Lifecycle Planning in 6 Simple Steps
People often reach out to us for advice on how to design an awesome lifecycle email plan. Lifecycle emails can be really powerful in building long-term relationships with customers, so I’d like to share here some tips that customers have found helpful—especially those starting from scratch.
1. Think audience
Who is your audience?
You’d describe your product to your teenage nephew differently than you’d pitch it to a prospective buyer—that’s why knowing your audience is so important.
Think through the characteristics of the people you’re talking to. What are they like? What do they need? You might include things like demographics, behaviors, and attitudes. If you’re marketing a time management app, your customers are likely to be super busy and maybe looking for something to bring calm to their life. If your product is a pairing app for coders, the developers in your audience are probably skeptical and easily turned off by communications that feel too sales-y.
What roles exist within your audience?
Clarify the important differences among your audience members. People are not all the same. For example, if you have a freemium app, you should send different messages to people on free versus paid plans.
Audience profiling—knowing exactly who your customers are—is key to writing messages that people will actually want to receive. Once you’ve created your profiles, you can use them to build meaningful segments based on behavior, demographics, or other customer data.
What problems does your product solve for your audience?
Now that you know who your audience is, put yourself in their shoes. What problems are they trying to solve? Tie the needs and goals of your audience to what your product does to create messages that resonate.
A freelancer using a time management app might want to earn more money or spend more time with family. A business using a pair programming app might be after better quality code or improved skills transfer from senior to junior developers.
2. Think journey
What’s the first step in the audience’s journey?
Now, shift your focus to the customer journey. Start by identifying how someone first encounters your product; that’s your chance to start building a relationship.
For example, a time management app might have three possible entry points:
- Admin-role customer creates account
- Non-admin goes to app, creates account, and links to admin’s account
- Non-admin receives email invitation from admin
Think about all possible entry points for your product, such as:
- Signing up for your email list
- Starting a free trial or signing up for a free service tier
- Contacting sales with a question
What’s your Aha! moment?
Think of the Aha! moment as the thing that will make someone say, “Wow, I really get the value of this product and I want to continue using it.” Facebook famously designated “7 friends in 10 days” as its Aha! moment, observing that people who added seven friends within 10 days of joining were more likely to stick around.
Aha! moments must be explicit and measurable. If you haven’t already defined yours, this would be a good time to do it.
What experiences do you want various roles to have?
Think back to the different roles you identified in your audience. Each type of customer will likely have different needs along their journey.
For example, if you have primary and secondary account roles, you might push a notification to the primary the first time the secondary logs in. With a freemium structure, you’ll want a drip campaign to nudge people from free to paid and a renewal campaign for those on paid plans.
What action do you want customers to take at each step of their journey?
Once you’ve got your Aha! moment pinned down, think through the steps your audience must take after their first engagement to reach that point. Let’s say you have a collaboration app with a free trial period. For the admin role, the steps and actions might look like this:
|Customer journey step||Desired audience action|
|Sign up for a free 14-day trial (entry point)||Complete their profile|
|Complete their profile||Create a team workspace|
|Create a team workspace||Invite 4 collaborators within 7 days|
|Invite 4 collaborators within 7 days (Aha! moment)||Purchase paid subscription|
In this example, you’d also want to consider the journey for the team members the admin customer invites—what experience will get them to their own Aha! moments?
What’s the complete customer lifecycle?
One thing people often overlook in lifecycle planning is the long-term relationship with customers. It’s easy to get caught up in the first Aha! moment that converts someone to a paying customer, but retaining people over time is just as important.
Think through the experiences you want your audience to have after they’ve come on board. You might consider things like:
- What will make your product indispensable to them?
- What will make someone so happy they tell others about you?
- When and why might they stop using or leave your product?
The idea here is to imagine the entire lifecycle of a customer so you can create experiences that address specific points in their journey.
3. Think product
How does your product solve your audience’s problems?
Knowing the answer to this question is the basis for showing people why your product is valuable to them specifically. It’s not enough to explain why your product is innovative or disruptive. You need to explicitly connect the dots for each audience.
One way to define this for yourself is to complete this sentence: Our product solves ____________’s problem of _________________ by _____________.
What information does your audience need, and when?
Consider what kinds of information will speak to people at various times in the customer journey. For instance, leads high in the funnel might want feature/benefit lists, new customers might need how-tos, long-time customers may benefit from spotlights on features they’re not using.
Looking at different segments is important here. Admins will need different info than non-admin customers, for example.
4. Think content/messaging
What content does your audience need at each step in the journey?
People like messages that are relevant and relatable, so your content should be driven by the audience’s needs, their location in the customer journey, and the action or outcome you want.
Make sure you can justify why you’re sending an email—why it will matter to your audience or help them at a particular time. Consider email campaigns that:
- Welcome and onboard new customers
- Help people get more out of your product
- Request feedback from customers (including those who abandon your product)
If you’re already sending a few lifecycle emails, you might start by looking at where the gaps are. It’s probably not sufficient to just get people to install your app; you’ll probably want to know what meaningful actions they need to take to really get value from your product and support them with useful content at each step.
What messaging does your audience need at each step in the journey?
The tone, length, and wording of your lifecycle emails should line up with both your brand’s personality and the characteristics of your audience.
At the end of the day, businesses should make a human connection by sending messages people actually want to read. Here’s a quick guide with tips for doing that. This is a good time to think about personalization, too. Liquid logic opens up a whole world of how you can match a message to a customer. For example, if you ship pet supplies, you can customize order confirmation depending on the owner’s pet:
5. Think data
What data do you have?
You should use your data to build segments of similar people and send targeted messages to them. The People in your Customer.io account have attributes, events, page views, and devices associated with them. That might include renewal dates, location, recent logins, customer feedback, app version, OS version or architecture, and so on.
For instance, say your data shows you that people who don’t open your app for 14 days are the most likely to stop using it. You have an opportunity to catch them before they abandon entirely: a personalized drip campaign that leverages data about their actions to remind them of why they signed up.
How can you use data to boost personalization?
Data allows you to incorporate everything from simple courtesies—like greeting people by name—to advanced customization—like mining bulk purchase histories to send restock reminders.
By leveraging data about actions a customer takes, you can offer the right encouragement at the right time, like:
- After someone downloads your app, send an onboarding series that helps them get value from it right away
- When someone uses one feature of your product, send an introduction to more features they haven’t explored
- If a customer stops using your product, send a request for feedback
6. Think iteration
Now you have the info you need to build out a simple draft of your customer journeys and decide what messages you want to send when—and why you think they’ll resonate with customers.
You don’t need to build an entire lifecycle strategy all at once. To start, you might target a specific chunk of your customer journey. If getting new customers is your highest priority, you might focus on moving from initial engagement to the Aha! moment. Or if your biggest issue is cancellations, you could remind customers of your product’s value during the month before their subscription renews.
After that, you can measure performance and iterate. SaaS and viral-loop style apps usually have certain outcomes they’re trying to drive people toward, so identify those to see what email metrics will show you what’s making a difference (open rates, click-throughs, forwarding rates, etc.)
As you iterate, it’s a good idea to A/B test things like subject lines, send times, and call-to-action buttons. Testing just one component at a time will give you the most useful insight.
Lifecycle planning creates long-term relationships
At the end of the day, emails should make a genuine connection with your customers. Start simple, and evolve your lifecycle plan as you test and learn. Remember:
- Put your customers’ needs first
- Show people why your product matters to them
- Understand every step in a customer’s journey
- Use personalization to meet people where they are
You want customers to stick around for the long haul. Start sending messages people want to read—right when they need them—to build relationships that last.