Offer a Free Trial of your Web App? Don’t EVER do this…

Offer a Free Trial? Stop! Don't Ever Do This!Are conversions from Free Trial to Paid Customer not as high as you’d like?

You work hard at Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) on the front end (including your Pricing Page), you pay a lot to get people into your Free Trial through advertising, and you just can’t seem to convert enough of them into paying customers.

Or you do all of that CRO & advertising and then put up artificial barriers-to-entry that cost you the sale before they ever get to try your product.

Some of you get a bunch of people into your Free Trial just to have them leave right after signing-up, never to return. The majority who stick around don’t make it to the end of the trial as active users and few ever convert.

Most SaaS & Web App vendors I talk to are simply looking at their Free Trial strategy wrong; tactical changes are not the answer.

… many times the change starts with mindset.

The biggest problem is that you just don’t know what works and what to try because the information is simply not available.

Unless you’ve gone through – or are willing to go through – many rounds of trial and error, how are you supposed to know what really works to make Free Trials more effective at doing the thing it is designed to do: creating CUSTOMERS?

I’ve got to show you what one of the Free Trials I recently signed-up for did as an example of what not to do.

What actually started out as a great thing – a vendor sending a follow-up email to me the day after I started the trial – took a terrible turn.

You must know that email follow-up is a HUGE part of the Free Trial process that most SaaS or Web App vendors either don’t do… or absolutely screw up.

Once I opened the email I saw it was the latter and was frankly shocked at what I saw… please, NEVER DO THIS:

Need any help with your [app] account? Hi Lincoln, I’m the community manager here, and I was just wondering if you’ve figured out [our app] yet? It’s pretty flexible and doesn’t always make sense at first glance. Would you like to chat for a few minutes or share screens for a demo?

That is 100% legit – I promise.

I’m keeping their name secret simply to not embarrass them.

But OMG… really?

“Need any help with your [app] account?”

“Have you ‘figured out our product yet?'”

“Doesn’t always make sense at first glance”

Seriously… don’t send me an email like that when you are supposed to be selling me on your app (remember… I haven’t paid yet).

If your app is hard to use AND YOU KNOW IT then fix it.

If it doesn’t always make sense at first glance, fix it!

Don’t put the burden on me to figure it out because – NEWS FLASH – I won’t.

And don’t make me have to talk to you just to figure out how to get started using your product if you have provided me with a self-service sign-up process.

“But our product is really complex…” then you need to make sure your product is actually a good candidate for a self-service sales process.

“But our product does SO MUCH STUFF…” then figure out what the first things someone needs to do to use your product… if that is loading tons of legacy data, setting up tons of business rules, creating an extensive user/privilege matrix… again, maybe this isn’t a candidate app for self-service.

“But our product is too cheap to allow for high-touch sales”… topic for another day, sorry.

Now let me be clear… there’s a difference between holding someone’s hand through a technical on-boarding and using marketing – in-product and otherwise – to guide their use of the product in a way that efficiently and effectively gets them heavily invested in your product before they even buy.

Clearly the vendor that sent that email doesn’t understand this difference.

I imagine that vendor has what I call a deceitful conversion rate, too.

They might get enough people that have figured out on their own that they need that product AND are willing to figure things out on their own when they sign-up AND who eventually convert when the trial expires – despite the vendor’s best efforts to turn them away – to make it seem okay.

This vendor probably just figures they need MORE visitors since “it’s just a numbers game, right?”

They just accept – like most SaaS & Web App companies I talk to about Free Trials – that 95% of the folks who try your product actually have no intention of ever paying for or using their product.

Really? 95% of the BUSINESS people that sign-up for the Free Trial of your B2B SaaS app are there to waste their time and give you their contact information for fun? Really? Think about that.

Free Trials aren’t Freemium, folks. Big huge MASSIVE difference.

“But they’re evaluating our app along with several others” … and? They intend to buy SOMETHING right? Why not your app?

There is a lot more to a successful Free Trial strategy that only the MOST SUCCESSFUL SaaS & Web App vendors consider… but this is a good start!

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 improving and accelerating customer acquisition.

– Lincoln
(972) 200-9317

About Lincoln Murphy

I am a Customer Success-driven Growth Consultant. I wrote the Customer Success book which you can buy at Amazon. If you need help growing your SaaS, request at least a 15-minute call with me via Clarity. Be sure to join my mailing list - I send awesome stuff to the list every week or so. Also, connect with me on LinkedIn or follow me on Twitter.

Comments

  1. Amazing story Lincoln. And, as usual, excellent analysis and perspective. Our approaches to optimizing the conversion of visitor to trialer are completely different from the process of converting a trialer to a customer. And our numbers show that we’re on the right track. Thanks for a great post.

  2. This is awesome Lincoln. I actually found you the other day by watching your interview with Assistly which was very insightful. I am the founder of a SaaS company and we are only offering our app for free right now, as we’re still in our early stages and are trying to build users, optimize our landing pages for conversions, and optimize the product itself to help trial users become full users. We’re doing this all while developing more features to improve the app. I feel like this process is a never ending math problem of testing & adjusting. You’re articles have been very helpful…

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