May 8, 2024 / 7 MIN READ

The Art of Customer Lifecycle Management: A Blueprint for Sustainable Growth


The Art of Customer Lifecycle Management: A Blueprint for Sustainable Growth

By Jackie Golden

Customer Lifecycle Management (CLM) is the foundational building block of your startup’s GTM and growth strategy. It’s what drives the maturity of your organization and what allows you to create repeatable and predictive results. Yet many companies—especially those in the early stage—tend to get it wrong.

As a customer experience expert, I’ve dedicated my career to helping high-growth, midsize and large global organizations drive customer retention and expansion results. By following the four key principles below, you can build the Customer Lifecycle Management models you need to unlock sustainable growth, make better business decisions, and cultivate long-lasting relationships with your customers.

Find Your Sweet Spot—Then Look Even Closer

The sweet spot is that point where you’ve identified the right product-market fit and created the right messaging to the right personas, verified by prospects and customers, for repeatable and scalable success. It will be the point where you are building a pipeline of ICP prospects and closing sales cycles in a reasonable period of time, all in a repetitive motion. You’ve got customers coming in the front door—but that doesn’t guarantee you can keep them from leaving out the back door.

If customers are frequently abandoning your solution (or looking instead to your competitors) post-implementation, it’s a sign you need to evaluate the customer lifecycle that you’re delivering—and that’s usually where I come in.

At the start of this process, companies have a tendency to confuse usage data with customer data. They’re tracking all kinds of customer metrics that are interesting to the leadership team or investors, but do not tell the entire customer story. If you’re too focused on the numbers rather than understanding what actually creates value and ROI for the customer, you won’t be able to identify what is causing these customers to churn.

Once you start to look holistically at customer trends and identify the disconnects, you can decide where the challenges are with the execution of your Customer Lifecycle and some fundamental disconnects across your organizations—which can often be the hardest to diagnose. That said, if you think you’re easily winning your Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) only to have them replace your solution with a competitor, have you really found your sweet spot? Or do you need to continue to evaluate what’s working with your current customers, and where you are winning and creating long term value in your customer base, to determine the right sweet spot?

Get Your (Department) Ducks in a Row

Customer Lifecycle Management is a company-wide strategy. That’s what makes it work. Everybody has a stake in it and it doesn’t just belong to one department.

When I’m working with Companyon companies, I’ll usually start with the CEO and share my CLM approach and make sure they are in agreement with this approach. Once they’re on board with how the CLM model can create the structure that allows them to drive success in a consistent manner, we’ll bring the leadership team together for a workshop—the Head of Sales, Head of Marketing, Head of Customer Success, CFO, and Head of Product—where we dive into what they think the end-to-end customer roadmap plan should be to drive value outcomes and ROI, to support and deliver on the GTM strategy.

What’s interesting is the internal perception of how the company believes they are delivering value to their customers versus the actual customer’s perception of the company. In most companies I work with, I find in my initial research and interviews with customers that these two perceptions are not in alignment. The CLM model will sync these two perceptions together using a Voice of the Customer program that is crucial to ensuring the company has a realistic view of the customer’s perception of their products and services.

These gaps in perception can cause your GTM execution to fail, directly impacting your ability to drive results and grow faster. By bringing all the departments together to agree on a Lifecycle model, I’m able to help define these gaps and identify areas where the customer journey and messaging is not consistent—and create a plan for delivering a consistent, high quality customer experience throughout the customer lifecycle.

Focus Makes You Faster

Many companies will find themselves with a customer base that is a mix of ICP customers and Non ICP customers. This is a common startup approach where the software company becomes “all things to all people” in order to put numbers on the board. This approach forces Marketing to generate very broad and generic messaging, making it that much harder to stand out from your competitors. When you’re trying to be “all things to all markets,” there’s a good chance you’re just dipping your toes in a lot of different markets—instead of building a pipeline focused on specific target markets and ICP prospects and demonstrating a deep understanding of those customers’ pain points and needs.

Customer Lifecycle Management gives you the ability to differentiate yourself from the market by focusing on the specific market segments where you can go deep and create a more specific high-value solution to the problems. You can create a highly tailored go-to-market (GTM) play utilizing specific content messaging and defined value outcomes that will generate more wins with a higher potential for expansion and retention.

Maybe you won’t have the time, money, or resources to invest in all the different GTM plays that your team defines as possibilities. However, you can choose the plays that are already generating results, where you can sell, implement, and create value. That’s how you see faster results. The sooner you stop trying to be “all things to all people,” the faster your growth can happen.

Change is Hard, But Critical

You have to review what’s working and not working in your GTM strategy each month and quarter. When you find GTM plays that are not producing results, there may be issues in your Lifecycle execution. It is important to understand the difference between a GTM play that has not defined the right market segment or ICP versus an issue in the CLM execution. Sometimes, I have shared where I observe major inconsistencies in their CLM execution, only for a company to slightly reword their messaging and then continue on with their processes as they have before—which didn’t address the real challenge of what was not working in the GTM play.

If you keep doing the same things you’ve been doing, you’re not going to get radically different results. When the market is telling you that something isn’t working, you need to listen. You might have to let go of some old practices, so you have room to embrace new ones. That’s how you find something that really works.

Change is hard, and the critical decisions on staying the course or making a change can be the hardest ones. Especially for early founders and early-stage software companies, however, you have to be willing to experiment—to fail fast and move on. As you build out GTM plays based on the success within your current customer base, you should also be thinking of new GTM plays that can be tested and evaluated. This will help you begin to see new opportunity trends in other ICPs and/or market segments and use metrics to prove out the potential of additional GTM plays.

When the company focuses on delivering customer value consistently, the numbers always follow. As the company starts executing a consistent CLM for each market segment, with well-defined customer journey processes and standards throughout the entire customer lifecycle, across all the departments, the numbers and metrics always improve. When you have an end-to-end customer roadmap that has been developed by your experts and is based on true customer insights, you go from conducting random touchpoints to executing a customer plan that can deliver repeatable results and ROI.

Put It Into Practice

If you’re struggling with high churn or low close rates, building a Customer Lifecycle Model and managing your company in a customer centric approach will enable you to build a foundation to grow and scale at a faster pace. A well-defined CLM will help you build a visionary customer roadmap that shows the customer how to get from where they are today to your vision and deliver high value outcomes and ROI. This leads to creating an effective land and expansion plan for acquiring new customers (and keeping them).

Looking for expert guidance? Our team members have been there and lived to tell the tale—now we’re here to provide advice, guidance, and insider knowledge to the next generation of startup founders.

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