A collection of resources that shed light on the SaaS customer lifecycle, inspired by Billy Collins’s evocative take on Aristotle’s universal arc: The beginning, the middle, and the end.

“This is the beginning. Almost anything can happen.”

Bootprints of a problem are seen somewhere. A struggling soul traces them. The identification is hard. Because some problems can be particularly unruly, needing painkillers rather than vitamins. Conversations with teammates and others, ensue.

Google is summoned for answers, opinions, and data. The path is long. And nonlinear. Awareness makes do with what’s unearthed, bit by bit, as one discovers things that help discern the dizzying grasp of the problem in meaningful ways.

The first, faint hope of a fix arises.

The product people with a drive for helpfulnessa deep and specific understanding of the problem, a unique point of view, and great clarity on “who they’re stealing from?” stand the best chance of communicating value that taps the right notes.

The landing page translates this very understanding into a pitch/nudge that sells progress over the product, with copy that’s honest and that speaks with visitors in their language.

A Free Trial, the considerate friend of most SaaS nudges and pitches, is the first thing on offer. For, how else, one could gauge the value of the product.

Those who do well with trials test for the right lengththe need of a credit card, and the ways of getting people closer to their “desired” outcomes.

Sometimes, a conversation is sought before a decision.

“Who can I speak with? Think, I might need a demo. Who’s available? Someone on the other side of the chat window? A bot? What about the ‘Contact sales’ form? Can I make a call?”

This step’s success relies on two key things: how fast someone interprets the virtue of speed, and the realization that a demo isn’t a demo.

A purchase nears. And unless the product is priced based on rigorous experimentation, and with the knowledge that perspective is everything and that it’s about value not features, all the work, so far, can come undone.

“This is the middle.” “This is the thick of things.”

We’re still in the realm of first impressions.

With the sprinkling of some “magic pixie dust,” by tying Lifecycle Emails with activity and optimizing for success, onboarding begins. Activation turns out to be an important first win. Complete migration assistance appears as an underrated friction-slayer.

The second email carries a checklist for the next most important step. The third, a link to a training webinar. A request to set up a report is wrapped in the fourth.

These emails, and communicating with other mediums, like in-app messaging, cannot replace the need for crafting with continuous focus and multiple iterations, the “First mile” of the user’s experience within the product and being around for help, all the time.

The first ‘aha’ acts as the cue for the “constant realization” of value. But engagement isn’t retention. A Cohort Analysis helps, its true function is to mine in-app behaviour and fetch insights. NPS, too.

With time, the gradual increase in value unfolds, relying mostly, on an internal guiding system: The product’s mapping with the way customers think about progress.

Honoring promises is hard. Retention is hard. But “caring is free”.

“And this is the end, the car running out of road, the river losing its name in an ocean,”

The customer churns.

It can be involuntary. Can be caused by a failed card, a network error, or something to do with their bank. With good planning, this can’t be avoided, but can certainly be curbed.

It can be voluntary. The seeds for this are sown early, in the beginning and the middle.

As it can occur within the first few days, owing to a disconnect between what was promised and what was delivered, the onboarding couldn’t act as immunity for an overwhelming, complex product.

Or the the first few months, if the product doesn’t grow as a customer does, and the gradual erosion of value begins. If the support doesn’t appear when it should, transparency is traded for baser beliefs, and customer values aren’t championed.

Whatever the cause, when left on its own, churn is the SaaS equivalent of the walk towards the hangman.