Simply having a SaaS product that is useful, easy to use, customizable and affordable is not enough in order to ensure a steady stream of users. Sad, but true. To attract customers and show how beneficial their product is, nearly every single SaaS company offers users a free trial. However, not all free trials convert the way SaaS vendors would like to see happen. According to a survey, 80% of free trial users do not convert into paying customers. If you want to leverage free trial opportunity and get more, then here are eight steps you need to take to get a higher trial-user-to-subscribing-customer conversion rate.
1. Account for Varying Stages of The Buyer’s Journey
A common mistake that many SaaS companies make is pushing free trials every step of the way during the buyer’s journey. Of course, users signing up post-trial is your #1 goal, but keep in mind that not every visitor is ready for the hard sell and pushing too hard may scare them away.
Sure, you want your free-trial to be easy to find. But, instead of linking it to every blog post, make sure to take into account the buyer’s journey stage and link your free trials to related posts or your “About Us” page, where prospects can learn more at their leisure.
As you should already know, but if you don’t, there are multiple paths to buying and different stages of each buyer’s journey, as shown in the graphic below:
Try and take a long view, seeing the big picture. Show the readers of your content that you understand their problems, needs and that you have a solution for them. Consider email campaigns for nurturing your leads before, during and after the trial signup. Send them suggestions that will encourage them to test specific features of your SaaS software, and request feedback from them - what they think rocks about your product and what needs fixing up.
2. Post Informative Content
You certainly need to start off with a free trial page for people to sign up and try your product, but if you want to have higher visitor-to-user conversion rate for your SaaS company, you need to invest time and energy (and money, of course) in quality, educational content. Create blog posts, videos, downloadable guides, case studies and internal pages that can teach prospects more about your product, and tell them how it’s going to address their pain points.
According to Totango, about 70% of people who sign up for SaaS free trial never end up using the trial at all. This is usually because there is no effective content that would support the trial’s value, before, during and after a visitor is giving your SaaS a shot. Winning content is all you need (well, and a good product as well!) to persuade many prospects to move forward from “interested” to “ready-to-buy”.
After the end of a free trial, content marketing should be a priority for you to produce, aimed at each type of user. Create email lists, segregating varying demographics of the trial users into similar groups. Next, send content tailored to the characteristics of each individual email group that you have created.
3. Define Milestones; Nurture Your Customers
The next step SaaS company owners should take is to mark events that trigger you to engage your users, step by step. Once a user has activated their trial, the real work begins. In order to design an effective nurturing program, to guide users smoothly through their trial and end up motivating them to become ready-to-buy customers, you should define certain important events that you expect to occur, and plan how to work toward making each event happen in sequence. Often called milestones, these events are types of micro-conversions that happen during a free trial. These are indicators of whether or not the user interacts with the product and takes advantage of the features in the way you want them to.
For instance, if your SaaS product is an email marketing platform, your milestones can be:
- The user has downloaded the email template
- The user has created an email template
- The user has created a draft email campaign
- The user has uploaded an email list, etc.
Based upon these milestones, you will be able to send relevant content in order to enrich the user's experience and convert them into a paying customer.
4. Send Triggered Emails
Onboarding and lead-nurturing emails are some of the most effective tools SaaS companies use in order to increase their conversion rates. Both during and after a free trial, your leads need to be treated with special care. Sometimes, all that users need is a little push in the right direction in order to be converted.
Make sure that the autoresponders you send are optimized and tested for better results. For example, after a sign-up, a “welcome” email is your first introduction to the user, so it needs to be perfect - personal and memorable. Following the “welcome” email, you need to send some triggered emails based on your user’s actions, such as frequency of logins, completing milestones, etc. in order to make their journey personalized and case-specific to their product-use habits.
5. Shorten the Free Trial Period
Some benefits of offering a free trial to your prospects include generating quality leads, testing your product in real life and getting feedback on it from real users. Pros and cons of free trial option will be discussed separately, so let's see how long the period should last.
A 30-day period may be the SaaS industry standard, but 30 days may be unnecessarily long for many SaaS companies. Besides the fact that long trials increase the cost per acquisition, they also give prospects ample time to lose interest and/or start checking out your competitors.
The free trial period should depend on the complexity of your SaaS. For entry-level editions it is a good idea to offer a quick 7-day trial, while for mega-complex high-end solutions you should stick with a 30-day trial, or sometimes even more. According to Close.io, it is only beneficial to have a 30-day trial if your SaaS product (like Dropbox or Evernote) is designed to increase in how engaged users become over a lengthy period of time. Also according to Close.io, for 99% of the SaaS companies out there it is wise to offer 14-days - the Goldilocks of free trial periods. The reasoning is that sometimes when people know that they have a short time to experience the product, they become more engaged, trying out every feature available, which can shorten the sales cycle when compared to 30-day trial periods.
6. Use Numbers
In most cases, SaaS buyers tend to think in numbers: facts, statistics, metrics and graphs. One of your best marketing strategies should be using data-driven evidence for marketing your SaaS product. First of all, numbers are easily noticed and absorbed by users and secondly, they know what results to expect from your product. Here are some examples of numerical information you can feature on your homepage or landing page:
- How much your SaaS product can save customers money
- How much your SaaS product can help customers make more money
- How quickly your SaaS product can improve business operations
- How greatly your SaaS product can increase revenue
- How much companies have increased their revenue after using this product
Accompanying your free trial with real, hard data is one of the best ways to persuade your leads to become your paying customers.
7. Provide Excellent Customer Service
Every company, but especially SaaS companies, needs to make their customer service a top priority. The reason being that you will likely never meet your customers in person, so it’s rather hard to establish a personal relationship. There are many SaaS sales reps that concentrate on getting new customers, getting them on a recurring payment cycle and then getting some more new customers. But, what about your existing customers? In general, they are the real source of revenue. In the SaaS industry, only 5-30% of company revenue is from the initial sale. The rest comes from renewals and upsells. So, to get the other 70-95%, you need to provide an awesome customer service experience both for your prospects and current customers alike. Here are some facts that underline the importance of exceptional customer service:
For SaaS companies, customer service should be provided in at least the following ways:
- Free upgrades or discounts for loyal users
- Personalized online training
- 24/7 support availability
8. User Testimonials
Testimonials from users in your target market are a must-have, but you need to choose them carefully. Sometimes, SaaS users highly discriminate when it comes to persuasion using testimonials. The most compelling testimonials usually come from users who have a lot in common with them. Therefore, it is important to use testimonials that match your target buyer persona, such as similar demographics (age, educational level, location), occupational or outside interests, and similar industries. The more relatable the testifier is to the visitor, the higher the chances are that your lead will value the testimony and convert into a paying customer.
9. Run A/B Testing
The essence of this process is simple. Let's look at an example. You have two CTAs for a page and want a data-driven proof, which one is more influential. You first test the version number one and then the second version. And the analytics tool will tell you in which case you had higher conversion rate. You just need to keep in mind two important details. Work only with one variable (don't test several things at the same time) and test it for a reasonable period. Five days or one week will surely not generate useful conclusions.
From Cloud Storage to Accounting SaaS, Follow These Steps for Conversion Success
In conclusion, it is important to mention that every SaaS company has its own unique methodology for increasing sales conversions from their free-trial users. However, the steps mentioned above are universal for all SaaS companies and can help you significantly in gaining a higher sales conversion rate. If you have any additional steps in mind from your own experience, please share them with us in the comments below. We would love to hear some of your own ideas!