Author Archives: Pam Neely

Customer Lifecycle Optimisation: Why It Matters And How To Improve It

“A chain is only as strong as its weakest link.”

It’s a quote we’ve all heard before, but it holds a clue about how to improve your sales funnel – and your overall marketing program.

The idea of the chain metaphor is that if you tug hard enough, the chain will break – right at wherever the weak link is. It doesn’t matter how strong the other links are because the chain operates as a system. If any one part of the system is damaged, the entire system is at risk.


Because your sales funnel works as a system, any weak parts will affect all the other parts. One fragile element in the system undermines the entire system.

And while that sounds bad, it’s actually a good thing. Know why?

Because it means that you can significantly improve a system simply by targeting the weak area. Strengthen one of those key frail spots, and you’ll get an outsized improvement from your work.


Customer lifecycle optimisation is a matter or perspective

Focusing on the entire customer lifecycle requires a larger perspective than just tracking a couple of favorite metrics.

You should still track those metrics, of course. But it’s critical to see – and track – the overall picture of your marketing.

Here’s an example of why this is so important. Say you’ve got a landing page you want to optimise. You’ve created an alternate version and have your A/B split test all set up.

You run the test for at least a week, and then run it another week to get a large, reliable data set. Your challenger page, landing page B, comes out as the winner. It gets a handsome 22% more leads than page A. Great job!


Even though there are more leads generated by page B, the lead quality isn’t as good.

Page B converts better if you look at just that one step in the sales funnel – the landing page. But if you move back and look at how it affects the entire customer journey – all the way to initial order size and customer lifetime value – it actually performs worse than your original landing page.

That’s a bummer … but it’s only a test (and most tests fail, alas). Because you’re smart and know to optimise for the entire customer lifecycle, you don’t get burned.

If you weren’t looking at this one landing page action as a part of a larger whole, you’d miss out. You’d be merrily sending more leads to your sales team – but they’d be of poorer quality. (They don’t like that.)

Don’t underestimate how valuable this is. If you’re doing any testing, or have any hope of improving your overall sales funnel, you actually have to look at the full customer lifecycle.

Otherwise, you may not be improving anything, really. So all that testing and all the work to bring people through those tests isn’t actually getting you anywhere.

This fact alone may be enough to justify the cost (and the set-up) of optimising for the entire customer lifecycle. Let your competitors stay behind and myopically focus on the individual steps of their sales funnels.


Delivering a consistent, positive customer experience along the buyer’s journey affects every consequent interaction

This is essentially the same principle as “you only get one chance to make a first impression.” It means that, all things being equal, the interactions your customers have with you earlier in the sales cycle are just more important.

Why? Well, here’s another metaphor to explain it: If you botch a first date, there won’t be a second date.

If you mess up the first time you go out with someone, it doesn’t matter what you had planned for the second date. Much less for the third date or the wedding. They aren’t going to happen.

In other words, if we alienate or disappoint our customers at the early stages of the sales cycle, they won’t ever get to the later parts.

This is why so many conversion rate optimisation experts recommend focusing on the front end of your sales funnel. Not because the later parts don’t matter, but because if the first few steps of a sales funnel fail, it doesn’t much matter what happens towards the end of the sales funnel. It’s all collapsing anyway.

Just remember to balance this with what we were talking about before: how every change you make affects the entire system.

So, in other words – yes – do start your optimisation efforts with the steps that fall in the beginning of your sales funnel (the attract and capture phases). But pay attention to how any changes you make affect the later stages.

You don’t want to cut customer lifetime value by 10% just for a 5% lift on a landing page.


But not all elements of a sales funnel have the same influence

I hate to tell you this, but there’s yet another level of complexity here: Not all elements are created equal.

That statement applies to any sales funnel or series of conversions, but let’s talk about how it might work in a customer lifecycle.

Here’s the gist. Some conversions in your sales funnel will have more effects on your overall sales than others. So, while every element in your sales funnel affects the entire system, some elements are more influential than others. And while (if all those elements were equal) optimising the front of the funnel could bring the best results, all those elements are not equal.

Are you seeing why it’s tough to optimise complex processes? Good.

Let’s dig deeper into this idea of some elements being more influential than others. Typically, you’ll see this phenomenon come up in multivariate testing. That’s a testing methodology that’s considerably more complex than plain old A/B split testing.

The basic difference between A/B split testing and multivariate testing is this: In A/B split testing, you test one variable at a time – a button color, for example. In multivariate testing, you can test multiple variables at one time – the button’s color, placement, and copy, for instance.

Being able to test more than one thing at once requires a lot more traffic (like three or four or more times the traffic). But when the test is done, you’ll not only know which combination performs best, you’ll know which variable has the biggest effect on conversions.

That’s what I meant by “not all elements in a sales funnel are equal.”

So consider that principle of multivariate testing as you look at optimising your entire sales funnel. Certain steps along the way may deliver more impact than others.

For now, it’s still up to us human marketers to use our judgment (and our data) to strategically pick which elements we’ll test first. But we can at least start by seeing the entire customer lifecycle as a whole.


Interested in learning more or are after a chat? Contact us on  1800 737  266 or for a chat on how we can help you grow and transform.


7 Classic Email Marketing Mistakes – And How to Avoid Them

7 Classic Email Marketing Mistakes – And How to Avoid Them


Everybody makes mistakes. Some are big. Some are little. Many are avoidable. In email, there are so many mistakes you can make that to list them all would turn this blog post into a short book.

To help you avoid the worst of the worst email marketing mistakes, we’ve decided to call them out. We’re just listing the worst offenders and what to do to prevent them and how to recover if you make them. If you don’t see your favourite error noted here, please add it in the comments section.


  1. The broken link email.

I see so many of these that sometimes I wonder if they aren’t deliberate. Like the marketer is resending to non-openers with a different subject line, simply as a trick to get more of us to open. Tip: If you’re sending out a broken link to that landing page you hoped would be a conversion magnet, your campaign will fail and all your time and effort will be for nada. Do check those links.


  1. A botched subject line.

After the broken link issue, this has to be the next most common mistake. Here are just a few of the most choice subject line faux pas I have seen:


(That last subject line is for an email about meditation, not mediation.)

These mistakes tend to fall into two categories: Either a draft of an email gets mistakenly sent, or somehow a typo sneaks in.

Fortunately, these are not the sort of things that tend to get people fired, though they are embarrassing. But unless you really botch it and send out a draft email on a volatile subject, or the typo is just really, really bad, all is not lost. These mistakes happen a lot even by some of the very best companies. We’re all human.

It’s ironic, too, that for all the spellchecker tools there are, they all focus on the body copy of the email. The subject line doesn’t get spellchecked unless a human does it.

The solution here? Have multiple people checking your emails before they go out. We tend to be blind to our own typos.

By the way there’s another way to botch a subject line. It’s to not put any thought into it.

Spend at least 10 minutes crafting your subject line, possibly by writing 10-15 different versions of it. Then consider reviewing those with your team, or using a subject line testing tool like Touchstone.


  1. Not optimizing your emails for mobile devices.

You’ve heard the news, right? More than half of all email messages are opened on mobile devices.



That means your emails need to look good on mobile devices. They also need to be user-friendly for your subscribers.

Here’s a short punch list for how to do that. For more details, see our blog post, 10 Best Practices for Mobile-Friendly Emails.

  • The text needs to be big enough to read.
  • Buttons, links and the call to action need to be big enough to click easily and far enough away from other links that someone won’t accidentally hit the wrong link.
  • The layout needs to be either mobile friendly, aka with a fluid design (so that it adjusts to whatever device it’s viewed on) or responsive (so that the code of the email is smart enough to show a version of code that’s specifically suited to the device it’s being displayed on).


  1. Buying a list.

But I have to jumpstart my email marketing program!

Maybe you do, but not with a purchased list. First of all, no reputable email marketing service provider will even let you mail to a purchased list. They don’t want their system dinged by the spam complaints and other issues created by mailing to a purchased list.

But the real reason to not buy a list is the results. They’ll be terrible. So terrible, you’ll probably want your money back.

So take a deep breath. Great email programs were not built in a day. It’s time to start building your list.

Want to know more about the hazards of buying a list? See our blog post, The Perils of Email List Buying Rookie Mistakes 101.


  1. Mailing to people who have not given you permission.

This is a mistake that can actually break the law and Canada’s Anti-Spam Law (CASL) is tougher than the United States CAN-SPAM law. It’s also a mistake that in some cases is not necessarily black and white.

Here are the clear-cut situations where you don’t have permission to mail to people:

  • You added their names to your list, even though you’ve never communicated with them and they’ve never communicated with you. You just thought they might like your emails.
  • You scraped their names from websites, either by hand or with a software program.

Here are the less clear-cut situations:

  • You’re connected with them on LinkedIn. So you can send them your email newsletters, right? Nope. LinkedIn is a separate system. And LinkedIn will be very unhappy with you if they find out you’re doing this.
  • You got their business card at a conference. It’s great they’ve offered this information, but it’s not permission to add them to your list.
  • They placed an order. Surprise! Many consumers actually get annoyed when they are automatically added to weekly newsletter lists after they place an order. A better practice is to add a checkbox that asks if you can send them emails. Make it opt-in, not opt-out.
  • They signed up for a webinar. Same principle here: Lots of marketers just put everyone who signed up for a webinar on to their general email list. But you can do better. Add that checkbox to get permission to mail to people after the event. It’s polite, and will get you a higher-quality list.


  1. You’ve never cleaned up your list.

By cleaned up, I mean you’ve got subscribers on your list who have never, ever opened or clicked an email. Or you’ve got people on your list who haven’t done that in the last year or so.

The time frame for when to purge inactive subscribers can vary anywhere from six months to 18 months seems to be about the norm. But you do need to clean up your list every so often. Otherwise, your deliverability rates will get hurt, and you’ll just get poor results. It’s better to have a smaller, more engaged list than a huge list of people who don’t care.

To learn more about how to keep your list clean and your deliverability rates high, see our blog post, How to Protect Your Email List Health and Deliverability.


  1. Not sending emails at all.

There are two levels of this.

  • Having a list and gathering email addresses, but not mailing to them.
  • Not having a list and not gathering email addresses.

The first one is obviously easier to correct. But be aware: When you mail to those people for the first time, you’re going to get a wave of unsubscribes, and possibly even a couple of spam complaints.

Why? Because they’ve forgotten who you are. Many of them will have forgotten they ever even signed up.

You can overcome this by offering them something extra-great in your first email. Or by just saying something like this

You signed up for our mailing list a long time ago, but we weren’t quite ready to send great emails back then. We’ve finally got some great stuff for you information to help you do your job better and to make your work much easier. So here’s your first email. Expect to hear from us about once a week from now on.


What about the second situation, where you have no list and aren’t collecting email addresses? Well, it’s time to start trying. Add opt-in boxes to:

  • The top of the navigation column on your website (and blog).
  • To the footer area of your website.
  • To a pop-up or overlay that appears after people have been on your site for two minutes or more. Set it to show only once a week.
  • Your Facebook page.
  • At the close of blog posts.
  • Possibly to a feature box a full-width opt-in box that fills the first screen when someone comes to the home page of your website.

There are plenty of other places, but that will cover the bulk of it. See our white paper, Best Practices for Building a Subscriber List for more information.


And when you (inevitably) make that mistake:

I’ll never know if this is true or not, but it does appear that about half of marketers are sending apology emails at least once a year. Many send them more often.

Here’s an email I just got from a major manufacturer; it’s less an apology than an acknowledgement, but it’s mildly funny and very human, leaving me with a good feeling about the company.

So depending on the mistake, consider at least admitting it, or apologizing if that’s called for.



Mistakes happen. Unfortunately, making a mistake with your email marketing is not an if, but a when. So prepare for it. Do you have a plan (that your boss has approved) in case you botch a subject line or send out a draft email? What if an email meant for just a portion of your list gets sent to everyone?

There’s no need to brood over this for months, fearing when it will happen. Write down a plan of how to deal with it if it happens, AND create a reasonable checklist of things you can do to prevent it from happening. Then stick with that checklist. Pin it to your wall if you have to even tape it to the edge of your computer screen.

One thing that does seem to prevent mistakes is having a system a planned-out workflow that doesn’t change. So if you don’t have one of those, consider making one. Fast. Here are a few things to go on it, to get you started:

  • Double-check the list segment
  • Suppress whatever is needed
  • Email send address
  • Subject line
  • Personalization
  • Check all links
  • Check copy for typos
  • A/B test the CTA
  • Check any tracking code
  • Physical address
  • Unsubscribe link

And then, check your emails before you send. By “check”, I mean

  • Read them carefully (preferably out loud)
  • Click all the links
  • See how they look on a smartphone
  • Have at least two other people check the email before you send it


What do you think?

Have you ever made a significant mistake with your email marketing? What did you do to fix it? Did you change your workflow after that? Tell us about it in the comments.


Want more?

Check out our best practices for email deliverability or contact us for an informal discussion


Article by Act-On