Lately, I’ve been spending time with SaaS companies on their buyer journeys. A buyer journey consists of the stages a buyer goes through to make a purchase decision and beyond. Typical stages include awareness, consideration, decision, trial, sale, time to first value, time to expanded value, renewal, expansion, and advocacy.  There are multiple buyer journeys based on different target markets, personas and channels.

Much has been written about the role of product in what I now call value-led-growth (VLG). I prefer VLG to product-led-growth (PLG) because it is not merely the product, but the value users realize through the use of the product that drives growth. Beyond product, the buyer journey also includes product collateral, outbound marketing outreach, and automation to support the definition, orchestration, and optimization of the buyer journey.

In my work with SaaS companies, I emphasize the time and cost to first value metrics (TTFV, and CTFV, respectively) as key buyer journey considerations. The time to first value is the time it takes for a buyer to experience and affirm their first instance of value in the use of your product. The cost to first value is the cost incurred by a buyer to experience their first instance of value in the use of your product. Similarly, there are the corresponding TTFV and CTFV metrics for the SaaS company. Two examples are illustrative here. Calendly is a calendar scheduling app I use. Within 5 minutes of signing up for their freemium offer, I was able to push out my calendar to schedule my first appointments. Now that’s incredible TTFV and CTFV for both the buyer (me) and Calendly. For a more complex app example, consider HubSpot CRM’s freemium offer that includes support for sales, marketing, and services. Within one hour of signing up for their freemium offer, I was able to create my first marketing campaign by importing some of my contacts. Again, this is impressive TTFV and CTFV for both the buyer and HubSpot.

For some of the SaaS companies I work with, their present buyer journey often involves several days, if not weeks, of time for a buyer to engage with the sales team. It also requires a paid proof of concept that the buyer funds and which requires substantial time and cost on the part of the SaaS company. In these instances, the product tends to be complex and it may be difficult to deliver a rapid time to first value moment. Indeed, the value delivered from the proof of concept is not always readily apparent. Now that is a bad buyer journey with very poor TTFV and CTFV for both the buyer and SaaS company. There is a better way!

I encourage companies to ensure that their customer discovery work has given them clarity on the key user jobs to be done, pain points, and desired outcomes. One or more of the desired outcomes should define the first value aha moment of value that the user and company are focused on. With this in mind, the company must explore a single function of the SaaS product that does not require substantial time or cost on the part of the buyer or company to achieve a first value aha moment. For complex products, this often involves separating out a single function of a complex feature that can deliver a rapid aha moment.

Here are questions to consider to identify candidate buyer product engagements with favorable TTFV and CTFV metrics:

  • Does the company have an understanding of first value moments of importance that has been confirmed by buyers and customers?
  • How well understood are the current buyer journeys and what are the respective buyer journey and company TTFV and CTFV metrics?
  • Is there a single product function for which some simplifying assumptions can be made that would allow buyer value to quickly and easily be realized?
  • What time and cost for the buyer does this function require? What can be done to minimize time and cost, including (if required) allowing the buyer to provide any required information in a format that they already have (i.e., import a contact list, import a list of product SKUs, etc.)?
  • Similarly, what time and cost does this function require of the company? How can this be minimized and still efficiently deliver TTFV and CTFV?

SaaS companies must be mindful of both the buyer and the SaaS company’s TTFV and CTFV metrics. SaaS companies also need to be creative about product functions that can optimize their buyer and company TTFV and CTFV.