SaaS Customer Acquisition Funnel: Customer Friction Points and How to Solve Them

By: Megan Heinz  |  December 6, 2021

Every SaaS business’ customer journey is unique to the organization’s success. It’s critical to review and optimize your customer acquisition funnel on a regular basis so you can improve prospective customers’ experience and ultimately increase customer yield. In this article, we will discuss common examples of customer friction points throughout the buyer’s journey and some strategies to smooth out points of friction within your funnel.

Funnel optimization and how it impacts your business

Funnel optimization is the process of refining the movement of prospective customers through marketing and sales stages for the highest acquisition, conversion and retention rates. To optimize your customer funnel, you need to identify points of friction and resolve them.

But recognizing points of friction within your customer journey can be challenging. To do so, it’s important to strictly define each stage of the buyer’s journey so that you can diagnose concerns among prospects within the same stage.

If the stages are not well defined, the varying reasons for customer hesitation within each stage could be infinite. If your funnel is not standardized within your organization, you should begin by defining the prospect journey and its stages.

Another important aspect to streamlining the customer acquisition funnel is understanding pain points within each stage. Often, teams focus on the metrics representing the point of objection but lack an understanding on the underlying customer concern.

What follows in this post is not an exhaustive list, but rather a starting point for examining potential customer friction points that might be slowing your customer acquisition funnel.

Getting customers into the funnel

This first step of the buyer journey is to get prospective customers into your funnel and understand their friction points within this stage. Common pain points here revolve around brand awareness. Let’s review them and cover some ways to reduce friction.

Common prospect friction points

1. Brand awareness: “I’ve never even heard of that software.”

To ensure you have quality brand awareness, run your website against a website grader to understand the marketing effectiveness of your website.

2. Relevant information: “I need information on XYZ topic as it pertains to my business.”

To combat this, ensure you are producing content that demonstrates your knowledge of the industry or positions you as a trusted advisor in your space.

3. Target market: “Is this a good fit for my business?”

Evaluate your marketing strategy. Ensure that where you are deploying marketing resources is appropriate for the market you want to attract.

Visit to Lead

This stage truly represents the beginning of your funnel. This is the point where visitors to your site become prospective customers. According to First Page Sages’ Funnel Conversion Benchmarks, benchmark average of contact to known prospect is ~2%.

Common prospect friction points

1. No call to action: “Interesting website, but now what?”

You can add CTAs or a chat feature that prompts visitors after they spend a specified time on your website.

2. Resistance to providing personal information, such as their email addresses: “I don’t want to enter my email address. I get spammed enough.”

If you have gated content or content that’s heavy-handed with call-to-action (CTA) buttons, consider un-gating some content to improve trust and brand awareness.

3. No free (or wrong) trial experience offered: “I just want to try it out for myself.”

Add a free trial or live demo option so your customers can see your product in action.

Note that “speed to lead” is crucial here. Be sure that you have the resources needed to follow up with prospects if you are offering a chat experience or a free trial/live demo option. Immediacy on leads means your team is catching the prospect at the precise moment they are looking at your product.

Lead to Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL)

This stage is when a prospective customer is vetted by marketing as an actual prospective buyer. According to First Page Sage and Aberdeen Strategy & Research, benchmark conversion is north of 35%. Here are the most common friction points at this stage.

Common prospect friction points

1. No action taken in free product: “This is too confusing” or “I don’t have enough time.”

2. Free trial experience is too long: “I added all my customers two weeks ago, now what?”

To optimize this stage of the funnel, establish a drip campaign to keep your product top-of-mind. You can implement step-by-step guides that walk a prospect through the basics of the free trial, and you should ensure that the sales development teams are following up with all leads often and in a timely manner.

Finally, note key points in product usage that identify a product qualified lead (PQL). If specific actions within the product usage identify a clear intent to buy, move the process along as opposed to waiting for the end of the trial period.

Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL) to Sales Qualified Lead (SQL)

This stage is when a prospective customer is vetted by sales. At this point, the prospective customer should have a timeline to buy. Aberdeen Strategy & Research totes best in class conversion metrics here at 56.8%. This is often where leads would be converted to opportunities within a CRM.

Common prospect friction points

1. No show on demo: “I forgot” or “I’m too busy.”

2. Unable to contact

Resolve these friction points by designing and testing a lead treatment strategy that converts prospects. You can set up auto text and email reminders to buyers, and you should also consider including incentives to get customers to attend a live demonstration.

Sales Qualified Lead (SQL) to Won Deal

This stage is when the prospect becomes a customer. Benchmark metrics at this stage are typically above 30%. The work is not done but getting to this point is a huge win for both you and your customer.

Common prospect friction points

1. Speaking with decision makers: “The CFO needs to sign off, but they’re busy.”

2. Budget: “Is this the best money spent?”

3. Not the right time: “I’m too busy to get this going right now.”

Here, set expectations early on the sales call for onboarding help so prospects better understand the timeline and work involved to implement your product. You should also provide existing customer references, testimonials and case studies, and, most importantly, ensure the contract process or flow of information is streamlined.

Moving poor prospect fits out of the funnel

Although you should never settle for the status quo of your funnel conversion, some amount of disqualification at each stage is healthy. It’s okay for people to exit your funnel if your software is not the right fit for them.

Forcing people through the funnel is not the best use of your resources, and eliminating ill-fitting prospects early is crucial to ensuring your marketing, sales, product and customer success teams are focused on targeting the right prospects.

Be sure at every stage you have appropriate exit criteria and the ability to denote these leads as such to avoid cluttering up sales reps’ view. Remember, effectively moving people out of the funnel is just as important as effectively moving customers through the funnel.

Keeping customers at the core of your business

Always remember that funnel optimization is a customer-centric discipline — you are solving problems for your prospective customers, not moving inanimate objects through a funnel. Each stage should be examined for its own customer friction points but cross-referenced to the entire journey to ensure a positive customer experience. For more on funnel optimization see our post on ‘Deploying the PEACE Model’

Meg is Vice President of Revenue Operations at Mainsail. She is responsible for helping Mainsail’s portfolio companies implement best practices and drive go-to-market efficiencies to support their growth, among other operational initiatives.
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