Offering free trials is done with one clear goal in mind: To make money! If your free trial is not ultimately converting to paying customers, then you are doing something wrong. SaaS and web applications that utilize free trials correctly should be raking in double digit paid conversions. So how do you do this?
1: Top Priority - Make Sure They Actually Use the Trial
Let's face it. Unless you have no competitors, your customers are probably evaluating additional solutions simultaneously. Your goal must be to make sure you are their top choice - this means making the onboarding process as easy as possible. There are many tools you can use to guide the users in their initial experience with your platform, including basic simple tool tips, video tutorials step-by-step website guidance solutions like WalkMe.com.
2: Promote the Added Benefits
When a new user comes to your website, he or she is thinking about what you can offer. This is your chance to reel the user in - by understanding their needs and anticipating and providing capabilities, applications, products and other offerings that meet their specific requirements. This means demonstrating your key values and difference amongst your competitors as early as possible and grabbing their attention with your user interface design or overlaying graphical enhancements like arrows or calls to action.
3: Add a Telephone Number to Your Site
While this obviously will not help an already problematic trial achieve conversions, it is a good opportunity to achieve conversions when dealing with customers with greater levels of potential. When a potential buyer takes the time to make a phone call, there is a decent chance that if your sales representative handles the call appropriately, the sale may well be closed. Display the phone number in a visible spot, and if you do not answer, provide the option of leaving a voicemail-and return calls promptly. A phone number also gives your site added authority, by making you appear more accessible to the user.
4: Engage Your Users
You must keep your users involved and engaged. This means an easily navigable site with a clear and logical web process. If a visitor arrives on your trial page but doesn't find the information he is looking for, then what have you accomplished? If the user is unsure of where to click and what to do next, you are definitely going to lose the conversion.
Additionally, keep your users engaged by regularly providing graduated offers and initial free trials. And for those who don't convert to paid users offer case studies, free trial renewals or invites to webinars, etc. For tough sells, you can add special discounts to encourage them to convert from free to paid use of your product. The secret is always keeping the effort going-without letting up.
5: Carpe Diem - Don't Wait for Sales to Come to You
Promote your product and ask for the sale! Use all the means at hand - whitepapers, reviews, testimonials, FAQs, webinars. Branding is key here - become the 'expert' on your market niche, and make sure your free trial users know it. Utilize clearly placed calls to action at strategic points throughout the website to get them to click and convert, all the while guiding your free trial users into converting paid users.
6: Shorten the Length of Your Offering's Free Trial
Consider shortening the length of your free trials. A month-long free usage period means you will likely not close the sale before that month is up. Shorten the trial period and approach for the sale as the customer realizes his time is about to run-out. There is added-value, both to you and to your customer, in closing the sale.
7: Keep it Simple
Your trial may be free, but if your site or product is complicated to navigate, it won't give you the upsell. Keeping it simple is the name of the game. All processes or tasks you would like the user to complete must be as easy and as intuitive as possible. If appropriate, implementing tutorials or tooltips can also provide great assistance in guiding users through complex processes.
8: Are you Prematurely Fooling Yourself you are at a Zero Touch On-Boarding Level?
As ideal as it sounds to sit back drinking a cocktail while your smoothly greased "zero-touch on-boarding" machine pumps in clients into your startup-don't be fooled to thinking that at the early stages of your company's development, you don't have to roll your sleeves up, muscling your first batch of clients to the business. Every SaaS company should aspire to become at the level of having a zero touch on-boarding business flow like a cult underground film's popularity slowly growing by word of mouth. But that takes time, hard effort, and a successful ability to create buzz around your product.
So in the meanwhile it's incredibly important that users coming to your product know right away exactly what they are going to get and that your inside sales team gets engaged immediately. Many SaaS vendors make the great mistake of selling you a highly confusing product where the end the user leaves or decides on another product, because no one reached out to them soon enough, or they lost interest at the confusion of the product.
Startups need to dream and strive for the days when their B2B communication and relationships are mostly driven on a zero touch on-boarding model. But till then-pick up that phone and get engaged with your clients!
The Future of Your Free Trial Sits Squarely in Your Hands
All in all, you have a lot of control over the outcome of your free trial offers. Many tools exist that meet your needs. By appropriately focusing and planning your efforts, while considering your product and audience, you will find that increasing your conversions is just a matter of time.
About the Author: Rafi Sweary is a cofounder of WalkMe.com, the world's first interactive online guidance system, enabling organizations to overlay onscreen 'Walk-Thrus' into their Web sites or apps.