The Buyer Journey and SaaS

By
Ravi Vyas

The Simple Buyer Journey 

Almost all of us would have brought a smartphone. Do you remember how you decided to buy the exact model you brought? All of us would have been through the following 3 phases 



Those 3 stages make up the basics of the Buyer Journey. This is as simple as a buyer journey can get while capturing all important stages. 

Reality is never simple.

When we dig deeper into the various journeys, we notice something interesting. The journey is never simple neither is it unique. 

Some of us would have brought an iPhone or an Android device because we bought a similar phone in the past. Some of us would have moved to another platform because of family or friends and became aware of certain features we loved. Some of us would have compared multiple phones. In each example, we had different influences on our journey.

Based on this, you can map more complex buyer journeys. Once that takes into account various influencing factors. According to Forrester, the buyer's journey looks something like this today

The Buyer Journey - By Forrester Research


There Is No Single Path

Today the buyer's journey can be influenced by a lot of things, thus their entry point to the Journey can be at any stage. One buyer may directly buy your product because she got a recommendation, another might directly jump to explore as she looks at moving away from the competition. 

But between all the stages, what stays true, is that the buyer has a job to be done. What the buyer is looking for is validation before they buy, looking for a solution that fits in their budget. Validation can come in various forms, it can be a recommendation from a friend, testimonials from current customers or even a free trial. 

The Buyer Is In Control.

All this information and the power of choice also means the buyer is in control. A fact Lori Wizdo, Vice President, Principal Analyst at Forrester also echoed here, where she states:

Today’s business buyer controls the buying process more than today’s seller controls the selling process.  

Because of this fact, marketers today need to help the user out in making the right choice for both the buyer and the vendor. One of the reasons why the phrase “helping is the new selling” has become popular

Your Influence On The Buyer Journey 

As a marketer, you have very few levers of direct control, but many levers of influence. You can't control the entry point for your buyers into the journey, you can't control the conversations they are having with others, etc. What you can do is influence them indirectly and nudge them directly. 

By making sure you nail your experience and value, your users will become your advocates. By using contextual messaging you can nudge your users to the next step of their journey (Now you know where we got our company name from).  

Buyer Journey for SaaS Products

The SaaS model adds two additional Stages to the buyer journey. 

The Activation Phase 

Depending on how you are selling your product, this stage may come before the buying stage, if you have a “free to try” product or post the buying stage if you don’t have a free trial. This is the phase where the buyer finds value for your product and is ready to pay or continue to pay. According to Nikhil Rungta, this is the most important phase for a SaaS product. 

“In SaaS, the most important part of the journey is not Discover. It is Activation (or on-boarding). Time to ‘Aha moment’ decides whether the user will go from free trial to paid subscription. The biggest drops happen at this stage.” - Nikhil Rungta, Ex-MD Intuit & Former CMO - Google, Reliance Jio, Housing.com

The Retention Phase 

For SaaS, the buyer journey is a constant cycle. At the end of the billing cycle, the product needs to showcase value all over again to retain the user. Thus post-conversion is not a time for marketers to “hand over” the user to Customer Success or Support, the relationship needs to stay on. It might mean the usual tactics like sending product updates, sharing new case studies, etc. But a lot more can be done. If a user is already using a feature, that email does not help. What happens when a current user visits your site? What if she is looking at the pricing page? Or the Support page? Those are, once again, signals you can leverage, to help the user, hopefully, retain a user who was on the verge of churning. Helping the user post-conversion helps in nurturing users to the advocate phase. Lower churn and more advocates will help your conversation rate indirectly. 

The Reverse Funnel

SaaS products fall in an interesting place, where one has to look at the journey in both directions. If your users are churning out, there is a good chance you were attracting the wrong users or were not activating them. Thus rather than trying to increase the number of leads at the top of the funnel, you can also look at the bottom of the funnel to try to figure out what is wrong.  

The reverse funnel is also mentioned by Corey Haines of BareMetrics in the BareMetrics Growth Manifesto. Corey writes: 

“Despite all this talk about acquiring customers, growth loops, etc., we propose that acquiring new customers actually shouldn’t be your first focus.” - Corey Haines, BareMetrics

He goes on to mention that focusing on the earlier stages of the funnel from the SaaS perspective results in the “Leaky Bucket” problem. Where in all the effort put into getting users onboard does not provide any result as the users are simply leaking out due to various reasons. 

Where is the User? 

Being aware of the user’s touch points with your brand and content is important to know where the user in their journey. The current page a user is on is just one signal, the journey has many more signals that can help you improve your conversion rate. Unless you are aware of the past touch points, you can't help the user to the next step of their journey. You need to track each touchpoint, the frequency of interaction, the user’s demographic information and a lot more. 

Today two people coming to the same page for the first time may be on different stages. One might have come from a Google search, suggesting the person is already at the explore stage. Someone else might have come from a Facebook Ad you are running to make people aware of a challenge/feature. 

While they might be on the same piece of content, their next step is different. For a person in the explore phase, they might want to see case studies, someone in the Discover phase the user might just want to know more about the problem or the solution. 

Remember, you need to optimise the user’s journey, not your page or funnel, there is a big difference. 

The Take-Aways

So, we learned a lot about the buyer's journey. But as a SaaS marketer, what do you do to influence your buyer? Let's break it into a few steps. 

Map out the journey stages.

If you look at the 2 journey images above, your user is going to fall into one of the following stages. 

  1. Discover
  2. Explore
  3. Activate 
  4. Buy 
  5. Loyalty 
  6. Advocacy  

Segment your users by the stages

Based on signals like specific pages visited, source of traffic, frequency of visits, recency of visits start building segments to track user journeys. Tracking those segments will help you gain insights on your users' buyer journey, which you can then use to start sending contextual messages to nudge your users to the next step of their journey. 

Here are a few examples for each stage

Discover

  • Help users with content that talks about how prospects can use your product
  • Get users to signup for webinars where you can demo your product

Explore

  • Share case studies with the user to showcase how your product has helped other users

Activate 

  • Share tutorials and walkthroughs 

Buy 

  • Get users on to sales calls
  • Provide discounts to specific users.

Loyalty 

  • Share tutorial on features the users is not using. 
  • Share updates on new features

Advocacy  

  • Get users to help you with testimonials & case studies
  • Share new blogposts have have a share CTA on the posts

What challenges have you seen in your Buyer’s journey? If you want to bounce some ideas with us do schedule a 15 min meeting here or email me at ravi@nextstephq.com.  


Photo by Ashley Batz on Unsplash 

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