What Are the Differences Between Customer Lifecycle Marketing and Traditional Sales Funnels?

What Are the Differences Between Customer Lifecycle Marketing and Traditional Sales Funnels?

by | Nov 8, 2022 | Content Marketing

If you haven’t already, it’s time to drop that traditional sales funnel.

The association many folks have with the sales funnel is antiquated and leaves out some critical parts of the customer journey. It can also feel cold and sales-y to customers, pushing people away as opposed to drawing them in. So, there’s no time like the present to implement customer lifecycle marketing into your strategy.

If you’re unfamiliar, this process is all about serving your audience with valuable content, nurturing relationships, and then encouraging past customers to become loyal brand advocates. Meaning this is a powerful way to build long-term success for your company.

Unsure about what a traditional sales funnel looks like? Need some tips to get you started with lifecycle marketing? We’ve put together everything you need to start connecting with your audience and generating more leads.

Customer Lifecycle Marketing and Sales Funnel Differences

What is the Traditional Sales Funnel?

Simply put, a traditional sales funnel maps out the journey an individual takes as they move towards purchasing. By visualizing and outlining this journey, a company can anticipate what will move someone from one stage to the next, increasing the odds they’ll go from being a lead to a paying customer.

Although different versions of the sales funnel have been developed over the years, the most common one is associated with the AIDA model created by E. St. Elmo Lewis. In this model, a customer goes through four stages on their way to making a purchase. Those stages include Awareness, Interest, Desire, and Action. William W. Townsend first proposed the connection between the funnel and AIDA models in Bond Salesmanship, his 1924 book.

The Awareness stage is when an individual initially discovers a company, typically by finding some sort of content they’ve published online. From there, this person develops an interest in what the company has to offer, expresses a desire to buy its product or service, and ultimately takes action by purchasing.

What Are Some Examples of a Traditional Sales Funnel?

Now that you understand the ins and outs of a traditional sales funnel, you might wonder what it can look like when a company uses a sales funnel as part of its business model. Creating a successful funnel that converts someone from being a lead into a paying customer can show up in several ways.

How a company builds its sales funnel depends on what resonates most with its target audience. Which typically takes some trial and error to get it right. However, it all begins with discovering the brand in question. This most often happens after discovering their content (blog post, social media post, etc.). Then there is some sort of offer to move you along the funnel.

Here are some examples of elements that can make up a sales funnel:

  • Exclusive Content: Often, brands offer exclusive content that can be accessed in exchange for sharing your name and email address. This is a great way to provide valuable content and establish yourself as an authority and reliable source of information. You collect data on what people are interested in learning about while gaining an audience for other marketing materials.
  • Free Trial: Offering a free trial is the perfect way to give leads a taste of your offer. This way, they’re able to try out the product or service before committing to an expensive purchase or a long-term subscription. And you eliminate obstacles preventing them from investing in your brand and boost confidence in what you do.
  • Schedule a Demo: Allowing leads to schedule a demo of your product works in the same way as offering a free trial. The only difference is that a demo allows for a one-on-one, personalized interaction. That can go a long way in convincing someone to purchase because humans are more likely to trust your company when they meet a fellow person who works there.
  • Nurture Sequences: Email marketing is a powerful strategy that will help you engage with folks who’ve already expressed interest in your products. Once someone joins your email list, you can trigger a nurturing sequence of emails. These emails will help establish a relationship and build trust with leads.

What is Customer Lifecycle Marketing?

Before diving in, it’s important to stress we didn’t coin the term “marketing lifecycle.” Ardath Albee, an industry leader in content marketing, talked about a lifecycle on the Marketo blog in 2018. In the post titled “B2B Tech Marketers Make the Shift from Funnels to Lifecycles,” she says: “… Marketers [must] shift their focus from buying journey funnels to full-on customer lifecycle management.”

What we have done, however, is create an original concept revealing four key stages to crafting an authentic customer lifecycle marketing journey. This strategy keeps you focused on your human buyer while building a connection and an ongoing relationship with them.

Lifecycle marketing walks you through the process of building awareness at the beginning of the relationship to nurturing those connections so you can create long-lasting success. It encompasses the variety of strategies your company will implement to influence customer behavior as they move through each stage of their journey.

The Four Stages of Customer Lifecycle Marketing

Awareness, Interest & Intent, Decision, and Loyalty are the four stages we believe are essential for implementing customer lifecycle marketing. So you understand this process better, the next section outlines every stage and gives examples of what kind of content to create at each stage. It takes the guesswork out of developing an effective customer journey. Let’s dive in!

Stage One: Awareness

Much like the traditional sales funnel, the first stage of customer lifecycle marketing generates awareness. After all, it would be impossible for someone to purchase your offering if they have no idea who you are. That’s why you need to prioritize putting your brand out there to gain exposure.

During this stage, make it your mission to consistently publish high-quality, valuable content that will appeal to your target audience. Use this as an opportunity to establish your brand as an authority within your niche. People are more likely to view you as a trusted and reliable resource.

Although it may be tempting, this isn’t the time to be overly promotional in your content. Instead, focus on creating content that addresses problems your audience has so you can show them you have a solution.

The next question is – what kind of content should you create during this stage? Ultimately, you’ll make this call based on the types of content you’re good at creating and what is the most likely to appeal to your audience.

Here are some ideas:

  • Blog Posts: It should come as no surprise, but blog posts are a personal favorite for the Express Writers team. Writing high-quality blog posts optimized to attract organic traffic is a fantastic way to gain more exposure and effortlessly bring in new leads.
  • Videos and Podcasts: If you want to look beyond blog posts, you may want to branch out to include other formats as part of your content strategy. Videos and podcasts are great to consider because both can position your brand in front of a wider audience.
  • Social Media: You can’t discount the power of social media for brand visibility. It’s an important aspect of customer lifecycle marketing because being active on social media platforms your target audience uses the most will help them connect with you. You’ll stay on their radar regularly.
  • Ad Campaigns: There’s no denying that organic traffic is great, but growing your audience isn’t done overnight. If you want to speed up the process, you can invest in ad campaigns on social media or Google to gain exposure quickly.

Of course, there are tons of other ways to boost awareness of your brand. However, what’s most important is consistency. You can’t publish one blog post and assume that will attract people. You need to show up regularly by putting fresh content out into the world. The more content you publish, the more opportunities you have to attract leads.

Stage Two: Interest & Intent

Once someone is introduced to your brand, they move toward interest and intent when they’ve shown interest in your offer or have intent to buy. In a traditional sales funnel, it’s split into the Interest and Desire stages. While considering customer lifecycle marketing, we’ve combined the two. Since no two customers are alike, they’ll have different needs. For example, everyone takes a different amount of time to make a purchase. Some will buy immediately, while others need to warm up first.

Luckily, there are several things you can do at this stage to give leads that added push to take action if they’re on the fence. Instead of sitting back and waiting for them to decide, you’re encouraged to take this initiative. Step in with check-ins, special offers, and valuable info to guide them. Showing the support you can offer goes a long way to connecting with a buyer and convincing them you’re worth the leap of faith.

Here are a couple of ways to boost sales during this stage:

  • Conversational Marketing: Odds are if someone is unsure about making a purchase, they have a few questions they’d like to have addressed. If possible, allow leads to schedule one-on-one calls with someone on your sales team to discuss offers. Answer any questions they have and offer assistance while they choose between your available products or services. 73% of consumers say customer experience is a key factor when making buying decisions.
  • Chat Apps: Sometimes, leads don’t need to schedule a phone call because they have a question you can answer quickly and easily. In those instances, it’s great to have a chat app on your website connecting you with people in real time. This also eliminates wait times, which can shorten the sales cycle overall.

To ensure the success of your team during this stage, build a sales team that understands your offer and cares about your customer. You want someone who understands your brand and its target audience so they can match each lead with their ideal service. If you bring in someone genuine and understanding, not someone who’s just in it to make a forceful sale, your leads are more likely to engage with you.

Stage Three: Decision

Once in the decision stage, your lead is ready to buy. And all your hard work got them here. You’ve successfully crafted high-quality content that adds value to the lives of your target audience and positions you as an authority in your field. Now that they know you and consider you a trusted resource, they’re ready to invest their money with you.

Even though your prospects are ready to move forward, there are still things you can share to ensure conversions:

  • Testimonials and Social Proof: When people are on the fence about purchasing something, they often turn to reviews to read first-hand accounts from real customers. If they see that others enjoyed a particular product or service, they’ll feel more confident in the purchase. Adding testimonials on your home or about pages or having a section of your site dedicated to these reviews will showcase how your offerings have been transformative.
  • Provide Samples: This won’t apply to all industries, but in some cases, samples are a fantastic way to secure a sale. For example, we offer samples to prospects looking to see the kind of content we create for other clients. Then they know what to expect from you.

The best thing you can do is to put yourself in the shoes of your leads. If you were getting ready to make a purchase, what would remove all doubt from your mind? What would make you say with absolute certainty that this is where you wanted to buy? Then, factor that into your sales pages and conversations you have with potential buyers.

Stage Four: Loyalty

As mentioned above, loyalty is one thing that the traditional sales funnel overlooks. But if you want your business to thrive, you can’t ignore this. According to HubSpot, a 5% increase in customer retention can increase company revenue by 25-95%. That’s why having customers return to your business over and over is an essential part of growing your business.

Not only do loyal customers make repeat purchases, but they’re more likely to refer their family and friends to you. They trust that what you offer can help more people. So your revenue grows without needing other marketing tricks.

Once you reach the loyalty stage, it’s your job to delight your customers. Make sure they’re satisfied with their purchase and overall experience with your brand. That means they’re ready to become advocates who rave about you and send you referrals.

To build loyalty, consider these two things:

  • Conduct Occasional Check-Ins: To show you care, take the time to check in on past customers. Ask how they’re doing and if there’s anything you can help them with. You can even get feedback on their experience to make future tweaks as needed.
  • Send Gifts: Something as simple as a thank you card can go a long way toward showing appreciation for your customers. It just might be what keeps them coming back to you instead of leaving for a competitor.

Prioritize Conversations and Storytelling in Your Marketing

Building trust with your audience will separate you from your competitors. Focus on being a reputable and dependable brand and you’ll set yourself up for long-term success. How should you do this?

46% of surveyed consumers reported that they would pay more money for brands they trust. Cultivate these relationships through conversations with your base. You can do this by taking the time to get to know them on a deeper level. Not only does this help you create better content and offerings for them, but they feel heard. These conversations can take place on social media, through email, or even on calls to show you care.

Another great way to build trust? Incorporating storytelling into your marketing efforts. Storytelling brings people together and, much like having conversations, builds deeper connections. This tactic allows you to grab attention while persuading and motivating leads to make a purchase. You should always do this in a way that feels genuine.

88% of consumers feel authenticity is important when they’re deciding which brands they like and want to support. That’s a good reminder that you shouldn’t copy others in your industry and stick to being yourself. Always be honest and transparent so there’s never any doubt about what your brand stands for or its intentions. You can do this by sharing your brand’s story or incorporating storytelling in your sales copy to show leads what kind of transformation your offer provides.

Get Powerful Lifecycle Marketing Content

The good news is that you don’t have to implement customer lifecycle marketing on your own. You can turn to the experts to craft incredible, high-quality content on your behalf. Express Writers is the content writing agency that cares about you and your content so you can nurture your leads. From blog posts to social media posts and more, we’ve got you covered.

Contact us today to get started.

Lifecycle Marketing Cta

Originally published in 2019, updated for 2022.