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Anyone who works in marketing operations knows that customer data is a critical foundation for their success. The problem is that even with this knowledge, most people underestimate just how impactful customer data can (and should) be at every point in the customer lifecycle.

Your ability to collect, integrate, clean, and supplement customer data plays a critical role in the experience of your customers. It dictates, almost completely, how your brand engages with prospects and customers at every stage.

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Data is customer experience.

According to a report from Dimension Data, 81% of companies say customer experience is a competitive differentiator. 73% of business executives say that delivering a relevant and reliable customer experience is critical to their company’s overall business performance today. In two years, that number jumps to 93%.

Unfortunately, despite knowing that effective customer data management is critical, many companies still underestimate the full impact that it can have on their business. In a recent survey, only 15% of business leaders said their organization is currently very effective in delivering a relevant and reliable customer experience.

Without having it spelled out, it’s difficult to fully understand the impact that customer data can have at every stage of the customer lifecycle, and how even moderate improvements in data collection can have a big payoff down the line.

In this article, we’re going to take an in-depth look at some of the goals that companies have at each stage of the customer lifecycle and look at how customer data plays a key role in your ability to effectively engage with customers at that stage.

Customer Lifecycle Stage: Discover

Discovery. It’s the first step in the customer lifecycle, just as the prospect starts to gain some awareness of your brand and product.

At this early juncture, your customer data management practices directly impact your ability to improve customer experiences down the line and throughout the funnel. You have to collect enough data on each prospect to effectively segment, personalize marketing materials, score leads, and make data-backed strategic decisions. Data-driven organizations are 23 times more likely to acquire customers and 6 times as likely to retain customers.

This may be the most critical time in the customer lifecycle, even more critical than closing the deal. There are a few reasons why many experts hold that opinion.

First, consider the importance of first impressions. A prospect’s initial engagements with your brand will set their foundational opinion. Those opinions can be hard to shake, particularly if they have a negative first experience engaging with your company. It’s so important that we engage with prospects appropriately from our very first engagement.

But that’s where customer data management comes into play.

Customer data management allows you to effectively collect, utilize, and enrich the information that you have available on each prospect and customer. Then, you can use that information to create an experience that aligns with your customer’s needs. You can speak to their biggest concerns, anticipate their needs, and deliver the content they need, when they need it.

Customer Profiling With Segmentation & Personalization

In a lead’s first days as a prospect in your CRM system, your goal should be to collect as much relevant data on the customer as possible and use that data to segment your leads. Ultimately, your goal is to deliver better, more accurate personalization.

According to a survey from Verndale, 92% of marketing professions see personalization as a “crucial” element of customer experience, but 51% say that their company is unable to deliver the personalization its customers desire.

That same survey also showed the importance of advanced customer data management operations in other findings. It found that the top needs for improving personalization were:

  • More real-time insights (46%)
  • Gathering more customer data (40%)
  • Greater analysis of customer data (38%)

The trend is clear. Top organizations need to collect more data and install systems that help them to effectively use that data to engage with prospects and leads.

The more we know about our prospects, the better we can speak to their most pressing needs through segmentation and personalization. Initially, you’ll probably have little data on-hand about new prospects. For that reason, having appropriate lead enrichment systems in place — whether that is through the data your organization collects or third-party data sources — is critical for putting yourself in a position for success with that prospect down the road.

Just how important this is, is shown in the survey referenced above, where “more real-time insights” was found to be the top need for improving personalization.

Evaluate Prospects with Lead Scoring

Lead scoring is the process of assigning value to the leads in your CRM system. This could be a letter grade — A, B, C, D, or F. Or the lead’s score could be conveyed by a numerical value — 1-10 or 1-100.

Larger companies that service more leads at one time may need more complex systems to determine which prospects your marketing and sales teams should be focusing on.

Lead scoring systems can look at a range of different attributes to assign scores to leads, including:

  • Professional information. Provided by the prospect. Some prospects are more buy-ready than others and can indicate that in some of the information that they provide. Some attributes — like having a non-business email address or not holding a decision-making position — can result in negative lead scoring attributes.
  • Demographic information. Who is the prospect? Where do they work? How big is the company? This data is critical for segmentation and personalization as well.
  • Behavioral information. How has the prospect engaged with your brand? Includes data regarding actions on your website, contacts with sales reps, or engagement with your advertisements on other channels.

Your ability to collect and organize this data is critical for accurate lead scoring. Without it, your sales reps will be flying blind.

Reach the Right Prospects with Improved Understanding

To consistently fill your pipeline with high-scoring leads, you need to understand your customers.

Who they are. What they want. What they need. Where they hang out.

When you know those things, you know what channels to target and messages to deliver. Additionally, improved understanding allows you to leverage look-a-like targeting — which is a form of targeting that is offered on many advertising platforms, using customer profiles to help businesses get their ads in front of the prospects that are most likely to have an interest in their offer.

Customer data not only helps us engage effectively with prospects, it helps businesses to locate them in the first place.

Customer Lifecycle Stage: Explore

In the “Explore” stage of the customer lifecycle, customers are beginning to dig deeper into available solutions. They might have a list of products that meet their assumed initial needs and are starting to dig into how each solution would actually fit with their current processes.

Customer data couldn’t be more critical than in this stage.

It’s during the “Explore” stage that customers have their most important questions about your product or solution. You need to answer those questions with timely communication and educational content to endear them to your brand and position your product as the true solution to the problems they are facing. To do that, you need to be able to identify those questions as you can’t always rely on a prospect to ask the questions that they have. You have to anticipate. Your ability to do that comes down to customer data management.

Let’s look at how customer data management impacts this stage of the customer lifecycle.

Improve Communication

Effective customer data usage leads to improvements in communication. That improvement comes both from your sales reps as well as from your automated marketing messaging. You’ll know what your prospects and customers need to hear and when they need to hear it.

Effective communication at this stage is all about education and information delivery. Your prospects will have questions about your product, brand, and industry. They’ll want to know how your product compares to competitors. They’ll want to know what other companies in a similar position have enjoyed and disliked about your product.

Knowing what is important to a prospect (read: customer data) is necessary for effective communication. Customers expect us to be able to anticipate their needs and deliver what they need, when they need it. Without data, your efforts will struggle to hit the mark.

Hone in On Effective Channels for Specific Personas

During this stage is where you find the divergence among different personas. A marketing manager and chief revenue officer may come to Insycle for the same basic goal — to help them with customer data management — but their reasons for doing so couldn’t be different.

Likewise, certain personas are likely to convert better through some channels than others. Using the above example, the marketing manager might be a better candidate to target on Facebook, whereas the chief revenue officer might be more effectively engaged with on LinkedIn.

Deeper than channels, customer data allows you to hone in on the right marketing mix for each persona. A recent study found that it takes an average of eight touchpoints to set an initial meeting with a new prospect.

Well-managed customer data gives you a single customer view across all channels and touchpoints. 38% of Marketers worldwide say their primary challenge in executing a data-driven customer experience strategy is navigating a fragmented system to deliver a unified view of the customer experience across touchpoints.

Understanding where and when those touchpoints should come is a golden nugget for marketing teams. Effectively tracking your engagements with customers is the only way to make data-backed decisions that lead to improvement.

A/B Testing Improves Effectiveness Over Time

Customer conversion data is a lever for growth and improved customer experience. Being able to effectively track how different touchpoints influence the buying decisions of your customers enables you to better anticipate their needs throughout the funnel.

Ultimately, A/B testing impacts every stage of the customer lifecycle but plays its most critical role in the “Explore” stage, where a majority of prospects spend the bulk of their time. It’s their engagement with your brand and content here that set the stage for closing the sale.

With customer data management, companies put themselves in position to run better split testing experiments and better align the customer experience with their needs.

Customer Lifecycle Stage: Buy

With everything they have learned about your product and your competitors, buyers are now ready to make a decision.

In this stage, conversion data plays a critical role. While engagements with content throughout the customer lifecycle are critical (and conversions should be credited through effective attribution), engagements during the “Buy” stage often have a direct impact on when consumers do pull the trigger.

Let’s take a look at some of the ways that customer data management can help companies engage with prospects in the “buy” stage.

Improve Forecasting

A better understanding of your prospects and customers makes it easier for companies to forecast success rates throughout their pipeline. This is especially true with effective lead scoring.

Being able to accurately forecasts helps marketing and sales teams with budget allotments and helps teams prioritize initiatives with data-backed decision-making. Accurate forecasting makes your organization more agile.

Improve Cross-Sell and Upsell Effectiveness

Collecting more customer data gives you unique insight into their needs, concerns, and desires. You may have additional offerings that might extend the functionality of your product or align with their needs in other ways.

But without customer data, you have no way to discern what additional products your customers are truly interested in. That applies to both at the point of sale and in the weeks and months afterward.

If you are a SaaS company, collecting data about how customers use your product can provide a lot of insight into what additional features might be useful to specific customers. Pushing them up your package ladder toward higher-dollar plans that provide them with more valuable features that address their specific concerns can be a reliable and critical lever for growth.

Connect Them With Pain Point-Specific Content

In the buying stage, there are usually specific types of content that a prospect needs to see to choose your product. These pieces of content need to answer very specific questions that the prospect may have when making their buying decision.

For instance, a Chief Marketing Officer might need to know whether your solution includes logs that let them know who made changes, when they were made, and what those changes were. That is a need that is specific to them. Lower-level marketing managers would be more concerned with the base-level functionality of the software while a CMO would have higher-level strategic and accountability concerns.

If you are catering to both personas, it’s important that you are creating content that speaks to the specific needs and pain points of each persona. Delivering content that is catered to marketing managers to a CMO is likely to miss the mark and do more to push them away from brand because they don’t feel understood.

Gleaning that understanding comes from your data management practices. First, you have to know that the prospect is, in fact, a CMO. Then you have to know more about their organization and role. A CMO from a company with 20 employees probably has very different concerns from a CMO at a company with 1,000.

That’s the key. A deeper understanding of prospects and the world that they inhabit. Then you can use that understanding to position your product as a solution to the problems that exist in their world — not the solutions that exist in someone else’s.

Customer Lifecycle Stage: Use

Once a prospect has purchased your product, they move into a new bucket — the “users” bucket.

They are now customers of your business. But your reliance on data to provide a better overall customer experience doesn’t stop once they hit the “buy now” button.

Once a prospect becomes a customer, your focus shifts toward customer success. Customer data is, of course, a critical component in this effort.

Current customer and user data should be leveraged to help your company in a few different ways:

  • Leverage data to better understand your customers and reduce churn.
  • Improve customer persona understanding by observing how your customers utilize your solution.
  • Inform data-backed decisions throughout the customer lifecycle.

Let’s take a look at how data specifically helps companies with users that have purchased their product.

Reduce Churn Through Improved Understanding

There is an argument to be made that reducing churn is the most effective approach for growing companies.

ChurnRate

Source: ThinkApps

Ultimately, it comes down to customer experience again.

A customer that is having a good experience with your product and brand will be less likely to churn. Above all else, they have to find your solution valuable. Does it help them to solve their problems? Do the end results align with the promises that were made to them, explicitly or implicitly, throughout the sales process?

User data is often more critical than actually listening to what customers have to say. What we mean by that, is that customers often come into a sales process with many concerns that, once answered, don’t have a big effect on how they interact with your product.

This data tells you what your customers actually find valuable about your solution. It provides you with the information that you need to know what compelling upsells and cross-sells you can offer to each customer. It lets you know where your customers can improve, in terms of how they are using your product. Then, you can use that data to influence product roadmaps and guide users toward the corners of your solution that they may be missing out on.

User Data Drives Data-Backed Decisions

Your customer and user data don’t just help you to reduce churn, it provides you with vital data that you can prove useful throughout the customer lifecycle.

There are likely to be some surprises that you glean from your user data. Features that you thought might be a secondary consideration may end up being some of your most beloved features among your users. That can open your eyes up to a whole host of new use cases that could be used to improve content and engagement at all ages of the customer lifecycle.

User data provides clear insight into what is important to your customers, even if they struggle to vocalize those needs throughout the sales process.

Customer Lifecycle Stage: Ask

When customers have stayed with your company for a while, their opinions become valuable resources. They have been happy enough with their experience to stick with your brand — you need to make it your mission to understand “why.”

Customer opinion analysis is something that too few companies prioritize. Speaking with your most loyal customers that have the highest level of familiarity with your brand and solution can provide unique insights.

They have a true bird’s eye view of your customer experience as they’ve been through every step in the process. They also have the experience using your product or solution to know it intimately and provide better feedback than customers that have only been using it for a short time.

Customer surveys and conversations are part of the data collection process. But, the data that you have already collected should be used to design the questions that you ask. Getting the right feedback requires that you ask the right questions. Customer data lets you hone in on what those questions might be.

For instance — if your customer data was showing you that one of your largest customers wasn’t using one of the main feature sets of your solution, asking questions about why that is the case is extremely relevant. With user data, you can pinpoint why organizations find specific portions of your solution effective while shying away from others.

Customer Lifecycle Stage: Engage

The customer experience doesn’t end once they become a loyal customer, either. You have to continue to engage with them to deepen that relationship and continue to improve upon their experience.

In this stage of the customer lifecycle, critical customer data can be used in many ways, including:

  • Improve personalization. You’ll need to continually deliver new content to your customers. Over time, as you collect more data, you can use that data to speak more directly to the concerns of each customer.
  • Optimize lifetime customer value. Use customer data to see exactly how strategy changes affect the lifetime value of each customer. Use customer data to create lifetime value models.
  • Optimize loyalty programs. Loyalty programs are in themselves, a marketing channel that must be monitored, optimized, and analyzed for success.

Customer data will play a critical role in the way that you engage with customers for their entire stay with your brand.

The Customer Experience is Forever

The “customer journey” never ends. With it comes the critical importance of customer data. Customer data can and should be used at every stage in the customer’s journey to improve your understanding of customers, better adhere to their concerns at each stage, and improve personalization to engage in automated conversations that feel more like conversations and less like marketing initiatives.

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