Before you start Optimizing your SaaS Free Trial to improve free-to-paid Conversions, learn the 5 things that must be done first…
Here are five things that are required before optimization really makes a lot of sense. You don’t want to spend a lot of time optimizing your Free Trial if these aren’t already in place. On the flip side, going through the steps that we talk about – going through the process of optimization – will actually force you to take a look at some of these things.
1. Have a Product that solves a real problem
Number one, you have to have a product that solves a real problem. That should be a no-brainer for us, right? Well, occasionally we run into situations where the problem is something that doesn’t really exist outside of maybe our office or our computer or our world. We build a great product, but it doesn’t actually solve a real problem that anyone else has, or would be willing to pay for.
2. Sell to a Market that knows they have a problem
More often than not, it’s not the product that’s the problem, it’s that the problem that you’re trying to solve isn’t one that your market knows about. They don’t know that they have a problem. It’s really hard and expensive and time consuming to try to get people to know that they have a problem. Then, once they know they have the problem, then to convince them that you have the solution to that problem.
A lot of folks that are start-up entrepreneurs in the web space are programmers by trade or at heart or however we want to say it, and they can build a really great product. Then they can go out and find scaleable ways to reach an audience, but the problem is, if the audience doesn’t know they have a problem, that’s going to be difficult.
3. Have a scalable, sustainable, and repeatable way to reach that market
So, you need a product that solves a real problem, and you need to have a market that ideally already knows that they have a problem. Got that.
But then, number three, you have to have a scaleable, sustainable, and repeatable way to reach that market. So I’m talking about distribution, personas, understanding who the different buyers are, and all those different things. For many SaaS companies, this means being able to maintain a steady (or steadily increasing) flow of relevant traffic to their marketing website.
Look, if you have a product that solves a real problem and the market knows they have a problem, but it requires you to go out in person to meet with each and every potential customer, but the price your customers are willing to pay is too low, then there may not be an economically viable opportunity there.
High-touch, high-cost sales are not counter to SaaS (see the Salesforce.com example below), but for a low-priced product, that might not work.
And let’s be very clear… there are situations where you might have a product that solves a real problem and a scaleable and sustainable way to reach them… but if they don’t know they have a problem, that’s going to be your biggest hurdle.
4. Ensure your product conforms to User Experience and User Interface best practices
Somebody said to me, “Hey, Lincoln, you don’t cover usability in this program.” I said, “Well, there’s a lot of stuff I don’t cover in this program. It’s very focused on free trials. Sorry. I can’t do everything.” But he said, “You should cover that.”
So I just shared an article with my clients called “Usability Matters for Conversion.” It’s a list of resources for best practices. But I have to admit that I took for granted that we were creating products that were usable and that conformed to usability best practices.
But I don’t want to take things for granted anymore. If your product is not usable, that’s a problem. If your product looks like an enterprise product and you’re trying to come to market in a way that’s new and agile and all these new buzz words, and your product looks like this old-timey software, that could be a problem, especially if everything else, all the adjacent products in your market are modern looking and cool.
On the flip side, you can go too modern and too cool for your market, and you have to be careful. I would say, and I give this warning in that post that I just put up, that you have to be careful of falling into the trap of best practices for software design, when what we’re selling is something different than “software.”
So learn usability from a software standpoint, sure, but don’t forget that this doesn’t have to be a software interface. It can be something that looks like a webpage, something that’s a little bit more friendly.
5. Offer a way for your customers to buy the way they want to/can buy
If you have everything else on this list in place, that’s great. But you have to have a way for your customers to buy the way they want to or can buy.
One of the biggest problems I see, especially with companies that are coming from the enterprise or installed software world to SaaS or the Cloud is that, “Well, we’re going to take credit cards. We’re going to charge $19.95 a month,” or whatever it is, “and take your credit card.”
The reality is, just because you changed your model or just because you’re coming to market with a certain model doesn’t mean that your market is ready for that. They might still require invoices and pay by check or pay by ACH or whatever it is. So you have to present your solution in a way that your audience can actually consume it. So you need to think about it from a price standpoint.
You always hear this OpEx versus CapEx in terms of SaaS, one of the big value propositions for SaaS or Cloud or whatever. That’s fine and we understand that. We can say that capital expenditures for large enterprise software installations are a thing of the past. That we need to come in and charge on a monthly basis or recurring basis so that we’re in the operating expense. But there are situations where that might not be what needs to happen.
Salesforce.com just announced a few weeks ago that they closed a multi-year $100M deal. That’s not on a credit card. That’s not a per month price. It was a very big deal for the #1 SaaS company in the world – a very big deal – and very much an enterprise sale. If they only accepted Credit Cards and only had a self-service sales model, they might have left a substantial amount of money on the table!
So we have to take those things into consideration. Just because we have the SaaS business architecture doesn’t mean we’re going to be able to change, necessarily, the way our customers buy. Now, if you have a large enough brand, if you’ve been in the market long enough, if you have a large enough market penetration, at some point you may be able to influence the way your customers buy. But that might not be the way it is right out of the gate.
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.