Marketers who seek to promote their subscription-based software know: SaaS marketing is unlike any other, especially in the digital realm. While you can leverage many of the same channels, your strategy, messaging, audience, and success metrics all differ significantly from more traditional B2C and B2B industries.
Among the biggest difference between SaaS and other forms of digital marketing is the ability (and necessity) to offer a free trial. It allows you to both generate leads and get a version of your software in the hands of potential subscribers, making it a must-have marketing tool for any SaaS provider today.
Free trials come with significant potential benefits for both your brand and your audience. They allow you to get your software into the hands of especially skeptical members of your auidience, allowing them to try out its core features without commitment. At the same time, you get a better idea of which members of your target audience are truly interested and deserve more targeted attention.
Of course, your trial marketing strategy needs to be optimized in order to be successful. Here are 5 ways you can leverage your free trial and increase your SaaS success.
1) Pick Your Model
In most cases, free trials are simply limited versions of your full SaaS solution. That leaves a burning question: which parts of your software should you include for free? Most SaaS marketers follow one of two blue prints:
- Offer the full software version, but limit the time your users can access it. In this approach, your goal is to get users so convinced about the software that by the time their trial is over, they will not want to stop using it.
- Offer a limited version of your solution, but relax the time restrictions in a freemium type of offer. Here, you aim to give your users a 'sneak peak' into what your software can do, but subtly allow them to push up against boundaries that would require a full subscription to access.
Which of these varieties is best for your software? Ultimately, that depends on your solution and the makeup of your business. Freemium models tend to be more costly. But complex software can benefit from this model, as you can effectively encourage users to sign up for more in-depth features.
2) Determine Your Channels
Once you have decided on the type of trial you want to offer, it's time to consider the channels through which you will promote it. Traditionally, these consist of the same channels as most other digital marketing strategies: social media, email, and paid PPC ads.
But don't be afraid to branch out into other digital marketing channels, as well. For example, blogs can be an effective way to highlight your free trial. Here, you can share success stories of subscribers who started out as trial users, emphasize the differences between trial and full software, and go in-depth on tutorials that help new trial users navigate your solution.
Especially if your software is targeted toward business customers, webinars are another effective way to market your free trial. Use them to take viewers on a test drive through your solution, and answer any questions they might have before signing up. You can even limit or expand free trial use to webinar subscribers by offering a sign up code at the end of the session.
3) Integrate Into Your Website
If you want your trial to get the exposure it needs to become an integral part of your business growth, your website should be optimized to help visitors find it. That means more than just adding a link to it onto your home page. Instead, you should integrate it into your entire website structure.
Here, SaaS marketing can borrow heavily from inbound marketing philosophies. Create a landing page that enables trial users to sign up, optimizing it for relevant SEO keywords. Then, link call to action buttons on various pages within your website directly to that landing page.
For example, you may want to include a clear call to action for your free trial on your pricing page. That way, visitors who have shown enough interest in your solution to educate themselves about the costs have a no-commitment option to engage with your software.
4) Set Your Success Metrics
How do you measure whether your free trial usage is successful? You can only know the answer to that question if you know what metrics you should pay attention to. Here are a few examples:
- Sign-up Rate. Pay specific attention to the sources of your trial users. If, for example, you notice that Facebook generates more trial users than LinkedIn, you may want to shift resources toward that channel.
- Attrition Rate. On average, how long do your trial users stay with your software? Do they sign up and forget about it, but actively engage?
- Comparative metrics. How does your customer lifetime value and churn rate for paid subscribers who were trial users first compare with those that weren't?
- Conversion Rate. How many of your trial users convert to paying subscribers?
5) Convert Trial Users to Subscribers
Finally, don't assume that your conversion rate is set in stone, with little room for improvement. Through strategic marketing efforts to trial users, you can increase the percentage of users who move from free to paid.
Understanding why users leave after the duration of your trial is a crucial first step. Based on that information, begin to develop a strategy that seeks to engage them and gently nudge toward paying for a subscription once their trial is complete.
That strategy may include email nurturing campaigns, designed to highlight the added benefits of your full software solution. You can also share tutorials on your website, aiming to get trial users engaged in your software. The more they integrate it into their everyday lives, the more difficult it will become for them to let it go once their trial is over.
Offering a free trial should be a core part of your SaaS digital marketing strategy. But are you optimizing your trial to make sure it actually helps you increase your subscriber base and revenue