Customer service

The 6 Stages of the SaaS Customer Lifecycle Explained: Don’t Miss These Key Touchpoints

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The SaaS customer lifecycle vs the customer journey 

The customer lifecycle follows the various stages a customer goes through over their entire relationship with you, from their initial awareness to loyalty. In contrast, the customer journey hones in on the individual experiences (touchpoints) a customer has through these stages.


Now, here’s where it gets interesting: let's walk through a bit further the differences between the two seemingly similar concepts: 

The customer journey

The B2B customer journey takes a granular look at where someone engages with your business, following the interactions and touchpoints they’ll go through with you. 

The customer journey is looked at from the perspective of the customer. Our focus here is on what makes or breaks their experience and how to delight them best at every interaction point within each stage of the overarching lifecycle. 

While it’s a distinct concept from the customer lifecycle, the two are complementary; businesses should map out their customers’ journeys within the context of the customer lifecycle. 

To visualise this, feel free to take advantage of our customisable SaaS customer journey map here:

Take advantage of our customisable SaaS customer journey

Download my free Customer Journey Map template here


The customer lifecycle

On the other hand, the customer lifecycle is your framework for understanding the different phases a customer goes through over the course of their entire relationship with your business, from initial awareness to being your #1 fan.

Like a story with a beginning, middle, and end, the customer lifecycle paints a zoomed-out picture of each progression a customer takes before, during, and after purchasing.

This story is from the point of view of the business, with the focus on how to maximise customer lifetime value and loyalty over the long term.  

So, how does this look for SaaS businesses? And how can you maximise satisfaction at each stage?

Let’s find out...

Stages of the customer lifecycle for SaaS businesses

Businesses are better placed to gain customer loyalty when they know the number of customers at each customer lifecycle touchpoint and can spot potential and active trends as they move between the stages.  

Customer lifecycle management (CLM) makes this possible. It involves gaining a deeper understanding of your customer journey to help you maximise the lifecycle by:  

  • Extending the customer’s lifecycle, keeping them as a customer for longer.  
  • Enhancing the customers’ value to your business within the lifecycle; increasing the amount of money a customer spends over a period of time.  

This management strategy evaluates a business's performance over time by measuring multiple customer-related variables. In doing so, you can tailor campaigns to each customer and give the best experience throughout all stages.

Using a business that provides contract management software as an illustration, let’s go over the different customer lifecycle stages and how to inspire customer loyalty at each:

et’s go over the different customer lifecycle stages and how to inspire customer loyalty at each

1. The awareness stage

This is where a potential customer — using our example, let’s say a member of a business’ legal department — encounters the contract management tool, whether through marketing, advertising, or word-of-mouth referral.

One key metric to keep an eye out for here is the impressions. How many digital eyeballs are connecting with your ads? Are your marketing efforts achieving virality? How much traffic are you able to gain organically?  

How to impact customer satisfaction from the ‘awareness’ stage?  

Given that this is the first node in the chain connecting customers to your product, you want to test how easy it is for visitors looking to locate your brand.

A breakdown of who your customers are is needed to avoid spending effort and marketing resources on those who aren’t good candidates to buy and stay with your solution.

An ideal customer profile that takes stock of the demography (age bracket), geography (location), and psychography (buying behaviour) of your target customer is a good place to start.  

Determine where (on which brand channels) they are locating your product, and optimise your reach on these channels by creating relevant, helpful, SEO-optimised, and engaging content.  

At the top of the funnel, this typically means creating informative blogs (e.g., Contract Management Best Practices), social media posts and ads, and videos.  

Let people get to know you, and always seek to provide added value. The effect of this is reinforcing your brand awareness + recall anytime such a customer ever needs a solution you offer.  

Checklist for the awareness stage:  

  • Set goals
  • Ensure you have a clear value proposition
  • Create personas to identify and target your ideal customers
  • Establish which touchpoints and metrics to track
  • Create and distribute relevant, informative content that highlights your solution
  • Make sure your content is search-engine-optimised

2. The conversion stage

The conversion phase is the critical turning point that defines customer acquisition.  

This is where a stranger becomes a prospect — they’ve entered the frame of mind where they’ve identified their pain points and have been seriously researching and considering solutions, such as yours.

When evaluating their options, your future customer interacts in multiple ways. For example, visiting your website, reading reviews, or comparing similar solutions.  

After they’ve grown curious enough that your solution might just be the answer, converting in this context means they take the leap to give you their contact information and indicate they’re interested.  

This may look like signing up for your newsletter or requesting a product free trial or demo.

How to improve customer satisfaction from the ‘conversion’ stage?  

Proactively offer helpful information and optimise your demos to get customers acquainted with and excited about your product, and be sure to qualify them in the process.  

To do so effectively, you should already know who they are, their pain points, and their motivations. Plan your communications to address these and any potential objections, anchoring your solution above your competitors.

Some great types of value-added content you can create to capture their contact information at this point (and nurture them toward the sale) include:

  • White papers  
  • Case studies
  • How-to guides
  • Product videos  
  • Webinars  

As part of your content strategy, determine which content should be gated — that is, locked behind a form that captures their information. We recommend keeping a good variation of free and gated value, with your highest-value, must-have content locked behind the form.

Also keep in mind that depending on where someone converts will indicate the level of buyer-readiness they’re at — for example, a demo conversion showcases a higher degree of interest than a sign-up to your newsletter.  

Be sure to plan your nurture communication depending on how far down the funnel your lead is located. If someone fills out a form to download a contract document template you’ve created, you might not want to dive for the sale push just yet and risk turning them off — get to know each other a bit more first and build the trust.  

Checklist for the conversion stage:

  • Set goals
  • Establish which touchpoints and metrics to track
  • Design compelling landing pages  
  • Optimise your contact forms  
  • A/B test key elements (CTAs, headlines, images...)
  • Plan a lead nurturing Marketing Automation flow

3. The purchase stage

This stage is a key decider in your SaaS customer lifecycle; it’s the point at which a prospect becomes a source of revenue. This means that your stages up until now have been successful, and your sales team scored the winning goal.  

The purchase stage should be optimised toward turning your potential customers into paying customers. Then, set them up right to ensure they stick around and grow with you for the long run.

How to improve customer satisfaction from the ‘purchase’ stage?

Take the time to evaluate what’s working with your marketing and sales efforts and ensure your buying, invoicing, and onboarding experiences are as smooth as possible.

For the buying experience, make sure your demos and sales calls are personalised and relevant (TIP: CRM customer data is awesome for this) and optimise your website to have clear pricing and support options.  

If your business has self-checkout, triple-check that your page reflects the best practices — from page speed and user-friendliness, cost-transparency, safety and compliance, etc.

Also, you’ll want to ensure your order management is as frictionless as possible, and your customer support team is on standby during this stage to provide any assistance to quell initial doubts and solve any lingering queries.  

Checklist for the purchase stage:  

  • Set goals
  • Establish which touchpoints and metrics to track
  • Ensure your pricing options are transparently listed  
  • Provide clear support options
  • Personalise your demo and sales calls
  • Optimise the checkout page
  • Evaluate your order management processes

4. The onboarding stage

Now that they're a customer, it’s time to get them set up.

The onboarding stage is like the grand entrance — it sets the tone for your customer’s experience with you. It’s the starting line from signing up to becoming a pro user.  

This part is a big deal because it shapes how users feel and whether they stick around. You want them to feel empowered to actively use your service so they don’t fall off and switch to your competitors.

How to improve customer satisfaction from the ‘onboarding’ stage?

To make this kick-off great for your new customer, make everything simple and clear.  

Your interfaces should be user-friendly, tutorials thorough, and your customer support should remain responsive to make taking their first steps with your product smooth.

Take it up a notch with personalised onboarding experiences, catering to each user’s needs, and ensuring a positive kickstart.  

And be sure to keep the communication going, solving issues stat, and digging into what users think about their onboarding journey.  

This could mean assigning a dedicated account manager or customer success agent, or even having a specific onboarding team to hold your customer’s hand.  

Another example of a great practice at this stage is having a Marketing Automation onboarding flow that accompanies your customers through the process and prompts them for feedback via surveys or email replies.

Checklist for the onboarding stage:  

  • Set goals
  • Establish which touchpoints and metrics to track
  • Perform competitor research by signing up for their product and onboarding
  • Determine whether your onboarding process is no-touch (fully automated), low-touch (hybrid automation/human guided), or high-touch (carried out by a person)
  • Determine who owns the onboarding process
  • Ensure your onboarding materials are thorough and user-friendly  
  • Plan out an onboarding Marketing Automation flow
  • Ensure clear support options are available  
  • Create process for gathering and implementing feedback

5. The renewal stage

Once customers are up and running, they enter the greater retention stage.  

As the subscription period nears its end, the customer will periodically need to renew their subscription. Going back to the original example, they decide to renew because they’re satisfied with your contract management tool’s functionality and its value to their legal department.  

Done right, this stage can exponentially increase the average spend per customer, whether through pitching upselling or cross-selling opportunities or offering additional features and services that may interest them.

How to improve customer satisfaction from the ‘renewal’ stage?

Even more than pre-purchase, customers need to be cared for after committing to a purchase. And to successfully retain a customer, you’ll need to pass their assessment of whether you’re a valuable addition.  

From the quality of the product itself to your customer service and engagement levels, these little bits and pieces all add up to justify a decision to book a retainership — and it starts from the moment they make the purchase.

To set customers up for renewal, it’s crucial to have already been maintaining close communication with them. Don’t wait until right when they’re about to make their renewal choice to pop in and say “hi”.

You’ll want to make sure they’re familiar with the benefits of sticking with you by offering and educating them on your loyalty program, and provide ongoing education and recommendations based on their usage to work toward long-term relationships.

You’ll also want to cue in Automation. As a SaaS, the last impression customers need is being tardy in your invoicing, payments, and subscription process.  

As you scale your customer base, your support team will have to lean on automation tools to keep up with the ever-increasing demands and expectations. And that applies to everything: from personalising customer experiences to onboarding and keeping customers engaged.  

Checklist for the renewal stage:  

  • Set goals
  • Establish which touchpoints and metrics to track
  • Determine who owns the renewal process  
  • Ensure a renewal process strategy is in place  
  • Maintain proactive communication and support
  • Offer loyalty incentives and rewards  
  • Automate subscription management and invoicing processes
  • Create process for gathering and implementing feedback

6. The loyalty stage  

Otherwise known as the ‘advocacy stage’, this final lap entails upgrading satisfied customers into brand advocates who’ll recommend the product to industry peers or friends & family, perform word-of-mouth marketing, and write positive reviews, thus attracting new business.

Their activity at this stage will prove more effective than any marketing you could do on your own.  

More importantly, the loyalty stage offers a higher chance of successful cross-sells and up-sells since your customer satisfaction level is healthy at this point.  

One of the best practices in this stage is to confirm that all your brand touchpoints have social media subscription links. Additionally, delight customers with product value, unique benefits, and perks for satisfaction.

How to improve customer satisfaction from the loyalty stage?

Much like how we’re hard-wired to boycott brands with negative reviews from peers, we tend to patronise brands that get a nod of approval.  

Thanks to positive reviews and endorsements of your product, loyal customers can be your referral engine. But first, you need to encourage them to share the good word about your business through loyalty programs and additional perks and incentives like bonuses, discounts, and referrals.  In fact, companies who prioritise the customer experience generate 60% higher profits than those who don't.

Nothing drives customer retention quite like the simple stuff: showing warm regard for customers’ emotions or swiftly engaging customers to upscale their experience at problematic touchpoints.  

With customer insights logged into your CRM, you can take stock of customer sentiment, buying behaviour and trends to help you ‘failproof’ your customer loyalty strategy.

A CRM (like efficy’s!) houses all of the data and sales, marketing, and customer service functionalities required to hyper-personalise, engage, and support customers. That way, you make them feel heard, seen, and valued — getting them to spend even more.

Checklist for the loyalty stage:

  • Set goals
  • Establish which touchpoints and metrics to track
  • Use CRM data to improve the customer experience at each stage
  • Maintain proactive communication and support
  • Show customer appreciation through personalised messages, gifts, or events  
  • Create customer testimonials and case studies  
  • Create a process for gathering and implementing feedback

Keep reading more about:

Your Guide to SaaS Customer Loyalty [With Proven Tips + Metrics]