Mapping to Innovate & Improve the Customer Lifecycle

Every business aims to acquire new customers, have them fall in love with their product or service, and provide top-notch service along the way. The challenge here, despite good intentions, is actually keeping loyal customers. After all, acquiring a new customer can cost anywhere from 5x to 25x that of retaining a current customer. Just looking at that statistic should perk the ears up of any marketer out there. 

Simplifying the complex customer lifecycle

So, to keep those customers happy and dialing up the revenue, businesses need to challenge themselves (and other marketers) to take a seat at the table in learning about the post-sale customer lifecycle from the customer’s perspective. This will also help to improve customer relationships, especially if they are at risk. 

It's true, a marketer's job is never done. And as if we don't have enough pillars to add to our ever-evolving marketing strategy, customer retention (and might we add delight) is the basis of any good marketing strategy. That’s why we not only undertook a revamp of our customer journey map at SmartBug®, but we also hope to rally other marketers to do the same. Hence me sharing insider tips and tricks with all of you. 

In a day and age when the stage of the customer lifecycle is so complex, listening to the voice of the customer (VOC) helps you understand their expectations. As a brand, you have a unified voice. So at every touchpoint, regardless of where interactions and communications are coming from, the customer can identify, and almost predict, what type of interaction they will have with your brand—including on social media. The mission: deliver on expectations and delight for longevity. 

Want to know how we approach it? Here’s how you start framing your own map to optimize the customer lifecycle.

Understand your customer to optimize your journey map

The process of creating a customer journey map details the customer lifecycle from presale to post-sale. Consider it a visual storytelling of your customers' interactions with your brand. Where many brands fail is that they want the customer to conform to their perspective, their ideas, their concepts, and so on. Although that worked at one time, the new digital era has amplified customer voices. 

Brand originality is critical to success, but understanding the pain points and how to improve the customer lifecycle puts your brand on the industry leaderboard. It may seem like a lot of effort, but it goes a long way. If you listen to your customers (and the data at your fingertips), you’ll be able to optimize journey mapping to:


  • Increase customer loyalty
  • Extend customer lifetime value                

  • Mitigate retention risk and decrease churn

  • Gain market share

  • Gain better understanding of e-comm 

Yes, it’s true—you have to do the listening work if you want to get the results. 


Get business-wide buy-in 

Seventy percent of all organizational change efforts fail because they simply don’t get enough buy-in from enough people for new initiatives. This does not mean that every idea has to be accepted, but that there is cross-departmental buy-in strengthened by executive support. And let’s face it, yes you need a customer journey, but before you go about all the details you really need to make sure there is alignment on the work you'll put into it.

As a starting point, find areas where the customer journey map will contribute to the overall customer lifetime value. From there, you can start to build a collaborative team of people who see what’s in it for them and will collaborate with you. If you can, get a working group together and establish key check-ins and KPIs for the project. From there, identify areas to improve and make it visual so it's easier for wider teams to understand where the gaps are. Setting the stage for internal communications and transparency with stakeholders will sustain the support needed for real buy-in. 


Evolving lifecycle: From single touchpoints to multi-touch journeys

Historically, lots of marketers have looked at the customer lifecycle as a series of one-off touchpoints—oftentimes disjointed. And to our credit, there were often lapses in data or technology that prevented us from stringing it all together. But with shifts in metrics, tech, and our own mindset, this no longer cuts it. 

Now, our customer base (and our competitors) demand that we evolve and embrace a full customer lifecycle composed of key data-defined stages. The beauty here is that you get to define these stages based on your unique business goals, tech stack, and relationship with sales and customer success teams. Once you define these stages (e.g., the onboarding stage begins when xyz action is completed), you can then create multi-touch reactions to continue moving buyers along to the next stage. It’s a game of inputs and outputs, but controlled by your journey map. For post-sale, this can look like the following:

  • Sale, closed-won 

  • Handoff to CSM/AM

  • Onboarding

  • Customer launch

  • Nurture/renewal (ongoing retainer) 

  • Churn


Applying ABM to moments of truth 

A moment of truth in the customer lifecycle is when “go/no-go” decisions are made that flag churn. Define these moments of truth first before building touchpoints, and filter them so they apply to specific milestones in the customer journey. 

For instance, when a customer completes their first onboarding call, they move into the next stage of their lifecycle. Communication and marketing campaigns are triggered based on both their activity and that milestone progression. As the customer progresses further into their journey, the window of not only retention but also expansion and upsell opportunities opens. But in the case of retention risks, account-based plays are one of the top ways you can nip it in the bud as a marketing team. 

For example, with RollWorks you can monitor existing customers surging intent on competitors and proactively launch “displacement” display campaigns to support customer success managers (CSMs). This is all the more reason to stage listening posts, especially with data. As mentioned earlier, if you aren’t listening to customers, your mapping journey simply won't work. So create campaigns based on the customer experience and sentiment. Although you segment them by different verticals, the same key goal is to delight. Understand sentiment with net promoter score (NPS) surveys and go the extra mile with gifting to happy customers. 


And above all? Reframe your mindset from “reduce churn” to “delight customers”

As hard as it may be to face the music, customers do churn. And all churn is not equal—customers churn all the time for drastically different reasons. But to make the entire process more enjoyable (and profitable!), I challenge you to flip the script and lean into customers who get value from you. Focus on selling them more value. They are already receptive and loyal to your brand, and they are the foundation of your growing business. 


Learn more about the post-sale customer lifecycle, get on the Road to Revenue: Why the Work Isn't Done Just Because a Deal is Won

About the Author

Hannah Shain, VP of Marketing at SmartBug Media

Hannah leads marketing, brand, inbound, content, digital strategy, social media, demand generation, pipeline creation, sales enablement, partner programs, and customer advocacy for HubSpot's top agency partner, SmartBug Media.

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