Jennings: Does Your Email Marketing Program Align WIth Your Customer Lifecycle?


How well does your email marketing program align with your customer’s lifecycle? Put another way, are you practicing lifecycle marketing?

This is one of the first things I investigate when I’m working with a new client, because often the answer provides the basis for recommendations to boost performance (which is the core of my business).

If you’re not sure, or if you’re wondering if you could better, this blog post is for you. We’re going to talk about:

> why to align your email marketing campaigns with your customer lifecycle

> ways to boost the quantity and quality of your lifecycle messaging, and

> how to build a new or improve an existing email lifecycle marketing program for your organization

Why Practice Lifecycle Marketing?

So why is this important? Because it’s one measure of relevance. If you can understand and speak to where your prospect or customer is in their relationship with your brand and/or your product (the lifecycle), your messages will be more relevant to them.

Lifecycle marketing can also help you move people more quickly through some lifecycle stages – to get them to the stages where they purchase sooner.

Customer Lifecycle Models

In order to align your marketing program to your prospect/customer lifecycle, you need to have a lifecycle model. Lifecycle models are typically less detailed than customer journeys; they focus on stages, rather than specific actions. You typically begin with a lifecycle model and then build more granular journeys on top of it.

One of the lifecycle models I frequently use with my clients is the ERRA model; the acronym stands for Engagement, Retention, Recovery and Advocacy. This is a simple but effective structure to use when your business model includes repeat purchases or actions; I’ve applied it to clients in the financial services, membership, SAAS and other industries. It works in the B2B realm just as well as it works in the B2C realm.

2019 05 21 2 retention science ERRA lifecycle

Image Source: The Data Driven Marketer’s Guide to Lifecycle Marketing, Retention Science,

One reason this model is useful is that it’s not linear. Some customers may move through the four stages in order and then settle in the final stage. But other customers can (and do!) move back and forth, through the four stages but then back to retention, or back to recovery. Some may move through the first three stages, settle at retention and never make it to the advocacy stage.

All your customers will move through these stages (or whatever stages your lifecycle model includes) at their own pace, meaning that you need to customize your program based on stage, not just time. This is where email messages triggered on specific actions, not just time, become so valuable to your program.

Evaluating your Current Program Against Your Lifecycle Model

Your first step, once you’ve chosen a lifecycle model, should be to overlay your marketing communications on it and see where they fall. Think about who the message is targeted to – then identify which stage of the lifecycle these prospects or customers are in.

Here’s an example from some recent work I did for a client.

2019 05 21 3 Lifecycle with current campaigns

This client provides consumer services, and this is what their email marketing looked like when I got there. Notice anything? Most of the email marketing takes place in the ‘Engagement’ phase. There’s not a lot happening in the ‘Retention’ and ‘Recovery’ phases and nothing going on in the ‘Advocacy’ stage.

It is usually less expensive to retain a customer than it is to find a new one. That’s where the marketing program in its current state is falling down. There’s very limited communication post-sale.

What does your overlay of marketing campaigns on your lifecycle model look like? If your communications are light or non-existent in one or more stages, time to make a plan.

Where to Start on a Plan?

There are some simple but effective tools you can use to quickly cover all your lifecycle stages. Here are four of them.

  1. Email Newsletter with Dynamic Content
  2. A newsletter doesn’t mean it has to be long or complicated. But it does need to include some editorial content and some promotional content. If you choose the editorial content to have broad appeal to your audience, no matter what stage of the lifecycle they are in, you can then use dynamic content to tailor the promotional content specifically to the lifecycle stage.

    Put this in place and you instantly get a regular communication at each stage of your lifecycle model.

  3. Promotional Schedule
  4. Regular promotions to your list are important, but they can often fall between the cracks if you don’t have a plan. Decide how often you want to offer special deals to your list and then put together a calendar, including send dates and when you need to start on the creative.

    Think through how the promotional schedule will work with your lifecycle model. Sometimes you will want to offer the same special deal ($1,500 off) to your entire audience, but change the positioning based on their lifecycle model (try our service versus use our service again versus tell your friends about our service). Other times you might offer different promotions to people in different stages of the lifecycle.

  5. Quality Content
  6. Just because you have an email going out to people in the ‘Retention’ stage of the lifecycle doesn’t mean it’s effective. Take a look at each email message you are sending and asking yourself:

    1. Why are we sending this? What business goal (qualitative or quantitative) are we hoping it helps us achieve?
    2. Does the content of this message support that business goal? Does it make the case and overcome any objections for the action you’re requesting?
    3. Is there anything we might do to make this email more effective at meeting its business goal? Think in terms of copy and design but also timing, segmentation and other factors.

  7. Automation
  8. Setting up automated triggered emails is one of quickest ways to cover your lifecycle stages with marketing campaigns, especially if you are short-staffed and already struggling to get your campaigns out. Setting up triggered messages, based on actions which happen within each lifecycle stage, helps you deliver what people want to read when they need to read it.

    But don’t get sloppy. It’s better to launch one well-thought-out campaign for one stage then to throw together triggered messages for each stage of your lifecycle without a plan. Automation can help you extend the life of your successful campaigns; it can’t turn unsuccessful campaigns into winners.

When are You Done?

Truly, you’re never really done. There will always be more campaigns you can add, more ideas for optimizing the campaigns you’re already running and reasons to sunset campaigns that have outlived their usefulness. That said, here’s what an initial lifecycle marketing plan might look like.

2019 05 21 4 Lifecycle with new campaigns

The bright yellow highlights new campaigns to be developed. The orange represents existing campaigns which we’re modifying to improve engagement and response, via message maps, copy, design or something else. We’re a few months into the process but we should have all this in place a few months from now. And then we’ll see what else we can do to boost performance.


Look and see how your email marketing aligns to your customer lifecycle. See where there are gaps – and where existing messages can be improved – and let me know how it goes!