If you were to take a few minutes and think of all of the brands you’ve followed or been a customer of over the years, it would probably be a big list. And in that list there would probably be a few that you’ve bought from many times over a long time period. And in that time you have probably found yourself at different stages of being a customer – researching their product, buying for the first time, encountering your first support issue, looking to buy a new product or upgrade an existing one, etc. This is the customer lifecycle, and it’s critical that a website supports each of your customers at each stage of this lifecycle.
To illustrate this, just think of a company like Apple. Let’s say you’ve bought an iPhone. Before you buy it, you probably ask your friends about their experience and do some online research. Then once you buy it you might visit their store and get help with initial setup. Over time you might decide to add a MacBook to your Apple product collection. Then you might need to upgrade your phone a few months later. At each point you have a variety of brand experiences, but it has given you one impression of the company. And at the heart of many of these experiences is the company’s website to support you in finding the information and answers you need.
So why is a website so critical to your customer lifecycle communication plan? And why should you consider this when developing your website? Here are five critical roles your website will play in supporting your overall customer lifecycle communication plan.
As a Social Media Communications Hub
Likely your marketing strategy involves social media for content marketing, community engagement, customer service and potentially other efforts. While you won’t only be sharing original content, much of what you share online can point back to your website to expand a user’s experience.
If you have a blog post on how millennials use your product, and it’s designed to inform them and encourage them to consider a purchase, then you need to convert them to the next stage in the buying process. When they arrive at your website you need to make sure to have the right Call to Action (CTA) delivering them to the right place to support that next buying step. If you’re answering a customer service request on Twitter, why not point the user back to a self-help tool on your website such as an FAQ or product training guide?
Planning for these customer lifecycle touchpoints gives you a guide to what content and interactions your website needs to support.
As a Destination for Search Engines
SEO is still king of internet marketing for a reason, and you’re likely planning to boost search engine traffic with your website for this reason. But in part of your SEO planning, you’ll likely have questions as to who will be searching for you, what they’re looking for, and what content will help them answer their questions. By exploring your lifecycle communication strategy you can identify all of the points where your customers might head to Google to find information on your company or your industry.
We often think of search engines as being a place to be found for the first time. While it’s important that new customers find you here it’s just as important that current customers, who could be your biggest advocates, can quickly find the information they need about you. If you were thinking of upgrading to the latest iPhone you’re just as likely go to Google to search for the product as you are to head directly to Apple’s website. So you want to make sure that current customers can search for and find information on your business and products. Having a content plan that addresses different lifecycle needs puts you a step ahead in developing your SEO gameplan.
To Build on Your Email Communications
Email is still an amazing tool for reaching your audience for both B2B and B2C businesses to inform them, encourage them to consider buying, and to take action. At each stage of email communications you have an opportunity to turn that initial message into a brand experience by inviting your recipient back to your website. There you can tell a more detailed story and provide a more complete experience. So whether it’s a campaign landing page or a link directly to product/service information, this email needs to point somewhere to deliver on your message.
As you plan out your website, make sure to consider what kinds of emails you might be sending and how you can continue the experience on your website. If you’re using email mostly for nurturing leads to ask for a first sale then you might consider sending them to specific blog content or industry information pages. When it’s time to ask for the sale you can send them directly to a product on your ecommerce site or a “Contact Sales” landing page. For all of these experiences you need to make sure your website has an answer for delivering the right experience for your customer.
As a Destination for Customer Service and Support
There’s nothing worse than needing help from a brand and not being able to find it. One of the first places most people look is on your website, so you should help your customers find the right support information without too much trouble. At this point in the customer lifecycle you can quickly lose a relationship you’ve spent time, money and energy developing – or you can truly impress your customer and turn them into a brand champion.
Think of the various types of support requests you might receive and plan how to deliver the right website experience for each one. For example, it might be as simple as needing help with troubleshooting a product issue. Here you can provide a short list of the most common issues. Then, if this doesn’t solve the problem, direct the customer to email/live chat/phone support. Even here, providing the most simple path is critical. If you know that most customers can’t solve their issue easily with a guide or web page, then make sure to direct them to the best support option. This is how you make the most lasting impression and where you can avoid losing a valuable customer.
To Support Your Sales Team
We often think of prospects in a sales process as separate from our digital users, but this is a big mistake! Just because a conversation starts offline doesn’t mean it won’t move into digital channels – and most likely it will. In fact, after first talking with a sales rep most people will look up their website or search for their company. It gives you credibility and provides an opportunity to support the message delivered in that initial meeting.
When planning your site, make sure to consider someone visiting your website after meeting a salesperson. This means providing them quick access to product/service information that might have been shared or the latest news that the salesperson discussed with them. Making this information easy to find only makes that salesperson look more knowledgeable and trustworthy, which makes the next contact with them that much more positive.
Also plan for website content that your sales team can share at each stage of the sales process to educate the prospect and help them overcome common challenges. It’s critical to consider how your potential customers might use your website during an offline sales process and to plan the right content and experiences that will help them choose to do business with you.
Build Your Site to Support Your Lifecycle Communication Strategy
A website is an amazing tool that has the opportunity to support your customer lifecycle communication strategy. Unfortunately, it can also hurt a customer’s brand experience if it’s not cared for correctly. So plan accordingly and make your website that pivotal tool to engage your customers throughout the customer lifecycle.
How does your website support your lifecycle communication strategy? We’d love to hear your experience in the comments section below.