  • Do you have an upsell pipeline which is separate to your new customer acquisition?
  • Do you have a different enterprise-level sales process

Define the number of broadly “unique” lifecycles which have different groups of people, different actions and different conversion points.

For instance:

  • Uber: 2 lifecycles for rider and driver acquisition
  • HubSpot: 2 lifecycles for acquiring businesses and for acquiring agency partners
  • Online mattress store: 1 lifecycle for new mattress sales

You’ll also begin to define the “entities” - the types of individuals and organisations - which matter to this lifecycle.

For instance, an airline will sell to individual consumers (who may have many different profiles - holiday makers, business travellers, visiting relatives etc.) and business accounts.

Describing the Lifecycle

Once you’ve got a number of the lifecycles defined, you need to draw the lifecycle process out.

This process can be best done over pen and a big sheet of paper or whiteboard collaboratively with people different teams - sales, marketing, customer success.

Alignment between these teams is important anyway, but it’s especially important for personalisation to stay relevant and personal at every touchpoint and interaction.

The “draw your lifecycle” group exercise has been very successful in previous workshops we’ve run before - highly recommended exercise!

Start by drawing the higher level design - what are the key stages of the lifecycle?

Some helpful questions to start with defining this.

  • Where do people become aware of your business?
  • What qualifies them to become a customer? What actions do they (or you) need to take?
  • When does marketing hand off to sales? (start from the top of the marketing funnel and work down through sales and customer success)
  • What does the sales process look like? (then work back up to marketing, and down to customer success)
  • What does a successful customer look like? (then work backwards through sales and marketing)

Now, to add more definition. At each stage of the lifecycle, you need to answer the following questions.

What’s the name of each stage?

The group of people in that stage are called… what? Leads? Qualified Leads? Subscribers? Customers? Advocates?

Some examples of names for each stage, based on how much human involvement or "touch" is needed in the sales process

High-Touch Low-Touch No Touch
Visit Visit Visit
Subscriber Subscriber Subscriber
Marketing Qualified Lead Qualified Lead Customer
Sales Qualified Lead Customer Advocate
Opportunity Retained Customer
New Customer Advocate
Onboarded Customer
Retained Customer
Advocate

What are the conditions for progressing to the next stage in the lifecycle?

Do they have to subscribe? Request a demo? Buy something?

Or do you have to do something? Call them, discuss their problem and see if they're a fit or not?

What is the yes / no condition they have to pass in order to progress down to the next stage in the lifecycle.

What would you name each key event for progressing down the lifecycle?

Using the “object + action”, “noun + past tense verb format” (See more about event naming conventions) how would you describe these actions.

For example:

  • Blog Post Viewed
  • Email Subscribed
  • Demo Requested
  • Account Created
  • Order Completed

This is important, because this builds the core of your tracking plan. It's these events which will measure whether your lifecycle is working (or not) for moving people down the stages in the customer lifecycle.

What are the key touchpoint for each stage of the lifecycle?

What is the primary means of messaging people at each stage? What will they interact with before they trigger the key event?

For example:

  • Email
  • Demo Request Form
  • Sales call
  • In-app interstitials
  • How to guide

Make a list here of the channels and mediums which you're going to communicate with people to persuade them to take action.

What happens after each key event?

What actions are triggered? Do people arrange a phone call? Or does something change within your product? Is a third party service (like a payments provider?) requested?


With this, you should have a table which defines your lifecycle in detail.

hull-lifecycle-spreadsheet

If you’re looking for an ready-made template for defining your customer lifecycles, make a copy (File > Make a copy…) of this spreadsheet in Google Sheets here. It has some dummy data to give you an example to start with.

With your lifecycle(s) fully described and fleshed out (and all your teams on the same page if you tried this as a group exercise)

A note on High and Low “Touch” Lifecycles

When more human interaction (especially one-to-one human interaction) is defined, lifecycle definition becomes a little harder to track when the interactions are largely offline. For instance, meetings and steak dinners in an enterprise sales process.

For the purposes of this exercise, you still need to define the key events for progression down the lifecycle which can easily be tracked. For instance, scheduling a demo, requesting a proposal or creating an account.

For “low touch” highly automated lifecycles (like an online shop), this should be more and more trackable.

How this ties back

A well documented lifecycle has several direct outputs

  • Tracking plan outline
  • Touchpoint analysis (for tool selection)
  • Data required (for personalisation)
  • Messaging plan outline

In the context of our high level personalisation framework, your lifecycle really defines the why and actions required to move someone forward in your customer lifecycle.

Hull Personalisation Framework

Once you’ve defined your entities too, you’ll have a complete list of the data required to manage personalisation at every touchpoint.

Ed fry
Ed Fry

Prev 'Ed of Growth at Hull, working on all things content, acquisition & conversion. Conference speaker, flight hacker, prev. employee #1 at inbound.org (acq. HubSpot). Now at Behind The Growth

If you've questions or ideas, I'd love to geek out together on Twitter or LinkedIn. 👇