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Frictionless Buying Experience for B2B SaaS Products

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If you are still writing checks to buy software, then read on. This is just for you! Most companies would now cringe at the thought of putting a check into an envelope and posting it. It is not surprising that some companies still do it but thankfully B2B SaaS product companies are making it easier. To think of it, orthodox buying methods do not make sense for purchasing SaaS products. You would agree that buying B2B SaaS products should be as simple as using the product itself.

We all are so familiar with e-commerce platforms that we expect the “Buy” button to provide the same buying experience even for B2B applications. And why Not? Google and Twitter are now letting you buy indirectly from search or from a Tweet respectively. That’s the kind of seamlessness and simplicity organizations expect when buying B2B products.

New age businesses demand new-age sales methods. It is absolutely important to create a frictionless buying mechanism to allow prospects become customers.

One of the most important reasons for the sky-rocketing popularity of B2B SaaS products is their ease of buying compared to traditional on-premise software products. Organizations are not at all comfortable with on-premise applications that have long lock-in period, expensive upgrade process and the fear that it will sunset over a period of time. B2B SaaS products score highly on the following:

  • Inexpensive and flexible subscriptions plans
  • Ease of configuration and use
  • Use till needed (with no long-term commitment)

However, the Buyer’s Journey for some B2B SaaS companies is still dotted with ambiguity. If the journey needs to be simple and seamless, then it requires clear-cut strategy that entails simplifying the process from first contact till first billing cycle to subscription renewal. This is true not just for new customers but even for existing ones.

Frictionless Trial Conversions

Free trials are the most popular way of onboarding new customers or prospects. The mere fact that prospects are able to try out a version of the product to see if it fits their business need is enough to appeal to the buyers. And in some cases, the icing on the cake is that the trial is free, easy and quick to use with no commitment and marginal interaction with sales team.

Free trial is not a magic wand that works by itself. It can bring some traction but cannot guarantee conversion if the prospects are not nurtured till they become paying customers. Each of the phases of trial should be designed carefully to work their magic. The following figure illustrates one of the engaging ways to make the buying process as simple as possible.

Different trial strategies work for different products. For some, trial access to a full working version for a limited time works. While for others, a toned down version is enough to pique the interest of prospects. It takes some time to study and find out what works best for your product.

Seamless Payment Mechanism

Whatever be the trial strategy, at any point, the buyer should be able to upgrade without having to go through the lengthy negotiation process that includes, complex pricing plans and contracts. This step of the buyer’s journey is the most important one and keeping is as seamless and frictionless makes or breaks the entire experience. To keep interaction with sales as minimal as possible, the pricing model and structure should be simple and transparent. This is opposed to making it look like a labyrinth of hidden costs.

Selling (and buying) Never Stops

Existing customers are as important as acquiring new ones and that’s why the B2B SaaS companies should also give considerable focus on upsell as this plays a significant part in revenue growth. If the value provided by the product is huge, which warrants the needs for buying additional licenses, then the buying process should be as low touch as possible. This frees up the sales team’s time to focus on new wins.

When we say low touch, it should ideally not entail any calling or emailing but as simple as single-clicking on the “Buy More Value” button to get more licenses. This way, both the customer and you as a B2B SaaS company are happy.

All said and done, it is absolutely important to analyze the entire buying process to find and eliminate impediments that slow it down. Fine-tuning this step of the buyer’s journey will ultimately justify all the effort that went into creating the SaaS product.

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!

Customer Journey in B2B SaaS Economy

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In our previous article B2B SaaS Landscape- The Changing Story, we observed that the persona of the enterprise customer is changing and that they engage with products and solutions across multiple channels and devices in what has become a true omni-channel environment. Today customers have access to more than one channel through which they are able to interact with a brand in multiple ways. Be it using a website, through a mobile app or any social ecosystem, customers have access to various touch-points to discover, learn, evaluate and then take a decision. But it can’t be as simple as it sounds!

That brings us to customer journey and its impact on the B2B SaaS economy. Customer journey is not just about ensuring a positive experience and impression about your product or service. It’s more about the customer’s impression of your product or service rather than what you have built. Customer journey is more than a fancy term or a buzzword; it’s a mandatory requirement for organizations. In today’s über-connected and über-competitive marketplace, it is a critical differentiator for product companies to steal a march over others. Defining the customer journey cannot be done using a boilerplate; it is a combination of data driven analysis and customer empathy driven insights. 

Innovative products, price, design, usability are no more the differentiators in today’s marketplace. They all can be replicated and dramatically improved given the fact that competitors have access to technology and knowhow to leapfrog every one of them. What can’t be replicated is the customer journey as it is not in a snapshot in time but spans the entire trajectory of being a customer. In fact according to a CEI Survey research, 86 percent of consumers said they would be willing to pay more for a better customer journey and experience (Source: Forbes) 

We hope you remember we mentioned “It’s not simple as it sounds.It’s not simplebecause of the discrete disconnected journeys that the enterprise customer is made to go through. These journeys traverse and span multiple touch-points which make managing them very tricky. The complexity of this entire engagement is compounded by the fact that these journeys most often pause and resume when the customer is ready.

Since these journeys are disconnected, it brings about certain randomness in the way B2B SaaS product organizations manage it. In effect, the customer behavior is unpredictable and conversion is inefficient. The channels through which customers engage may be multiple but organizations should strive to make the end-to-end customer journey delightful. It is surely a challenge for most organizations to do a great job when it comes to customer experience management.  If we generalize these disconnected pieces of customer experiences for better management, the Customer Journey Map would look something like this:

There are 4 parts to Customer Journey Management:

  1. Understanding the various touch points & Customer Journey Map for your product
  2. Designing the right experience for each of phases in the Customer Journey
  3. Setting checks and balances to monitor customer experiences (through NPS survey, interviews, mystery shopping etc.)
  4. Efficiently managing and tweaking the journey that was designed to create that ‘wow’ experience

All of the above are equally important as they convert a prospect into customer and then retain them. The designing of the customer journey should be such that all touch-points are given different weightages when it comes to optimizing the interactions. The idea is to tweak the treatment given to each of the touch-points based on interaction volumes for instance. This Customer Journey Map can never be set in stone and needs to be constantly monitored and tuned to optimize it.

B2B SaaS product companies must design a new system of engagement or customer journey to complement their strengths in innovation and value proposition. The engagement must span touch-points to provide a consistent experience that is contextually relevant and based on user personas. In a nutshell:

  • Building a great product experience is no longer a good to have thing, it’s a necessity to survive
  • Customer Journey Management all is about engaging your product and employees with your customers
  • Treat your customers more than numbers – remember, every interaction counts!
  • All of your collective actions as an organization delight the customers
  • Most of the time, people make decisions based on the shared experiences of others 

If your organization’s customer experience management strategy is not working, then probably it’s time to rethink your current strategy around how to delight your customers. And that’s exactly what we are going to discuss in the next post. Stay tuned!

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