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Mapping out a Buyer’s Journey in SaaS World

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When it comes to B2B SaaS products, optimizing the revenue growth is the most difficult job for sales and marketing. Set aside the pipelines, funnels and all sales related plumbing and what you have is an unpredictable buyer behavior. We should note that the Buyer’s Journey is often non-linear and that’s because there has been shift from selling to buying, proliferation of connected devices to allow social interaction and channel agnostic behavior.

Pipelines and funnels always existed in the sales cycle and organizations still rely on them for revenue growth predictability. But in reality, the concepts of pipeline and funnels should be relegated to plumber’s toolboxes (no offence to Plumbers). There are many variables at play that affect visibility to buyers and that’s why the entire buyer’s journey needs to be reimagined to get insights into sales predictability. Now you’d ask as to what changed? Quite a lot in fact! For instance, we cannot rely on past history of customers buying pattern and that the existing paradigm of buying experience is out of sync with the non-linear journeys taken by the buyers of today. These are few of the variables that impacts traditional or conventional sales or marketing channels (not an exhaustive list but you get the drift).

Transformation of buyer’s journey is the wake-up call that is making organizations sit up and go for B2B SaaS product buyer experience redesign. The broad categories of halts that a buyer takes in their journey from being a casual prospect to the time they are on-boarded are full of uncertainties. Design thinking approach is ideal to minimize these uncertainties and in some cases, eliminate them entirely.

At all stages of Awareness, Research, Try and Buy, a combination of information and nurturing is required to bring home the deal. One of the reasons for crisis in confidence in Awareness, Research and Try phases is that the content marketing success is measured by how much content is produced and distributed in the shortest amount of time instead of how effective it is at facilitating sales.

Even before marketers start drawing up a list of the various targeted content that is required for each phase, they should make sure that the content adheres to the tenets of “Experience Marketing” in the following sense:

  • Be Human: The tone of the content should be human, real; using conversational language over formal tone.
  • Go Visual: Making use of visual content like videos, visual notes and infographics over plain text to focus on value propositions being demonstrated over told.
  • Curate and Fine-Tune: Experiment and experiment regularly with the content. If needed, make A/B Testing part of your daily content marketing mantra.
  • Be Agile: Take feedback and constantly improve the content & landing page design.

The very first step starts with the buyer realizing that they want a change to fix an issue. This is where they recognize the pain points and come to terms with the fact that the existing impasse needs to be broken for proceeding to the next step.

The buyer now explores the options that exist to solve the issue and then shortlists potential solution providers. Design Thinking should kick into this phase by justifying the investment. This justification is not the feature-set but the quantified indicators of the value that the solution brings to impact bottom-line and ROI. Sellers bring out your crayons and start storytelling to drive home the value.

Design Thinking approach for the Try and Buy phase is extremely important for conversions and sustained revenue inflow. Some of the things (but not limited to) that we feel are important for these phases are the ones that may be seemingly small at the face of it but are real value-additions since they make the approach human-centric.

For instance, the website landing page of a B2B SaaS application is just like the reception area of a restaurant. If it clicks for the customer, then they will have an enjoyable evening and would even come back. If the landing page is a put off, then we have seen the last of that customer. Testimonials are like you are talking about your product but through the face of a credible customer. They are more important than stock marketing images or even whitepapers.

Entice your prospects with targeted value propositions and just when they are ready to be hooked, present the “Trial Registration” page. In B2B SaaS landscape, trust is a huge factor: Trust that you are delivering what your product promises so profusely in your marketing materials, trust that customer-support exists and trust that the actual product is as good as the trial looks. The focus should be on making the registration process as simple as it can get by asking very basic information.

Next dimension is on deciding how long should the trial be: 14 days, 30 days or 60 days. We would not go into details of what is the right duration of trial as it is a topic in itself that has no right answer or formula. Simply put, it depends on the nature and complexity of the product and the sales cycle.  Another variable to consider is whether you are using the “Trial” as a lead generation tool or a lead conversion tool.If you are using the “Trial” as a lead generation tool and believe that 14 days is what it would take for a prospect to evaluate your product – then that’s your answer!

Once the prospect logs into the trial, you should start the show. Based on the profile of the prospect, the trial should create a seamless and ‘wow’ first impression showcasing the value proposition of the application. Context sensitive help, Jeeves like application Butler and helpful but non-intrusive overlays are some of the things that create this ‘wow’ factor. All through the phases, it is absolutely important that communication is in a form that nurtures the relationship but then there is a thin line between the right level of communication and spamming.

Handling the Buyer’s Journey is an art that not many can master and that’s why there should always be a feedback loop to tweak and fine-tune the content delivery. For instance do you think that a SaaS product would benefit if they changed the call to action from a focus on payments to a focus on value and convenience? It’s actually a very good idea to constantly take feedback from customers so that the product messaging and the product itself can be bettered over time.

The idea is to reimagine your Buyer’s Journey by treating it as a set of personas, using visual storytelling and even ethnography approaches. There is no correct or single method to create the best journey but a framework should exist for understanding it so that a targeted strategy can be devised for the engagement touch-points. And that’s a tall order!