customer journey funnel

Buyer Journey vs Customer Lifecycle: a Comprehensive Guide

Marketing phrases get confusing pretty quickly.

It’s not just the abundance of three- and four-letter acronyms that muddies the waters. It is also a lot of seemingly similar terms. In common usage, these buzzwords and phrases are interchangeable. Technically, however, most of them have different and nuanced meanings.

And the “buyer journey” and the “customer lifecycle” are two main examples.

As a Seller, you need to be clear about these two concepts. A complete understanding will allow you to implement effective marketing and user optimization strategies. Thus, turning more potential customers into repeat buyers and loyal advocates.

A partial or incomplete misunderstanding, on the other hand, has the potential to dramatically affect conversions at all stages of your sales funnel. And not in a good way.

In this post, we are going to define the two terms clearly. We will also provide you with an overview of how to implement them in your business.

Customer Onboarding Template

What is the buyer journey?

The phrase “buyer journey” is often misused. Most of the time, marketers will use it to describe any form of customer-business interaction.

But it has a specific technical meaning that is crucial to understand.

Simply put, the buyer journey is the set of experiences a customer goes through from the moment they begin to interact with your brand.

The buyer journey is generally divided into three stages: Awareness, Consideration, and Decision.

Here’s a quick rundown of each:

Awareness – This is when a potential customer first acts on a need. They may actively search for a solution (inbound marketing), or passively come across an ad (outbound marketing). In any case, awareness means the first interaction a potential customer has with your brand. They can do some initial research, such as reading about the options available on a comparison website, before finding your product.

Consideration: At this stage, potential customers have clarified their needs or problems, visited your site, and are becoming aware of the specific products you offer. When a customer consumes content, such as on a product page, they are in the consideration phase. They can combine activity on your site with further research and comparisons on competing sites.

Decision: At the decision stage, a consumer feels they have a sufficient understanding of the options available and the extent to which they can solve the need that triggered the customer journey. If they feel their solution is preferable, they will add a product to their cart and pay.

A customer journey cannot be micromanaged. It’s impossible to control every aspect of the customer journey, and there are many differences between individual customer journeys, but you can always improve.

Instead, retailers should seek to improve the quality and effectiveness of all their brand touchpoints. The effectiveness of this optimization process can be measured using metrics associated with the buyer’s life cycle.

Which leads very well to the next section.

What is the customer lifecycle?

The buyer’s journey is the sum total of all the experiences a typical user has during their encounters with your brand. Whereas, the customer lifecycle is your framework for understanding the typical progression of an existing customer.

Think of it this way. A visitor who first encounters your brand through a Google ad is in the Awareness stage of the customer journey and the Acquisition stage of the customer lifecycle. The buyer’s journey is viewed from the customer’s perspective, while the life cycle is understood from the seller’s perspective.

customer lifecycle

A typical life cycle of a buyer is made up of different stages that each customer will go through.

Basically, the customer life cycle comprises the ways in which you label customers for business purposes.

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Typical and simplified version of the customer journey in SaaS:

Conversion – Conversion occurs when a potential customer becomes a customer. Every B2B Saas company tracks its conversion rate. Improving this key metric is fundamentally about optimizing your site and improving the buyer’s journey on the site.

Onboarding – With B2B SaaS Onboarding becomes an important aspect of the customer lifecycle. Proper onboarding is required for the customer to get to the first value quickly. In the subscription model, retention is key. Customer Success plays a very important role from this point in the customer lifecycle. Customer Success with its proactive approach makes sure that the customer lifecycle is as smooth as possible. 

Product Adoption- Adoption is another tricky phase in the customer lifecycle. You need to teach them the product nuances as well as track whether they are using the product optimally or not. Customer Success again becomes handy in this part of the lifecycle.

Loyalty – In B2B, loyalty is generally measured by metrics like CSAT, which measures how satisfied the customer is with the overall experience interacting with your brand. 

Advocacy / Evangelism: This stage coincides with “loyalty.” Existing customers who have developed a strong and vocal relationship with your brand is described as advocates or evangelists. It can be measured by Net promoter score.

It is essential to keep in mind that the customer life cycle corresponds to the different stages of the customer journey.

Most companies will seek to optimize the average life cycle of their buyers by improving the quality and relevance of the customer journey.

The metrics associated with each stage of the buyer life cycle (conversion rate, retention rate, average lifetime value, etc.) provide a way to measure the effectiveness of customer journey optimization.

What are Buyer’s Journey Mapping and Customer Lifecycle Mapping?

You’ve probably heard the phrases “buyer’s journey” and “customer lifecycle” in association with the term “mapping”. Mapping is an essential part of b2b SaaS marketing and sales optimization.

So what exactly is this?

In this context, a map is a visual representation of the customer journey or the customer’s life cycle. It enables you to identify areas for improvement, manage existing touchpoints, and also create new stages and experiences for customers.

What are the steps to buyer journey mapping ?

A Buyer’s journey map is a detailed outline of the potential experiences customers may have with your brand throughout their lifetime.

The lifecycle map is general and refers to the state of the customer, while the customer journey map is specific and refers to customer experiences. A buyer journey mapping though ends at sales giving a demo and free trial beginning for B2B Saas.

buyer /customer lifecycle

Now that you have an in-depth understanding of both the buyer journey and the customer lifecycle, let’s take a look at the nuts and bolts of managing these processes.

What are the seven steps to customer journey mapping ?

A customer life cycle map is an outline of the sequential stages that customers go through. It is comparable to a sales funnel, but it is usually more detailed. It will also overlap and reference parts of the customer journey.

Typically in the SaaS world, a seven-step process is followed to map the customer journey, which includes-

  1. Step 1: Conducting Discovery Meetings.
  2. Step 2: Introducing Employee Workshops.
  3. Step 3: Qualitative Validation.
  4. Step 4: Quantitative Validation.
  5. Step 5: Creating a Final Report and Map.
  6. Step 6: Action Planning and Blueprinting.
  7. Step 7: Desigining New Experience Workshop.

What are Buyer Journey Management and Customer Lifecycle Management?

Lifecycle and buyer journey maps are active documents. They enable you to drive key metrics by developing and implementing effective marketing, sales, and retention strategies.

The management of the lifecycle and the path of the client are the processes by which the client maintains and optimizes the overall experience of the customer.

Let’s take a look at each one.

Customer journey management is about understanding your customers and providing the kind of experiences and touchpoints that best suit their needs.

At a basic level, it’s also about influencing and shaping the areas of expertise that fall under your purview. It is impossible to control word-of-mouth marketing, for example. But you can create on-site experiences that are tailored to specific informational and emotional desires and pain points. In a survey, the vast majority of respondents said that a “journey-based approach” positively affected key metrics. 

Optimizing the customer experience should span all channels and touchpoints and push users toward a seamless, “ideal” customer journey whenever possible. 

Here’s a quick rundown of the top reasons why buyer journey management is important in B2B SaaS:

  • It allows you to see how customers are finding your brand and determine the best ways to increase reach.
  • Enables you to identify the most pressing customer needs and wants and assess current touchpoints and user experiences in this context.
  • It shows your areas of weakness and gaps in the buyer journey and allows you to correct them accordingly.

So what about customer lifecycle management?

Managing the lifecycle is to categorize customers so effectively that you can create content and experiences that move through its “funnel” life cycle with the least possible friction.

Buyer Journey vs. Customer Lifecycle: What’s the Difference? 

Here’s the bottom line: Customer lifecycle management is about moving customers through the various stages of your funnel, from acquisition to loyal evangelist. This is accomplished by maximizing value, encouraging targeted actions, and reducing friction (this is where customer success excels). Buyer journey management is essentially about providing users with the right content at the right time. Here’s a quick rundown of the top reasons why customer lifecycle management is important in b2B SaaS:

  • It enables you to turn understanding of your customers’ needs and pain points into actionable sales and marketing processes.
  • Enables you to personalize and target your marketing content to customers.
  • It allows you to evaluate the effectiveness of your long-term business and highlight any areas that need development. For example, you may be sacrificing long-term customers to acquire new ones and need to dedicate more resources to customer retention.
  • It gives you a clear overview of where your key metrics (conversion rate, average order value, retention rate, average lifetime value, etc.) fit into the larger business landscape. Most metrics are typically tied to a stage or stages in the customer’s life cycle.

SaaS organizations typically use a set of tools to manage and optimize the customer lifecycle. Detailed customer profiling, personalization, etc. are examples of processes that maintain and optimize the customer lifecycle.


In B2B Saas, the buyer journey and the customer life cycle are two separate but overlapping concepts.

As a service provider, it is essential to remember that all the functions: sales, marketing, customer success and support work together. 

Understanding the customer lifecycle gives you a high-level understanding of the health of customers and their relationship to your brand. Getting acquainted with the buyer journey allows you to empathize with customers’ experiences with your brand. Alowing you to put yourself in their shoes and see the world through their eyes.

But only by creating a customer journey can you meet and exceed your sales and business goals. Whether measured in terms of conversion rate, average lifetime value, total sales, etc.

Similarly, a deep understanding of the buyer journey provides you with the information you need to target customers and experiences that will seamlessly move them from one stage of the customer lifecycle to the next.

Jahan Patel is a content marketer at CustomerSuccessBox. He loves languages and loves writing about growth & businesses. On his off time, you can find him sitting in a cozy cafe reading a book.