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SaaS Q&A: How to convert free trial users to paying customers?

The data shows that the vast majority of free trial signups do not have a happy ending: The users do not upgrade to a paid plan. But there are still several things you can do to encourage customer conversions.

Converting free trial users to paying customers comes down to two objectives:

  • Getting your trial users to the “aha” moment as soon as possible
  • Providing a frictionless experience, all the way through

And both of these objectives live within the principle of customer success during the onboarding process. So let’s discuss each of these in a bit more depth — how they play into your customer onboarding process as a whole, and how they lead your users to seeing the value in your service.

SaaS free trial
Source: blog.intercom.io. Intercom summarizes user feedback at the end of a free trial: Did they see the value or did they not?

Get them to the “aha” moment ASAP

The “aha” moment is when a user sees the value of your service. They get it; it clicks. For example, for us at ChartMogul, it’s when a user imports their business data. Once they do that, they can actually, literally, see the benefits of our analytics software.

Determine your product’s aha moment

You can start by determining the product features that are core to seeing value. To do this you can look at data to find:

  • Which app features are being used most frequently or fully
  • Which documentation pages or parts of your knowledge base are being read again and again
  • Which emails have the highest open rates and look at what features are discussed within

Or… to go old school, just have a conversation with your paying customers. Ask which features made the buying decision for them.

Get users active immediately

According to CrazyEgg, if a customer is active within 3 days, then they are 4x more likely to convert. So, the point is to get the user to start actually using it, even just the first step. How? Through helpful content and communication that guides them through your product.

  • Onboarding content should highlight benefits and features associated with long-term success.
  • It should be brief and promote their own intuitive learning.
  • Find the right medium for your company. Demo videos, webinars, automated email campaigns? Perhaps even providing a personal demo for an individual user.

Provide a frictionless experience

The first part of this is managing their expectations.

  • Don’t oversell your features or overpromise results. Disillusionment rips a huge hole in your conversion funnel; it’s a sure-fire way for users to drop out.
  • Let them know what to expect during the trial. Are you going to send them emails throughout with information and tips? (Yes.) Let them know. That way they won’t be annoyed or feel spammed, they’ll feel more inclined to actually open the email — and who knows, they may be looking forward to them.
Disillusionment rips a huge hole in your conversion funnel; it’s a sure-fire way for users to drop out.
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Here are some other things you can do:

At free trial signup

  • Don’t require a credit card
  • Condensed sign-up forms: keep it short and sweet. ie- Require just an email at first.
  • Clear call to action, with an explanation of what will happen next. Give your users certainty about what will happen when they submit, and they’ll be more likely to click that button.
  • Early communication that introduces the product. Greet them with a personalized (and automated) email directly after signup, or even a phone call.

Throughout free trial

Action-based, behavior-based communication with users. Don’t switch on a time sequence schedule that emails users on Day X, Day Y, and Day Z. The one-size-fits-all approach is drastically less effective here.

“If you’re still sending emails based on a timed sequence instead of triggered by actual user behavior, you’re 100 percent doing it wrong.” – Lincoln Murphy

You can still automate the communication, but design it so that user behavior triggers certain emails, emails that prompt them to the next logical step in your app, to the next plateau where they will see even more value.

In this way, you assist heavily engaged users and also re-engage idle accounts that are at risk of falling into the void.

Extra tips:

  • Make these emails personalized. Use the customer’s name and sign off with your own name, as well. This helps build trust.
  • A/B test the emails to see what works best.

And if a users fall inactive? Follow these tips on how to engage mid-trial users.

End of free trial

As the free trial winds to a close…

  • Create a sense of urgency to upgrade to a paid plan. Simply remind them that the days are numbered, or go as far as to offer a special feature or discount if they sign up.
  • The upgrade workflow should be ridiculously clear and simple. As Chargify says, “the upgrade path should be no more than one or two clicks away.”
  • Include an “Upgrade” Call To Action within the app itself during their trial period. Make the button prominent, eye-catching. This is a constant reminder that the user could enjoy the product beyond the remaining number of days. Appcues does this in their trial workflow, as Chargify pointed out:
    chargify Appcues
  • Design your pricing page so that each plan is clearly distinguished, with cost and features easy to grasp. If you’d like to learn more about pricing pages, my colleague completed an awesome analysis of pricing pages in the SaaS space. Well worth a read: 5 key learnings from analyzing top B2B SaaS pricing pages

And when a user doesn’t convert by the end of the free trial, try the following:

  • Offer a free trial extension, even just seven days. Accompany this offer with a request for feedback: “Why weren’t they ready to purchase? Is there anything unclear? How can you help?”
  • Also follow this up with pointed emails to get them to an “aha” moment, as they clearly haven’t reached one yet. Take this opportunity to really put the value of the product in front of them.

Again, you have the chance to re-engage and convert the users who weren’t successful in the free trial. And you also get invaluable feedback that can help you refine your product roadmap and improve the trial experience moving forward.


This answer was originally published on Quora. View the original thread here: How to convert free trial users to paying customers?

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