SaaS Free Trial Users are a Vanity Metric

There is no such thing as an “inactive user” in a SaaS free trial.

You can’t be a “user” if you aren’t “using,” right? Makes sense.

I think we get confused because in software the “user” connotation comes from the fact that a user is literally someone for whom an access account has been created.

Even for SaaS vendors, when the person signs-up for our app, they technically become a USER within our system through provisioning.

So, instead of saying all “users” aren’t created equal, I just don’t consider someone who only created an account to be a user.

Problem solved.

But that kind of shoots down your “we signed up 100 users today!” vanity metric, huh?

Look, of course you need to track how many people sign-up for your Free Trial, but you must do it in context…

… and that context is in the entire sales process.

100 people sign-up for your Free Trial, 95 convert to paying customers… cool.

100 people sign-up for your Free Trial, 5 convert to paying customers… something is wrong.

So, the number of Free Trial sign-ups clearly doesn’t matter on it’s own… it’s what’s happening between the sign-up and conversion steps that the real context lies.

In the context of a Free Trial, we cannot consider anyone who is not actively using the system to be a user.

They’re either using, or not.

If they aren’t actively using, they’re not trying your product.

They aren’t engaged.

They aren’t investing their time, effort, and resources in your product.

Those who aren’t active users are wasted advertising money… you paid to get them to your site and get them signed-up, only to lose them.

Those who aren’t active users are wasted resources… at the very least, you built an app you’d like people to pay to use, right?

Those who aren’t active users are wasted effort… see above.

Even worse – because of the effect it can have on your strategy – is that those who are not active users are the source of mis-placed enthusiasm and optimism (“look how many signed-up today!”).

But how do you define an active user?

Well, at the most basic level a User is someone who is actively *using* something… in this case, that something is your product.

If they aren’t using it, they aren’t a user… I already said that.

This is an important perspective / mindset to embrace, but we need to go further.

There are different levels of use that you need to measure to ensure proper engagement in your Free Trial.

Proper Engagement in your Free Trial is what leads a user to convert to a paid customer.

Here’s a post where I talk about Engagement in Free Trials and how the lack of engagement kills Free Trial success.

So, an Engaged User is what you should be focused on developing in your Free Trial…

…that’s a metric that will be directly correlated with revenue, which is what we want.

But just like all Users aren’t created equal, non-users also aren’t created equal.

Two types of “non-users” that you need to be aware of are:

SaaS Free Trial User Type: Bouncers

Do you know how many people sign-up but never login?

Do you know how many people sign-up, login once, but never come back?

The question is… why do they bounce so quick? We can’t assume every single sign-up was just messing with you, right?

SaaS Free Trial User Type: Wannabes

Maybe they know your product can do something… maybe they’re sure your product can do something… but they can’t figure it out, so they leave.

Then they might come back later to try again, can’t figure it out, and leave again.

Yeah, they bounce, but it will be after a few attempts.

They “wannabe” a customer of yours but you didn’t design your Free Trial experience to make that happen. That’s your fault (luckily you can fix it, though).

So, do you know how many people login more than once but don’t do anything? You might want to keep track of that.

Now there are lots of ways to deal with these types of non-users and I’m happy to setup a time to discuss the ways that make sense for you and your SaaS product.

No matter what, from now on, when someone signs-up for your Free Trial, remember… that’s just the beginning!

Celebrate that your front-end conversion is working, ring a bell, self-high five, whatever you need to do, but quickly move on to engage them, because the work has just started, my friend.

But keep in mind that your Free Trial is the one – and often only – part of the “sales funnel” that you have any real control over.

Wield that control like the mighty sword that it is!

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