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SaaS business

Designing a Sales Funnel for SaaS that Delivers Results for Your Business

21

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5 Apr

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2021

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Ten years ago, you wouldn’t need this article. The SaaS market wasn’t oversaturated yet, and each product could easily find its audience. But times have changed, and now, looking for a solution, buyers usually have several choices. They became more selective, demanding, and cautious.

Additionally, you can’t push people to purchase without the risk they’ll quickly get off the hook. You should carefully guide potential clients through your selling process until they’re ready to pay for your product. Simply put, to become a customer, they have to reach the bottom of your SaaS sales funnel.

The good news is that there are quite a lot of methods to optimize the sales funnel so that it seamlessly guides your prospects from initial awareness to purchase. And of course, as a UI/UX design agency for SaaS, we couldn’t help but share our knowledge on how to do it with UX design.

So, rather than discussing traditional marketing tactics, this article primarily sets its sights on the design aspect of the sales funnel. We will explore its key components and focus on how UX design positively influences the overall funnel performance and helps businesses achieve more revenue. 

Still, to be on the same page, let’s start with some basics first.

What is sales funnel and why is it important?

The SaaS sales funnel (also known as SaaS marketing or conversion funnel) is a multi-staged selling process that starts with building the awareness of your brand in clients' minds and extends beyond the first payment.

Unlike e-commerce businesses that focus on getting new customers through short marketing promotions, the SaaS customer acquisition process requires a more delicate approach. Customers need to be sure - your product is the best solution for the problem they face. While interacting with leads down to the bottom of the sales funnel, your ultimate goal is to raise their trust through engagement, expertise demonstration, and values communication.

On the way to purchase, users hit various touchpoints. So the way you treat them along their journey may strongly impact the conversion. Understanding your sales funnel for SaaS will help you find the gaps and analyze where and why prospects drop out and never convert. And in the context of all the above-mentioned, UX design becomes a strategic tool for shaping seamless and engaging interactions with your prospects, ultimately driving conversions and business growth. 

We're now moving closer to the sales funnel stages, but at this point, I want you to understand ​​— customers' journey through the funnel is absolutely under your control. 

SaaS sales funnel stages

In the marketing books, you'll come across the acronym AIDA that stands for Awareness, Interest, Desire, and Action.

These four stages represent a user's behavior flow based on human psychology. Each step requires a special approach to move a lead to the next funnel level seamlessly (and since we are talking about sales funnels from the design perspective, I will focus on design approaches later on here). It's crucial to stay relevant and consistent, keeping in mind that the wrong treatment at the wrong time can be a reason the lead will drop out of the sales funnel.

stages of SaaS sales funnel AIDA
Image credit: Xprexity

AIDA concept has many variations, but I find the HubSpot approach the most applicable for the SaaS industry. As the principal B2B SaaS sales funnel stages, they define 

  1. Awareness
  2. Engagement
  3. Exploration
  4. Conversion

Why I like HubSpot's definition is because it says that raising customers' interest is not enough to get them converted. You should engage your leads and build trust. Also, in the SaaS world, the word "exploration" describes more accurately than "desire" the transition stage, when people finally start showing real interest in your product.

stages of a sales funnel for SaaS

You will get better my idea while learning about all the SaaS sales funnel stages, so let's move on.

Awareness: raise interest, build trust, educate

At this stage, your potential clients are asking questions and looking for information. They may even not fully realize the problem, so not searching for a specific solution yet.

Your potential clients are becoming aware of your company. More likely, they found one of your blog posts in an organic search or came across a mention of your brand in the media. 

So, at the awareness stage, potential users come to your website from various channels and your task is to put all your efforts into catching their attention and increasing brand awareness.

Traditional marketing tactics at the awareness stage include promoting your content through paid ads, enhancing the SEO strategy, and so on. Still, SaaS companies can effectively increase brand awareness through strategic UI/UX design as well. Here’s how:

  • Incorporate consistent branding elements such as color schemes, typography, and visual styles that align with the company's brand identity to help users recognize and associate the design with the brand.
  • Present valuable and engaging content, such as blog articles, tutorials, or case studies, in an aesthetically pleasing and accessible manner to position yourself as a thought leader in your industry and attract a wider audience.
  • Use unique and memorable design elements, such as creative illustrations, animations, or interactive components to create a distinctive brand experience that stands out and increases brand recall.

For example, Zapier uses a colorful and eye-catching landing page with animations to raise awareness about its workflow automation tool. The page includes clear messaging about the benefits of their product, as well as a bright call-to-action to sign up for a free trial.

Zapier raise user awareness with a eye-catching landing page

Engagement: become a credible resource

When people come back to your website to consume more content, they're gradually moving to the next funnel stage. The entry point to this SaaS sales pipeline stage is providing an email address to download free material or a lead's sign-up for your demo. These actions show the lead is interested in your content, and it's the right timing to provide them with more detailed information about the product or service to pique their curiosity and engage potential customers.

The engagement stage may be the longest part of the acquisition process as your potential clients need to determine if they trust you enough. They also want to be sure they need a solution to the problem your product solves.

We have some more tips on how to build a successful user engagement strategy in the dedicated article. And here’re several tips on how you can optimize this stage of your funnel with design:

  • Present information in a clear and concise manner, ensuring that users quickly understand the key features, benefits, and value proposition of your SaaS.
  • Incorporate social proof and testimonials from satisfied customers into your website’’s interface, reinforcing the credibility and desirability of the product. 
  • Make sure you have intuitive navigation and user flows that guide users through the information and content relevant to their interests. By providing easy and seamless access to relevant sections, you help potential users discover more about your SaaS, deepening their interest and engagement.
  • Design interactive elements such as clickable prototypes, interactive demos, or product tours to allow users to actively engage with your product. 

Stradigi AI, a low-code AI business automation platform and one of Eleken’s clients, offers its users a detailed demo of their product.We helped them improve the UX of their demo version and turn it into a full-fledged MVP so that now its intuitive design helps potential customers understand the capabilities of the product, build interest and engage leads.

demo version of a business automation platform to engage users and make them convert
Demo version that Stradigi offers its potential users

Exploration: show up your product values

If you managed to hook leads attention and win their trust, this stage should be all about highlighting the benefits of your product and warming the leads up for the purchase. This stage involves showcasing the unique selling points of your SaaS, addressing customer pain points, and emphasizing the benefits that differentiate you from competitors. The aim is to convince customers that your product is the best solution for their needs. 

At this point, offering a free trial will give leads a possibility to test-drive your product's full functionality within a limited time period. During the trial, the experience they have will influence their decision whether to become a paid user or not. That’s why taking care of user experience is super important here.

And an intuitive user onboarding will help you show the value of your SaaS in a shortest and most effective way. A well-thought-out onboarding can provide options for personalization and customization, allowing users to tailor the product to their preferences, remove friction and obstacles, and lead your leads to the Aha moment when they realize your product is exactly what they need.

Here’s how Busuu, a language learning app uses personalization to help potential customers explore the app and guide them to the Aha moment. It asks a short simple question.

how Busuu uses personalization to help potential customers explore the app and convert

Once the user has chosen an option, Busuu makes sure that the onboarding, as well as lessons, newsletter, and special offers, will be customized to fit one of these categories of users.

By the way, you can sign up for our free email course on how to spark an Aha moment.

Conversion: sell and make customers stay

The paragraph's name conveys the main idea. To sell is important, but to retain is crucial. The SaaS businesses are subscription-based, so it is vital to secure monthly recurring revenue. That's why focusing on customer acquisition only is a short-sighted sales strategy. Retention should always be a part of the discussions related to the company's acquisition strategy.

Here is how you can work on customer conversion and retention:

  • Simplify the conversion process by minimizing form fields, reducing steps, and eliminating unnecessary friction. A smooth and streamlined process reduces user frustration and increases the likelihood of customers retaining.
  • Ensure your SaaS offers a seamless experience across different screen sizes. The mobile-friendly design increases the chance to convert users who prefer to take action on their mobile devices.
  • Incorporate feedback mechanisms and communication channels within the product to encourage users to provide input, report issues, or seek assistance.
  • Optimize the checkout page of your SaaS so that it facilitates a smooth and secure transaction, ensuring that customers successfully complete their subscriptions.

For example, a SaaS cloud banking Wise, uses a clear and concise checkout page to encourage potential customers to sign up for their platform. Plenty of white space and a bright CTA helps users easily understand what they are supposed to do on this page and lead them to conversion. 

example of a conversion stage of a SaaS sales funnel. The checkout page of Wise

The magic of customers advocacy

I'd also add one more stage to the SaaS conversion funnel. Do you know what all brands' biggest desire is? To be referred by the customers. Customers' loyalty is a powerful weapon against competitors and a valuable asset for business growth. In today's world of social influencing, those who can get mentioned by satisfied clients have much more advantages. Reviews are new money. Keep this in mind, crafting your sales and marketing strategy.

Ok, I think we're done with the theoretical part. Now let's talk about how to design your first (or maybe not) SaaS sales funnel.

Simple steps to design your SaaS sales funnel

At the heart of every exceptional user experience lies a well thought-through design. In the context of a sales funnel, UX design plays a pivotal role in crafting seamless and delightful journeys for your prospects at each stage, nudging them closer to conversion.

Know your audience

This step, being absolutely obvious, is still ignored by many businesses, and I can understand why. When you make a great product, you tend to think - oh, yes, that's what everybody will appreciate. However, the product for everybody is the product for nobody. You should focus only on people who potentially need your product and can be easily turned from leads to customers.

Map out customer journey

Start by identifying the key touchpoints where customers interact with your brand throughout their journey. These touchpoints can include website visits, landing page views, sign-ups, trial activations, purchases, and more. Once you have identified them, create a customer journey map by visualizing the steps customers take from initial awareness to final conversion. This mapping process helps you gain a comprehensive view of the customer experience and enables you to identify potential bottlenecks or areas for improvement.

B2B customer journey example
Example of B2B buying journey. Image credit: gartner.com

Create a website

It can be a simple landing page or a nicely-versed website. Ideally, it should clearly articulate your value propositions, main differentiators, product offerings, and price plans. Optimize the performance and loading speed of your landing. Slow loading times can frustrate users and lead to abandonment. Compress images, minimize code, and implement eye-catching CTAs to ensure your leads move further down the pipeline.

Simplify the signup and onboarding processes

When users see a poor sign-up flow that asks for too much irrelevant information, they often become frustrated and quit. The same fact is true for SaaS onboarding (as it often goes right before or right after the signup), if it’s too long or consists of too many steps, it’s likely that people will skip it. 

To ensure users complete the sign-up process, prioritize creating short and frictionless forms. Eliminate unnecessary questions and avoid any extra details that can be addressed later on. Instead, focus on asking relevant questions and personalizing the initial interaction.

As for the SaaS onboarding, there are numerous methods on how to optimize it and help the lead experience your SaaS’s value, like creating intuitive product tours, using Wizard design patterns to make complex steps simpler, designing the onboarding in a form of a to-do list, and more. We’ve discussed all of them in detail in our article about SaaS onboarding examples.

simple user onboarding design to optimize SaaS sales funnel
An onboarding checklist designed by Eleken for a workflow management application

Take care of the upgrade process

As SaaS companies often use freemium pricing or provide free trials, they need to actively prompt their leads to upgrade their accounts. You can optimize the upgrade process by minimizing steps and reducing friction. Provide a seamless and streamlined experience, such as offering a one-click button to upgrade, allowing users to complete the upgrade with minimal effort and time.

Also, implement in-app modals strategically and use them to highlight the benefits and value of upgrading, showcasing premium features, additional functionality, or exclusive perks available in higher plans.

how Loom uses a modal window to prompt users to upgrade
Loom uses a modal window to prompt users to upgrade

Work on retention

As I've already mentioned above, retention is vital for every SaaS business to be successful. So, don't forget about your customers as soon as you see the first payment, as this is not the end of your collaboration; this is just the beginning.

The SaaS sales funnel is a dynamic system, which you should watch and analyze, finding the weak points where the leads drop out and never come back.

Track sales funnel effectiveness

Here are the metrics you should check to evaluate your SaaS sales funnel effectiveness.

Revenue growth

The SaaS revenue growth rate is one of the most critical business metrics indicating a company's sustainability and profitability.

(Second Month Revenue – First Month Revenue) / First Month Revenue * 100 = % Revenue Growth Rate

The growth rate depends much on the stage the company is at and can significantly change over time. I won't go into the growth rate details here, but you can learn more in the average SaaS revenue growth article elaborating on this topic.

Customer churn

Another metric crucial to track is the churn rate. It shows the percentage of users who left your product over a certain period.

Customer Churn rate = Number of churned users / Total number of users

The average churn rate benchmark varies from 5% to 7% annually. However, this is not the ultimate rule for companies of all sizes—read the SaaS churn rate article to get more useful information.

Customer lifetime value

This metric shows how much money your customers will bring you over time.

To find your LTV, you have to calculate the average revenue per account (ARPA) first.

Then, you can use the formula:

LTV = (ARPA x Gross Margin) / Churn Rate

Customer acquisition cost

CAC measures how much money you spent converting a lead into a customer. This metric is crucial to determine the SaaS business profitability and is calculated by this formula:

Customer Acquisition Cost = Cost of Sales and Marketing /Number of New Customers Acquired

Certainly, the SaaS sales funnel metrics listed above are not the only ones you should use to measure your sales funnel effectiveness. Still, they can help you understand if you have to start working on your marketing funnel optimization.

Optimize your SaaS sales funnel

Firstly, you need to check which stage doesn't work well and where are the "holes" your leads may drop out from.

Let's say you get lots of leads, but they eventually don't purchase your product. It means you fail to properly demonstrate your SaaS differentiators during the engagement and exploration stages.

If they reach free trial but don't convert after trying your product, then probably your onboarding needs improvement.

If your users churn soon after the subscription, you failed to show your product's real value or pay much attention to customer retention.

So, here is what you can do to optimize your SaaS sales funnel with the help of UI/UX design:

  • Make a unique and memorable design for your landing page and ensure it clearly communicates your values.
  • Design visually prominent and persuasive CTAs that clearly communicate the desired action and entice users to take the next step in the sales funnel.
  • Streamline the user onboarding experience by minimizing steps, providing clear instructions.
  • Ensure your SaaS product has a responsive and mobile-friendly design.
  • Optimize your conversion forms by keeping them concise, removing unnecessary fields, and using visual cues to guide users.
  • Continuously iterate and refine your UI/UX design based on user feedback to enhance the overall sales funnel experience.

Drive your growth through UX Design in SaaS sales funnel

In the fast-paced world of SaaS, a well-optimized sales funnel can be the differentiating factor between remarkable success and mediocrity. By realizing the paramount importance of UX design in enhancing the performance of your sales funnel, you are taking a significant stride toward unlocking the true potential of your SaaS project.

Awareness, Engagement, Exploration, and Conversion are the stages your leads should go through to become your clients. It's under your control to track the sales funnel effectiveness, analyze its weak points, and work on your sales pipeline optimization. And in case you need professional help, we at Eleken focus on designing SaaS products that align with our clients' business objectives. By placing user needs at the forefront and transforming complex interactions into exceptional experiences, we can significantly contribute to enhancing your users’ journey at each stage of the funnel. You can schedule a call with us to learn more details about how we work.

Meanwhile, thinking of your sales funnel strategy, you might be interested to check the stories of the best SaaS companies and the secrets of their success.

Natalia Borysko

Writer at Eleken