Most small and medium sized businesses are bombarded with information about digital marketing – there is too much jargon, too many acronyms and not enough simple, effective marketing advice.

The lifecycle marketing ‘loop' shown below helps to make sense of how everything fits together for an effective online sales and marketing plan that any small business can put in place. This will then help you use the different digital marketing ‘tools' to best effect.

What is Lifecycle Marketing?

Lifecycle Marketing

This ‘marketing loop' starts with attracting interest and capturing leads, moves them through the nurturing stage, converts the sale then aims to maximise customer value (through cross selling or upselling) and is explained stage by stage below.

In a today's competitive online environment, many buyers have already made their purchasing decision before they even speak to you. They will have done online research, compared specifications, looked at benefits and checked out prices online.

Content marketing is now commonplace and involves creating and distributing valuable, high quality content that is relevant to your target audience.

It is important that your content is valuable to your target audience as, even if you are giving it away, this is really your first ‘transaction' (your time reading this has value in exchange for the content you are reading).

There are billions of users online every day – searching Google, looking at LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube and a whole host of other sites where you can buy traffic.

It is only by generating valuable content (and lead magnets) that you will attract visitors either from your search rankings or from paid online advertising.

It's a numbers game

Then, it is a simple case of doing the numbers:

Number of visitors x Conversion Rate = Sales

Sales x Profit Margin = Total Profit

If you know the number of visitors, your conversion rates and the profit per sale, then you can work out how much you can afford to pay for the traffic.

All too often, websites do not try and systematically capture leads – once someone leaves your website, they are very unlikely to come back without being prompted.

The solution to this is to offer your site visitors something of value in exchange for their contact details.

This is known as a lead magnet and can be anything of value to your visitors – it might be a free report, checklist, handout or guide. Sometimes known as an ‘ethical bribe', a lead magnet will give users a reason to let you have their contact details. The best lead magnets are very specific (they solve a specific need or problem) and are easy to ‘consume' (a five-minute factsheet not a 500 page book).

Lead Magnet Ideas

Here are some ideas (that have a proven track record):

Free reports
A checklist, handout or template
A discount voucher
A download or free trial
Free training resources

Relationship marketing has been around for years – it is about building a long-term relationship with your customers (not a one-off, individual sale).

Your marketing activities should be aimed at developing and managing these relationships with both prospects and customers. The business networking saying of ‘meet, like, know, trust' is true for online marketing too. Let's face it, you wouldn't walk up to someone at the bar and ask them to marry you on a first date would you?

To be honest, everyone hates being sold to – it is about building and nurturing a relationship through your website, social media, e-mail and other online marketing tools, getting to know your prospects, sharing interests and valuable information.

Once trust has been built, then potential customers are far more likely to buy.

Most customers research products before they buy. You need to make sure you are answering the questions and ‘taking part in the conversation' that they are having (in their own mind).

Sometimes, it is know as ‘education based marketing' – through your content marketing, you can educate your customer at the same as demonstrating your expertise, values and benefits to the customer.

Through marketing automation, even the smallest of businesses can put in place a series of automated e-mail campaigns to start building relationships online via the web / e-mail.

Typical automated marketing campaigns would include a welcome campaign, lead magnet fulfilment campaigns and a long-term nurture campaign.

As part of the delivery, after-sales and follow up service, your customers will expect a certain level of (marketing) communications.

Whether this is a simple order confirmation e-mail or a series of follow up e-mails (eg order confirmation, short-term follow-up and longer-term customer satisfaction follow-ups), this can also be completed through automated e-mails.

You can really impress your customers if you deliver ‘over and above' the offer – this could be as simple as sending out additional hints and tips on getting the most out of your product, training videos or similar communications.

This is not just about selling – it is also about maximising the value your customer is getting from you. It also just happens to maximise the value you are getting from them too!

You can offer more while you are adding extra value as part of your sales follow-up activities. During this follow-up, you have the opportunity to cross-sell or upsell related products or services.

Cross-selling – Don't assume that customers know all of the products and services you offer – it does not have to be the ‘hard sell' if you let them know that there are related items that may be of interest that complement what they have just bought.

Upselling – some customers may also be interested in upgrades for extra services, priority memberships, VIP treatment or additional warranties.

New Products – as you launch new products, you can also target those customers that have previously purchased related products and may be interested.

The trick with maximising value is to get the balance of ‘content vs sales' messages right. If you are just sending sales offers, then it is too pushy. Just sending out free added value content and you will not stay in business for long.

Done properly, your customers will be grateful for the extra content and added value and this will increase your sales.

When talking to small businesses, it is obvious that referrals are often the most important source of new leads.

However, whenever I have asked a room full of entrepreneurs and small business owners, very few have a proper process for getting testimonials and asking for referrals.

The key to success is to have an automated system – otherwise it just won't happen day after day, week after week.

Modern Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems allow you to simply set up an automated follow up e-mail campaign that will really make your customer care shine. For example, a week after the sale, you can send an e-mail to check everything is OK, then a week after that, you can automatically ask for a testimonial and/or referral.

Happy customers are generally happy to recommend you to others but they are unlikely to do it if you don't ask!

The Digital Marketing Toolbox

We all know the day to day digital marketing ‘tools' that you can use…the most obvious ones include:

  • Website, sales funnels and squeeze / landing pages
  • Social media strategies / platforms
  • Search Rankings / SEO
  • Online advertising campaigns
  • E-mail marketing campaigns

…and these can all be simply structured and co-ordinated to pull prospects into your ‘marketing value loop'.

This may sound complicated but it is a matter of taking one step at a time. And remember, this is not just marketing theory – there are thousands of small businesses and plenty of evidence that these techniques really work.

Read more of our articles for simple tips and tricks that any small business can put in place and lots of digital marketing tools that you can use to make life easier and your marketing more successful.

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