6 steps to increase your free trial to paid customer conversion rate


Online marketing often focuses on the generation of traffic and the conversion of visitors into leads. But what should you be doing when looking to convert a free trial signup into a paid customer? This is where optimisation of your customer onboarding process becomes all-important.

At Xander Marketing, we know precisely what it takes to successfully improve the process for your benefit, and below we take a look at the six steps to increasing the conversion rate of your free trials to paid customers.

1. Define success

Ultimate success is the conversion of a free trialist into a paying customer. How long this transformation takes, meanwhile, and knowing what to do to promote conversion, is essential to your marketing strategy. Determining clear milestones that constitute success of your trial, therefore, represents the first step towards improving conversion. At its basic level, a SaaS free trial will adopt a simple metric:

Website visited >> Trial signup >> Activation Trialist >> Customer

Such tried and tested analysis are all well and good, but identification of additional data integral to greater achievements ensures real refinement of your strategy. Data analysis is all about measuring, monitoring, and improving performance. Establish a number of key metrics – which elements of the SaaS platform are used most/least, which require the most customer support, how long until certain tasks have been completed, etc. – and identify those features of your SaaS platform that are integral to forming positive decisions about investment.

2. Identify the one thing you offer that guarantees signups

To be successful in any business, you have to offer something unique and which makes your customers’ lives better. With your SaaS platform, it’s imperative that you know precisely which element of your software has the ability to convince users to stay with a product.

  • If you offer accountancy software, for example, it may be that the invoicing feature is integral to its operation
  • Alternatively, email creation software success may be sending out the first campaign

The key selling point to your SaaS platform will be the key point for conversion. By working hard to ensure that such a benefit becomes integral to customer use, the customer onboarding process becomes far simpler to optimise.

So, what is the one thing you offer that if people use they are likely to become a customer?

3. Choose your onboarding content and delivery methods

The relationship a customer has with your SaaS platform is key to conversions, so it may be that the decision to invest is made – either consciously or sub-consciously – the moment the first interaction is made. Establishing a rapport built on trust and dependency with your clients, therefore, as well as aiding their use of the platform at the earliest opportunity, is fundamental.

Identifying how you plan to form such a relationship requires assessment of the materials produced and the method of delivery. You may decide to create:

  • Engaging instructional videos
  • In-depth industry whitepapers
  • Email marketing campaigns
  • Extensive user guides

Regardless of the medium you choose to highlight the full potential of the SaaS platform and how it benefits the user, a regularly reviewed plan for effective customer onboarding is necessary. Assessment of the best form of delivery – be it via email, phone call or within the application itself – will also lend itself to greater effectiveness.

Hubspot, for example, originally provided users with long webinars, only to instead adopt short, three-minute videos that offered better engagement. Such bitesize chunks of information helped establish intuitive learning, and demonstrated precisely what customers required quickly and effortlessly. By supporting them step-by-step through the operation of your own software, you engender familiarity and trust, and enable users to become accustomed to the platform without recourse to extensive manuals or trial and error operation.

Choose what content is best for your audience, and how you will distribute that content during the trial.

4. Establish customer workflows

Studies have long shown that people are more effective at learning while doing instead of simply being shown. By establishing workflows that showcase the virtues of your software, and which get users operating the platform to their benefit, boosting conversion becomes simpler. People don’t buy products, but buy benefits, so creating a practical, benefit driven workflow raises the profile of the key selling points a user needs.

For a practical example, email marketing provider Constant Contact saw improved conversion of trial users into paid customers by revising its workflows. Initially, the first task entailed the uploading of data – a long, laborious task that is no fun for anyone. By changing the earliest interaction into something more engaging and creative – the development of an actual email – the company experienced significant growth in signups. Revise your workflows for better user experience and enjoy an increase in your conversion.

5. The human touch

Help and support will always be required by software users, so being able to channel software support through actual, real people can establish a relationship that will endure. Whether it’s over the phone, by email, or through a live chat application, the addition of the human touch to any form of engagement with a customer results in better relationships.

Services such as Intercom.io support the onboarding process further still, enabling you to send personalised in-app or email messages at predefined points or on a behavioural basis. By introducing personal engagement at key milestones in the operation of your SaaS platform, you become a valuable, personable resource on which users ultimately rely.

6. Review, optimise, improve

Like any marketing campaign, performance analysis is essential. As demonstrated by Hubspot, Constant Contact, and hundreds of other SaaS businesses, refinement of the customer onboarding process helps you deliver increased conversions. Testing and assessment are integral to your success. Split testing the messages you send, the content you produce, the customer workflows, and the experience you offer all help determine what works best and increases signups. It’s an on-going process, and there’s always room for improvement, so maintain visibility over performance and optimise your offering accordingly.

SaaS marketing expertise

The customer onboarding process is fundamental to your business model. Delivering a sample of your product that convinces customers to invest represents an effective means of boosting signups and converting speculators into paying customers. To find out more about how effective marketing can help you achieve greater success with your trials, contact Xander Marketing today on +44 (0)330 223 2770 or request your free one hour consultation.

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