In the last decade, many companies moved into the digital transformation phase where they adopted SaaS solutions to transform their business operations. This extensive usage of SaaS products resulted in enormous growth in the SaaS industry as a whole. But, when we get a deeper look, we could see only a handful of SaaS companies who turned into unicorns within a short span of time. The rest of the companies had difficulty matching the pace of the unicorns.
One common trait seen among the unicorn companies (or) their "secret sauce" to become a unicorn was their obsession towards creating a delightful customer experience. Engaging the right way throughout the buyer's journey is an important driver of growth.
Let’s get to the basics.
The buyer’s journey or customer lifecycle is defined as the process undergone by the customer in purchasing a product or service. In general, the stages include Research, Evaluation, Purchase, and Referral.
You might ask, isn't the customer lifecycle the same for all types of businesses? Not at all. Based on buyer persona, businesses are classified into B2B and B2C. These businesses are again classified into a one-time sale model and subscription model. When compared to the buyer persona based model, the customer lifecycle stages largely vary depending on the sales model.
In both the models, the first three stages of the customer lifecycle remain the same.
In this stage, companies attract potential customers through various online and offline marketing activities - added to that, they create brand awareness. Once the prospect is aware of the brand/product and expresses their interest in purchasing, they will enter the second stage.
In the conversion stage, the sales agents will be constantly engaging with the prospects to understand their requirements and help them pick the right product/service. Customers will also evaluate the product and compare it with the competitors to see which will be the perfect solution for them. If businesses neglect their prospects at this stage, they might end up losing most of their potential customers.
This is where the customer’s decision-making process ends and the purchase is completed with successful payment. This is also a crucial stage where if proper attention is not given to the customer, then the payment will be held back. Never make the customer think twice about their decision at this stage. Never!
When it comes to stage 4, one-time sales businesses focus on customer feedback and referrals. They convert their customers into advocates to drive more sales for their business. Upselling might not be a possible option in this model. But cross-selling will be possible for a business that sells multiple SaaS solutions.
For subscription-based businesses, stage 4 is the license activation stage where customers will start using the tool and slowly get adapted to the solution. This is a very crucial stage as customers take their decision for renewal based on their experience in stage 4. It’s significant to provide proactive customer support and create a delightful experience.
If stage 4 is successful, customers will automatically renew the subscription in stage 5. If companies fail at stage 4, then they might have to double their efforts at stage 5 and ensure customers do not churn out by solving their problems or difficulties faced in using the product.
Not all customers will be ready to move into stage 6 unless they’re truly madly and deeply in love with the product :P It is very difficult to turn the customers into advocates who vouch or refer your products. If you can ensure that majority of customers are becoming advocates for your solution, you might be a unicorn already or fast approaching a unicorn stage.
In my opinion, businesses that do not focus on their customers after stage 3 are the ones who lose their momentum to become a unicorn. Businesses that majorly focus on product adoption, renewals, and customer advocacy are the ones who have more stability and always keep their customers happy.
It’s a win-win deal for business and customers.