I had a SaaS vendor ask me the following question when I mentioned “average” Free Trial conversion rates:
When we look at broad Free Trial conversion ratios, I would assume some of the variances may depend on how much information is required to sign up for a free trial.
For example, there are a number of sites that require very little, if any, prospect information (i.e., just an email).
Others required name, phone, email, address, and some other information.
These are two approaches to pre-qualification.
I would expect the former will allow the casual less-than-curious person to take a peak, many of which may not be a fit for long term use.
They wouldn’t buy regardless. In the second model, these “non-prospects” would steer away and not even become a statistic in the conversion ratios.
It would be very interesting to hear you opinion and experience on the data capture sign up approaches.
And my response to him was:
Paul, I’d say variances are more likely tied to the sources of the data.
Consider whether it makes real sense to lump together a light-weight Project Management App like 37Signals’ Basecamp, a vertical-specific vendor like RecruiterBox, and an Enterprise HCM product like Workday when looking for “average” conversion rates… or “average” anything to do with SaaS for that matter?
But you bring up something that is rarely talked about or generally glossed over: Free Trial sign-up forms, and their importance in the overall Sales Process for a SaaS or Web App vendor.
I’ll start with your point about pre-qualification.
The way I look at it, pre-qualification should start long before the sign-up process.
How you position your product, the sales copy you use, the imagery and social proof, and even what you do to engage with your prospects before they sign-up (webinars, whitepapers, etc.) will all help in the pre-qualification / self-selecting process.
I really can’t see how asking for a phone number or title on a sign-up form qualifies or disqualifies a prospects. It does add data points, but qualification based simply on the existence of that information is a stretch.
On the other hand, there is a massive body of evidence from years of testing in the e-commerce and Internet Marketing industries that indicates asking for too much information on a form will reduce the number of people that fill out the form or in this case, sign-up.
Yes, a longer Free Trial sign-up form with good marketing (sales copy, social proof, imagery, etc.) might get more people to complete it than a short one with no marketing, but what about a shorter sign-up form WITH improved marketing?
So I always ask for the bare minimum – which will vary from vendor to vendor and can be as little as just the email address – on the first sign-up form – surrounded by all of the afore mentioned marketing elements.
Then I rely on a strong Free Trial strategy backed-up by psychological factors – such as the rules of Commitment and Consistency put forth by Robert Cialdini in his book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion – to complete the prospect profile in the post-signup & in-app engagement process.
The rule of Commitment and Consistency basically says that people are much more willing to give you information AFTER they’ve made a commitment – even if very small, like entering their email address – than up-front without any previous commitment.
But it isn’t just collecting the information from them, it is HOW you do it. It should be done in a way that allows them to provide information not so you can sell or pitch them, but instead to improve their in-app experience and help them complete the evaluation of the product in a timely and efficient manner.
But this requires a completely different approach to Free Trials than most SaaS & Web App vendors take – one that gets away from “evaluation” as the basis for the trial and moves toward Engagement.
If you’ve been in-market at least 6 months and are curious how we could Accelerate your Profitable Growth – perhaps by optimizing your Free Trial – contact me and we’ll setup a time to discuss your options for moving your company forward.