The powerful allure of the free trial has made it the cornerstone of practically every digital goods vendors acquisition strategy. And for good reason. Trials give buyers an unmediated view of your product or service and allow them to evaluate the features and benefits on their own merits. If your goods have value, and you’ve done a good job of demonstrating that, then, in theory, the trial should always lead to a paid activation. The reality, however, is something more complicated. In fact, the average trial user only converts to a paying customer 15 to 20 percent of the time. And because, on average, only two percent of visitors become trial users, one can reasonably expect only 0.3 percent of visitors to actually become paying customers. Tweet
Of course, that number can increase significantly if you know how to increase your trial-subscription conversion. Increasing your activation rate is the only way to ensure that your free offering actually results in profit for your company. Here are four strategies that can help you do that:
1) Identify Evaluators
In a recent blog post, the customer success company Totango identified two distinct types of trial users: evaluators and tire-kickers. While the latter simply want to try out your software with no real intention to buy, the former begin a trial as part of a formal evaluation of whether the service works for them.
Focusing your efforts on tire-kickers will bear little fruit. You will have trouble convincing them to actually purchase a paid subscription to your SaaS solution. Identifying and focusing on evaluators, however, is a great way to maximize your marketing resources. They may be on the fence about your service at the beginning of their trial, but allowing them to use the service while nurturing them throughout their usage significantly increases the possibility that they will turn into paying customers.
2) Nurture Users
After identifying your highest-potential trial users, you can nurture them with targeted email campaigns and slowly move them toward becoming customers. That nurturing begins as soon as they sign up. Research suggests that if you don’t send an email to a new lead within 90 minutes, that lead is likely to go cold and not even begin the trial. The first email is also a great opportunity for you to explain exactly how the user can begin the trial. Tweet
But even after they have begun the trial, you should continue to nurture your users. That includes sending at least one email per week to trial users, pointing them toward software features they may not yet know about or letting them know how much time they have before their trial expires. Don’t worry about bothering them. Your customers will expect these emails, and appreciate them as long as they contain helpful information.
Once users get closer to the end of their trial period, begin to educate them about the different pricing tiers and how they can sign up.
3) Communicate Urgency
Many SaaS companies extend their trials if the user is engaged. But be careful if your trial users don’t feel like they would get extra value by signing up, they probably won’t. When you nurture your leads, carefully communicating a sense of both value and urgency can be a great strategy to increase trial-subscription conversion.
Just what will users gain by becoming paying customers? How will it help their business, and why should they signup now rather than later? If your nurturing emails answer these questions, your conversion rate is much more likely to increase.
All of the above three strategies have the potential for success. At the same time, you’ll still want to make sure that they actually worked or determine whether or not they need to be adjusted. For that reason, evaluation is perhaps the most crucial step in trial subscription conversion.
A great way to analyze just why trial users didn’t follow through and become customers is to send out a survey shortly after their trial period ends, asking exactly why they didn’t sign up for one of your pricing tiers and what changes they would like to see in both the trial and nurturing emails that may have changed their minds.
Of course, evaluating the individual nurturing emails for open and click-through rates can also help improve that strategy. Once your data samples are large enough to be representative, you can draw conclusions and adjust your trial-subscription conversion strategy as necessary.
By identifying the evaluators among your trial users, nurturing these users, driving the urgency of becoming customers and continuously evaluating your trial-conversion strategies, you can optimize your SaaS trial conversion and ultimately increase your customer base.
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