Mapping Your SaaS Customer Journey in Seven Steps

Mapping your SaaS customer journey in 7 steps

Your SaaS customer journey map lays out optimized outcomes that lead to customer renewals, upsells, and referrals. Here, we’ll show you how to create your path to customer success. First, we’ll define what a SaaS customer journey is, break it down into stages, and explain why mapping it out is important. Then, we’ll walk you through a step-by-step process for creating your map, including how to incorporate technology to make your map bring about the successful results you and your customers want.

What Is a SaaS Customer Journey?

A SaaS customer journey starts at the time a prospective customer first becomes aware of your brand. It includes their pre-purchase, purchase, and post-purchase experiences. It also encompasses all aspects of their experience with your brand, including thoughts, emotions, and behaviors.

The SaaS customer journey follows the same general path as customer journeys in other markets but differs in detail. For example, a SaaS customer may begin their journey with your brand by reading a review by one of your customers on a software review site. Freemium strategy often plays a key role in the early stages of the SaaS customer experience, as do user experience, product features, and customer support.

At each stage in your customer’s journey, their experience determines whether they continue engaging with your brand. Ideally, they enjoy a satisfying experience that motivates them to buy from you, renew their SaaS subscription when the time comes, and become an advocate for your brand. However, at each stage, common barriers may arise that impede the customer from progressing to the next stage of their journey. For example, a customer who experiences difficulty onboarding and does not receive assistance may decide not to renew their subscription.

To manage customer journeys and promote customer growth, SaaS companies frequently plan journeys out using a visual aid called a customer journey map. A customer journey map lists the stages of a customer’s journey and identifies what experiences should happen at each step for a satisfying outcome. The map may also identify potential problems at each step along with corresponding solutions.

What Are the Stages in a SaaS Customer Journey?

The SaaS customer journey can be broken down into six main stages:

  1. Evaluation: a prospective customer becomes aware of your brand, perhaps through a review site such as TrustRadius, prompting them to visit your site and consider your product, often by trying a freemium subscription
  2. Onboarding: following a purchase decision, a new customer performs the initial steps required to begin using your product, such as creating a password, setting up a profile, and learning basic navigational features
  3. Adoption: when a customer who has completed onboarding becomes a regular user of your product, incorporating it into their daily workflow, and deriving value from their purchase
  4. Renewal: based on the value the customer is getting from your product, they decide whether or not to renew their subscription
  5. Expansion: a satisfied customer increases their usage of your product and brand to include advanced features, upgrades, and upsells
  6. Advocacy: a satisfied customer becomes a loyal promoter of your brand, making recommendations to friends and colleagues

Each stage in the customer’s journey builds on the previous stage. A satisfying experience at one stage encourages the customer to continue their journey into the next stage. If all goes well according to your customer journey mapping strategy, successful outcomes at each stage gradually promote prospects into customers who renew their subscriptions, expand their usage of your products, and advocate your brand to others.

To encourage desired outcomes at each stage, you can deploy automated best practices. This can be done using key performance indicators (KPIs) to monitor customer behavior and automatically trigger actions based on what personalized data indicates about an individual customer. For example, a customer who has not completed the onboarding process within a designated amount of time may receive an automatically triggered email message that serves as a reminder and provides a link with tutorial guidance.

Why Map Your SaaS Customer Journey?

Customer journey mapping benefits your company by empowering your team to take conscious control of managing your customer journey. By systematically mapping the steps in your engagement with your customers, you can identify what needs to happen at each stage to promote customer retention, expansion, and brand advocacy. This, in turn, allows you to develop standard operating procedures that implement best practices geared toward successful outcomes for your customers and company. You can communicate these best practices to your team and train them on how to use these practices in interactions with customers.

By helping you develop standard operating procedures, customer journey mapping further enables you to harness the power of automation for promoting customer success outcomes. You can use customer success management software to monitor KPIs, which indicate how customers are faring in their journey, and trigger automated workflows, which steer customers toward successful outcomes.

How to Map Your SaaS Customer Journey in Seven Steps 

The process of mapping your customer journey can be broken down into seven steps:

  1. Deciding what type of map to create
  2. Describing your customers
  3. Identifying customer interaction touchpoints
  4. Laying out your customer journey
  5. Marking customer milestones
  6. Flagging events that require action
  7. Adjusting and optimizing your map

Here’s what each step involves and how to execute it:

1. Decide What Type of Map to Create

Customer journey maps can follow a number of different formats. Some of the most common include:

  • Current state maps: these maps are developed around the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors customers experience at each step of their journey as it is currently structured
  • Future state maps: these proactively anticipate what thoughts, feelings, and behaviors customers ideally should experience when interacting with your brand
  • Day in the life maps: these expand your focus to include your customer’s everyday experience beyond their interactions with your brand, which can provide you with deeper insight into customer pain points
  • Service blueprint maps: these build on the other types of maps described above by identifying underlying factors that can influence customer experience at each step in their journey

You can find online templates to help you develop each of these map types. Start your mapping process by deciding which type of map you want to create.

2. Describe Your Customers

Your customer journey is defined by your customers, and describing your customers forms the next step in mapping your customer journey. Create one or more ideal customer profiles representing your most typical customers. To do this, make a checklist of characteristics that define your customers, such as demographic characteristics, how they found your product, what their pain points are, and their purchase history. Use tools such as customer surveys and analysis of your customer data to help you flesh out customer personas.

3. Identify Customer Interaction Touchpoints

Your understanding of your customers can be enhanced by analyzing how they interact with your brand. This can include marketing touchpoints, such as organic search, software website reviews, social media, and email marketing. It can also include post-purchase touchpoints, such as onboarding profile set-up, logging into your portal or app, and in-app activity.

4. Lay Out Your Customer Journey

The next step is to lay out the sequence of your customer’s journey. Start with the six main steps outlined above: evaluation, onboarding, adoption, renewal, expansion, and advocacy. For a more granular understanding, break each of these steps down into sub-stages. For example, within the evaluation stage, you might break down the steps that lead prospects from their initial awareness of your brand to signing up for your freemium product.

5. Mark Customer Milestones

For each stage of your customer journey, mark major milestones that define your customer’s experience. This can include thoughts, feelings, and actions experienced by the customer. These can correlate with key events in your customer’s experience with buying and using your product, such as pre-purchase software trials, onboarding account activation, feature adoption, or renewals. For example, what should customers ideally be thinking, feeling, and doing during the freemium trial process in order to experience a successful, satisfying result?

6. Flag Events that Require Action

For each stage and milestone in your customer’s journey, it’s important to address not only what should happen under ideal circumstances, but also what can go wrong that might need correction. Use your customer support data to identify your most frequent customer service issues corresponding to stages and milestones in your customer lifecycle. For each issue, develop solutions, and build these into your standard operating procedures, KPI monitoring, and automated workflows.

7. Adjust and Optimize Your Map

After your customer journey map is complete, it doesn’t need to remain static. For best results, update your map periodically to incorporate new information. Test the performance of your customer success strategy and use customer analytics and feedback surveys to identify areas for improvement. This will enable you to continually improve and optimize your customer journey map to deliver your customers better outcomes.

Map Your SaaS Customer Journey to Chart a Path to Success

A SaaS customer journey map is a visual aid for charting the stages in your software client’s relationship with you and the desired outcomes that should occur at each stage in order to promote customer satisfaction. Key stages in the SaaS customer journey include evaluation, onboarding, adoption, renewal, expansion, and advocacy. Mapping these stages and their desired outcomes helps standardize your procedures for each step, so you can optimize and automate them to bring about successful results.

SaaS customer journey mapping begins with deciding which type of map you want to create. You can then proceed to describing your customers and identifying your key customer interaction touchpoints. This enables you to begin laying out the steps in your customer journey, marking customer milestones, and identifying trigger events that call for action. Once you’ve got your map in place, you can adjust it on an ongoing basis to continuously improve and optimize it.

Totango’s customer success platform is designed to help you implement your customer journey map by automating successful outcomes at each step. Try it free and start charting a path to SaaS customer satisfaction today.

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