For many companies, their marketing efforts to any one individual end as soon as that person becomes a customer. But high growth companies recognize countless opportunities to communicate with their users and customers, to keep them coming back again and again.
This is the essence of lifecycle marketing: to deliver the right message to the right users at the right time through email, SMS, in-app messages, and push notifications. Every effective lifecycle marketing strategy balances meaningful, valuable messaging to targeted cohorts of users with baked-in automation. Because, while each of your users and customers is unique, all of them will experience similar touchpoints throughout their journeys. The ultimate goal of lifecycle marketing is to guide users through the Product-Led Growth (PLG) Flywheel towards your North Star metric. Lifecycle marketing processes and tools give you a way to strengthen your engagement with all of your customers at scale.
Think of lifecycle marketing as the evolution of marketing automation: a more holistic way to nurture your customer base. While marketers have always understood the importance of delivering the right message to the right audience at the right time, at some point the promise of this trifecta has veered off track:
Lifecycle marketing highlights the full potential of email marketing automation. Instead of focusing on delivering timely messages based on predetermined triggers, lifecycle marketing considers all the technology and processes you need to optimize every touchpoint throughout your customers’ journey.
Table of Contents
All effective lifecycle marketing strategies emphasize three main elements: data integrity, audience insights, and automation.
Recall the essences of every lifecycle marketing plan: deliver the right messaging to the right users and customers at the right time. And the only way you can know what’s “right” is if you can trust the data from throughout your MarTech stack.
If your data is incomplete, inaccurate, or hampered by duplicates, your messaging might miss the mark entirely. A lifecycle marketing plan which lacks data integrity can lead to communication misfires, frustrated users, and missed opportunities. And on top of that, your audience insights and automated messages will only be meaningful if you have trustworthy data. If your data is inaccurate to begin with, then any attempt at creating granular audiences for targeted, automated messaging will be hamstrung from the start. Learn how to address data trust issues here.
Understanding your audience is the compass that guides message personalization. It's not merely about knowing their names or email addresses; it's about recognizing the personas that make up your user base. Personas are collections of users with similar preferences, while audiences (or segments) are groupings based on user behavior. Audience insights are vital to an effective lifecycle marketing plan because they inform relevant, 1:1 conversations based on your users’ preferences and behavior.
Each of your target personas will consume content in different ways:
One of the best ways to discover audience insights like these is to connect your lifecycle marketing tool to a product / behavioral analytics solution through a customer data platform (CDP). While a discussion of these two types of technology is beyond the scope of this article, we go into much greater detail on product / behavioral analytics here. For more details on CDP, please see our companion article here.
Answering questions like these is crucial to craft messages that resonate with all your personas. Though be aware that your users will likely shift from one audience to another as they get more and more value from your products.
Automation is the fuel for your lifecycle marketing engine. Automation not only enhances efficiency, but it also ensures your messages are timely and relevant. In the early 2000s, email marketing automation relied on explicit triggers: “if my user takes this action in the product, immediately send them this email.” Since then, lifecycle marketing tools like Braze and Iterable have greatly expanded the lifecycle marketing automation toolbox. Of course, you can still send emails in real time based on user behavior. And now you can also send messages through SMS and in-app notifications based on users’ expected behavior:
As we stated above, the ultimate goal of lifecycle marketing is to guide users through the PLG Flywheel towards your North Star metric. While a discussion of identifying your North Star metric is beyond the scope of this article, you can learn more about this here and here. The PLG Flywheel is a framework designed to generate higher user engagement, trust, and advocacy to drive new user acquisition and recurring revenue. Companies can use the three elements of effective lifecycle marketing plans to guide users through each stage of the flywheel from awareness to advocacy.
In the initial stage, "Strangers" are potential customers who are aware of your product but haven’t engaged with it yet. At this stage of the flywheel, they are consuming content related to their challenges, researching solutions online, and evaluating options from your company and your competition. Once they opt in to receiving marketing content, you can assign them to a specific lifecycle marketing persona.
"Explorers" are potential customers who have signed up for a trial of your solution, purchased a low-cost plan, or scheduled a call with your team. They are actively exploring your product as a potential solution to their problem and are likely considering alternatives, including your competitors. At this point in your lifecycle marketing, consider messaging that guides them through your product onboarding as quickly as possible.
"Beginners" gradually increase their usage of your product once they see how it can address their needs. This stage can lead to one of two outcomes: either their enthusiasm will translate to more regular usage, or it can wane if they hit a wall. Your lifecycle marketing will determine which path they’ll take. At this stage, you can share messaging to inform them of additional product benefits, tips on how to incorporate your product into their workflow, and ways to use the product more effectively. Product adoption is crucial in this phase, as it signifies full buy-in and habitual usage.
"Regulars" are familiar with your product and rely on it to address one or more of their needs. They have mastered its fundamental use cases, use it regularly, and actively seek ways to get more and more value from your product. Lifecycle marketing for users at this stage should encourage them, reward them for hitting product milestones, and make it easier for them to share their experience with others. This is how you advance Regulars to the next stage.
"Champions" are your product's most passionate advocates, deeply invested in your success and constantly pushing the limits of what your product can do. They eagerly participate in your product's evolution, take pride in their accomplishments with it, and appreciate recognition for their contributions. Your lifecycle marketing at this stage should incentivize Champions to review your product, participate in case studies, and serve as references for potential customers.
These stages are similar for ecommerce businesses, though of course you can add recommendations of related products throughout your lifecycle marketing. For companies that sell more complex solutions to larger organizations, there are additional factors to consider, and these will affect how (and when) to share lifecycle marketing messages with different personas. See how to avoid common mistakes that PLG companies make when adding a sales motion.
There’s no substitute for a keen understanding of your audience and personas. With the right mindset and tools, you can get valuable insights in their product usage and predict how they might engage with your lifecycle marketing. At the same time, it’s easy to veer off track if you lose sight of your North Star metric. Watch out for these potential pitfalls as you develop your lifecycle marketing strategy.
Telling customers what to do: Based on our conversations with hundreds of different companies, one of the most common mistakes is being too aggressive. A lot of companies attempt to use lifecycle marketing to make their customer do what they want them to do, instead of letting the customer tell them how they're using that product. Messaging needs to be both automated and meaningful in order to scale growth across your target audiences. There’s a difference between occasionally recommending customers try a new product based upon their existing product usage, and focusing only on pushing them to upgrade. Lifecycle marketing that falls into the latter category is no longer meaningful, and it can actually discourage people from using your solution.
Getting too specific with messaging: Tools like Braze and Iterable allow you to send targeted messages to different personas at almost any touchpoint you can imagine. And one of the biggest challenges companies face is deciding which personas to message, and how often. Once you come up with relevant messaging for each persona, creating even more specific messaging can often mean extra work for your team, with little to no payoff. If you try to get too granular with your audiences, then everytime you want to communicate with them it’s like reinventing the wheel. Everytime you create a new canvas or think of a new campaign, you’ll be creating things from scratch. This might work at the early stages of your company while you’re still figuring out the right type / cadence of messages, but after a while this will only block your growth plans. We’ll share an example of this when we look at different lifecycle marketing case studies below.
Not focusing on your most valuable personas: This is a problem we see more often in early-stage companies, when they don't necessarily know exactly who their end user is or how people are actually using their product. If you’re uncertain on any of these things, then it becomes impossible to send the right message to the right people. In a similar way, a lot of startups and scale-ups are at a crossroads. On one hand, they might have already identified their target personas. But if those users aren’t generating revenue, those companies might decide to move upstream and sell to enterprise companies instead, even if they haven’t developed messaging for that new audience. If your messaging isn’t relevant to your target persona, your lifecycle marketing tool won’t be able to help.
Failing to create a cohesive lifecycle marketing plan: At every touchpoint in the PLG flywheel, your users have several options. If they engage with your messaging at that touchpoint, they’ll take one path. And if they ignore your messaging, they’ll take a different path. A lot of companies falter in their lifecycle marketing strategies by not considering how all these different paths connect. At each touchpoint, consider what could be valuable to your users when they take the next step on their journey through your product flywheel, and provide them with options to get there.
Treating your lifecycle marketing tool as a data warehouse: We see this most often in companies that lack a clear data taxonomy or a good understanding of marketing technology. Often lifecycle marketing tools bill based on how much data you store, not how many messages you send. Aside from the fact that data warehouse tools perform other essential functions not covered by lifecycle marketing solutions, if you use the latter in this way you might wind up dramatically overpaying.
Ultimately, the tool itself can’t do it for you. You need to combine the right tool with a deeper understanding of your audience and your North Star Metric.
Dropbox came to Mammoth Growth with a classic use case for lifecycle marketing: re-engaging their dormant users. Much of Dropbox’s tech stack was made up of legacy tools they had built in-house. Every time Dropbox wanted to launch a new messaging campaign, their engineering team had to drop whatever they were doing and write custom SQL just to build a new audience. Sending automated, timely, relevant messages was impossible.
Mammoth Growth helped Dropbox build a new taxonomy for their events within their CDP. This immediately allowed the marketing team to build their own audiences and send more timely messages. After building customer journeys for dormant users in Iterable (Dropbox’s lifecycle marketing platform), Mammoth Growth was able to improve personalization for their campaigns. All these changes led to more trustworthy data, improved deliverability, and a 12.8% more dormant users converting to paid.
Deliveroo invested in the latest lifecycle marketing technology to hit their growth goals. But they were continuously blocked by how they were using it. In an attempt to make their messaging as personalized as possible, Deliveroo had fallen victim to a common lifecycle marketing error. They had created thousands of separate Braze canvases, each of which contained detailed messaging sequences for different audiences. They could only update these canvases manually, a tedious process that was prone to frequent errors. Worse, this setup made it almost impossible to do A/B testing.
Deliveroo reached out to Mammoth Growth for help streamlining their lifecycle marketing strategy. Beginning with a dormant user reactivation campaign, Mammoth Growth was able to help Deliveroo consolidate 100 campaign canvases into a single customer journey in Braze. With this new approach, Deliveroo’s marketing team was able to avoid 30 hours a week in manual updates. These changes also gave them the ability to run A/B tests, which led to an extra 5000 orders per month.
The three elements of effective lifecycle marketing plans - data integrity, audience insights, and automation - are themselves based on many interdependent factors. Which means it’s vanishingly rare that a company has a gap in their lifecycle marketing plan that can be solved by adding new technology, without changing how they build personas or manage their data. In order to create a lifecycle marketing strategy that’s aligned with your goals, take a step back and look at the underlying architecture of your tech stack.
In order to address companies’ goals for email marketing automation and lifecycle marketing as a whole, Mammoth Growth developed our Analytics Architecture program. The objectives of this 8-10 week project are a complete audit of a company’s tech stack & data infrastructure, and a roadmap for improvements to their lifecycle marketing strategy. Our Analytics Architecture program allows Mammoth Growth to develop a deeper understanding of a company’s existing lifecycle marketing methods and pain points.
When approaching lifecycle marketing projects, Mammoth Growth follows these steps within our Analytics Architecture project:
For every company, there’s a unique combination of lifecycle marketing strategy + technology + process improvements that can increase data integrity while delivering more personalized messages to targeted personas. It takes discipline and focus to find the right fit for your team. Contact one of our experts today, and let’s talk about your lifecycle marketing goals.