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Understanding the SaaS Customer Journey: How to Attract Customers That Stay for the Long Run

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If you own a SaaS brand, then you understand how hard it can be to understand your customers. 

That is because they are always on the go, trying out new solutions and never staying in one place.

The customer journey in SaaS is a long one, and it doesn't just involve the customer signing up and paying for a subscription. It involves them getting to know your product, accepting it into their workflow, seeing the value of your product, and finally recommending it to friends.

In this article, we'll be going over the SaaS customer journey from start to finish, as well as looking at some ways to boost margins.

What Is the Customer Journey?

The customer journey is the path your customer takes to become aware of, obtain, and use your product. It's the experience with your product from beginning to end, and it encompasses all the steps users take throughout.

For instance, let's say that you offer a CRM platform for medical clinics. The customer journey might look something like this:

  • Awareness: A doctor hears about your product from a friend or colleague.
  • Consideration: The doctor looks up your product online to determine if it's the right fit for his clinic.
  • Decision: The doctor evaluates the features you offer, compares them to a competitor's platform, and decides that yours is the best fit.
  • Retention: Once he starts using your product, the doctor realizes how beneficial it is, and continues to use it.
  • Advocacy: The doctor recommends your product to other doctors he knows.

Each of these steps is important, as it can affect how often a user comes back, how much they spend, and the length of their business relationship with you.

Why Should You Understand the Customer Journey?

Understanding the customer journey is vital to gain and retain customers.  

Here are three reasons you should put time into learning how customers experience your product.

It Helps You Improve the Overall Experience

Did you know that customer experience is expected to overtake price as the key business advantage?

An even more surprising study found that roughly 9 out of 10 customers would abandon a company after two or three negative experiences. 

This data showcases the importance of providing a remarkable user experience. 

The bottom line?

If you know where customers get tripped up, it's easy to fix the problem and improve their experience with your product. 

Every touchpoint is another opportunity to improve and keep customers happy and satisfied with your product.

For example, if a customer is having trouble with the installation process, you could do something as simple as offering specialized support during the installation window. You could also simplify the process.

If a customer is having a hard time getting used to your UI, you could include a training video in the account creation process. Or you might want to revamp your UI to be more intuitive.

If you know the pain points your customers are facing, you can improve them.

You Can Spot and Fix Problems Before They Start Snowballing

If you're aware of how your customers are experiencing your product, it's easier for you to catch problems early on. 

You can find out what customers are thinking and feeling about your product through customer surveys, social media engagement, and by talking to customers directly.

If a particular customer issue  is starting to grow, you'll be aware of it before it spirals out of control. 

If a certain feature is causing confusion among users, you can spend time simplifying it or including more support documentation.

It Helps You Identify and Approach Potential Customers

This one is pretty straightforward.

If you know what customers are thinking and feeling during every step of the journey, it's easier for you to reach out to them. 

For instance, if you know that your prospects are struggling with the consideration step, it might be a good idea to include an article in your newsletter about why prospects should choose your product.

Or if you know that they're having trouble getting started with the trial version, then it might be a good idea to create helpful free resources, such as ebooks and webinars. Doing this can help them reach the decision stage more easily, and ultimately make a purchase.

The SaaS Customer Journey Explained

Now that you understand why the customer journey is crucial for your SaaS business, let's take a closer look at each stage. 

Awareness

In the awareness stage, customers are just beginning to realize there is a problem they need to solve. They may be using an outdated application. Perhaps they’re using a competing service and are starting to feel the limitations. 

Let’s use an example:

Anita is the marketing manager for her company. 

She's in charge of creating and managing digital ads, but she feels like her team isn't getting enough quality leads. She has customers, but they aren't good fits for the product, so every new ad campaign costs her company time and money.

She's heard about some other marketing automation tools, so she starts researching those. 

In the awareness stage, Anita might look for content that helps her better understand marketing automation tools and how her current solution falls short.

Consideration

At the consideration stage, the customer is comparing different options and settling on one. 

Let's use our previous example:

Anita has narrowed down her list of potential options and is now trying out each product. 

She's still not sure which one to buy, so she compares the different features and prices. But also considers other factors like cost of implementation or professional reviews to see what other customers are saying.

Decision

At the decision stage, customers have decided on an option. 

They're moving forward with one product in mind, and often start to use it right away. 

Alternatively, they may be asking for a demo or buying recommendations from friends and family before making the final purchase.

Getting back to Anita, she has considered all the different options and settled on one (let's say it's Hubspot, for the sake of argument). She started using the platform, and is now learning how it works. 

She might also start asking her network for advice before she makes the final purchase, which means that your prospects are likely searching for answers to any questions they have before buying.

Retention

At the retention stage, customers are continuing to use your product. They're familiar with it and know how to get their job done. They're comfortable with your features and support, and that's why they stick around.

However, customers don't stay in the retention stage indefinitely. 

Churn represents one of the biggest challenges for SaaS organizations. 

They may be having problems, or they might feel like they've outgrown your product. Whatever the case, it's important  to keep in mind that your customers will eventually reach this stage, and it's up to you to make the most of it.

At this point, Anita is continuing to use Hubspot, and she's now confident that it will help her do her job better. However, she's also started to grow her team, which means that they will all need to use the same tool.

She started looking for a new option, and is now evaluating other options.

Anita may be searching for a solution to her growing team's issues, but she will also be asking her network for other recommendations and looking at reviews online to help inform her decision.

Loyalty

At the loyalty stage, customers have been using a service for a while. They've seen it grow and change over time, and feel like they know what to expect from it.

Your customers won't stay loyal for the rest of their lives; they may keep looking at new options as they grow and change positions. But if you've done a good job building the loyalty stage into the customer journey, you can win them back.

In our previous example, Anita has been using Hubspot for a few years now. At that point, she knows what to expect from it, and that's why she doesn't bother looking for other solutions.

She knows how to use Hubspot, and she knows what problems to expect. She's also seen the company grow and evolve, which has made her feel like part of the family.

For that reason, Anita might have a strong emotional connection to Hubspot, and she might even feel loyal towards the company. She's not going to leave her relationship with them anytime soon.

How To Take the Most Out of Your Customers’ Journey

Understanding the stages your prospects are going through will help you better serve their needs, and ultimately win them over.

You could also use that knowledge to serve them better by making sure that your product caters to each stage.

For example, if you're trying to win customers in the consideration stage, you could use that process to offer educational content that helps them learn about the issues they will face if they don't solve them right away.

If your customers are going through the decision stage,  you can use that moment to sell them more features, for example.

In the retention stage, you might want your customers to see your product as part of their team.

And in the loyalty stage, it's best to deepen your existing relationship with them by building an emotional connection. You could even use your existing customers to promote your product and increase brand awareness.

The point is that understanding the customer journey and using it to your advantage will help you build a better product, and ultimately get more customers who stay for the long run.

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