Understanding the SaaS customer journey
If you’ll remember from college or early sales articles and blogs, the “buyers process” has been around a long time. And it still remains true. But we’ve had to adapt it for the all-online SaaS world of subscription sales.
The SaaS customer journey is similar and different in a number of ways. The methods that customers may use to find your product and their decision making process is likely different from any other product. For example, B2B buyers are typically 57% of the way to a buying decision before actively engaging with sales. Details of the customer journey like this help determine where you need to spend your efforts.
Having a complete and thorough understanding of the SaaS customer journey is what helps your team be intentional and successful in creating a marketing and sales strategy that attracts and converts.
Here is a quick guide to the SaaS customer journey and how to leverage each step for growth:
1. Awareness of a need or problem
The customer journey begins long before your customer even knows that there is a solution like yours they need to be looking for. Prior, your customer will go through a phase of becoming aware of a problem or a challenge that they may want to find a solution for. It may come about through frustration or losing time or money as a result of a problem, etc. They will start to consider the impact of the problem on their ability to make or save money or time.
What’s interesting about this “awareness” phase in the SaaS customer journey is that your customers may not be aware of the problem or challenge they’re facing until they become aware of your product.
Here’s an example our team has previously experienced: we were using Quicktime player to record videos and demos to share internally with our team. Eventually, while working with someone external, they sent us a Loom video and we discovered Loom as a better solution to our problem. You can use the Chrome extension to easily record, save videos as links, and send as links as well as control privacy and track views. It was the solution we didn’t know we needed.
For SaaS, it can be the case that your product as a solution is so new that your potential customers don’t even know how to look for it.
- Your team’s job: It’s your team’s job in the next steps of the SaaS customer journey to take an understanding of your customer’s challenges and figure out how to create awareness of your product to reach these customers.
- To do this: identify personas of who would struggle from a problem your product solves and benefit from your product. You can narrow down by industry, company, and specific roles at companies. Then work through each role and how the problems and challenges after their work, profitability, and time. You’ll need a complex understanding of how the problem impacts them to sell your solution. You can do this by interacting with social media groups where your target personas are, generating related content, using targeted ads, and doing webinars to help your ideal client.
2. They start looking for solutions
Once your customer becomes aware of their problem, they will start to research potential solutions. They will likely start with simple internet searches or asking peers.
- Your team’s job: to find out where they are searching and what specifically. Your team needs to understand what and where your customers are searching for when they try to find a solution to their problem: what keywords, phrases, questions, etc. and where they conduct their searches. Once you understand this, you’ll be able to craft your marketing and sales strategy around this information so you are best positioned to be found during this stage. It’s also important to know what kind of competitors and alternatives may appear in the discovery process for customers.
- To do this: Go through the process as each of your personas. With the problem identified for each, go through how you would go about finding information on a solution and observe the different touch points with competitors and what sources come up. Are you led to a blog post on how to solve the problem? What competitors are doing a good job at creating helpful content? It’s important to be authoritative in your position with leads and present your product and its benefits clearly.
3. A lead will make a decision on a solution
After conducting their research, leads will make a decision on the solution they perceive as most promising and want to try. They will go through the different options and analyze the pros and cons of each. Depending on the persona, what the important details are that shift their decision may differ. It’s important to be aware of what will be a deal breaker or maker for each of your personas. When they’ve made a decision, they will likely sign up for a free trial or freemium account to try out a solution.
- Your team’s job: is to position your product as better than competitors and alternatives your potential customer will come across in the discovery process. It is best to market and sell leading with your product and its features – a product-led approach.
- To do this: Focus on the key features that make your product better. Share testimonials and reviews as well as customers and segments you’re working in to better qualify your product for your personas. Keep an eye on how competitors are selling their product and make sure to have a clear answer to the question “why is this product better than that one?” Have clear landing pages for your product that explain the benefit to your personas in plain terms with qualified results. Include qualification from your best clients and include content from your company’s leaders that provides advice on how to solve the problem your customers are facing. The goal is to persuade them your solution is the best – in expertise and product.
What happens when they choose? Make it easy for them to get started right away. You should have decided on either a freemium or free trial model. You should also take into consideration if you are going to require a credit card to start a trial and how that will affect your conversion rate. Learn more about the pros and cons of free trials vs demos and freemium here. Your onboarding process needs to get users implementing your solution right away. It should focus on feature discovery and show them how to get results immediately. You can also offer sales meetings and demos with your team to support.
4. Your job is to engage the customer
After your customer has converted and is either a free trial user, a freemium user, or eventually, a paying user, your team’s job is not over. This customer journey step is unique to SaaS: you need to retain the customers month/month. Recurring revenue and churn is the biggest concern for SaaS growth. If you are bringing on new customers but not retaining existing ones – you have a leaky bucket and not achieving sustainable growth.
- Your team’s job: is to determine if your users are happy and take action to ensure your users are successful and keep from churning out.
- How you do it: Keep track of users’ engagement and satisfaction with feedback surveys, providing easy customer support, and tracking NPS, net promoter score, and tracking churn metrics can help you get a good overall look at how your product is faring with customers.
To keep users engaged:
- announce new features and bug fixes frequently
- provide additional customer support in the form of a chat option or direct email with your team.
- Aim to teach users how to use features for success in their work with content, guides, etc.
For an easy way to announce new updates and provide helpful content to users, you can use Beamer. Beamer is an integrated changelog that sits within your product where you can share updates about new features, updates, bug fixes, new content, etc. Users just click on a “what’s new” tab in your navigation or an icon in your interface to open up a sidebar feed. You can include images, videos, GIFs, and CTAs to better explain updates and get users jumping into new features. Beamer gives your team metrics on open and click rates on your updates as well as comments and reactions, giving you a good idea of how users are reacting to your product.
5. Turning users into promoters
With happy users, you have a huge marketing opportunity. Your promoters, users who avidly share your product with their peers, are much more effective at bringing leads than your team can be. Leveraging them can be very powerful for your marketing and sales strategy.
- Your team’s job: to turn your happy users into promoters by identifying them and then making it easy for them to share your product with peers.
- How you do it: You can use Beamer NPS to track your promoters, passives, and detractors. Beamer NPS presents your users with a simple 1 – 10 survey on their satisfaction with your product in your product interface and collects data on your promoters. Once you’ve identified who they are, you can take steps to get them to actively help in your marketing efforts.
Ideas to get promoters to share your product:
- Incentive them sharing your product: offer a discount or additional service in exchange. For example, Dropbox offered additional storage space when their early users invited 5+ other users to sign up.
- Using your promoters’ feedback, reviews, quotes, etc. in your marketing efforts in the form of testimonials.
- Ask them automatically to share your product on social media and give them a template.
Although the basic principles still stand, the SaaS customer journey is unique in that it’s more dynamic and is never really complete. You are always working to retain and keep customers happy with your product as it too inevitably evolves along with customers needs. As your product evolves, keep users in the loop and engaged with Beamer.