Do you really know the journey a website visitor takes from the moment they first come in contact with your brand to when they convert into customers? Can you name all the touchpoints and conversion events that take place in between?
Here is the thing.
Unless you have a deep understanding of your entire customer journey, it’s virtually impossible to optimize your marketing and sales campaigns. How would you be able to defend your marketing and sales assets if you don’t know what role they play in the customer journey?
And here is the other thing. The first-touch and last-touch attribution techniques are pretty easy to implement. Sadly, they never paint the full picture. You have to identify and understand how customers interact with your brand at every touchpoint to create a truly effective funnel.
This article will teach you how to map the SaaS customer journey.
What Is the SaaS Customer Journey?
A SaaS customer journey is a path showing the stages customers go through from when they discover a brand to when they become paid users and brand advocates. SaaS companies rely on customer journey maps to get a visual representation of:
- Each stage of the entire customer journey;
- The various customer touchpoints at each stage;
- Macri-conversion events; and
- Any friction that prevents adoption and, ultimately, customer retention.
An accurate customer journey mapping helps you enhance all aspects of your SaaS brand. The product and development team will know how to create the perfect product demos. Sales and marketing teams will know the touchpoints to take care of to ensure no leads leak through the cracks.
Not only that, but teams will be able to justify their expenditures in the different SaaS marketing campaigns, sales strategies, and even customer success techniques implemented.
In theory, this is a smooth process that goes from step A to step Z. The reality is more complicated.
This illustration from Gartner about the typical B2B buyers’ journey nicely illustrates my point.
Understanding the touchpoints also shows you where to anticipate customer interactions.
You can then refine these touchpoints to deliver a seamless experience.
For example, customer onboarding is a critical touchpoint. Enhancing it can make all the difference, allowing you to easily upgrade more users to premium plans and, more importantly, retain those users long-term.
Another thing we must point out is that customers can take different journeys. For example, one customer may first request a demo before converting. Another may simply pop out their credit card and jump right into a paid plan without speaking to anyone. You must consider each of these touchpoints and journeys.
You may also want to deliberately create additional touchpoints for various reasons. For example, say you have a product targeting both SMB and enterprise clients. We can all agree that enterprise clients are way more valuable and hence require additional attention. As such, you may create an additional touchpoint where you connect your enterprise clients with a dedicated customer success manager.
What Are the Stages of the SaaS Customer Journey
A typical SaaS customer journey consists of five main stages: awareness, consideration, purchase, adoption, and advocacy. You’ve probably seen one of these base sales funnel images.
When you align it with customer touchpoints, it might look a little something like this.
That should give you an overview of the SaaS customer journey. Let’s quickly take a closer look at the different stages.
The awareness stage is the first stage of a typical SaaS customer journey. It begins when a potential customer realizes they have a problem that needs to be solved.
The prospect begins their search for solutions to that problem.
Let’s assume a particular prospect owns an ecommerce business and struggles with cart abandonment. Such a prospect will likely search for something like “how to reduce cart abandonment.”
That’s a pretty general query, but it seeks to address a specific problem. During their search, they will likely find a tip suggesting they use email marketing to reduce cart abandonment. As they search this further, they’ll be introduced to saas email marketing tools.
That could bring them to the next stage of their journey: consideration.
But that’s not the only touchpoint at this stage. Other possible touchpoints at the awareness stage are:
- Word of mouth
- Affiliate sites
- PPC campaigns
- Social media marketing
Keep in mind that some of these touchpoints may overlap across several stages.
Now for the website visitor to move from awareness to consideration, a macro-conversion has to take place. This changes their status from just a website visitor to a lead. The conversion event that may lead to this includes signing up for your newsletter or downloading a lead magnet.
During the consideration stage, the potential customer discovers what your SaaS product can do for them. They’re now evaluating your solution against other available options on the market.
Once convinced of its utility, they’ll move on to the next stage of their journey. The status will hence change from simply a lead to an opportunity. A conversion event will also take place at this point. The lead may request a demo or sign up for a free trial.
Your landing page is typically a critical touchpoint at this stage. The product demo and free trial experience will also play a critical role in determining whether the opportunity will result in a sale.
At the purchase or acquisition stage, curious users (or decision-makers purchasing for their team) take the plunge and purchase a subscription tier. That’s the conversion event at this stage.
The major touchpoint here is the pricing page on your website. In-product paywalls are also a touchpoint because some users may upgrade when they hit certain milestones during their free trial. For example, when they exhaust their credits for a particular feature or encounter a paywall while trying to access a premium feature.
The onboarding experience will ensure a seamless transition into the next customer lifecycle stage.
The adoption stage is one of the key stages of a customer journey, as it’s the point where a prospect becomes a full-time customer.
Having completed the onboarding process and used your SaaS product for a trial or subscription period, a customer at this stage of their journey renews their subscription repeatedly.
In essence, the adoption stage confirms that your SaaS product has become an indispensable part of a customer’s workflow.
Here’s a tip: your onboarding experience can determine how quickly a customer reaches this stage of their journey (if at all). In other words, the quicker a customer can get up and running with your SaaS product, the higher the likelihood of them adopting it into their workflow.
Leverage self-service customer onboarding tools like Appcues to ensure a seamless experience. Use that alongside an onboarding email drip campaign. Also, give your enterprise clients the option to talk to a dedicated support rep to assist with the onboarding.
This is the final stage of the customer journey. It’s where you want your customers to end up. If your SaaS product delivers customer satisfaction, your happy customers will spread the word for free.
A single customer can convince others to try your product, resulting in more long-term users if it’s good enough. This also lowers your customer acquisition costs and increases the ROI of your marketing budget.
Make it easy for your customers to be brand advocates by running referral programs. Of course, your product and customer service needs to be on point too.
How to Map the Customer Journey
Here’s how to map a SaaS customer journey in six steps:
1. Set Your Goals
When creating a customer journey map, it’s essential you know what you want to achieve.
There are innumerable goals behind creating a user journey map.
For example, you might be trying to improve the onboarding flow by shortening or streamlining the onboarding process. It’s possible you’d like to generate more leads and increase your product’s conversion rates.
Ideally, you should set one North Star goal. This is the overarching target you’re trying to achieve. It’s generally a target linked to revenue. For example: Increase ARR to $500,000.
You can then break down that overarching goal into sub-goals. These are goals that can be assigned to individuals or departments. The graphic above illustrates how this works in practice.
Use a priority matrix to figure out which goals to focus on. Start with the goals that are the easiest to achieve and have the highest likely impact. That ensures you allocate your resources effectively.
Knowing your goal sets the stage for creating more effective customer journey maps.
2. Build Your Customer Personas
Understanding your target audience is important because it helps you pinpoint who exactly your target customers are.
In other words, without knowing who your target audience is, you might not know how they interact with your brand. You may also have a hard time knowing whether you’re even targeting just one person or multiple people.
To illustrate my point, let’s consider the audiences of B2C vs B2B marketing.
In the former business model, your product’s end user and the person making the purchasing decision may be the same.
That’s not always the case in the latter business model. In B2B SaaS, the final decision on whether to invest in your SaaS may lie with a decision-maker who never even uses it. Their team uses the product, but they’re the ones who call the shots on whether to invest in a particular product or not.
Usually, in B2B, you’ll have the users, champions, and the ultimate decision-makers. All three have different customer journeys and touchpoints.
Make identifying your audience easier by creating customer personas.
A user persona is a fictional stand-in for your ideal customer. They comprise data such as job role, company size, location, purchasing power, pain points, and goals/interests.
As to where to get this data, some good places to look include:
- Ask your existing customers directly
- Analyze your customer database
- Do a competitor analysis to see what their audience looks like
- Dig through publications by research firms (e.g., Statista)
You can think of user personas like story characters: you’d give your character a name, gender, age, occupation, physical traits, foibles, problems, and so on. Creating a user persona works in a similar way, except you’re now using vital B2B data points like company size, employee roles, and location. Here’s an example:
With user personas, it becomes easier to create a data-backed customer journey. Personas can help your team figure out how to ensure a smooth customer lifecycle journey and deliver an amazing user experience.
3. Identify Customer Touch Points
Touchpoints are moments a prospective customer interacts with your brand. Key conversion events usually happen at each touchpoint helping the user move along their customer journey. You can either create them yourself or rely on the touchpoints created by others.
As mentioned above, each customer journey stage has distinct touchpoints. However, for the sake of brevity, the stages and their critical touchpoints, which shape customer experiences the most include:
- Consideration Stage: the touchpoints at this stage include blog posts about your SaaS product, testimonials on your website, and reviews on other websites or blogs.
- Purchase Stage: critical purchase stage touchpoints include signing up for a free trial or freemium tier and making or completing a demo request.
- Adoption Stage: adoption stage touchpoints include self-service resources, email, and in-app notifications, tutorials (whether as a series of videos or a webinar), and onboarding emails that speed up product adoption.
Identifying these touchpoints increases your chances of getting your customers to the end of their customer lifecycle. The graphic below provides a nice illustration of common customer touchpoints in the B2B buying process for SaaS companies.
The consideration stage touchpoints draw them in, the purchase stage touchpoints show them your product’s usefulness, and the adoption stage touchpoints make your product an indispensable part of their workflow.
4. Establish the Stages of the Customer Journey
If you haven’t done so already, identify the various stages of your customer’s journey maps. As already mentioned, they include:
With this high-level understanding of what your customers expect when they interact with your brand, you can smoothen their journey from prospects to advocates.
5. Define Customer Milestones
Customer milestones help determine whether your customers are progressing along their buyer journeys. No customer journey mapping process is complete without this step.
You must define and watch out for the following key customer milestones:
- Bookings for product demos
- Free trial sign-ups
- Account activations
- Onboarding completions
- Subscription renewals
- Upgrades to paid accounts with advanced features
- Successful referrals
You can use different tools to monitor these milestones. For example, Google Analytics can show how long users interact with your blog posts, how many people sign up for your newsletter or product, etc.
Meanwhile, a CRM will show how many users upgrade to a paid account. Or an action like when one user refers another prospect who converts, and so on. You’ll need to identify these milestones and get the tools that’ll help you track each one of them.
6. Set Your KPIs
Finally, it helps to set key performance indicators for the various stages of a customer’s journey. These will range from SaaS marketing metrics to product usage KPIs. They’ll help you measure how effective your touchpoints are in moving customers along their journeys.
KPIs for the awareness stage may include:
- Bounce rate
- Average time on page
For the consideration stage, the KPIs to watch are:
- Click-through rate
- Conversion rate
Purchase stage KPIs include:
- Conversion rate
The KPIs for the adoption stage include:
- Customer satisfaction (through CSAT scores)
- Customer lifetime value
Finally, the KPIs for the advocacy stage are:
- Net Promoter Score (NPS)
You can measure most of the KPIs mentioned above using analytics tools (e.g., Google Analytics, CRMs, etc.).
Critical Customer Journey Touchpoints
While I briefly mentioned some customer journey touchpoints earlier, some critical touchpoints warrant more discussion.
1. Lead Nurture
The consideration stage of the customer journey presents the opportunity to nurture leads and convert them into customers. A critical touchpoint at this juncture may include a call to action on your website;
- That precedes a form submission event (e.g., “Get the Free Trial,” “Sign Up for Our Newsletter”); or
- That results in a prospective customer calling you (e.g., “Get a Quote”).
Another increasingly common touchpoint may be a chatbot your customers interact with when making inquiries on your website. Resources like FAQs, demo videos, and blog posts can also be touchpoints in moving customers to the purchase stage.
Your business model will determine the way you nurture leads when they reach the above touchpoints.
In B2C SaaS, lead nurture may take the form of email confirmations, follow-up emails, and paid retargeting campaigns. In contrast, B2B purchases may need more than that. They’ll have to be more involved and personal. For example, it may require making a follow-up phone call to schedule an appointment after providing a live demo.
2. Trial Conversion
Due to the nature of SaaS marketing, where free trials are standard, the adoption stage of a customer’s journey is your chance to convert prospects into paying customers.
Content like video tutorials and tooltips that explain the software’s features can help to build proficiency with your SaaS (more below).
However, in-app notifications and paywalls are among the most critical touch points at this stage, as they constitute upsell mechanisms for converting a free user to a paying customer.
For example, in the image below, Grammarly alerts free users of additional writing issues in their documents.
But the app informs them they need to upgrade to premium plans to solve these issues. They proceed to display a prominent “Go Premium” call to action button.
3. Onboarding Experience
I can’t stress enough how essential the onboarding experience is to converting and keeping customers. Users will never upgrade or renew their subscriptions unless they see value in your product. The onboarding process presents perhaps the best opportunity to demonstrate this value to users.
Typical SaaS onboarding goals include:
- Teaching prospective customers how to use your SaaS product;
- Revealing the product’s benefits;
- Making the SaaS product stand out against competitor offerings; and
- Providing an excellent user experience that encourages recurrent subscriptions
Your adoption stage touchpoints should help you achieve the above goals.
As already mentioned, tooltips that pop up when a user hovers over a menu button can help demystify what your SaaS product does:
In the above image, a tooltip appears when a user hovers over the move tool in Adobe Photoshop. It teaches the user what the tool does, fulfilling goal one for onboarding.
Emails also play an important role in user onboarding.
Square shares some of its core product features and briefly discusses how each works through emails. They also provide links to additional resources that users can read for more insights.
Create similar email drips to enhance the customer onboarding experience. Ensure the emails also provide contact details in case users want to chat with the customer support team.
4. Preventing Churn
Churn prevention is something you’ll grapple with as a SaaS business owner. If you want your customers to renew their subscriptions, you must streamline key touchpoints like onboarding and customer support.
You’ll also want to invest in re-engagement emails. They remind users who haven’t used your product that it exists and what they’re missing out on. That’s what Asana does with the following re-engagement email.
Providing a responsive customer support team and self-service resources like FAQ and troubleshooting blog content is also critical in preventing churn.
When tracking how users engage with your SaaS, consider emailing customers who have yet to use the product’s core features. Such users tend to reconsider their investment in a product since they can’t draw the value of your core features.
Email them in advance, alerting them of the presence and impact of those features. This can help stop them from ever thinking about churning.
Finally, you can deploy surveys to customers who’re in the process of churning to collect feedback on why they’re unsubscribing. This feedback will help improve your SaaS product to prevent further customer churn.
SaaS Customer Journey FAQ
The SaaS customer journey is a map showing the steps customers take from when they first interact with your brand to when they become paying customers and brand advocates. The journey can be broken down into five stages, which are awareness, consideration, purchase, retention, and advocacy. To track the customer journey effectively, you need to establish and track customer touchpoints.
The SaaS customer journey contains 5 critical phases; awareness, consideration, purchase, retention, and advocacy. Each of these phases has multiple touchpoints like subscribing to a newsletter, signing up for a free trial, upgrading to a paid subscription, onboarding, and referring other users. Companies that focus on customer success tend to win in the long term. This guide provides some tricks to help you achieve that goal.
Building a SaaS customer journey map is essential if you want to convert first-time users of your SaaS to recurring subscribers and evangelists. This article took you through the six steps of mapping a SaaS customer journey -from establishing your brand’s goals to defining customer milestones and setting your KPIs. You’ve also learned of the critical touchpoints and how to improve them.
For help and insights with your SaaS marketing efforts, get in touch. We’re experts at content marketing and can help you design effective customer acquisition strategies.
Nico is the founder of Crunch Marketing, a SaaS marketing agency. He works with enterprise SaaS clients like Writer, Right Inbox, and Surfer SEO, helping them scale lead generation globally across EMEA, APAC, and other regions.