From Passive Program to Marketing Main Event: Is Your Trial Ready for Prime-Time?

From Passive Program to Marketing Main Event: Is Your Free Trial Ready for Prime-Time?

Virtually every business has been impacted by pandemic-related remote work disruptions, travel restrictions, and meeting capacity limitations that have created obstacles to tried-and-true marketing and sales processes.

In response, companies are innovating. They are quickly converting plans for face-to-face tradeshows to virtual events. Brick and mortar retailers are taking their operations online. Businesses and customers have adapted. It’s clear that many of these changes will become permanent.

For marketers, one of the key questions is how to effectively engage prospects. With virtual meetings the new normal, how should we adjust and optimize the evaluation stage? We believe it is time to take a hard look at your free trial.

From back pocket offer to main event

The free software trial has often been a back pocket, passive trial marketing program—something SaaS companies felt they ‘had to offer’ but rarely promoted when sales reps could get a prospect’s total attention in a trade show booth or provide ‘hands on’ training to people trying the product. According to invesp, 65.5% of SaaS companies offer a free trial. 

Consequently, many free trials weren’t designed to be trial marketing programs at all. They consisted of a trial request page which triggered a short-term product license. The trialist’s email was added to company’s promotional email distribution which regularly spammed them with well intentions, but likely irrelevant information. The trialists received no guidance, no self-help tools, and no support—and thus, they didn’t buy. It was a self-fulfilling prophesy: the single most important factor in free trial success is ongoing, relevant engagement.

But as the free trial moves to center stage, it is becoming the primary way a prospect can experience a software product. The free trial has the potential to become your best salesperson — recommending a personalized journey that will resonate most with a prospect, guiding them through each deployment step, and helping them calculate the ROI they can achieve. 

Is your free trial ready for the spotlight?

Trials were the original digital sales tool and the good news is—they are perfect for a digital and virtual world. But we all know that digital workflows need to be well-built and frequently tested. That’s because:

  • Trials break—all the time. The nurture series inexplicably stops running. Another product’s new web promotion accidentally eliminates your trial promotion. A prospect searches for your product trial only to be sent to the wrong one….. When was the last time your company evaluated your own trial experience?
  • Free trials can be a competitive weapon—for you or against you. As free trials gain importance, they’ll either become a competitive asset or weakness. If your competitor is offering a better experience that helps a trialist get to the ‘aha, I need this product’ moment faster, you’ve lost the deal. When was the last time you tested your top competitor’s trial experience?
  • Trial data holds the key to continuous improvement—if you track the data. In the past, trial operations were pretty obtuse. You might be able to track nurture click through rates, but you had zero visibility into other trialist behavior. However, new tools now make it possible to track individual trialist behavior in real-time—to see what they’re reading, which use cases they’ve tried, or where they got stopped. This data can identify where you are losing potentially valuable prospects and automatically trigger sales alerts, special offers, and targeted nurture streams. How often do you track trialist KPIs and adjust your trial to improve results?

Time for a free trial renaissance?

There’s never been a better time for a trial marketing comeback. Here’s how to get started: 

  • Know your trialist(s). Understand who they are and if there are multiple profiles. Investigate what challenges brought each to your trial and what capabilities/proof they need to see before they buy.
  • Build an end-to-end trial strategy to match their needs. Your trial length, promotional tactics, product capabilities, trialist journey, self-help content and support strategy all need to reflect your trialist profiles.
  • Relentlessly focus on time to value. Every trialist has a day job and a limited attention span. Your trial structure and communications should recognize that. Mercilessly eliminate every unnecessary click. Focus only on what they care about. Ensure tasks can be completed in a maximum of 3 steps. Make it easy to learn and do more.
  • Embrace your trialist like a customer — and they may become one. Communications must be relevant and personal. Sales reps should act as trusted advisors, helping to ensure the trialist’s success. The trial is effectively, the first interview. If you show you value the trialists, they will value you. 
  • Track and tune — rinse and repeat. Track behavior from the moment the trialist arrives at the trial request form. Create and monitor your trialist behavior funnel, identifying how many are lost at every trial stage. These are the ‘bread crumbs’ that will help you prioritize what to fix first. 

Successful trial marketing delivers more than high conversion rates

The role of today’s software trial is not just to generate a high-quality lead, it’s to help maximize the lifetime value of a customer. If a trialist has completed multiple use cases during the trial period, they will likely utilize the product more frequently when they become customers — and reduce the likelihood of churn. 

If the trialist involves multiple co-workers during their trial, initial deal sizes may be larger — particularly if those use cases facilitate digital processes across departments. The same self-help tools you develop for trialists, can help new users become proficient faster, creating the foundation for faster growth.

Aventi Group’s Trial Optimization Assessment Service can put you on the right path

Aventi Group has deep experience in optimizing trial performance. If you’re interested in getting an objective, expert assessment of your trial marketing, we can provide a comprehensive evaluation with actionable insights to help ensure your free trial is ready for prime time. Contact us here.

View the Trial Optimization Assessment Service Brief

Written By

Lindsay Cunningham