Think your free trial will do the job of selling your SaaS product itself?
Unfortunately, no matter how ground-breaking you believe your product to be, we have a problem in SaaS with convincing customers to make the upgrade to a paid product. People are often languishing on free options (if available) or simply letting their trial expire without going on to the upgrade.
Of course, not every customer that signs up for a free trial will be a good fit. Sometimes they’re simply checking out your product because it’s free and have no real intention of becoming a regular user. Sometimes they want your SaaS to work for them, but the reality is it’s simply not the right fit for their needs. That aside, SaaS are losing too many customers who would be the right fit, if only they could ensure users get beyond the free trial.
Why should a customer upgrade from your free trial?
Why do customers say “no?”
First of all, it helps to have an understanding of the common reasons why customers say “no” to upgrading from your free trial. Some of these reasons you’ll almost never be able to counter, but for others, you can make a plan to overcome those objections.
They just don’t see the value in paying
There may be a number of reasons for this — perhaps your product really doesn’t meet a need they have and they’re unlikely so see any value from it anyway. More often though, it’s because SaaS have failed to properly help the client through the trial period so that they’re able to realize that value.
Your free trial can’t exist in isolation — you need material such as content to back it up. As Hubspot says: “Content – in the form of blogs, videos and downloadable guides – helps you to stand out from your competitors (which could be many – remember, you’re not that innovative). It’s also the best way to attract potential customers still in the ‘awareness’ stage of the buying cycle: people who have identified the need to solve a problem, but are yet to evaluate potential solutions.”
Of course, what you need will depend on the complexity of your product, so make sure you give some thought to developing a high-quality demo which highlights the key features and benefits well. As Hubspot point out: “it could also be that some subtle complexity – or that one feature that really, really hooks new users in when they find it – just doesn’t come across in the context of the free trial. Some people may have questions about your product they can’t answer when left to their own devices.”
Key Lesson: Make sure you’ve got as much backup information in place as you need to sit alongside your free trial and ensure that the customer is aware of what’s available. Actually demonstrating value is the key here.
Too much “friction”
How much information are you requesting on signup? Are you also requiring credit card details? While many SaaS prefer to collect payment details early in order to set apart the tire kickers from the true prospects, analysis has shown that there are often better conversion rates if you don’t require payment details first up.
Totango analysed 550 SaaS and found that those who required credit cards to sign up for free trials had lower signup conversion rates. If you’d still prefer to collect credit card information, understand that one of the reasons customers are reluctant to hand those details over is because they’re worried they’ll be billed automatically (we’ve all been there!). Try reassuring them by not automatically billing and letting them know they will need to “opt in” for an upgrade and to be billed rather than having to opt out.
Another common friction point is wanting virtually all information, save what the customer had for breakfast on Wednesday last week as part of the signup process. We tend to be impatient creatures who prefer “quick and easy” when it comes to signing up for anything. Besides that, you may also find that people are leery of giving out too much information. Give them a reason to trust you first and let them get through the free trial and upgrade on minimum information. You can always request more on a voluntary basis later, to “help us serve you better.”
Signing up for your free trial, followed by upgrading to paid membership should be a simple process which any customer can follow intuitively. As Kissmetrics states: “By the way, if the customer has to ask how to buy the product or activate a new account, you’re doing it wrong. The process should be childishly simple.”
Key Lesson: Don’t tie customers up with all sorts of “requirements” to sign up. They’ll see it as annoying, prying or difficult and you’ll lose people.
Getting support is (perceived to be) difficult
What have you got in place to nurture customers who are on your free trial? Believe it or not, there are still plenty of SaaS out there for whom the answer is “next to nothing.” People get dropped into the free trial, maybe have a few pieces of content thrown at them or the odd email, but don’t have much more in the way of support.
Again, your requirements may depend on the complexity of your product, but at the very least, you should be nurturing trial users with engaging, timely emails. Unbounce wrote a piece on nurturing through email where they featured research showing that only 26% of SaaS companies are using emails to nurture trial users and turn them into paying customers. 26% — that suggests a large number of SaaS are missing out on a nurturing technique which is not difficult to implement.
The thing with regular email contact is that it helps to let the customer know you are there to help them through the trial and can provide them with content that is relevant and of interest. For example, you can effectively use list segmentation to trigger emails based on behaviors, with better results as they are more relevant to the customer.
Unbounce provided a few tips in their article for better email nurturing, such as:
- Send the first email immediately on sign up for the free trial.
- Personalize emails by addressing the customer by name and providing clear name and contact details for yourself.
- Provide clear instructions for getting started.
- Keep in regular contact throughout the trial.
We’d add here that you should also be very clear about where the customer can go if they need help. No one likes to have to click around looking for support when they need it and this helps to create the perception that you make getting support difficult. Give them options where you can, such as a searchable knowledge base, easy ways to contact customer support or even simply a contact form. Of course if you do this, the key will be to respond promptly to any requests.
Key Lesson: Be available and communicate regularly! Make it clear to customers how they can get help if needed.
Why should a customer upgrade from your free trial? Because your SaaS will be the absolute best at solving a genuine need they have, of course. However, the key is that you need to communicate this during the free trial.
Ensure that your trial customers have every opportunity to see the value that your SaaS can provide them with, including via content and product demos. Don’t assume everyone can work things out themselves — many won’t have the patience.
Make your signup process as frictionless as possible so that your customers are comfortable handing over their details. It should be obvious to the customer what their next step is and how to take it.
Keep nurturing the customer via email throughout the process and make it clear to them how to get help if needed. No one wants to struggle and feel that help is elusive. Don’t leave things to chance, be there for your trial customers at all stages and help them feel confident to take the next step.
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