Lifecycle emails: the 8 stages, types of content for each plus helpful tips

Lifecycle email marketing
The eight stages of the customer lifecycle
What types of content work well within each phase
Tips for creating your first lifecycle marketing campaign
Final thoughts

Lifecycle email marketing is an email marketing strategy that helps you get the right message in front of the right audience at the right time. By sharing relevant content, you can nurture prospects and customers through the buying journey and help them make purchase decisions.

Lifecycle emails are primarily effective for two reasons. First, email marketing in general averages a $42 return for every $1 spent. Returns of that size are hard to come by anywhere, let alone marketing.

Second, lifecycle marketing addresses all aspects of the marketing funnel and buying journey, including customer acquisition and retention and provides an opportunity to upsell and cross-sell customers. For that reason, it can be a major revenue driver.

In this piece, we’ll go over the eight stages of lifecycle emails, what types of content work well with customers during each phase and share tips for creating your first lifecycle marketing campaign.

Lifestyle email marketing cycle

The eight stages of the customer lifecycle

Lifecycle email marketing can be broken down into eight stages. The goal of each one is to provide subscribers with the information they need to move to the next stage of their customer journey.

Avoid building your lifecycle email marketing strategy around your revenue targets. Instead, start with your potential customers’ needs throughout the buying journey and map your emails around the products, features or services most relevant to them at that specific stage.

When considering what types of emails to send, and when, keep these eight lifecycle stages in mind:

  1. Awareness. People have a problem they need to find a solution for. Here, you’ll want to grab their attention by establishing a brand presence across multiple channels. Ideally, they’ll click on something interesting and sign up for your email list.

  2. Knowledge and interest. People are eager to dig deeper and find out how your products or services can solve their problem. They’ve subscribed to your email list and now your goal is to become an authority and establish trust.

  3. Consideration. They’re interested in what you have to offer, but need to be nurtured. Now is the time to send middle- and bottom-of-funnel content that speaks more directly to their problems and how you can specifically solve them.

  4. Selection. This is when potential customers are comparing your product or services to other companies. Keep nurturing them with reasons why you are the best choice compared to the competition. Emails including webinars, case studies, white papers, relevant testimonials and product demo work well here.

  5. Purchase. The point at which a subscriber converts. This is an exciting stage, but it’s by no means the end. After purchase comes post-sale and post-purchase emails.

  6. Satisfaction. Here, you’ll want to keep new customers happy. Share transactional emails like thank you emails, offer special discounts, etc. Happy customers spend more, engage more and advocate.

  7. Retention and loyalty. After some time has passed, it’s important to reengage customers. Here, you can run “refer a friend” campaigns, ask for their feedback on what you’ve done well (and where you can improve) and look for cross-sell and upsell opportunities.

  8. Advocacy. Many people turn to their peers or friends first when looking to make a purchase. Social proof and recommendations are a powerful marketing tactic to leverage. Ask for referrals, run creative email campaigns that encourage or incentivize advocacy to drive engagement and satisfaction.

These eight stages fall under three umbrella phases: early, middle and late. Each phase requires different types of information in order to move forward (as we’ve touched on above).

Let’s explore these stages and substages in more detail.

What types of content work well within each phase

As the goal of each stage is to move prospects and customers forward, it’s key to provide relevant content at every touchpoint.

The best way to do that is by understanding your customers at a deep level so you can create relevant and personalized content that moves them towards conversion and retention.

Early phase

The early phase of lifecycle marketing includes the awareness, knowledge, consideration and selection stages.

The best content at these touchpoints usually provides information about the problem that your product or service solves. There is little to no selling involved in these emails, particularly in B2B email marketing.

Therefore, your initial email lifecycle campaigns for new subscribers should clearly outline the issue or issues that your product or service addresses, without explicitly mentioning your product or service.

By showing that you care about your audience’s pain points and struggles, you’ll make them feel seen and heard, which helps to establish trust and strengthen customer relationships. It also prevents you from appearing pushy or salesy, which can be a turn off. Similarly, the better educated a subscriber is about the complexity or depth of an issue they’re facing, the more qualified a lead they’ll become.

Welcome emails, for example, present a great opportunity to contact new email list subscribers and outline what type of content they can expect to receive and how often you’ll contact them.

This first email isn’t about selling, rather, it’s about getting to know each other and setting the foundation for a meaningful relationship. Setting frequency and content expectations also puts new subscribers at ease, which works to reduce unsubscribe rates.

Don’t be afraid to experiment with the format of your email content in the beginning phases of the lifecycle marketing journey. While some people prefer text emails, infographics, video snippets and webinars can be effective ways to boost open and click-through rates.

Middle phase

The middle phase of lifecycle marketing includes the purchase, satisfaction and retention and loyalty stages.

Continuing to nurture the relationship after a customer has made a purchase is key to increasing your business’s customer lifetime value (CLTV), upselling where appropriate and reducing churn.

Education is still important in this phase and should extend to how to use your product or service. Even the smallest amount of friction or confusion can stagnate engagement.

Here are some examples of types of content to send at this phase of the email lifecycle:

  • Thank you emails. A thank you email that expresses how excited you are to have their business. This helps customers feel valued and reinforces that they’ve made the right decision.

  • Onboarding emails. Typically, these include tutorials and guides highlighting best practices and ensure customers actually use your product or service as intended.

  • Requests for feedback and product reviews. Feedback will help you improve the customer experience. Importantly, it also provides you with messaging and voice of customer (VoC) data that you can incorporate in your emails. This will help your content resonate more with customers since it’s inspired by their direct feedback, in the language that they use and relate to.

  • Incentives. These help nudge people to respond and engage with your emails (e.g. win a $100 gift card when you fill out our customer survey). An incentive like money can also lead to biased feedback that may be less genuine in nature, so use your best judgment.

  • Replenishment reminders for ecommerce businesses. If you run an ecommerce business or are an online retailer, replenishment emails can encourage repeat purchases and ongoing loyalty.

  • Abandoned cart and abandoned checkout emails. An abandoned cart is often a matter of forgetfulness, meaning a gentle reminder can go a long way. A high amount of abandoned checkouts, on the other hand, means it might be a good idea to simplify your checkout process.

Late phase

The late phase is advocacy, where satisfied customers recommend your products and refer new business to you. People often trust their peers and inner circle more than an Internet search or influencers on social media, which makes advocacy a powerful form of word of mouth.

Much of your success in the late phase will be determined by your effort and execution in the previous two phases.

However, win-back email campaigns and reengagement emails fall into the late phase and can be a helpful tactic. Repeat customers are more likely to convert than a first-time visitor, so it’s key to do everything you can to make sure they stay engaged and don’t churn.

Emails mentioning you haven’t heard from them in a while and asking if they had any questions or issues with your product or service are a simple way to reengage previously active, loyal customers.

Tips for creating your first lifecycle marketing campaign

If this is your first lifecycle marketing campaign or you’re a new business, there’s a good chance you don’t have enough information to make data-driven decisions around things like segmentation or what types of content perform best.

Don’t be afraid to start small as you can always add additional automations down the line once you’ve collected and analyzed statistically significant data.

Here are three more tips to keep in mind when starting your first lifecycle marketing campaign.

Establish KPIs and benchmarks for email types across lifecycle stages

Different types of emails during certain phases are going to have different average open rates. For example, a shipping confirmation email will most likely have lower email open rates than one with a discount mentioned in the subject line. That doesn’t mean it’s an “unsuccessful” email.

Every marketing campaign needs key performance indicators (KPIs) and metrics to gauge whether or not it’s successful. KPIs are especially important in lifecycle marketing since the initial phases often don’t include transactional emails or involve revenue. Setting KPIs based on objectives and benchmarks based on past performance at each individual stage will help you determine if your campaigns are on the right track.

Avoid urgency as a go-to marketing technique

Urgency can prompt people to action, but most people also don’t like feeling rushed. If your business sells an expensive product that requires extensive cost benefit analysis, a sense of urgency promoting expiring discount counts or free trials, for example, may backfire.

Discounts are a safe bet when it comes to offers since most people like to save money when they can. Much like urgency, however, the more you use them, the less effective they become. If people know you’re going to have a sale, they’ll wait to purchase until the price comes down. If the discount never comes, they may not make a purchase at all.

Instead, focus on building the best product or service possible and invest in high-quality content to communicate its value. You want customers to click CTAs and make a purchase because they feel it could solve their problem, not because they had a fear of missing out on a great deal. The former leads to repeat customers, the latter results in buyer’s remorse.

Personalize your content through segmentation

The most effective way to personalize your emails is through audience segmentation. This way, you can share relevant content to relevant buyer personas, rather than broad content to your entire email subscriber list.

Analyze how your audience interacts with your emails and segment them based on interests, behavior and purchases. You can also use email triggers to automatically send emails based on predefined events or conditions (e.g. product-specific cart abandonment emails).

Data-driven, relevant emails are 497% more effective than bulk emails, have a 468% higher click rate and a 525% higher conversion rate.

Final thoughts

Setting up your lifecycle marketing campaigns is just the first step. Between digging into data, setting up automations and thinking through email sequence logic, getting started with lifecycle marketing campaigns can take a lot of time and effort.

When done right, lifecycle emails can help build relationships, educate potential buyers, help you recover otherwise lost revenue and turn first-time purchasers into loyal, repeat customers.

Driving business growth