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The 5 stages of a successful B2B SaaS marketing funnel

Have you ever noticed how it can difficult to use traditional marketing methods for your B2B SaaS product? The reason? They have completely different customer journeys.

Business-to-business (B2B) marketing has always required unique tactics, and software-as-a-service (SaaS) customers often take a very different path from retail or B2C users. That’s why it’s important to design a marketing funnel with those differences in mind.

A strong B2B SaaS marketing funnel helps you understand your user’s journey and build a more customer-focused product.

Last updated

10 Oct 2022

Reading time

7 min


In this article, we break down each stage of the B2B SaaS marketing funnel and explain how B2B funnels differ from ecommerce or traditional marketing funnels. We explain why each stage is important and how to measure their success, so you can optimize each step and guide your users on their unique customer journey.

Create a successful B2B SaaS marketing funnel

Hotjar’s product experience insights tools help you create powerful marketing funnels that delight your customers at every stage of their SaaS journey.

What’s unique about a SaaS marketing funnel?

A SaaS marketing funnel is different from a traditional marketing funnel because the conversion stage isn’t at the bottom of the funnel. In fact, the first customer purchase or download happens in the middle of the SaaS marketing funnel, while the retention stage serves as the bottom of the SaaS funnel.

Instead of focusing on getting customers to their first conversion, SaaS funnels focus on what happens after they convert. Do users renew their subscriptions? Do they recommend your product to friends and family? What is your customer lifetime value?

Tracking these SaaS marketing funnel metrics and creating a solid funnel help your team measure performance and build a better product for your users. Getting users to stay loyal to your product is key to driving growth in your SaaS business and preventing customer churn. 

The 5 stages of a SaaS marketing funnel

While each stage in the SaaS marketing funnel is essential to drive conversions and build your brand reputation, understanding your customer journey is the key to creating a successful and effective marketing funnel. So, you need to conduct research and tailor your funnel and strategy to fit your customer journey and provide a great user experience.

Let’s look at the five stages of the SaaS marketing funnel and which metrics to track to measure their success:

1. Awareness

During the awareness stage of your SaaS marketing funnel, potential customers become aware of the existence of your product. They might not even be conscious of the problems they’re experiencing yet, or how your company can provide solutions.

This first customer touchpoint typically occurs through a search engine result or social media post. Since the awareness stage is all about building your brand and getting users to make that first click, focus on your search engine optimization (SEO) strategy at this stage, and consider investing in paid search or advertising.

Metrics to track:

  • Website visits: the number of users who visit your website

  • Social media engagement: likes, comments, shares, etc. You can use a tool like Sprout Social to track mentions of your brand and business across different social media platforms.

  • Search engine ranking: your position on the search engine results pages (SERPs) for target keywords

  • Bounce rate: users leaving your website without interacting with your product

2. Engagement

Users move to the engagement stage when they come back to interact with your product a second time and sign up to receive extra material—an email list or a newsletter, for example. This means they’ve found your content interesting enough to learn more about your company and products.

A great call to action (CTA) at this stage is something that extends your content, such as a downloadable guide relating to the topic of the post. This will help users understand their problems better. You can still include information about your software in this guide and include a CTA, secondary to the download, inviting the reader to book a demo. 

Jess Percival
Digital Marketer, Exposure Ninja

During this stage, request information from your customers, so you can ask them questions to learn more about their pain points and user journey. The most common type of information to capture at this stage is the customer’s email address.

💡Pro tip: as users move into the engagement stage of your SaaS funnel, pay attention to how they’re interacting with your content. Some users will move down your marketing funnel faster than others. If they sign up for free materials and seem highly engaged, tailor your communications to fit their process and start highlighting the ways your product can help users solve problems and reach their goals.

Use Hotjar (hi there👋) Heatmaps to track the exact elements potential customers interact with on your website. Are they clicking on your free trial button or subscribing to your newsletter? Are they even making it that far down the page? Heatmaps help you go beyond just knowing the number of page visits you get in a day.

#Hotjar Heatmaps show you which parts of your site attract the most user attention, and which ones go unnoticed
Hotjar Heatmaps show you which parts of your site attract the most user attention, and which ones go unnoticed

Metrics to track:

  • Website metrics: time on page, views, and clicks (specifically where on your website users are interacting, and whether visitors are new or returning)

  • Email signups: how many users provide their email to receive content

  • Newsletter subscriptions: how many visitors sign up to receive your newsletter

  • Social media engagement

3. Desire

At the desire stage of your SaaS funnel, you’ve already established a relationship with potential customers: people view you as a credible source of information, and their interest in your product has grown. Here, offer users a free trial of your product or a ‘freemium’ version, so they can test it out and feel more comfortable paying for a full version.

This stage proves to customers that your product can help them achieve their goals. And, to validate your product’s quality, you’re giving them the chance to test drive it free of charge.

For example, ensure that you’re not just tracking how many users download a free trial of your messaging software, but also pay attention to how many actually activate that trial by sending messages. This metric is significant because it tells you how many customers are actually testing out different features during the trial. Those users are more likely to move further down the marketing funnel and actually make a purchase than those who download the trial but never activate it.

If your business model doesn’t allow for a free trial, consider offering a free demo or custom presentation instead.

Metrics to track:

  • Free trial downloads: how many users sign up to try out your product

  • Free trial activation rate: how many users actually interact with the downloaded trial

  • Demo requests: how many users request a personalized demo from your organization

4. Conversion

Conversion happens when a customer makes their first purchase or completes a milestone—an initial sign-up or subscription to a paid version of your product. For example, if a customer purchases a monthly plan for your user onboarding software, they have converted. 

At this stage, ask yourself specific questions:

  • How many users who entered your marketing funnel reached the conversion stage?

  • Are you seeing an increase or decrease in your churn rate? 

These questions help you determine if tweaks need to be made to your SaaS funnel to get more users to convert.

Learn more about your SaaS customer journey and how users reached the conversion stage—or why they ended up contributing to your churn rate—by giving them an opportunity to provide feedback.

#Use Hotjar’s Feedback tool to determine why users are enjoying your product or what’s preventing them from converting
Use Hotjar’s Feedback tool to determine why users are enjoying your product or what’s preventing them from converting

Metrics to track:

  • Number of purchases: how many customers pay for a product or subscription

  • Customer acquisition cost: how much it costs your organization to get a user to convert

  • Conversion rate: the proportion of your users who make a purchase or download

  • Churn rate: the percentage of customers who unsubscribe or stop using your product over a period of time

5. Retention

While most marketing funnels reach the bottom after the initial conversion or purchase, SaaS business models rely on recurring revenue. Therefore, there is an extra stage in the SaaS marketing funnel: retention. The retention stage focuses on getting existing customers to continue their subscriptions and building customer loyalty and product advocacy.

This stage is also an opportunity to focus on upselling and cross-selling other products from your company. For example, a SaaS video recording tool might offer an upgraded version with more features or a special add-on with enhanced effects.

One of the best ways to acquire more customers is through referrals or positive word of mouth from existing users. Consider offering incentives for customers who refer your product to others or provide them with custom promos and content, like exclusive newsletters.

If you notice that customers are unsubscribing or contributing to your churn rate after a certain period of time, ask them why. Use feedback and survey tools to get insight into user pain points and how you can improve their customer experience.

Metrics to track:

  • Customer retention rate: the proportion of converted users who remain customers

  • Net Promoter Score®(NPS): how loyal customers are to your brand and products

  • Customer satisfaction: how satisfied customers are with your product and experience

  • Churn rate:

The churn rate is an important metric to consider for a SaaS funnel because it represents the number of customers who cancel their subscriptions within a given period of time. A high churn rate indicates that there’s a problem with the product or service being offered and that steps need to be taken to improve it. By reducing churn rates, companies can improve customer retention and loyalty, leading to more long-term success.

Becca Klien
founder, BeccaKlein.co

Dive deeper into your customer journey to create a successful SaaS marketing funnel

The best way to design an effective B2B SaaS marketing funnel is to learn as much as possible about the user experience (UX) and ask customers for feedback. Achieve this by understanding the customer journey, using marketing funnel tools, and tracking metrics.

Remember that user-led product development is one of the best ways to drive business growth and build brand loyalty. If you make a commitment to addressing user pain points and building an effective product, customer loyalty and advocacy will follow.

Create a successful B2B SaaS marketing funnel

Hotjar’s product experience insights tools help you create powerful marketing funnels that satisfy your customers at each stage of their journey.

Frequently asked questions about SaaS marketing funnels