3 Reasons Why Our Free-Trial Process Was Hurting Us

Posted on June 13, 2016
By Suhash

The concept of a trial process is ubiquitous within the SaaS field. What better way to convince a potential client of the benefits of your product than giving them the keys to a risk-free test drive? If your product is truly as brilliant as you say it -  it should sell itself, right? WRONG! 

Although popular, we found that our trial process wasn’t really delivering. People would sign up, dilly-dally around on the platform for a couple of minutes (or days), get confused and then leave - never to return.

Giving them that freedom has it advantages, but it rarely helps further the conversion process. We needed to strike a balance between giving them the freedom to tinker around while holding their hand through various parts of the process.

Laissez-faire or Hands on?

The rule of thumb here is that the more complex your product is, the more likely it is that some training will be required to make it worthwhile for the prospect.

Our platform, although not overwhelmingly complex, does require a tutorial to get you going. We ended deciding that we would kick off every trial period with a live-demo, giving our potential users a very high-level overview of the platform. This demo gives potential  customers an excellent understanding of the platform and helps them figure out if it fits with their overall content strategy.

Our dedicated team of Customer Success Associates are also tasked with assisting prospects, delivering any relevant CTAs (booking a follow-up call, going on trial, setting up an account) that may be required of them. With the knowledge gained during their live-demo, prospects now understand why we need them to connect their Google Analytics and  social media accounts to the platform.

We used to deliver CTAs without fully educating prospects as to why we needed them to do so. This resulted in spooked or suspicious prospects that would go radio-silent.

Mishandling follow-ups and CTAs are a sure-fire way to lose potential conversions.

Structured Trial Process or Free For All?

Our trial process used to be much less formalized in the past. It also used to be shorter. This changed once we realized that:

  1. Our prospects needed some supervision (due to the relative complexity of our platform) and...
  2. The standard 14 days is simply not enough to fully realize the potential of the platform.

Once again, if your platform is “simple” and provides gratification instantly, then having a highly structured trial-period, may be more of an annoyance to the prospect than a convenience.

Atomic Reach is a content optimization and sharing platform; therefore the gains resulting from its use are not immediately evident. The 14-day trial period we previously used was not long enough for prospects to vet the product or for us to effectively convey its benefits. We found ourselves constantly extending trial-periods due to user inactivity or lack of prospect nurturing. Extending the trial period to 30 days fixed this.

We realized how important it was to provide consistent feedback to the prospect. This served a dual purpose:

  • Solidifying the value proposition of our platform
  • Ensuring that the prospect can constantly communicate with us, minimizing the risk of going radio-silent.

Relationship Building or Selling?

The main goal here is to establish a rock-solid relationship with the prospect, even before they have made a financial commitment.

Stellar customer service before any decision is made is what sets companies apart from each other.

This is something we learned through experience.

I was recently tasked by management to find a new sales prospecting tool. I demo’d with several companies with varying degrees of success. It was after the demo where each company’s focus became clear.

Some companies didn’t offer a trial period at all, opting to go straight for the kill a day after the demo. Not good. Of the companies that did offer a trial, it quickly became obvious that they fell into 2 distinct camps- Those that used the trial period as a sales tool, and those that used it as a relationship-building tool.

Sales-tool Camp

The sales-tool camp would send follow-ups almost every other day with messaging that basically said “Are you done yet?” They were following up because that is what they are told to do. With no mention of offering any help, or how I thought the trial period was going, or what I thought about the software. There was an obvious disconnect between me as a prospect, and them as salespeople. As cliched as it sounds, they just weren’t listening to their prospects.

Relationship-building Camp

The relationship-building camp was a bit different. Here are some great questions they asked:

  • Did the demo give you a good enough understanding of the tool? Would you like another one to refresh your memory?
  • You mentioned that you’d like to focus on account-based prospecting in the future - I found these interesting articles on how to get you started on it.
  • I’d be happy to extend the trial period since you didn’t get a chance to try out this feature.
  • Thanks for pointing that out, I’ll get the dev team on it right away.

The difference is night and day. Can you guess which camp we went with?

The final take-away here is simple

You must treat each qualified prospect as if they are already a customer of yours. The trial period is designed to familiarize prospects with the product, but it should familiarize them with you as a company. It should get prospects a taste of what to expect once they do sign on. If you show them how much you care before money changes hands, the higher the chances of a conversion.

Are you a start-up in the technology field? Have you toyed with the idea of free trials or do you currently offer trials? Share your thoughts and experiences with us!

About the Author:

Suhash is part of the BizDev team @ AR. When he isn’t at work, Suhash can usually be found parkouring across Toronto with a crossbow. That, or reading a book.

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Tags: Sales & Marketing, Business, business growth, customer, customer growth, free trial, growth, lead generation, lead marketing, lead nurturing, leads, marketing, online marketing, potential buyers, potential customers, sales, sales strategy