Guide to Life Cycle Emails and How To Use Them for Marketing

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated July 27, 2022

Published June 1, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

As companies in many industries focus more on data collection and personalized communication, marketing professionals have developed new tools for successfully reaching customers and encouraging engagement. Life cycle email campaigns include customized messages for customers that address their specific needs or challenges in making purchasing decisions. Learning about life cycle emails can help you use them to create effective marketing campaigns.

In this article, we define life cycle emails, explain their key benefits, list three primary types of life cycle emails and explain how to create your own campaign.


What are life cycle emails?


Life cycle emails are a data-driven marketing tool that adapts to different parts of the customer life cycle. The customer life cycle is a system that maps a buyer’s relationship with a brand, starting when they first learn about the company. In each stage of the life cycle, the customer might have different priorities and interests, and life cycle emailing allows marketing teams to reach customers in each stage. Here are the major stages of the customer life cycle: 

  • Prospects: This term refers to those individuals who aren't yet customers but could be with the right marketing strategies and enhanced engagement. In most cases, prospects have already engaged in some capacity with a brand, either directly or indirectly.


  • Active customers: These customers are those who have already made one or more purchases from a specific brand. Active customers may fall into different segments, such as yearly customers, monthly customers and weekly customers, depending on their buying patterns.


  • At-risk customers: At-risk customers are those who once fell into the active customer life cycle stage, but have stopped purchases at the intervals they once did. Depending on the products a brand sells, customers may become at risk after 30 days or up to multiple years of not making a purchase.


  • Lapsed customers: Lapsed customers refer to those who have stopped purchasing and engaging with a brand over an extended period of time. They typically ignore or unsubscribe from communications and don't respond to additional outreach.


  • Advocate customers: These customers are those individuals who buy products consistently and actively promote a brand through their purchasing and sharing activities. They may frequently make word-of-mouth referrals or post about certain products on social media.

Related: What Is the Customer Life Cycle? Definition and Tips


Life cycle email types


There are three primary life cycle email categories that include their own variations depending upon a customer's specific needs. For instance, if a business considers a customer at-risk or active, its marketing team may send out two respective variations of a middle-stage email to encourage purchasing decisions or re-engage them after a slight period of inactivity. Here are the three major types of life cycle emails: 


Early-stage


Early stage life cycle emails typically address new customers or prospects who have provided their email via a brand's website or social media platform. This category might include the following types of emails: 

  • Welcome emails offering a discount or incentive

  • Educational email campaigns introducing new product lines

  • A browse abandonment email if a customer has viewed a product more than once

  • Onboarding emails that direct customers on how to get started

Related: 15 Types of Emails You Can Send to Customers


Middle-stage


Middle-stage life cycle emails usually address existing customers, whether they're first-time customers, repeat purchases, frequent customers or loyal advocates of a brand. Middle-stage emails might include a wide variety of content and ask customers to perform different tasks, depending on the industry. This category may include: 

  • Thank you emails showing appreciation for first-time buyers

  • Offers with relevant resources and customer support

  • Cross-selling or up-selling tactics that may attract customers based on past purchases

  • Loyalty and birthday offers to show appreciation for individual customers

  • New product and improved feature notifications

  • Feedback solicitations through surveys and polls

  • Cart and wishlist abandonment emails for products customers haven't yet purchased

  • Referral and reward program offers

  • Advocate customer appreciation emails for repeat and loyal purchasers

  • Exclusive discounts, promotional offers and VIP access offers


Related: 51 Call-To-Action Examples and Why They Work


Late-stage


Late-stage life cycle emails typically aim to re-engage customers who have engaged with the company less than in previous stages. These emails have slight variations, all with the expressed purpose of revitalizing a once-active customer base, including:

  • Reminders of past purchases and introductions of new products to win back lapsed customers

  • Notifications that remind customers to reorder their consumable products based upon purchasing gap data

  • Exclusive offers to reward engagement

Related: 13 Abandoned Cart Email Examples To Win Back Customers


Benefits of life cycle emails


Here are some of the benefits of using life cycle emails in marketing campaigns:

  • Higher conversion rates: Life cycle emails can encourage higher margins of customers to open emails since they're more personal and targeted toward their needs. From here, customers may be more likely to make purchasing decisions, converting an email campaign into a profitable venture.

  • Marketing personalization: Life cycle emails allow businesses to personalize their marketing efforts using data about customers' purchasing behavior and engagement levels. Most customers appreciate this level of customization, which can boost brand awareness.

  • Higher engagement rates: With increased personalization and attentiveness to customers' needs through life cycle emails, marketing teams might find that customers are more likely to engage with the brand through social media and other channels. This increased engagement can improve purchase rates.


Related: 14 Types of Email Marketing With Examples


How to create a life cycle email campaign


The exact steps you should take to create a life cycle email campaign will probably vary depending on a business's brand, industry, products, customer base and market position. With this in mind, though, there are a few essential actions you can take to craft an effective life cycle email. Here are six steps to follow to create your life cycle email campaign:


1. Segment your customers into life cycle stages


As you start designing your life cycle email campaign, divide your customers into different life cycle stages, like prospects and active customers. In the beginning, start by using large segmentation groups and then narrow them after collecting additional data about engagement and purchasing behavior. For example, you might divide your group of active customers into two categories, one for people who have bought a single product and one for those who have added subscriptions or auto-ship items.

Read more: 7 Email Segmentation Tips To Help Grow Your Email List


2. Set a goal for each segment of customers


Next, set specific goals for your emails to each group of customers. These goals can help you measure the effectiveness of your email strategy. You might collaborate with sales or business development professionals to choose goals that relate to the company’s overall revenue targets. For example, if the sales team’s objective is to increase the conversion rate for prospects, you might try to increase the number of new sales from prospect emails by 15%. To track sales, you might use a special link or coupon code embedded in the emails. 


3. Craft a relevant message using segmentation data


Depending on the goals you set for each segment of customers, craft relevant messages that address their needs. You can identify their specific needs using market research and data about customer shopping behavior from the company’s website.

For example, if you have a segmentation of at-risk customers whose data currently shows multiple full shopping carts with un-purchased products, you may send them a cart abandonment email to address their needs by reminding them about the products and offering them a discount code if they complete their purchase. 

Related: How To Send Mass Emails (Plus Dos and Don'ts)


4. Experiment with discount and non-discount incentives


In your messaging, you may find it worthy to experiment with offering engagement and purchasing incentives. You may offer both discount or non-discount incentives. Discount incentives refer to offers like coupons, promotional codes and free shipping.

Comparatively, non-discount codes refer to offers like consultations, exclusive access and rewards program enrollment. These incentives may heighten your campaign's success and improve its conversion rate. Whether you use discounts or other incentives, you can track how many customers use the incentives with coupon codes or specialized links.


Related: 25 Tips for Closing Sales


5. Create urgency through offer windows


Within each life cycle email, you can encourage customers to connect with the company and make purchases by offering limited-time incentives and creating a sense of urgency. This can shorten the sales cycle, which increases the odds that the customer chooses your company over the competition. For example, a lawn company might send emails to former customers, offering a limited-time discount on mowing services. A former client might re-engage the company to get the discount.


Related: Consumer Decision Journey: What It Is and How To Use It


6. Launch campaign and measure success


With your campaign drafted, you can launch it and track how well your emails achieve your goals. As you send the emails, take notes about which messages are more successful with customers so you can improve your emails for the next campaign. For example, if your prospect emails have a higher open rate than the emails you send to at-risk customers, then you might study the headlines of your prospect emails and incorporate the language you use into other messages.


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