Prospective Customers: The First Phase of the Customer Life Cycle
Before your customers are actually your customers, they are simply prospects who may or may not be aware of your product, brand, or company. Your job, as a marketer, is to first make them aware of your product, brand, or company and then peak their interest enough that they will convert to an active customer or user. Once you have their interest peaked, of course, your next job is to provide the trust, security, and incentive that they need to overcome any barriers or obstacles and become a registered or paying user or customer. This phase of the customer life cycle – the process of converting a prospect into a customer or user - is often the most challenging. It involves a marketing acquisition budget as well as an awareness of what will transition prospects from "just interested" into fully engaged. Many marketing books have been written about the techniques and challenges of acquiring new customers. While it is an important part of the mix, email marketing is only a portion of the many marketing activities you'll need to master in order to effectively convert prospects to customers.
Another common term you'll hear used referring to this part of the customer life cycle is "leads."Leads are the names and contact information (typically in the form of an email address) of people who have shown an interest in your product, service, or brand. Often, they have done so by signing up for a special offer or even a piece of free content. Leads may also be purchased from data companies. However, if you are purchasing a lead list, we recommend that you be extremely careful and research that the data you are buying is from a reputable company and won't put you at risk of violating any privacy or CAN-SPAM laws.
New Customers or Users: The Second Phase of the Customer Life Cycle
So, now you've converted a prospective customer or lead into a paying or registered customer. That's great and shows that you have some real marketing skills. However, ideally you want your new customer or user to be a customer or user who has a long term relationship with you, not just one who purchases one time and then never returns. Think of this phase of the customer life cycleas though it's like the early phases of dating. Your new customer has been "sold" enough on you to go out on one date or make one purchase, but they're not sure if you're a long-term commitment yet! It's your job to build a relationship with them so that they continue to return, interact, and purchase from you for a long time to come. Again, the quality of your product or service will certainly matter here, but so will the way in which you communicate with your customer and show them that you respect their privacy, time, and, most importantly, business.
Active Customers or Users: The Third Phase of the Customer Life Cycle
Now you've converted a prospective customer into a paying or registered customer. This is the stage at which you need to not only impress the customer with the quality of your product, but also follow-up with them to build a relationship, make them feel important to you, and ensure that, when they think of you, those active customers think of returning to you. If we're still using the dating analogy, think of this as the time when you make sure that you're always being polite and wearing your best clothing when you communicate with the customer!