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The Beginner’s Guide to Lifecycle Marketing

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The Beginner's Guide to Lifecycle Marketing


Every customer is different.

They are at different stages of the buying journey and, therefore, respond to different messages. Having only one message—and shouting that at all of them—will not work and may even turn some of them off.

Instead, you need a better strategy. One that takes into consideration the stage customers are in. From there, you can customize a more suitable message.

How do you do that?

Well, you can do what’s called lifecycle marketing. In this post, you’ll learn the following:

What is lifecycle marketing?

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Lifecycle marketing is the process of matching the type of communication a customer wants to see as they progress along their lifecycle.

Typically, the customer lifecycle consists of six high-level stages, similar to the modern-day marketing funnel:

  1. Awareness – Your potential customers first learn about your brand.
  2. Engagement – Your potential customers interact with your brand and learn more about your offerings.
  3. Consideration – Your potential customers evaluate your offerings and decide if you’re the right fit.
  4. Purchase – Your potential customers turn into customers by buying from you.
  5. Support – You support your customers by ensuring they’re deriving maximum value and satisfaction from their purchase.
  6. Loyalty – Your customers love your brand. They purchase from you repeatedly and/or take the initiative to tell others about you.

The idea behind lifecycle marketing was developed by Infusionsoft (now Keap) to promote its email marketing software. Today, the concept continues to be associated with email marketing.

However, customers don’t just interact with a business via email. So we can expand the scope of lifecycle marketing to other marketing channels too.

How to implement a lifecycle marketing strategy

To create a lifecycle marketing strategy, we’ll use this framework, courtesy of Barilliance. It involves three steps:

  1. Triggers
  2. Message(s)
  3. Channel

Let’s look at them in more detail.

1. Triggers

Triggers are predefined conditions that determine when a marketing message should be presented to a customer. These conditions are aligned with the six stages of the customer lifecycle.

Since the six stages of the customer lifecycle are pretty high-level ones, let’s break them down into more specific segments that can serve as triggers:

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  • Prospects who have not heard of your brand [Awareness]
  • New site visitors [Awareness]
  • New email subscribers [Engagement]
  • Prospects who are comparing [Consideration]
  • Cart abandoners [Consideration]
  • First-time customers [Purchase]
  • Churned customers [Support]
  • Active customers/VIPs [Loyalty]

Basically, any customer action can be turned into a trigger.

2. Message

This is what you send your customers.

Don’t just send anything, though—not only should your customers care about the message, but it should also be related to the trigger that sent said message.

For instance, you may want to send an email reminder to cart abandoners, i.e., customers who dropped off at the Consideration stage.

3. Channel

This is where the message is taking place. It can be any marketing channel—email, social, live chat, YouTube, etc.

Lifecycle marketing tactics

With the framework in place, let’s look at how we can apply it in reality. We’ll use the segments we created as examples of how to execute lifecycle marketing.

1. Prospects who have not heard of your brand

Trigger: Customers realize they have a problem and search on Google to learn how to resolve it
Message: Educate your customers on how to solve the problem
Channel: Search engine optimization (SEO)

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Customers can’t buy from you unless they know you exist. And discovery usually occurs because customers first find out they have a problem they need to solve.

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When that happens, most of the time, they turn to Google. This means if we want potential customers to find us, we need to rank on Google. Not only that, we need to figure out what problems they’re searching for and what kinds of words they’re using.

To do that, we can use a keyword research tool. Here’s how:

  1. Go to Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer
  2. Enter a few terms related to what you’re selling (e.g., “coffee,” “cappuccino,” “coffee bean,” etc)
  3. Go to the Matching terms report
  4. Switch the tab to Questions

Matching terms report results

Here, you’ll see over 300,000 potential topics you could target. Look through the list and pick out those that are relevant to your website. Then create content that will rank for these topics.

Recommended reading: Keyword Research: The Beginner’s Guide by Ahrefs

2. New site visitors

Trigger: Customers land on your site for the first time after discovering your content
Message: Subscribe to your newsletter
Channel: Email

After discovering your content, most people will leave and never return. So if you want them to continue engaging with your content and brand, you need to get them to stay or return to your website again.

There are many ways to do this, including getting them to follow you on your social channels. In my opinion, email is the best channel because you own the direct communication. (Social platforms can remove you anytime.)

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However, a visitor to your website won’t hand over their contact information without some enticement. You can do this in a variety of ways. For example, we keep it simple by asking them to join our weekly digest:

Text field to enter email address to subscribe to Ahrefs' newsletter. Next to text field is bearded man on a computer

E‑commerce stores tend to dangle discounts as an incentive:

Text field to enter email address and subscribe to Zalora's newsletter. Text above promising $20 voucher for those who subscribe

Whereas bloggers prefer giving away free eBooks:

Picture of man. Next to it is a CTA to unlock an ebook

3. New email subscribers

Trigger: Customers sign up for your newsletter
Message: A welcome series introducing your brand, content, and catalog/products
Channel: Email

Once the prospect signs up for your newsletter, you should deliver whatever you promised—a discount code, eBook, etc. But beyond that, it’s a great opportunity to continue engaging them and introducing more of your content (or if you’re an e‑commerce store, your catalog of products).

For example, after confirming your subscription, marketing agency Demand Curve follows up with an email of resources you can check out:

Short write-ups, each with a link leading to various resources

Dr. Rhonda Patrick has a multiday email series that introduces you to her premium content, which she provides for free:

Rhonda's newsletter containing links to premium content

4. Prospects who are comparing

Trigger: Customers are looking for product comparisons on Google
Message: Feature comparisons, product comparisons
Channel: SEO

Customers will always want the best bang for their buck. So even if they’re familiar with your brand, they’ll make comparisons. One of the ways they do this is by searching on Google for comparisons between your brand and your competitors’.

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Here’s how to find who your customers are comparing you with:

  1. Go to Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer
  2. Enter your brand name
  3. Go to the Matching terms report
  4. Under Terms, click on “vs”
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Matching terms report results. "vs" option in the sidebar

Here, we can see the different brands that our customers are comparing us with.

It’s up to you whether you want to create one page or individual pages for each competitor. At Ahrefs, we created one versus page:

Excerpt of Ahrefs' "versus" page

Rather than the standard side-by-side comparison of features where the page creator wins, we decided to feature independent polls and talk about the features that only our toolset has.

Polls showing most SEOs prefer Ahrefs

5. Cart abandoners

Trigger: Customers add products to the cart but don’t complete the purchase
Message: Complete the checkout process
Channel: Email, retargeting

During the process of buying, customers may procrastinate or hesitate. They begin by adding your products to the shopping cart but abandon it halfway because they are distracted, have another matter to attend to, are surprised at the total price, or are annoyed by an element of your checkout process.

In fact, Statista’s March 2021 study found that almost 80% of online shopping orders were abandoned.

Abandoned carts are fine if customers return. But many don’t. Sleeknote claims that e‑commerce brands lose around $18 billion in sales each year because of cart abandonment.

That means you need a way to try and get these customers back.

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The most common way is to send an “abandoned cart” email. Here’s an example from Bonobos, a men’s clothing brand:

Abandoned cart emails aren’t just limited to e‑commerce brands. You can use these emails for any incomplete transaction in any industry. For example, here’s one from CodeAcademy, an online programming school:

 CodeAcademy's "abandoned cart" email

Besides email, you can also retarget these customers using social media ads. That way, as they’re browsing the web, they’re reminded to complete their checkout with your brand.

6. First-time customers

Trigger: Customers buy your product
Message: How to get the best out of your product
Channel: Email, in-app, live chat, social media, video, content marketing

Give your new customers a great experience, and they’ll be on their way to becoming a VIP of your brand. One way to do this is to offer support and education—teach them how best to use your product so that they will be motivated to stay or buy more.

At Ahrefs, besides our in-app onboarding, we also send emails introducing a variety of resources we’ve created to help customers get more out of our product. This includes a brief explainer on what our toolset does, an introduction to our knowledge base and in-app tutorials, as well as reminding them they can speak to support staff on the live chat anytime they need help.

Excerpt of Ahrefs' email with information on how to use its tools

We also share with them the best content on our blog and YouTube channel, most of which features the different ways to use our toolset and execute different tactics:

Excerpt of Ahrefs' email containing links to its best content

Finally, we also invite them to join our customers-only Facebook group, Ahrefs Insider, so they can interact with other top-tier SEOs to get the latest tips, tactics, and solutions for their problems:

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Excerpt of Ahrefs' email containing invitation to join its FB page

Education and support aren’t just limited to software-as-a-service (SaaS) businesses like ours. E‑commerce brands can do it too. Take a look, for example, at how Beardbrand creates content to support its customers:

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Beardbrand's content about taking care of beards

If you sell women’s clothing, you can always show your customers how to pair up different styles for different seasons. Or if you sell sneakers, teach your customers how to take care of them (especially suedes!), clean them, and pair them up with different styles (or even lace them differently!).

7. Churned customers

Trigger: Customers buy your product once and never purchase anything again
Message: Discount for returning
Channel: Email, retargeting

The above trigger is to prevent churn. But no matter how much you try, some customers will leave or stop buying from you. However, a percentage of them can be persuaded back.

Retargeting can work well here. Use ads to remind them they’ve not bought from you for a while and invite them to check out your brand again.

Email can work too. Drew Sanocki famously helped transform streetwear brand KarmaLoop from facing bankruptcy to being acquired. One of the tools in his toolbox was the discount ladder strategy for winning back churned customers.

KarmaLoop's email offering "Welcome Back" discount to customers

Drew explains the strategy in more detail here. But basically, the idea is to give increasing discounts over time to customers who haven’t made a purchase in a while.

But once the customer buys, they’re taken off the discount ladder. This ensures you’re not driving your brand downward into a discounting spiral (incidentally the reason why KarmaLoop was on the verge of bankruptcy in the first place).

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8. VIPs

Trigger: Customers who repeatedly and frequently buy your products
Message: Join VIP program
Channel: Email, in-app, in-store

Customers who love your product should be given more opportunities to buy again and buy often. If you have one, it’s a good idea to invite them to your loyalty or VIP program.

For example, Sephora’s Beauty Insider is one of the most successful loyalty programs around. It has over 25 million members, and they make up close to 80% of Sephora’s annual sales.

The Beauty Insider program has tiers, which encourage loyal customers to buy more so that they get upgraded to higher tiers:

Table showing perks that Sephora customers can get when they unlock the various membership levels

Being a Very Important Beauty (VIB) member is important to Sephora’s community members. Not only do they get rewards and discounts, but they also get access to exclusive products and events. So much so that there is a proud VIB community on YouTube:

List of Youtube videos about Sephora's VIB sales, recommendations, etc

Final thoughts

The segments and triggers I’ve written about are not exhaustive.

Depending on your business, you can take a more granular approach and create more segments. And for each segment, you can always consider more triggers.

Bear in mind the absence of an action can also be a trigger. For example, a situation where a potential customer joins your email list but doesn’t open the past five emails can be a trigger that spurs you to send a new message.

What do you think? Did I miss out on anything about lifecycle marketing? Let me know on Twitter.

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How To Use Google’s Structured Data Markup Helper

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How To Use Google's Structured Data Markup Helper

If you drill down to the very core, every search engine optimization (SEO) strategy has the same aim: convincing Google your webpage is the best answer to a user’s query.

There are a lot of tactics you can and should employ to achieve this, but that’s the goal.

And, as the Google brain has grown more complex, it’s able to display increasingly more detailed and helpful answers.

For example, if you’re looking to book a flight from Chicago O’Hare to LAX, Google can now show you options in rich snippets on search results pages.

Likewise, if you run a concert venue, you can add code known as structured data to your website that will encourage Google to display your events when they’re relevant to web searchers.

If you’re not familiar with the term “structured data,” don’t fret – there are a lot of SEO professionals and web marketers who aren’t.

In this article, we’ll set that right, plus give you tips on using the Structured Data Markup Helper to easily add it to your site.

What Is Structured Data?

As defined in this post, structured data is information (data) that is organized (structured). Organized information is basically what structured data is.

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For SEO purposes, structured data is a specific type of formatting that gives Google information about the meaning of a page.

Following a standardized vocabulary outlined by Schema.org, it is used across several search engines, including Google, Bing, Yahoo, and Yandex.

Structured data can use syntax like JSON-LD, RDFa, and Microdata, among others.

Why Is Structured Data Important?

There are several reasons why webpages use structured data.

For one thing, it makes navigation easier for both search engine crawlers and human users.

This is because it provides the information that can then be displayed on search engine results pages (SERPs) in the form of rich snippets, video carousels, and other special search result features and enhancements.

This leads to faster indexing by search spiders and enhances your site’s search visibility. This can also help improve your click-through rate, increase conversions, and grab more voice search traffic.

In an article for Search Engine Journal, Winston Burton, Senior Vice President of SEO at global search and marketing agency Acronym, detailed the results of adding structured data to the client’s website.

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With no other optimization strategies employed, the client saw a 400% net growth in rich result organic traffic and a 140% growth in impressions for the company’s answer center.

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Even if this is a statistical outlier, it still highlights the massive potential of using structured data.

What Is Structured Data Used For?

Now that we’ve covered what structured data is and why it’s important, let’s look into some of the ways it can be used.

In an April 2022 Google Search Central SEO office-hours hangout, Google Search Advocate John Mueller dove into structured data and its uses.

If you have 30 minutes to spare, it’s well worth the watch. If you’re in a hurry, the part that’s relevant to the current topic begins at 27:19. Or better yet, read Roger Montti’s coverage of it here.

In this hangout, Mueller was asked a question about how to choose the best format for structured data.

His answer was that it’s not so much about what format a page uses, but rather what kind of rich result is available for the page.

Structured data is very versatile and provides a lot of opportunities for businesses to use it to drive clicks. Some of these you may wish to take advantage of include:

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Knowledge Panels

Used for things that are part of the Google Knowledge Graph, they provide a quick overview of information about a topic.

Screenshot from search, Google, June 2022

As a business, you can use knowledge panels to give users at-a-glance information about your brand name, logo, and phone number, among other things.

Rich Snippets

Sometimes referred to as rich results, this is the additional data Google shows users in addition to normal search results. This may include things like music, events, or recipes.

Rich Snippets ExampleScreenshot from search, Google, June 2022

For commercial purposes, this is where reviews can be shown. It can also highlight things like products, addresses, and special offers.

Hosted Carousels

Common on mobile devices, this shows multiple “cards” from the same site.

Not to be confused with ordinary carousels, which can include images, video, and other data pulled from multiple sites, hosted carousels use content from only one “host” site.

Google currently supports the following types of hosted carousels:

  • Educational Course.
  • Movie.
  • Recipe.
  • Restaurant.
Carousel exampleScreenshot from search, Google, June 2022

AdWords

If you’re using Google’s automated ads as part of your PPC strategy, you can use structured snippets to give more information to customers.

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For example, you could use them to provide information about a line of products, included features or services offered.

AdWords exampleScreenshot from search, Google, June 2022

But, before you go inserting structured snippets into your webpages willy-nilly, you should know these are subject to standard Google Ads policies and must meet a number of requirements, a full list of which can be found here.

Getting Started With Structured Data

By now you should see the benefits structured data can offer, so let’s look at how to add it to your website.

The simplest way to add structured data to your webpage is by using Google’s Data Highlighter tool.

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To use this, simply open the tool and highlight data like name, date, location, etc. with your mouse.

Google will note this information the next time it crawls your site and present the data in rich snippets on search results pages.

You can also manually markup elements on HTML webpages. Sound intimidating? It’s not. You just have to have a small working knowledge of coding.

For your convenience, we’ve provided a step-by-step guide to help you through the process:

  1.   Open Google’s Structured Data Markup Helper.
  2.   Click the “Website” tab.
  3.   Select the type of page you’re marking up (e.g., job postings, restaurants, Q&A page, local businesses, etc.)
  4.   Enter the URL of an existing page or raw page HTML.
  5.   Click “Start Tagging.”
  6.   Highlight the parts of the page you want to be included in rich snippets and identify them in the dropdown that appears.
  7.   Fill in the required information. For an event, this includes the event name, location, and date.
  8.   After you have finished tagging, click the “Create HTML” button and choose an output format. JSON-LD is Google’s preferred format, though you can also choose Microdata.
  9.   Copy the code or download it. If you are using JSON-LD, paste the generated code into the body of the existing page. If you choose Microdata, replace your page with the generated HTML.
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Some other things to note:

  • To test the generated code, copy and paste it into the Rich Result test, which will show you any missing fields you need to fill in.
  • You can have multiple items on one page, but Google recommends that they are all the same type, e.g., all movies or all job postings.
  • All pages you want to display rich snippets for should be available to the public and not hidden behind login screens.
  • It may take a few weeks for Google to crawl your new page, but once it does it can be shown in rich snippets.

Is Structured Data A Ranking Signal?

Now for the $10,000 question: Will structured data markup help your site appear higher in search rankings?

Unfortunately, no.

In a deep dive into the topic, Search Engine Journal found that while it offers many benefits, there is no direct evidence schema markup is used by Google to determine search ranking.

That said, because it helps search engines more easily understand the content of your website, it can help you show up in relevant queries you may have been excluded from in the past.

Key Takeaways

Traffic is always the name of the game in digital marketing. And leveraging structured data on your website is a great way to help attract visitors.

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Not only does it enhance the appearance of your content in search results, but it can help your site get indexed faster.

Rich results (particularly positive product reviews) can also significantly improve your click-through rate and average time on the page.

If your page is used in a featured snippet, it will show at the top of SERPs.

In addition to the increase in visibility that provides, featured snippets are used to answer voice search queries. That means you’ll be the only result for anyone who uses Siri or Alexa for a query.

The final reason you should use structured data on your website is that it gives you more control over your information.

You determine how Google understands your brand and allows you to control how your information is defined.

Structured data is a useful tool in your toolbox. It doesn’t work for every site and every type of content, but if you’re in a field where it is useful, it’s something you need to be using.


Featured Image: NicoElNino/Shutterstock

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