SaaS Customer Journey
The buyer’s journey is a marketing staple, but in SaaS marketing, it doesn’t address the key needs of SaaS customers. A different customer journey is necessary to build and maintain a SaaS offering that retains happy customers long term.
Let’s take a look at what it takes to build a reliable customer pipeline through the SaaS customer journey. Once you and your team are on the same page as to what it takes to retain your SaaS customers, you’ll craft an experience that sells itself.
The SaaS Customer Journey Basics
SaaS companies have a two-fold customer strategy. New customers help with growth and scale, allowing the company to inject new life into solutions. Current customers provide stability and the foundation for that growth.
You must effectively focus on both sides to create a long-term success plan. Luckily, both journeys dovetail to form one cohesive unit.
Traditional buyer’s journeys look like this:
- Awareness — Potential buyers know and understand the problem they’re trying to solve or an area that offers potential growth.
- Consideration — Buyers are pursuing possible solutions, researching options, and gathering clues.
- Decision — Buyers have narrowed their options and are one step away from committing to a solution (hopefully, your solution).
Once you’ve locked a customer in place using these buyer stages, it’s easy to focus all your efforts on the next buyer. Retaining and nurturing current customers, however, is a critical part of reaching your revenue goals.
The SaaS customer journey picks up where the traditional buyer’s journey leaves off. Its purpose is to nurture that existing relationship so as to reduce your customer churn as much as possible.
The SaaS customer journey takes the first three stages and connects them deeply and thoughtfully to the next pieces of the puzzle. After the awareness, consideration, and decision phases, the SaaS customer journey adds:
- Retention — The focus shifts to maintaining that spark once the customer seals the deal. Something made your customer choose your solution, and now your mission is retaining that initial support.
- Evangelism — Satisfied customers are excellent brand advocates. Incentivizing and celebrating them further cements your relationship (and forms a foundation for a new leg of your customer pipeline).
Together, these five stages provide the basis for your team’s marketing and service efforts. They create an effective support system that finds new customers and retains current ones without sacrificing or prioritizing one type over the other.
Types of SaaS Journeys
The roadmap above is the general route, but you’ll need a little more detail to tailor it to specific SaaS customers. The particular type of journey your customer is on will depend on the type of lead.
Not all of your leads are your people. Some are in it for the freebies. Others are not served correctly by your solution and need to find something different. Instead of focusing efforts on every potential customer equally, you need to weed out ones that aren’t for you.
High-priority leads are ones that are ready to make the purchase. Once you identify them through the consideration phase, you’ll be able to reach out to them through personalized emails or route them to the sales team . From there, the goal is to close the loop by sending them on to the decision phase and through the final stages of the customer journey.
A frequent occurrence with SaaS companies is having a high attendance at webinars or demonstrations but few leads closing the deal afterward. Not all webinar attendees are able or ready to purchase, but some leads will show real interest through the interaction.
Customers often attend these demonstrations because they’re in the consideration or decision phase and are trying to find the final answers to their challenges. It’s important to follow up with these customers to avoid losing qualified leads and to help send more potential customers to the retention phase.
Catching At-Risk Clients
No one wants to think about churn, but losing customers is a natural part of a SaaS operation. You can’t completely eliminate churn, but you can help reduce it through thoughtful customer journey components designed to identify canceling or defaulting customers.
Customers who aren’t engaging as much with your SaaS solution could be on their way to churn. Addressing the retention and evangelism phase of the customer journey could help bring that spark back. This strategy can ensure that your long-term customers don’t succumb to boredom or the natural passing of time.
Building a SaaS Customer Journey Map
So how do you build these components? Here’s the basic process for identifying critical points of your buyer’s journey and ensuring that everyone on your team is on the same page.
Draw It Out
It’s one thing to talk in theory about the customer journey and another to execute the timeline in a way that makes sense. One way to ensure that everyone on the team has the same vision is to bring it to life on paper.
By using simple illustrations on a whiteboard, demonstrating virtually through graphics, or just on writing it out on paper, you need to document your customer journey at each phase. This visual makes it easy to communicate the exact path of the customer and keep everyone on the same page throughout departments.
The upside to this method is that everyone in the company can refer back to the map at any given time. Sales knows where leads are coming from. Marketing knows how to ramp up specific components. The VP of products understands how the customer moves from start to finish.
Tie It to the Data
You don’t have to drown in analysis here, but you must understand how each phase measures up and where benchmarks may be missing. There are three key pieces of analytics you’ll need once you’ve got your map in place.
- Lifecycle stage — The steps your customers take from finding out about you to signing up (or renewing) are ripe for data analysis. Where are you losing customers? Where do your steps plateau? What can you do to streamline and improve?
- Entry points and paths — Customers who search for a solution and find you are different from those who sign up for a webinar because they were intrigued by the subject. Know how your leads enter the journey and where they exit.
- Conversion events — The triggers that move customers from one piece of the journey to the next are also excellent sources of data. Are you losing customers through your website form? Are you dropping the ball with webinars? Pinning down these events can help you.
Outline Your Elements
As you work with your customer journey, you’ll become more aware of the different ways customers approach your business and whether or not they come on board. Clearly outlining these elements helps further target and segment your audience for refined nurturing.
You’ll begin by listing your conversion events as your customers will experience them. For example, a visitor becomes a lead by signing up for your email list. They then move from lead to sales opportunity by requesting a demo. Next, they become a customer by exploring and subscribing to a particular pricing tier.
Work to find the different entry points for your customers and begin writing and illustrating the types of content that will trigger conversion events. This helps each department work together and ensure that no customer falls through the cracks.
Map the Journey
Now it’s time to draw this map out on physical paper. Gather everyone in your organization who has hands-on customer data and bring them together for these tasks.
On a large whiteboard or paper, begin charting customers the progress of customers throughout your stages. On one axis, the journey happens while on the other axis, the elements of that journey — content, conversion events, checkups — are clearly outlined. This is easy to follow and solidifies how your customers move.
Improve Growth and Retention With Journeys
SaaS companies have a lot of moving parts. You’re nurturing leads, retaining current customers, and renewing interest for those who have gone inactive. These different elements can work together to create a logical system for long-term growth.
Remember that your customers have unique experiences depending on their entry points, but an overall plan with a clear map can help plug them into the right part of the journey. As a result, your team will know what to do and how to respond, and your customers will feel cared for.
This map is a critical part of your overall success as a SaaS company, so don’t skip it. By taking the time to understand your customer journey, you’re sure to build long-term success.