Best Practices for Increasing Trial Conversions

Keith Fenech by

You walk into the coffee shop right near your office – the one you’ve been coming to for years. As you duck and weave through the crowds and wind your way to the register, you place your order, and then grab a cup of the free new caramel cotton candy carrot latte positioned on the counter as you wait. You take a few sips, and are really just starting to enjoy yourself, when you discover that the cup is leaking. The staff are all busy, there are no more cups, so you toss it, all while making a mental note that you sort of liked that beverage, and to try it again.

A week later, you walk by the new coffee shop a few more steps from your office, and decide to go in. By the door, the owner hands you a cup of free coffee very similar to the one you had last week, and chats with you for a while. He learns about your likes, dislikes, needs, wants and your job. Your cup starts to leak again, but the owner notices quickly, and hands you another. Inspired by the experience, you become a new regular.

Across the consumer and B2B spaces, free trials are still a major way of introducing products to the market. And when you think about it, the basic principles of ensuring that customers buy after they try aren’t all that dissimilar between the two spheres. Ensuring conversion success relies on knowing your customer, leveraging that knowledge for personalized outreach, fixing issues that arise, and overall, solving your customer’s need or problem to fuel continued engagement with your product.

So when it comes to your free trials, which of those coffee shops are you? Do you really know your users, and can you follow them on their journeys so that you can meet their needs exactly when they have them? As hot (yes, it’s a pun) as your product is, it simply doesn’t matter if you can’t get your users engaged enough to eventually spend money on it.

So why aren’t your free trials generating qualified leads? Here is some advice on best practices to increase trial conversions.

Limit Trial Time

For whatever reason, 30 days has become the industry standard when it comes to free trials. But running a trial too long can actually contribute to customer churn.

First, in our space, moving fast is of course vital to survival. When users try your product and encounter issues within the first day or two for which they find no quick resolution, a message from you some 30 days later with questions about use and offers to purchase will go ignored. You’ve already used up far too much of their valuable time, without solving their problem.

There’s no perfect number, and trial times can differ by product. Different users with different machines, architectures, operating systems and comfort levels with the product may need more or less time. But the key to increasing conversions is to be able to identify issues with the trial in more or less real-time, to work on solutions before users gets so frustrated that they walk away altogether.

For instance, perhaps users are encountering an issue with the settings on a configuration wizard that prevent them from fully utilizing the product’s functionality, and abandoning your product before ever launching it. By monitoring session run-time and correlating that information with data on machine, memory capacity, region, version, edition, operating system and much more, you can pinpoint problems like this and speed resolution.

In turn, by looking at trends in runtime sessions, we can get a sense of how many times a user needs to launch the product to become familiar and comfortable with functionality, and target follow-ups for the exact moment when the user will be most likely to covert – or when he or she is most likely to fall out of the pipeline.

Personalize Messaging

How many times have you discovered – too long after you’ve carefully crafted and sent marketing collateral – that the functionality users really like in your product isn’t what you had assumed? And as a result, finely tuned marketing campaigns just aren’t resonating with potential users. Perhaps PC users move through a workflow in a different manner than Mac users. Perhaps users in Germany aren’t utilizing a piece of functionality that is very popular in the U.K.

The best offers take into account actual use cases, and provide relevant content to these audiences that makes them realize you understand their problem and can help solve it. By slicing and dicing usage data by factors like geography, operating system and more, you can tailor offers to each audience to dramatically increase conversion rates.

Offer Content that Adds Value

Personalization does not simply mean sending the email from and to an actual person’s name, or even just identifying unique problems by geography or role. Offers that catch attention add value.

Data-driven marketers know their audiences, and know exactly what else they may need to make a buying decision. Augmenting offer strategies with rich media – how-to videos on workflows that you see are popular within the customer base, or stories that highlight interesting, innovative functionality that customers are missing, or customer case studies that demonstrate ROI – will help grab the bit of attention that may make the difference between clicking the link to buy or clicking to delete the email.

All of this rests on a sound usage analytics’ strategy – with anonymized data to help you find trends, outliers and identify and fix problems in your free trial strategy. As such, you’ll really get to know each and every customer to solve their problems and create long-term relationships with your brand.