How To Use Automated Lifecycle Marketing (7 Steps)

October 29, 2015

How to use automated lifecycle marketing - article lead image

Are you ready to rapidly grow your business? Get that idea you have for your future business off the ground finally? Need to do this without dropping a pile of cash on a team of marketers?

Of course!

Personally I have used automation to grow a business from 1 to $11 million in revenue, all the while being the sole marketer. Marketing automation is a form of leverage, and as it goes with all leverage it requires the correct strategy to be effective in the real world. That is why you need to understand the theory of automated lifecycle marketing in your head, before you can apply it in any program. Below is 7 steps to walk you through this, and help you apply it in your own business.

7 Steps To Applying Automated Lifecycle Marketing In Your Business

1) Understand The Concept Of Marketing Lifecycles

Lifecycle stages can be thought of as buckets in which your prospects reside. They can only be in one at a time and these buckets are the steps future customers take to purchase your product or service. In automated lifecycle marketing program they are placed in these buckets based on activities they take on your website. Examples of these actions are anything from subscribing to a blog to requesting a price quote.

  • Subscriber: People who were interested enough to not want to forget about you. They entered their email expecting to receive periodic updates about your blog.
  • Lead: Typically someone qualified as a lead has downloaded a leadmagnet from your website. (Think a resource guide, cheat sheet, pdf guide, etc).
  • Marketing Qualified Lead: A marketing qualified lead (MQL) has downloaded or consumed content that is tied to your product. Demos, case studies, product guides, samples all fall into this category.
  • Sales Qualified Lead: The easiest way to visualize someone who is sales qualified (SQL) is someone who would expecting to be contacted by a salesperson directly.
  • Opportunity: A contact is moved into the opportunity stage when they have a high probability of closing as a customer. Maybe they have attended your sales webinar, completed a sales call, or sat through a live demo of your product.
  • Customer: A customer is pretty self explanatory… Money has changed hands and a service or product has been rendered.
  • Evangelist: Often overlooked an evangelist is a customer who would shout your name from the rooftops and bring people in their sphere of influence to your brand. Evangelists are the rare albino unicorns you need to be continually nurturing to further grow your business. These customers are your best salespeople.

With each stage more and more permission is given to contact the prospect, and the messaging can change from one of purely information to one of sales. Read more about lifecycles here.

2) Pick a Lifecycle Model (7 steps vs 3)

Marketing Automation Lifecycle Stages

The Hubspot Marketing Funnel… They have split up Qualified to MQL and SQL since this presentation and added Evangelist after customer.

The most popular lifecycle marketing model out there is comprised of 7 steps and championed by companies like Hubspot and is covered above. For a small or beginning business who may not have many conversion assets created I recommend using a simple 3 step lifecycle model that I outline in this post.

3) Apply touch points to every step

Once you have chosen which model you will be using (3 step or 7 step) you need to organize your content in these buckets. Think of them as the gatekeepers or qualifiers that identify a prospect as being of that step.

To illustrate this, consider the following example:

  • Prospect subscribes to the blog (Lifecycle = Subscriber)
  • After reading the blog for some time they download your tool guide (Lifecycle = Lead)
  • Two weeks later they read the guide and want to learn more about what you do for clients and downloads some case studies (Lifecycle = Marketing Qualified Lead)
  • There is a link to your weekly webinar on the case study PDF delivery email and they click it, registering for your upcoming webinar (Lifecycle = Sales Qualified Lead)
  • After attending the webinar they speak with their team and give your sales team a call (Lifecycle = Opportunity)
  • They buy your product (Lifecycle = Customer)
  • Using a program like ReviewAutoPilot a survey detmines they were very happy with your product and they leave you a 5 star review on your Google page.

The stages in which you place your content offerings can be different between your business and someone else’s. There are no right or wrong answers here… Instead it is an exercise that helps you to visualize your business and sales funnel so you can better target your marketing message.

4) Build Your Sequences On Paper, A Whiteboard, Or In A Program Like Lucid Chart

Map out your marketing automation sequences on paper or a whiteboard first!!!

The next step to implementing your new automated lifecycle marketing system is to build it out on a whiteboard, paper, or on your computer using a tool like Lucid Chart. You want to map out all the paths someone can take after opting in… And the communications they will receive from you after doing so.

If you can dream it and document it, you can literally build it in any program… While some are better than others the software that is important here is the stuff between your ears. This exercise will help you by:

  • Mapping the paths visitors can take to purchase your product
  • Visualize your marketing system as an efficient system
  • Allow you to communicate visually with people who don’t understand marketing
  • Have a to do list of emails you need to create

5) Create an email sequence that pushes the prospect down your funnel from each entry point

The real power of your automated lifecycle marketing is in the emails… While the logic up until now has helped you to segment your list, the copy is what does the closing. Based on the list of emails you want to write (see step 4) it’s time to start writing… Or send your outline to a capable kick ass copywriter like this guy.

It is helpful to imagine that your business is a physical place (if it isn’t of course) and that your lifecycle buckets are different areas in your showroom. People will come into your business and hop into buckets all along the spectrum. You must then approach them, take them by the hand and walk them to the next bucket, and so on until they are a customer.

Here are some best practices to follow when writing lead nurturing emails. Also it is important to note that you should start by offering the sale (passively) and then work backwords through the funnel stages until you get to their current position.

6) Build Out Your Sequences In The Tool Of Your Choice

building a marketing automation campaign in activecampaign

Now that you have the logic and pieces, it’s time to actually put it together. You should not be thinking at this point about emails, logic, lifecycles, or anything else. That statement is totally worthy of all caps but I won’t subject you to that.

Setting up a marketing automation campaign requires some mental horsepower so you need to get all of the previous steps completed before you start building. If you have the pieces ready, assembling them is fairly easy.

Choosing The Right Automation Tool

The tool you decide to go forward with matters much less than you would like to think. IF you are working with an automation consultant  they might have a specific recommendation based on what you want to achieve, but that is likely more to make things easier for them.

I currently use ActiveCampaign because it offers a really powerful automation engine and is very affordable ($9 / month). Other popular choices are:

The key is not to get stuck here… Just sign up for one if you aren’t using one and implement your lifecycle automation plan.

7) Measure And Adjust

Unless you are a wizard of smart some of your emails are going to fall flat. That’s okay! You just need to pay attention to which ones are performing and which are not. If an email isn’t performing swap it out with a new one and see how that one does.

You will see a linear decline in your email engagement over time, this is pretty normal (And why you want to ask for the sale early and often). Seth Godin is arguably the best marketer in the known universe and even I don’t read all of his emails anymore… That being said if there are any drop offs you need to address them.

Why You Need To Set This System Up Today

Having a comprehensive marketing system like the one covered here set up will have a positive effect on your business’s bottom line immediately. You will also position yourself ahead of your competition by doing so and:

  • Turn your marketing funnel into a greased slide. (awesome term from John Carlton)
  • Identify holes and sticking points in the buyer’s journey
  • Have more customers

If it seems like a monumental task remember to take it one step at a time. “It’s hard by the yard, but a cinch by the inch.”

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  • Hey Nate, thank you for sharing this – quite helpful. Would you say that stages (buckets) should be used as tags, i.e. Subscriber tag, Lead tag, and similar? Or should the tags be based more on actions – Downloaded X Lead Magnet?

    P.S. Just so you know, link to the “Lead Nurturing Best Practices” isn’t working (duplicated http in href).