Lifecycle marketing engages customers throughout their purchasing journey.

If you just want to sell something, it’s not that hard and it doesn’t take a lot of effort. If you’re willing to live on thin margins and join others in a race to the bottom, you’ll have plenty of company. But if you want to create a business that stands the test of time and experiences long-term growth, then you have to look beyond the quick sale. You need to be focused on creating raving fans that are loyal to your brand and business.

Unfortunately, when you say “loyalty” in most business circles, frequent shopper cards and earning points for shopping are what come to mind. Loyalty goes way beyond a punch card. If the only thing your relationship with your customers is built on is earning the next discount, what will stop them from looking for a better loyalty program?

To create loyalty you need to have a solid lifecycle marketing program in place. If you’re unfamiliar with lifecycle marketing, an easy way to look at it is that it understands the process of becoming engaged and delivering communications that positively influence behavior throughout your customers’ journey. You’re looking at each prospect, lead, and customer differently because they’re at different phases in their relationship with you.

To have a successful customer lifecycle-marketing plan, you need to develop your approach. First, you need to understand where your customers are at in their relationship with you. And to do that, you need data. Second, based on what you understand, you can offer the right products. Third is timeliness, the right message about the right product at the right time.

Lifecycle marketing is designed to go beyond the first sale and create repeat sales. According to Bain & Company, a 5 percent increase in customer retention can lift a company’s profitability by 75 percent. Rosetta Consulting reported that engaged consumers buy 90 percent more frequently, spend 60 percent more per transaction, and are five times more likely to purchase from that brand only in the future.

As you create your lifecycle marketing plan, focus on these four areas.

Attention spans have never been shorter than they are today. Most research says that eight seconds is the average. What can you do to grab the attention of your customers? What content and message can you communicate that commands attention? What marketing channels do you need to be engaged in?

Influencing the actions of your customers begins by establishing your authority and expertise. Remember the popular E.F. Hutton commercial from the 1980s? “When E.F Hutton speaks, people listen.” Hutton was the expert concerning finances and investing. What are you the expert at?

If you’ve captured people’s attention and become a trusted source, the natural progression in the relationship will be a transaction. The most important work begins when someone makes a purchase.

If you develop a strong, emotional connection, you’ll have engagement; and when you have engagement, you’ll generate loyalty. Think about the connection that Apple has created with their customers. Most of their customers are over-the-top, raving fans.

The end goal is to move your customers to the point in their relationship with you and your brand so that they’re marketing your business for free. There’s nothing more powerful than word-of-mouth marketing. When one of your customers takes to Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram and talks about your business, you’ve generated a great win.

—Chris Rainey