Forget the Funnel: How Customer Lifecycle Marketing Can Help Your Business

Forget the Funnel: How Customer Lifecycle Marketing Can Help Your Business

As every business owner learns quickly, it’s far more cost-effective to retain existing customers than to continuously generate new ones. This principle is just one reason customer lifecycle marketing is so important.

Yet many marketers are unfamiliar with customer—or consumer—lifecycle marketing. Or, they might have a basic understanding of the term, but not know much about the specific marketing lifecycle stages.

So what is lifecycle marketing? Let’s dive in, so you too can begin to take advantage of a marketing opportunity that could transform your business.

What Is Customer Lifecycle Marketing?

At its core, customer lifecycle marketing is the process of serving your target audience throughout the sales cycle—from the moment they engage with an ad to the point when they become a brand loyalist. This type of advertising requires a deep understanding of the audience, as well as a commitment to a long-term investment in the consumer/brand relationship.

This type of marketing differs drastically from marketing that’s based solely on the goal of bringing in new customers. Many companies put all of their efforts into converting those potential customers, only to ignore them once they’ve made a purchase or two. At this point, many customers may have unmet needs, and they end up looking to a competitor for a better product or customer service.

In contrast, lifecycle marketing is all about increasing customer value over time. When done well, long-term customers become brand advocates who enthusiastically tell friends and family about their great experiences with your company.

How Does Customer Lifecycle Marketing Differ from Other Types of Marketing?

Many companies use the sales funnel or flywheel models of marketing to nurture leads and turn customers into brand advocates. Both models have steps that may sound similar to lifecycle marketing on the surface. So what sets lifecycle marketing apart as a more effective marketing model?

Other models put more focus on sales, while lifecycle marketing puts customers first. Here, the emphasis is more on what the customers are thinking and feeling, with the main goal of customer service instead of sales.

Let’s dive deeper into the drawbacks of these older sales methods.

Sales Funnel

Many of today’s shoppers consider sales funnel models to be too pushy and aggressive. With a focus on urgency and scarcity, these sales tactics are easy to spot—and a big turnoff to skeptical consumers. Lifecycle marketing combats these challenges by emphasizing customer service over making a sale. When customers feel heard and understood, they’re excited to support a brand.


The flywheel marketing theory was meant to replace the outdated principles of the sales funnel—yet this method has its own flaws. The flywheel focuses on building momentum and reducing any friction a customer may face in their buying journey. But momentum and friction are difficult to measure, meaning many companies have a hard time tracking progress with the flywheel model. By highlighting concepts rather than actionable steps, the model falls short.

In contrast, customer lifecycle marketing has three clear phases (targeting, converting, and building), which can be tracked using a variety of KPIs, like conversion rates and customer satisfaction.

Examples of Customer Lifecycle Marketing

There are many ways to implement consumer lifecycle marketing within your existing campaign efforts. But if you’re new to the concept, it can be helpful to learn from specific examples. 

Here are a few ways today’s brands are successfully implementing lifecycle marketing.

1. Use Email Marketing to Emphasize Core Values

New Zealand shoe company Allbirds is making sure their newest community members understand their core values of environmental sustainability. How? Whenever someone joins their email list, one of the first emails they receive highlights the company’s commitment to sustainable, comfortable shoes. Because many consumers are attracted to brands doing social good, this is a smart way to capture the audience’s attention and build trust.

2. Segment SMS Marketing for Greater Personalization

Gilt is a luxury e-commerce company that knows their customers are diverse—and their marketing messages should be, too. They’ve segmented their SMS campaigns into specific groups so every customer receives the most relevant message for their needs. For example, someone who left something in their cart might be excited about a special discount, whereas someone who just paid full price for an item would probably be annoyed by the same message.

3. Remind Customers When It’s Time to Make Another Purchase

Tula skincare company is boosting customer retention with friendly messages reminding customers when it’s time to replenish their product. By paying attention to when customers made their last purchase—and when they’ll likely need more of it—they’re meeting the needs of their customers and encouraging action.

Benefits of Customer Lifecycle Marketing

The benefits of customer lifecycle marketing are clear: By investing in a long-term relationship with your customers, you’ll save money, increase profits, and more. Customers will be more likely to stick around when they feel understood and valued by your company, meaning you’ll be able to increase the lifetime value of your customers.

You’ll also get a greater return on investment from your marketing campaign, since customers will keep coming back after that initial conversion. Ultimately, you’ll enjoy increased sales and greater profit margins—something every company aims for.

Stages of the Customer Lifecycle

Lifecycle marketing is typically broken down into three phases: target, convert, and build. When executed correctly, these three phases create a seamless process. Here’s how each phase works.

1. Target

Within the targeting phase come three micro-phases: capturing the audience, drawing website visitors, and finally, collecting consumer information. The purpose of this phase is to catch the attention of the target audience, which will eventually buy your product or service (if all goes well).

2. Convert

Once you’ve caught the attention of your target audience, it’s time to get them engaging with your brand. This can be done with a social media ad campaign, pop-ups on your website, and more. After a consumer has engaged with your brand, extend an offer (like a coupon or free download), then close the sale.

3. Build

You’ve closed the deal, but your job isn’t done yet—this is where the real work begins. Your new customer is still deciding how they feel about your brand, so you need to make sure you truly deliver. This includes timely shipping, providing a high-quality product, and offering customer support. Once you’ve done this consistently, you’ll have a happy customer who is willing to provide referrals and spread the word about your brand.

Tips for Customer Lifecycle Marketing

Ready to adapt consumer lifecycle marketing for your brand? Before you get started, check out these tips to help you optimize the process:

  • Create a strategy for each step in the cycle, making sure there aren’t any gaps in the flow.
  • Never underestimate the value of niche marketing, which personalizes the sales experience for a highly targeted demographic.
  • Highlight what makes your product different from others on the market.
  • Consider any risks a customer may take when purchasing your product or service.
  • Think about added features your customer might enjoy.
  • Gather feedback to find out how you can improve your product.
  • Consider when your customers will need to make another purchase from your company.
  • Optimize the buying experience using customer feedback.

If you’re ever stuck on how to improve any phase of the cycle, ask yourself important questions about your brand, such as:

  • Why would your audience want your product?
  • What problems does your product solve?
  • What solutions does your company offer?
  • How would a customer feel at any given stage of the cycle?
  • What would make a customer want to share your business with a friend?
  • Is there more than one way to use your product?
  • Why should a customer make a purchase right now?

Connect with Your Customers at Every Stage with Programmatic Advertising

Looking for more ways to connect with your customers at every stage? Start using programmatic advertising to do just that. Agility Digital is the best platform to launch your next programmatic advertising campaign, offering free creative services, 24/7 analytics, and advanced ad optimization. We’ll help you build your customer base—and keep them around for the long haul. Contact us today or consult our knowledge base to get started.

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