Lifecycle stages allow you to curate information for each stage in a contact's buyer's journey and help guide them toward the next step. Monitoring these stages and the transitions between them can help you identify gaps in your marketing-sales funnel and make data-informed decisions to grow your company.
Lifecycle marketing and demand generation are pretty similar: both aim to move prospects through the funnel. But, demand generation takes a wider, more holistic approach and lifecycle marketing focuses on managing each lifecycle stage and the transitions between them.
Additionally, you might have demand generation marketers who oversee a company’s demand generation efforts, but you typically don’t have “lifecycle marketers.” Instead, you have people who focus on specific transition points within the funnel. For example, the person responsible for optimizing the visitor-to-lead conversion is probably not also responsible for the customer-to-evangelist conversion.
Disclaimer: Lifecycle marketing better applies to companies with a long, complex sales cycle than companies with a frictionless funnel. If your company leverages product-led growth, you should check out these posts on product-qualified leads and the impact of freemium on content strategy.
Here are the seven stages a lifecycle marketing strategy should focus on.
A visitor is anyone who has visited your website but hasn’t provided any information about themself.
To get visitors to become leads, you need to collect information from them through a form or conversational marketing chat. A marketer’s goal at this stage is to get visitors to a place on their website where that can happen.
You can do this by setting up your navigation in a way that guides visitors towards conversion points, by including CTAs to relevant gated offers throughout your content and providing opportunities for visitors to convert directly within your content. For example, pop-up forms can be used to convert a visitor right where they are, and conversational marketing can be a more engaging, user-driven way to do the same thing.
The majority of visitors won’t convert, but the people who do have demonstrated interest that indicates they could become customers later down the line. Plus, once someone does convert, you’ll get their contact information and be able to continue the conversation and nurture them.
Leads are people who have provided you with some information about themselves so you know who they are and how to contact them.
In order to convert leads into MQLs, you need to increase their interest in your company while identifying if they’d be a good-fit customer.
Once someone knows who you are, you further stimulate their interest with contextually-relevant educational content. Every time a visitor returns to your website, they should have a slightly more personalized experience. Use smart content to ensure they’re not seeing promotions for offers they’ve already downloaded. Additionally, use conversational marketing to greet them personally or recommend content based on what they’ve expressed an interest in.
Since you have leads’ contact information, you can also engage them through email marketing. Your email outreach should be contextual but also scalable. Automation can be particularly useful in making that happen. You can use lists and workflows to send emails that are tailored to industries, personas, interests, etc. without having to invest time in creating one-to-one emails.
To determine a lead’s fit, you’ll need to be able to determine how closely they align with your ideal customer profile (ICP). Based on criteria like industry, company size, revenue, location, tech stack and funding, will this lead benefit from your company’s offering?
If you don’t have all that information, you’ll need to guide the lead toward filling out more forms or use enrichment tools to provide the missing information.
MQLs are leads that have shown a higher amount of interest and are definite fits for your company.
Once you’ve nurtured a lead into becoming an MQL, the goal is to get them to take an action, like booking a meeting or requesting a demo, that indicates they’re ready to start a conversation with sales.
So the marketing that you’re doing at this stage is middle- or bottom-of-the-funnel offers that connect the higher-level concepts you’ve been teaching about to how your company specifically delivers a solution to your personas’ challenges. The goal of this is to generate interest not just in your company but in your offering and the way you can help your customers. Webinars, checklists and templates can be particularly effective here, followed up by communications suggesting a meeting or demo.
Once a prospect books (or for some companies, attends) a meeting, they’re an SQL. To become an opportunity, they need to show that they’re willing to move forward in the buying process.
This is also the lifecycle stage where the responsibility for a lead’s progression is transferred from marketing to sales. The marketing-to-sales handoff occurs and marketing’s role switches from guiding the prospect experience to enabling sales to do so.
However, just because a lead is transferred to sales doesn’t mean they’ve stopped engaging with marketing content. Make sure that the content you’re serving to them at this point forward is related to the offering they’re considering purchasing.
Once a meeting does occur, sales needs to determine explicitly the data collected around a prospect’s interest, fit and pain points are accurate and estimate what the deal size could be.
An opportunity occurs when there is agreement from both sales and a prospect that the company’s offering is a viable solution for the prospect’s challenge.
Sales will be conducting hyper-personalized outreach with prospects and marketing needs to enable sales with proof that your company’s offering can do everything you’ve said it could up until this point. Case studies and testimonials are particularly useful here because they enable prospects to hear someone outside your company verify how great you are.
Marketing-created sales enablement materials like one-sheeters and FAQs can also be utilized at this stage, and product, service and client success teams can also be involved in the sales process to help a prospect understand what their partnership with a company will look like once a deal is closed.
Once someone closes, they become a customer. Transforming a customer into an evangelist really comes down to setting the right expectations from the start, exceeding those expectations and continuously going above and beyond to create a great experience and strong relationship.
Customer marketing is all about helping someone get more value out of the product or service that you’re delivering to them. If that’s a software, it’s about helping them use the product (i.e., Here are some knowledge base articles with everything you need to know.).
However, keep in mind that not every customer you close will have the potential to become an evangelist just as not every lead will become an MQL. While you should aim to drive success for all your customers, focus your evangelizing efforts on those customers most aligned with your ICP.
Evangelists are customers that have had such a positive experience with your company that they want to help your business grow. They’ll help you throughout every stage of the funnel by bringing new people into the top and providing material for case studies and testimonials to be used near the end of the funnel.
At this stage, companies want to encourage referrals and maintain a positive relationship.
Once you understand what needs to happen at each lifecycle stage individually, the next step is to ensure that the entire journey through the funnel functions properly as a whole. To do so, you should take a step back from the stage-by-stage oriented lifecycle marketing and start to use a demand generation mindset instead.
Guido is Head of Product and Growth Strategy for New Breed. He specializes in running in-depth demand generation programs internally while assisting account managers in running them for our clients.