Sunday, December 2, 2012

Making free trials work: 3 tips

Lots of software-as-a-service (SaaS) companies offer free trials.  But in even the best cases, only about a modest portion of the free trialers actually convert into paying customers.

In fact, many times the free trialers don't even try the free stuff.

People download the trial, but then they get distracted.

Or they don't have the time to use it.

Or they don't have the data they need to get started.

Or they decide it's a hassle.

Or they lose interest.

Or whatever.

Totango calls these folks "accidental trialers:"  prospective customers who sign up for a free trial and then do nothing.

After a few weeks, the trial expires - a complete flop for both the prospective customer and the SaaS provider:

The prospect gains little experience with the product and misses the opportunity to see how it might be helpful.

The provider has little opportunity to convert the free trialer into a paying customer.   They've invested in finding and cultivating a prospect, but they can't close the deal.

How can SaaS providers avoid this?  How can they get prospects to actually try the free trial?

Tip 1:  Don't make the trialer work too hard

Just because your solution is free doesn't mean your prospective customer's time is free.  If you ask them to do lots of work - track down data, configure forms, set-up work flows - they're likely to bail out.

Instead provide completed templates, default settings and benchmark data already filled in.  The trialer, of course, can make changes, but they're not starting from a blank page.

Tip 2:  Don't overwhelm the trialer

You're proud of your solution - every bell and whistle of it.  And your paying customers may grow to love every bell and whistle too - eventually.  But your free trialers probably aren't yet ready to see every single feature and function, and they may be overwhelmed by a walk-through of the entire product.

At this stage, it's better to focus the prospect on accomplishing a few simple, common tasks.  Show them how easy the solution is to use and how quickly they can achieve worthwhile results.  Get them as soon as possible to an "Aha!" moment.

Tip 3:  Offer help

Even with the simplest, most intuitive solutions, the prospect might need some guidance.  These folks aren't dense; they're just busy.

Give them a guided tour through the trial, a step-by-step guidebook, a recorded tutorial, or one-on-one coaching.

Yes, helping free trialers can be expensive.  But remember, you've already spent time and money to get prospects this far in the purchase process.

Spending more to push them one final step - and convert them from trialers to buyers - might be a worthwhile investment.



Creative Commons License

This work by Peter Cohen, SaaS Marketing Strategy Advisors is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License. Images obtained via iCLIPART.com.


  
  
 


4 comments:

  1. "These folks aren't dense; they're just busy."

    Well put. We're discovering great results from giving new sign ups a 30-45 minute tour over GotoMeeting for our CRM SaaS software. It has profound effects on conversion rates. No CRM is a walk in the park, people come to a CRM with certain ideas of how it's supposed to work, and a real chance they might miss "must have or it's a deal killer" features. A walk through by a support person is the best way to avoid losing a trial user.

    ReplyDelete
  2. By far, converting free-trials into paying customers it´s the hardest stage involved in the selling process.

    Could you recommend some literature regarding this specific bottle-neck ?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Other posts in this blog offer additional insights into free trials and how to convert more trialers into buyers. For example, see: http://saasmarketingstrategy.blogspot.com/2012/02/free-trials-dont-always-make-sense.html

      Delete
  3. Great tips, thanks Peter. Good to point out to some that the customers are indeed not dense. ;-) Kristie

    ReplyDelete