This is how you can understand the SaaS buying cycle with search queries.
Mapping the SaaS buying cycle with Search Queries
By Ganesh Swami, August 07, 2013.

I was recently shopping for a dashboard that looks nice on a big screen TV. Putting up key metrics up on a screen is a great way to remind me of numbers that matter. I happen to have a compulsive nature of measuring and observing everything I do. As an experiment, I recorded the entire buying process specifically the search queries I used…

When you think of a phrase like buying cycle, it evokes images of people in power suits & Rolex watches, flying first class to close seven-figure contracts. While this might still be true at enterprise companies like Oracle, times are changing. Maybe twenty years ago, it was necessary to contact a sales person because of the information asymmetry. These days, you’ve got to have all pre-sales information on your website. The buyer is going through the research/consideration phase whether the seller is involved or not.

These were my stages of the buying cycle:

  • Problem Identification / Awareness
  • Consideration
  • Decision
  • Conversion

Problem Identification / Awareness

In this stage, I realized that I had a problem that needed to be addressed. I was interested in learning how other high-performing companies keep their teams on the same page. For you, this might be growing revenues, reducing costs or getting more leads.

The search phrases I used for this stage were:

  • metrics visibility
  • transparency on a team
  • how to keep team accountable

I read about how companies not only give access to their analytics to everyone on their team, but they also display the key numbers on a screen in a high-traffic area of the office. I really like this idea and so I’m going to implement it.

Worth noting that my context was “transparency on a team” and not “getting numbers on a big screen”. Getting numbers on a big screen is the solution to my problem and not the problem in itself.

Consideration: Search & Evaluation

Next, as I had the defined the solution to my need as “display numbers on a big screen”, I went searching for products that did this.

The search phrases I used for this stage were:

  • real time dashboard
  • google analytics on big screen
  • kpi dashboard big screen
  • business metrics big screen

and variants thereof. I found three really awesome products: Ducksboard, Leftronic and Geckoboard. I dropped any product that didn’t let me signup from their website or involved any type of contact with their sales.

I quickly scanned their feature lists to see if it satisfied two important requirements:

  • import data from kissmetrics/stripe and google analytics
  • being able to push custom metrics to it

I had other requirements as well, like Single Sign On, but was undecided if they were critical for me at this point. The products were similarly priced and reasonable.

I was able to find answers to my requirements directly on their websites. I imagine in other cases, it’ll involve long tail queries (hint: this is where site-search is useful because you don’t want them to leave your site.)

Decision: Test & Selection

I spent the least amount of time at this stage. It was a matter of signing up, connecting my google analytics account and seeing it work. Unfortunately, they all worked at the first attempt, which made my life a lot harder picking one!

I couldn’t objectively pick one over another because they all seemed comparable. Subjectively, I looked at who updated their blog more frequently, who had more twitter followers, who their customers were and generally who had a stronger brand.


This is where I punched in my credit card number. This stage came a few days later because all of them provided a free trial period.

Some take home lessons

  • if you’re doing content marketing, you should be writing about general problems that your target market faces (eg: I didn’t even know I needed a dashboard.)
  • if you’re not able to differentiate your product, branding becomes critical
  • keep an eye on the language your customers and prospects use either through chat, search or support and make sure your copy uses the same words

Photo Credit: Artur Staszewski.