Customer Lifecycle Management: The Ultimate Strategy Guide

June 26, 2024 9 min read

Ken McMahon

Ken McMahon

customer-lifecycle-management-hero
Customer Lifecycle Management: CLM is the process of understanding, managing, and optimizing a customer’s entire journey with your brand. It covers all the customer interactions at every touchpoint, from the initial awareness stage through consideration, decision, retention, and advocacy.

Some businesses have a knack for effortlessly turning first-time buyers into loyal brand advocates. It isn’t beginner’s luck—it’s a carefully crafted secret sauce based on understanding and nurturing consumers through exceptional customer lifecycle management (CLM). 

From initial awareness to repeat buyers, each step of the customer lifecycle contributes to building stronger relationships and customer loyalty. Our guide dives deep into the different stages of the customer journey and explores strategies to optimize every touchpoint so you can turn prospects into lifelong fans.

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What Is the Customer Lifecycle?

Before diving into customer lifecycle management, it’s important to understand the customer lifecycle itself.

The customer lifecycle represents the entire journey a customer takes with your brand. It begins with brand awareness and continues through a series of stages that result in purchase and brand loyalty before starting the cycle again. Creating an exceptional customer experience (CX) at every touchpoint is important to keep them moving to the next stage.

customer experience dashboard

The Customer Lifecycle Stages

The customer lifecycle is typically made from these key stages:

By understanding these stages and implementing strategies for each through successful customer lifecycle management, you can create a seamless and positive customer experience that fosters customer retention and loyalty.

“A well-executed CX strategy drives a lift in customer lifetime value. Not only will customers be more inclined to buy more products or upgrade service levels, they are also far less likely to churn. This powerful combination creates a stickiness that will make it hard for other businesses to steal market share.”

~Chris Bryant, Director, Strategic Growth

Why Customer Lifecycle Management Is Important

To achieve sustainable business growth and get a competitive advantage, businesses must create long-term customer relationships. Enter customer lifecycle management.

Here are a few ways CLM is essential for businesses of all sizes:

💲 Boosts customer lifetime value (CLTV): When people love your brand, they become loyal customers. Customer lifetime management helps you create positive customer experiences at each stage of the customer lifecycle. It encourages repeat buying habits and increased spending over time, often translating to increased CLTV, a key metric of customer profitability.

Customer lifetime value (CLV) formula

🤝 Reduces customer churn: Fun fact: keeping existing customers is more cost-effective than acquiring new ones. Customer lifecycle management helps you retain existing customers by addressing their needs proactively throughout their journey. Anticipating and resolving potential issues before they begin creates a seamless customer experience that minimizes customer churn and boosts customer engagement.

🥰 Increases brand advocacy: When loyal customers swear by your brand, they tell their friends and family, post positive online reviews, and recommend your business on social media. Effective customer lifecycle management fosters positive experiences, builds customer trust, and encourages organic word-of-mouth marketing that attracts new customers (without additional marketing spend).

📊 Informs data-driven decisions: Customer lifecycle management empowers data-driven decision-making by tracking customer behavior and interactions at every stage of the life cycle. This allows you to gain valuable insights into customer needs and preferences. You can then use this data to personalize messaging, optimize marketing campaigns, and create a customer-centric experience across touchpoints.

⭐ Enhances customer experience: A smooth, engaging, and positive customer journey goes a long way. Through personalized communication, helpful self-service resources, and convenient customer support, you can anticipate customer needs at each stage and create a seamless experience that increases customer satisfaction.

Nextiva-customer-journey

How to Manage the Customer Lifecycle in 10 Steps

Effectively managing the consumer lifecycle is a blueprint for success. Follow these 10 steps to help you create a strategic approach to maximizing customer satisfaction and loyalty.

10 steps to Manage the Customer Lifecycle

1. Identify your ideal customer

Building a strong customer lifecycle starts with knowing your target audience. Define your ideal customer profile by understanding their demographics, needs, pain points, and how your products and services can solve them. Conduct market research, analyze customer data, and create buyer personas to tailor your messaging and offerings to your clientele.

💡 PRO TIP: Craft a buyer persona that details your ideal customer’s needs and challenges for targeted marketing. This allows you to tailor messaging and features that resonate directly with them.

2. Define customer service goals and objectives

Set clear and attainable customer service goals and objectives that help you measure CX success with key performance indicators and metrics. Defining customer service goals, like reducing churn rate or increasing customer satisfaction (CSAT) scores, will shape your customer lifecycle management strategy and track its effectiveness.

best-cx-metrics
💡 PRO TIP: Consider aligning your customer service goals with broader business objectives. For example, if your goal is to increase customer lifetime value, your CLM strategy might prioritize upselling and cross-selling initiatives to existing customers.

3. Create a customer lifecycle journey map

Visualizing each touchpoint with a customer journey map can help you identify areas for improvement and opportunities to personalize the experience. From awareness to post-purchase engagement, map out a customer’s touchpoints with your brand at each stage, including marketing channels, customer support channels (live chat, email, and social media), and calls to action, like free trial signups.

💡 PRO TIP: Consider using customer journey mapping tools or whiteboards to visually represent the journey. For instance, you might discover that potential customers struggle to find product information during the awareness stage. This insight allows you to create more helpful content or optimize your website navigation.

4. Personalize the customer experience

According to McKinsey, 76% of customers say they get frustrated when they don’t receive personalized support. Leveraging customer data, like purchase history, web browsing behavior, and preferences, allows you to personalize recommendations, communication, and customer support interactions. This personalized approach helps foster deeper connections and shows customers you understand and value their individual needs.

💡 PRO TIP:  For example, an e-commerce store might personalize product recommendations based on a customer’s past purchases or browsing behavior. This targeted approach increases the likelihood of customers finding products they’re genuinely interested in, leading to higher conversion rates and customer satisfaction.

5. Provide proactive support during the buyer’s journey

Offering customers proactive support throughout the touchpoints of the customer lifecycle creates positive customer experiences. Providing helpful resources like knowledge base content, tutorials, and FAQs anticipates customer questions and concerns, making the buying process smooth and frictionless.

proactive-vs-reactive-support
💡 PRO TIP: Consider offering live chat support during peak business hours to answer questions in real time. Creating comprehensive FAQs and self-service resources also empowers potential customers to find solutions independently while showcasing your expertise and building trust.

6. Optimize the customer journey with AI, automation, and self-service

AI-powered chatbots and Intelligent Virtual Agents (IVAs) can provide 24/7 customer support, answering basic inquiries and providing conversational service. Automate personalized email sequences based on customer behavior and provide self-service options like help center articles and community forums. This empowers customers to find solutions independently while freeing your team for more complex interactions.

💡 PRO TIP: An AI chatbot can answer frequently asked questions about product features or pricing plans, allowing customers to get immediate answers without waiting for a customer service representative. This improves customer satisfaction by providing convenient and timely support.

7. Engage with the customer after the sale

Overlooking this stage can cost you repeat business — or even worse, leave the customer feeling like a transaction. Follow up with the customer regularly, nurturing post-purchase engagement with onboarding tutorials, personalized product recommendations, and loyalty programs. This ongoing communication keeps your brand top of mind and encourages repeat business.

💡 PRO TIP: Consider offering personalized onboarding experiences based on the customer’s purchased product or service. Additionally, loyalty programs reward repeat customers and incentivize them to continue using your offerings.

8. Encourage and reward customer reviews and referrals

Happy customers are your best advocates. Encourage them to share their positive experiences and generate more reviews and referrals, like discounts and referral bonuses. Many customers read reviews before purchasing, and positive customer testimonials can be a little nudge that gets them across the finish line.

💡 PRO TIP: Create a dedicated review section on your website or social media pages to showcase positive feedback. Additionally, referral programs incentivize existing customers to recommend your business to their network, expanding your reach and acquiring new customers organically.

9. Analyze the customer lifecycle process

Customer data can help you understand your customers and whether your client lifecycle is performing as you want it to. For example, customer lifecycle analysis can provide insight into user behavior if you see a high drop-off rate during the onboarding process. This allows you to improve onboarding tutorials to address customer pain points.

Track key metrics throughout the lifecycle, such as customer acquisition cost (CAC), customer lifetime value (CLTV), and churn rate. Analyze this data to identify areas for improvement and optimize your customer lifecycle management strategy.

💡 PRO TIP: Use analytics dashboards and reporting tools to visualize customer behavior at each stage. Look for trends, identify bottlenecks, and measure the impact of your CLM initiatives.  

10. Continuously improve the CLM process

Regularly review your customer lifecycle map, analyze data, and gather customer feedback through customer satisfaction (CSAT) surveys or customer interviews. Adapt your strategies to meet evolving customer needs, business needs, and industry trends. This commitment to continuous improvement ensures you deliver top-tier customer experiences with every interaction.

💡 PRO TIP: Schedule regular reviews to assess your CLM strategy and identify areas for improvement. Embrace a culture of experimentation and be willing to test new approaches based on customer data and feedback.  

Lifecycle Marketing vs. Customer Lifecycle Management

While both Customer Lifecycle Management (CLM) and Lifecycle Marketing (LCM) address the customer journey, they serve distinct purposes and require varying levels of effort. 

Lifecycle Marketing vs. Customer Lifecycle Management

👉 Lifecycle marketing (LCM) focuses on outbound marketing activities like emails and ads, aiming to generate leads and drive sales with a low to moderate effort. 

👉 Customer lifecycle management (CLM) covers the entire customer journey, managing all aspects of the customer experience from product research to post-purchase engagement. It requires moderate to high effort and cross-functional collaboration. 

CLM provides a holistic view of all customer touchpoints, while LCM is a subset focused on marketing during specific stages.

Best Practices in Managing the Customer Lifecycle

Optimizing the customer journey helps you build strong customer relationships and achieve sustainable business growth. Here are a few customer lifecycle management best practices to help you reach your goals.

  • Prioritize understanding your customers: Gain deep insights into customer expectations, needs, behaviors, and preferences to create experiences that resonate and build stronger relationships.
  • Tailor the journey to each customer segment: Customize the customer lifecycle for different segments by offering personalized interactions and recommendations that increase engagement and loyalty.
  • Unify customer data: Integrate data from all touchpoints to create a comprehensive view of each customer, enabling more accurate insights and more effective lifecycle management.

Optimize the Customer Lifecycle with Nextiva

Nextiva’s customer experience platform enables you to streamline your customer lifecycle management by integrating interactions across all channels, giving agents comprehensive histories to minimize repetition and friction. 

With proactive workflows and AI, Nextiva ensures real-time assistance and intuitive guidance, enhancing customer satisfaction. This cohesive approach anticipates customer needs, optimizes engagement, and continuously elevates the customer experience, fostering increased loyalty and reduced churn. Begin your transformative journey with Nextiva today.

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Customer Lifecycle Management FAQs

Check out these customer lifecycle management FAQs for some additional information.

What is the customer lifecycle strategy?

The customer lifecycle strategy maps out the entire journey a customer takes with your brand, from initial awareness to post-purchase engagement. It helps you personalize the customer experience, build relationships, and drive customer loyalty.

What is an example of the customer lifecycle journey?

Imagine a startup is looking to invest in small business contact center software. Their journey might start with online research (awareness), then move to reading reviews and comparing features (consideration), followed by purchasing the tracker (conversion). Post-purchase, the journey continues with onboarding tutorials, personalized recommendations, and loyalty programs (retention and advocacy).

What are some customer lifecycle management tools?

Many tools can support your client lifecycle management efforts. These include customer relationship management (CRM) software for managing customer data, email marketing platforms for personalized communication, and analytics tools to track customer behavior and measure campaign effectiveness.

Ken McMahon

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ken McMahon

Ken McMahon leads Customer Success for Nextiva. His 25 years of experience leading various aspects of the customer experience including professional services, customer success, customer care, national operations, and sales. Before Nextiva, he held senior leadership roles with TPx, Vonage, and CenturyLink. He lives in Phoenix with his wife and two children.

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