The customer lifecycle

Give some thought to your customer relations

Published:  21 October, 2014

By Andy Vickery

According to Forrester Research, the 'customer lifecycle' is now a better fit for 21st century marketing, than the old 'marketing funnel' because it puts the customer at the centre of the marketing effort. It elevates the importance of both pre and post-purchase engagement, the delivery of a superior product or service and ongoing customer loyalty.

Why is the customer lifecycle a better approach? Simply because times have changed. I've already mentioned the general consumer distrust that exists. Customers are now doing their own leg-work, researching solutions to problems. They are asking for advice and recommendations from others, both on and offline. They are doing this because they can - the technology is there, it's mostly free and it's extremely accessible. It gives the consumer an additional layer of risk protection that didn't exist a few years ago. It's important that companies respond with marketing that reflects this consumer behaviour.

I've always prescribed that people are more likely to buy from those they know, like and trust and this fits well with Forrester's own customer lifecycle methodology, the four phases of which include Discovery, Exploration, Purchase and Engagement.

Consumers will no longer settle for a sales pitch at face value, there's been too many fingers burned. I've done this myself when confronted with a major mechanical problem on my car. I've telephoned garages for advice, visited online forums and Googled the problem, not because I wanted to fix it myself but because I felt I needed to know more before making a buying decision. Now garages don't like this, you can almost hear the snigger in their voice on the telephone as they resist retorting with the line 'a little knowledge is dangerous...' - much like doctors and lawyers do when confronted with similar information these days. However, you can't change the fact that some people will attempt their own research because they can. The best thing to do is to respond positively to this consumer trait by embracing it and respecting it. In my own case, I had three different scenarios - the first was a local garage that promised to call me back on the problem, but didn't. The second was another recommended garage who said that I needed a diesel diagnostic specialist (i.e. they couldn't do it, but no advice or recommendation). Another local specialist took the time to explain the problem, did not baulk at my research attempts and 'little knowledge' and managed to secure a £750 job.

Your customers are a goldmine. I have mentioned that many customers in this cynical age rely on word-of-mouth recommendation, especially with big-ticket purchases such as motor expenses. This means the way in which you follow-up with your customers can impact on the new business you receive from their referrals. It's important to keep an ongoing dialogue with your existing customers - informing, advising, recommending and helping them. This will help reaffirm that the customer made the right decision at the outset, plus it will help with other recommendations and repeat sales.

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