Today I’m going to talk about the 7 core stages in the customer lifecycle and the #1 mistake (or deadly sin) to avoid in each stage.
I say “deadly” sins because these mistakes over time can erode your sales and profits and eventually put you out of business. So as you go through the list make a note where you can improve to make your business more stable.
Here are the 7 stages of the customer lifecycle that I’m going to cover:
- Attract Traffic
- Capture Leads
- Nurture Prospects
- Convert to Customers
- Over Deliver
- Get Referrals
1. Deadly Sin of Attracting Traffic
The #1 mistake when it comes to attracting traffic is relying on one method. Once you find something that works it’s easy to get lazy and focus solely on the one source of traffic for your business. However, this a recipe for failure.
For example, if you rely on search engine optimization (SEO) as your only traffic source, then you could be out of business tomorrow if Google decides to switch up the ol’ algorithm.
Or if you rely only on pay per click (PPC) search traffic then your margins shrink to zero if strong competitors start driving up bids and stealing your traffic.
For more info about the tragedies of the number 1 in marketing, check out “The Worst Number in Marketing?”
The trick is to NEVER stop looking for more sources of profitable traffic. Here’s a short list of traffic sources to help you diversify:
- Try Bing/Yahoo is you’re only using Google now
- Social media advertising (i.e. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn)
- Media buying directly or via an ad outlet like BuySellAds
- Offer your product on an affiliate network
- Advertise in Ezines
- Write guest articles on popular blogs
- Test direct mail with sales letters and/or postcards
- Test TV and/or radio ads if your product has mass appeal (note that Google offers TV spots and it’s not expensive to test)
2. Deadly Sin of NOT Capturing Leads
If your website does not have a method to capture contact information from leads then you need to quickly fix this problem.
Every day potential customers are visiting your website and they are leaving for countless reasons (i.e. got interrupted by a phone call, had to go to a meeting, wanted to search for something else online first, not ready to buy right now, etc) WITHOUT giving you any contact information.
This means you have no way to follow up with these potential customers and most will never return because they’ll either forget or go to a competitor.
So it is absolutely critical to set up a lead capture form on your website. This can be anything valuable to your prospective customer – a free “how to” report, a demo, a white paper, or a cool online tool. The important thing is that it’s perceived as valuable enough to give you an email address to gain access.
Once you have your prospect’s email address, then you have the ability to nurture the lead. This brings us to the third deadly sin…
3. Deadly Sin of NOT Nurturing Prospects
A recent study across multiple industries showed that 50% of leads will buy within 18 months. 85% of those buyers will make the purchase 3 – 18 months after expressing initial interest.
You may want to read that again…
85% of the people who are going to buy from you will not purchase until 3 – 18 months AFTER they first get to your website.
That means if you’re not nurturing your prospects via email, phone, and/or direct mail then you’re missing 85% of the potential buyers. Now that is truly a deadly sin!
4. Deadly Sin of NOT Converting Prospects
At this point in the customer lifecycle you have worked hard to drive traffic from various sources, you’ve captured the lead and nurtured her until she is now ready to buy. Don’t screw it up now with a faulty sales process.
The deadly sin here is not having a sales process with tested and proven scripts and sales pages. A lot of businesses just wing it and never document the optimal sales system for their product or service. The result is unsteady, unpredictable, and unrepeatable sales month after month.
You may be thinking this doesn’t apply to you because you’re selling 100% online with no phone calls or any human interaction.
My response is that you’re missing critical market/customer research by not speaking to your prospects and customers. At least set up an online chat system to field some questions. You’ll be amazed how fast you’ll learn about your customers and their buying concerns/criteria.
But even if you refuse to field calls or chats, then you still need to continually optimize your online sales system from sales letter to shopping cart to final order page. Map out the entire process and systematically improve each page to increase conversions.
5. Deadly Sin of NOT Over Delivering
Now we’re at the stage where your customer has handed you her hard earned money and is excited to receive the promised product or service.
Most mediocre businesses screw this part up big time. The deadly sin here is NOT over delivering.
Your customer trusted you enough to give you money and now is the time to reassure she made a smart decision. Don’t just send a receipt from a noreply email address and expect your product or service to do all the talking.
Wow your customer with a “thank you” phone call and/or letter. Or even better, send an unannounced gift like a cookie just for becoming a new customer.
This small investment in your new customers will be repaid over and over as you create zealots for your products/services. When you do something remarkable, then your customers can’t help but tell all of their friends and family!
6. Deadly Sin of NOT Upselling
Upselling to additional products is not just about increasing the lifetime value of a customer. It’s really about providing the best solution for your customer.
I would argue if you’re not providing upsells, then you’re not satisfying all of your customers. That’s why deadly sin #6 is NOT upselling.
Don’t think of an upsell as a way to extract more money during a transaction. Instead, think creatively about how you can better serve your customer and make her life easier.
For example, the best upsells provide faster and automated solutions to problems. Some people (and I’m one of them) will happily pay more for speed and automation.
So first determine what you can offer that will help your customers achieve their goals faster/easier than with your existing product. Then test offering the upsell before the purchase (pre-transaction upsell), immediately after purchase (post-transaction upsell), and several days after the purchase (follow-up upsell).
7. Deadly Sin of NOT Getting Referrals
I mentioned in deadly sin #5, that over delivering will naturally create referrals because your customers will become raving fans. This is true, but don’t rely on it and don’t expect it to happen over night.
When it comes to referrals, the biggest mistake is simply not asking for them. It’s not the most comfortable question to ask a customer and it typically takes some practice to make it sound natural.
But if you’ve over delivering, then you should not feel uncomfortable or be afraid to ask your customers for referrals. In fact, you’re doing their friends and family a disservice by not asking because they could benefit from your product/service.
In my experience, your customers are more than happy to refer because it’s rewarding to them to help you out. If you think of it that way, then everyone wins.
I hope this article has been helpful. If you have any questions about the 7 deadly sins or if you have other suggestions to improve the customer lifecycle, then post them below.