You see a product you want in three different stores or websites. You compare prices and reviews. You find out what extra the seller is ready to offer. Eventually, you buy from the place you know best. This is the power of customer relationship management.

CRM is a wide topic with many parlances, definitions and theories. So let’s attempt to break down customer life cycle process in a way that it becomes easy to understand for every Tom, Dick and Harriet. Even if you’re feeling too lazy to read the whole thing, do skim the visuals – they highlight the customer journey and the various ways you can capitalize at touchpoints.



Boyfriend: I bought an iPhone!

 Girlfriend: Cool! Which brand?

That’s the exact opposite example of brand awareness.

Awareness is a crucial part of brand recall. It is only when people are aware of your product or service when they need it and recall your brand when they’re out to purchase it that they become your customers.

There are several ways to raise awareness, from traditional advertising to online marketing. Let’s understand each of them briefly.

  • Advertising: I very much doubt anyone would be unaware of advertising unless they have been living on the moon like this man from the John Lewis ad. We have been bombarded by traditional advertising on TV, radio, magazines, newspapers, billboards and sidewalks, so I will quickly move on to the next method of creating brand awareness.
  • Online Marketing: Marketing consultants, branding gurus, media and agencies worldwide have realized the power and potential of search, PPC, display advertising, email marketing, etc. when it comes to reaching out to targeted audiences. The plus point is that there is a dazzling array of tools that allows you to estimate, track and calculate reach, cost, time frames, revenue, sentiment, and virtually every other nitty-gritty of your campaigns.
  • Word of Mouth: Still the numero uno method of attracting and swaying people to buy a product, word of mouth publicity happens when coworkers, friends or family bring a particular brand to your customer’s notice.
  • Social Media: This is where people today are at. And they’re already talking. Do you want them to talk about you?
  • PR: This is a traditional marketing method which works well for awareness. You can get good coverage for your brand by informing the public of your product launches, events, etc.



Once your potential customers become aware of your brand, they advance to the next step of lifecycle, i.e. evaluation. Customers evaluate your brand in various predictable ways, and trust me, this is one of the stages where influencing them is relatively easy.

For instance, most potential customers check out a company’s website, blog, app or business pages on Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, and the like. So, it has become crucial for every business, no matter how big or small, to have a website and social media presence.

We come across so many unique and novel small business ideas these days, from Dice Passwords to Shirt a Month to Sunday brunches delivered to your bed – and the key to the sale of their products or adoption of their services are clear-cut and convincing websites that demonstrate exactly how the product works.

To top it, a professional website that also converts will is no longer the domain of big players. DIY website and landing page builders like Spaces make it easy for you to quickly set up a website with minimal content and start selling online with payment gateways and shopping carts functions included.

If you update your website, social media pages and blogs, and respond to emails and calls smartly, you know you have conquered this stage of your customer’s lifecycle.

Decision Making


Once your customers are sufficiently satisfied with your explanations, reviews, feature lists and interactions on website and other avenues, they mature to the third stage – decision making. This is the juncture where the customer will finally make the purchase (or if you’re a startup, the angel investor will become ready to throw money at you).

Any mistake at this point can cost you dear. No matter how good the product or deal, customers will abandon your cart or walk out of your store if they encounter operational or customer service issues.

To find out how to keep your customers happy during this critical phase, you need to have keen understanding of your audience personas and customer segments. For instance, a Bain study found that some of the highest spenders in online retailing are convenience seekers, followed by brand buyers. Therefore, the bulk of your efforts should be geared towards these segments.


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There are several tools like Brandwatch that allow you to monitor discussions within your audience segments and tune into their insights. It is very important to understand and segment your customer base so you can tailor your marketing campaigns accordingly.



We all have heard of airlines’ frequent flyer programs and Starbucks’ fancy cross-channel loyalty schemes. These are not just random sales boosting gimmicks, but well researched and thought out customer retention schemes.

Nothing spells customer service success like repeat purchases, and small rewards go a long way in winning lifelong customers.

From gamification, CRM to technology, there are many ways brands can effectively engage and retain their customers. However, you don’t need to go over the top; a simple handwritten letter or a small, complimentary gift during Christmas can work just as well.



No one can influence others better than your customers. Just the other day, I was asked about my new shag rug and I couldn’t stop raving about Overstock and their wonderful furniture deals.

Smart brands will tap the power of influencers in every way they can. Marriot Hotels did something similar as they narrowed down their hotel visitors to find eight avid travel bloggers, gave them all-expense paid trips and write about their experiences.

The result? Around 39 blog posts were written which reached 1,043,400 unique monthly visitors in total.

Other than blogs, there are many other ways you can push your branded content subtly, yet effectively. Customer testimonials, reviews, community forums, etc. are good places to start.

The Wrap

No matter which industry you are in or how small your customer base is, there are plenty of takeaways from this visual guide.

  • From very expensive media like TV and premium magazines to zero-cost (not really) ones like social media and blogs, there are several ways to reach out to potential customers.
  • It is very important to have an omni-channel presence to ensure you are not missing out on good opportunities.
  • Spend time on understanding your customers, not just acquiring them.
  • Once you acquire a critical mass of customers, put in place effective customer retention strategies to make sure you don’t lose them.

Rohan Ayyar works for E2M, a premium digital marketing firm specializing in content strategy, web analytics and conversion rate optimization for startups. His posts are featured on major online marketing blogs such as Moz, Search Engine Journal and Social Media Today. Rohan hangs out round the clock on Twitter @searchrook – hit him up any time for a quick chat.