How To Convert Free Trials Into Paying Customers

So, you've welcomed new users with a free trial. They love your software and are making the most of the features and benefits it has to offer. But what happens when the free trial draws to a close? Many SaaS businesses struggle with this issue; reportedly, only 25% of free trial users turn into subscribers.

The problem is that many businesses don't spend a lot of time investigating what causes the drop-off at the end of a free trial and instead focus on the next wave of acquisitions, in the hope that the 25% will eventually add up into a return on investment (ROI). But this is not a cost-effective way of growing your business and could also devalue your product in the long run. 

While churn is inevitable, there are strategies you can put in place to bring customers to the natural decision of subscribing at the end of a free trial. Because, in truth, you'd be surprised at just how many users would have turned into paying customers, if only you'd have spent a little bit of extra time on nurturing them towards that final stage of the sales funnel. 


Email and retargeting campaigns 

Your job isn't complete once the user activates the free trial. In fact, it's only just begun. The reality is, people will make use of numerous free trials at any given time – you are competing with a plethora of apps and software products that are all trying to get a paid subscription out of the individual –  and so, naturally, they may forget that the end of the free trial is approaching, and slowly, your product starts to move to the back of the priority queue. 

Checking in with your customer and inquiring about how they are progressing with the software helps to open up a dialogue between you and the user. Create an email sequence, specifically designed to educate and support the new free trial users through their initial interaction with your software. 

The key emails to send are:

  1. Thank you for signing up - acknowledge the customer as soon as they make the download. 
  2. Education – point the user toward all the key features and how to use them to get results.
  3. Inquire about their progress – check in to see how they're progressing with the software. 
  4. Make an offer – this isn't a hard sell, but at this point, you can offer them a discount or make them aware of special discounts. 
  5. Remind them about the end of the free trial – give the user a little nudge to let them know that the free trial is ending and present them with some calls-to-action to prompt them towards a conversion. 


Sales follow-up

When a customer makes use of a free trial, that's an opportunity for you to have an inbound conversation. Unless you're not gating your content in any way and making the free trial downloadable without requesting the customer's details, you should have the ability contact them and have a more in-depth conversation about their needs. 

Find out what prompted them to try your product, ask for feedback and offer guidance. The sales follow-up allows for a more personal approach and enables you to gain valuable insight into how your users are finding their experience so far. You can follow up with an email, or a phone call. This is also an excellent time to make the user aware of any promotions or discounts that are available to them with an upgrade. 


Effective onboarding

A prevalent cause for churn is users' lack of engagement with the software once they have access to it. Usually, this happens because they simply don't know how to use it. 

You may have done a great job of selling them on the benefits and features, but unless it's a super intuitive piece of software, they may have got discouraged at the first hurdle. 

It's not always feasible to offer on-site training, and unless you're selling a really big-ticket item, it could be hugely time-consuming to provide such a service when there is a limited promise of ROI. In this case, it would be worthwhile to develop online tutorials and downloadable guides but still make an effort to offer some form of personalised contact and troubleshooting support. 

Once the user feels confident in navigating your platform, they will able to extract real value from your offering, and it will be difficult for them to want to go through an onboarding process with another service provider, so be sure to get in there, and get in good. 

With that being said, the training process shouldn't be a complicated and lengthy experience that leaves the customer overwhelmed. Simplify the learning period as much as possible. From one-click installations to tidy dashboards that offer a high-quality user experience (UX), differentiate your offer by removing the challenges of onboarding as much as possible. 


Other conversion tactics to have in place for your SaaS free trial

The important thing to capitalise on here is that a Free Trial is a time-sensitive offer. Create a sense of urgency by sending reminders to your user that their access to the platform will stop or be limited once they reach the end of the free trial.

Don't make upgrading to a paid subscription an ambiguous easter egg hunt either. Your website's pricing pages should be clear and strategic, prompting the user towards the right subscription tier for their needs. 

The key takeaway here is, your free trial becomes an inconsequential sales tactic if it's not part of a greater strategy that helps the user to fully experience the value of your software. Your free trial offer is an opportunity to put your best foot forward and show why you are better at customer service, that you offer unique features and benefits and that life for that customer will never be the same again after your free trial ends – pulling out the fear-of-missing-out (FOMO) card is not necessarily a bad idea for your SaaS free trial conversion strategy.  

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