Email, Email Marketing Advice

The 12 Key Messaging Strategies for Email Lifecycle Marketing

Guest post from Chris Sietsema, who teaches and trains small to medium-sized businesses and non-profits in the disciplines of search, social media, email marketing and online analytics.  Chris owns Teach to Fish Digital, a one-man consultancy in beautiful Mesa, Arizona.  He also created the infographics for The NOW Revolution.

A common challenge for us is to determine what specific messages will resonate with the various segments of our audience throughout the customer lifecycle. What should we be saying to smaller groups of customers based on their interests, individual needs, and history with your brand? If we seek to evade the “one message fits all” approach (as most marketers probably should), how can we ensure that every touchpoint with each customer conveys relevance and builds a solid relationship? The following infographic attempts to solve that quandary specifically for email marketers. However, you may find this logic useful in other modes of marketing communication too.

Please note as you read on that much of this is dependent upon your ability to segment your audience and collect additional information about your customers from surveys or integration with CRM tools. That’s not impossible if you run a smaller business or a pretty lean organization – it just requires a little more elbow grease.


To start, let’s quickly examine what your email marketing messages should look like with considerations to customer demand and the customer record (i.e. how much you know about that individual customer).
lifecycle marketing
A. Low Demand, Sparse Customer Record: “Welcome” Message
This scenario typically signifies the beginning of a relationship. The contact is a new lead or just purchased a product for the first time. Provide “welcome” messages that inform the customer or prospect all about your offering. Let the individual discover aspects of your offering that are relevant to her, but track behavior accordingly.

B. High Demand, Sparse Customer Record: Quid Pro Quo
After a follow-up inquiry, another purchase or a response to a “welcome” message, you may construe that the customer wants more from you. Take this opportunity to get more data from her. Provide an incentive, special access to premium content, or some other “sleeves off your vest” offering in exchange for more data about that customer.

Here you’ll want to incorporate a short survey that allows you to gather important customer info so you can segment your list further.

C. Low Demand, Better Customer Record: Remarketing
If you have been able to monitor behavior or simply ask for interest data from your recipients, you are in a good spot. In this scenario, you have a decent understanding for what the customer wants. Engage in remarketing efforts to encourage further action from the customer.

D. High Demand, Better Customer Record: Up-Sell or Cross-Sell Opportunities
You know from recent activity that there is demand, and you have also been able to gather some telling info about the customer. At this point, you can begin to segment individuals into specific audience groups, commonly and affectionately referred to as “buckets”. You may decide to create buckets for product/service interest, geographic location, demographics, or other previous purchase behaviors.

Take the opportunity to cross-sell or up-sell your audience in these instances.

The Impact of Time

Now let’s add another crucial element to the equation – time. In the following scenarios, we’ll keep demand low and see how varying levels of customer data and time impact our email marketing messages.
lifecycle marketing 2
A. Limited Time, Sparse Customer Data: “Thank You” Messaging or Utilize a Survey
After a short period of time, take the opportunity to say “thank you”. The impact of such a simple gesture cannot be overstated. In conjunction, you may find an opportunity to learn more about your new customer or prospect. Include a short survey to build upon your customer data profile.

B. Added Time, Sparse Customer Data: Reactivation Campaign
With extended periods of time and little to no demand from the customer, it may be prudent to create a reactivation campaign. In this instance, you are hoping to learn if the customer is still interested and if so, what will provide the necessary spark to purchase again or resume more frequent contact?

C. Limited Time, Better Customer Data: Remarketing
Where there is limited time or demand, but an abundance of data about the customer, your primary option is to provide relevant marketing messages. Use the response to previous marketing messages to educate and inform subsequent attempts to strengthen ties to your customer segments.

D. Added Time, Better Customer Data: Reactivation Campaign
If there is significant history with the prospect but demand is scarce, engage in a reactivation campaign to win them back. To bluntly paraphrase, the message to your customer with a reactivation or reengagement campaign is this: “$#it or get off the pot.”

Hybrid View: Demand and Time with Great Customer Data Records

Finally, as your email marketing program matures to a point where you have excellent data records for each customer, consider what message types are necessary with regard to demand and time influences.
lifecycle marketing 3
A. Limited Time, Low Demand: Remarketing
Once again, engage in remarking tactics if your customer has given some indication of what they want from your business.

B. Limited Time, High Demand: Up-Sell or Cross-Sell Opportunities
A healthy customer profile with amazing demand lends itself to up-sell and cross-sell opportunities. Monitor response to such messages to determine what the next message should be.

C. Added Time, Low Demand: Loyalty
Beyond remarking and up-sell/cross-sell messages, an extended stretch with an individual customer but limited current demand provides opportunities for us to encourage loyalty. Anyone who has created a loyalty program in the past knows that this is no easy task. What we are really seeking here is to maintain a positive and meaningful relationship with a customer that has shown great promise previously. Develop messaging that keeps these important contacts happy and potentially pushes them into the next stage…

D. Added Time, High Demand: “Share” Messages
This is the scenario for which every lifecycle marketer strives. It is our euphoric state. Develop a meaningful, long-lasting dialogue with happy customers, and provide opportunities for them to share. Suck out the adoration like marrow from a roasted bone. Invite them to tell you and your other customers what makes you great.

Perhaps this act of sharing is done via social media. Maybe you devise mechanisms to collect this consumer generated content via another means for dissemination in other marketing communique. You may seek to develop a more structured relationship with your top customers (e.g. guest blogging, product reviews and concept validation, special promotion involvement, etc.). Think – Jared from Subway, people.

As these customers know your brand best, encourage them to share that knowledge…and the love. Allow them to be your brand evangelists. In a way, let them do your marketing for you.

Here’s the full infographic for downloading and sharing:

Can you apply this to your current lifecycle marketing program? What about this graphic would you change or improve? I would love to hear your thoughts and feedback.

Facebook Comments


  1. PJProductivity says

    “Suck out the adoration like marrow from a roasted bone.” THIS, a thousand times over. A lot of my clients (OK, OK, me too) have a really icky feeling about tooting their own horn. I tell them (and myself) to think about testimonials as being courteous to your great clients — giving them the opportunity to tell others about their gratitude. It still feels weird, to be sure, but a little less icky. Great post – and I’m all over a good infographic.

  2. says

    This a great reference infograph.

    You are very correct. Reaching out to your audience as a “on size fits all” approach will lose people’s interetst.

    Its key to know who you are sending your content to and if that audience will appreciate it.

  3. sietsema says

    @PJProductivity You’re right. Sometimes patting yourself on the back can look a little awkward. I like your approach with clients. I also like to encourage clients to allow their customers to tell good stories on their behalf. It can be a bit uncomfortable for some, but if done tastefully, it paints a better portrait of who the client really is. Thanks for your kind words.

  4. sietsema says Thanks. Glad you agree. The trick in all this is to ensure you are providing relevance to the customer AND a positive return for the business. Sometimes we run the risk of segmenting so much that the time and effort required to do so is greater than what we can earn as a result.

  5. Quintain says

    @sietsema, I love this! We do a ton of email marketing for clients and this is a very helpful way to sum up – visually – what we advise them to do. It’s also a great training tool for some of my junior marketing staff to use as they take on more responsibility helping clients with email newsletters and the like. Thanks!

    – Kathleen Booth, Quintain Marketing (@Quintain)

  6. tienanh says

    @sietsema, great post! This is a very powerful, yet concise and easy to understand framework for really high impact customer marketing! At OpenView Labs, when we help our portfolio companies with structuring such email nurturing or remarketing campaigns, we have to go through very similar process of segmenting the customer/prospect database into these groups and tailor the message accordingly. It’s great to have such an elegant infographic to illustrate our points. One minor addition i would make is that you should leave open the potential for integration with behavioral tracking and other analytics tools that feed into the marketing database. They can help you build out the customer profile/record over time and give you an indication of the level of customer demand/interest and let you move them to the right content segment accordingly.

    • sietsema says

      @tienanh Absolutely. That’s a really good point. This (graphic or another like it) could possibly incorporate some kind of back and forth relationship between the information stored in the customer database and the activities and behaviors tracked via email, web and social venues. One example would be a shopping cart abandonment program that relies on site analytics and tracking protocols to inform a “remarketing” message with incentive (e.g. “we noticed you left product X in your cart. buy now and get free shipping”).

      Thanks for your excellent feedback. I like the way you think. :)

  7. letstalkandchat says

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  8. says

    This is a really well written article, nice stuff sietsema. This is the firs time I’ve ever seen anyone ‘graph’ the approach like that. I love tha tit gives some context…e.g. added time but low demand = a logical time to target loyalty.

    I’ll bear it in mind as I often talk to customers who want a framework for developing lifecycle emails. I owe you one ;).

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