Marketers are experts in creating new concepts, and this headline is no exception. We have detected some marketing and sales confusion with these two concepts, the buyer's journey and the customer lifecycle.
Small variations and exchanges of the elements that form these concepts contribute to this confusion: "buyer life cycle", "customer journey", "buyer's life cycle journey", "customer sales funnel"... and the list goes on.
Let's take a look at each term, compare and contrast, and then put these terms back together - that's right where they belong. What is the buyer's trip?
By buyer's journey we mean the division of the buyer's experience into three parts: knowledge, consideration and the decision stage.
At the awareness stage, buyers have detected a possible problem or opportunity. They are looking at different channels, such as Google, social media and online forums, neutral third-party information to help them identify problems or symptoms.
For example: "My office is growing and I have difficulty organizing tasks for my team, is it because of my management style or do I need some help?"
At the consideration stage, buyers have given their problem or opportunity a name. They begin to investigate the approaches and methods available to solve it.
For example: "Now I know that most companies my size are using task management software, I think the software will solve my computer's organization problem, but how can I implement it and what are some considerations I should look for?".
At the decision stage, buyers are actively trying to solve their problem or opportunity, and are investigating possible solutions. They examine all kinds of documents, data and endorsements to make an informed final decision.
For example: "What are my options for purchasing task management software and which program is most comprehensive and affordable for my company?"
Unlike the lifecycle, in which marketers are identifying and guiding contacts at each stage, the customer's place on the journey is more difficult to understand.
The time between knowledge and decision could be months or minutes. Therefore, the role of a marketer is to ensure a quality experience, through content, support and other tools, to cover every stage of the trip, if the buyer stumbles upon it.
The companies that offer the best education during the trip will be the most successful.
The role of a marketer is to ensure a quality experience, through content, support and other tools, to cover each stage: awareness, consideration and decision.
In short, the trip includes all the points of contact that a buyer experiments with a brand, from start to finish.
Content development for all three stages of travel is similar to a travel plan:useful information must be ensured for each leg of the journey.
Throughout the journey, buyers are identifying and eventually solving a problem or satisfying an opportunity. Each point of contact draws a buyer's perception of the brand.
What is the customer lifecycle?
Unlike the buyer's journey, the customer lifecycle is an active process driven by a company's marketing and sales team.
It's about targeting leads in a variety of stages. These stages are used to fine-tune marketing and sales techniques to maximize conversion.
Together, these lifecycle stages create the marketing and sales funnel. As customers move through the stages, fewer and fewer people complete the next one. This creates a "funnel" effect that leaves several on the way. Many subscribers translate into a few quality customers.
The stages consider:
- Subscriber: an occasional subscriber to your periodic content.
- Lead: someone who has provided information about himself.
- MQL Qualified Lead Marketing: a prospect that is considered ready for marketing messages.
- SQL Sales Qualified Lead: A lead that is considered ready for sales messages.
- Opportunity: someone who is ready to buy and is getting sales attention.
- Customer: someone who has purchased your product or service.
- Evangelizer: a customer who actively promotes their brand.
Every company is unique and has its own characteristics, so it is important that each marketing and sales team establishes a clear definition for these phases.
However, there are some general best practices for advancing a marketing-qualified prospect into SQL territory, and marking leads as they move through the funnel.
Each stage of the lifecycle must evoke particular responses. These may include nutrition messages, premium content, special offers, and even sales tracking.
The frequency of sending marketing and sales messages gradually increases as a customer moves through the funnel. This way, the customer is not lost by an excess of sales message or by a shipment that arrived too late.
A phrase like "Buy now!" could obviously scare who's just a follower of your blog, right?
Finally: How do you work together?
While these two concepts have differences, there is an important overlap. You'll find the greatest success when working both strategies together, as we'll explain below.
When a buyer first finds their brand, perhaps through a paid ad, word-of-mouth, or as a result of Google search, he or she has started the buyer's journey with his company. The buyer has an knowledge of his company and begins a relationship with it.
You should make sure you have a wide range of educational information to meet the needs of any buyer: knowledge, consideration or questions about the decision stage.
You will also need to ensure a pleasant experience for the potential buyer at all touchpoints, including their social networks, website design and (if applicable) customer service.
If a buyer decides that their company is a credible source, they can advance in the sales funnel. He's on his radar because he sent an email address to subscribe to his content, sent a form with his information, or was contacted directly. And once you have this information, you can place the buyer in their customer lifecycle.
You need to make sure that every step of the way is a positive experience for buyers, that in all of them they make a profit.
As the buyer completes different actions, such as downloading an eBook, opening a submission, or completing a form, will gradually rate it as a lead, as a qualified marketing lead, and so on. This ranking will determine future marketing actions and your messaging will be increasingly sales oriented.
The main difference is this: The trip involves actions taken by the buyer, while the life cycle involves actions taken by the marketer.
The lifecycle is a segment of the journey in which you, as a marketer, actively turn to the needs of the buyer.