This is a shortened version of an article that was originally published on forEntrepreneurs.com: Growth Hacking: Creating a Wow! Moment.
Free trials and freemium products are two pricing options that can be very effective in selling your product. They help the buyer address key concerns such as:
For a buyer, being able to get this level of proof is far better than having to trust what a web site or salesperson has told them. Think about how you buy a car. How important is it to you to test drive the car before you part with tens of thousands of dollars?
Free trials (and freemium) also have another huge benefit for SaaS and consumer internet companies: the buyer does most of the work of selling themselves. If you have read any of my previous posts on the importance of CAC (Cost to Acquire a Customer), this can be a very powerful way to reduce CAC.
Wow! is the moment in a free trial where your buyer suddenly sees the benefit they get from using your product, and says to themselves “Wow! This is great!”. It’s also the moment where you have converted them into a fan who is likely to buy.
If you’re going to use free trial (or freemium) as a key part of sales funnel, it pays to understand exactly where in the free trial experience your buyer says “Wow!”. Then you will want to focus on the following set of questions:
Let’s look at these in a bit more detail:
Do you know what the Wow! is for your product/service? It’s not always that obvious, and may require some thought. One way to figure this out is to demonstrate your product to a series of buyers in person, and ask them to tell you what was the moment when they got excited, and why.
Sometimes Wow! may be less about generating excitement, and more about providing them with the proof points needed to feel comfortable making a purchase. But If there is no point in the demo where anyone gets excited, I would recommend going back to the drawing board to design a feature that will clearly delight your buyer. This could take the form of a really easy way to do something that today requires a lot of effort. Or it could take the form of a graphical representation of their data that suddenly gives them new insight, etc.
Now that we understand the importance of Wow!, we’re going to want to work on reducing the time and effort it takes for the buyer to get to that moment. One of the most valuable things you can do is diagram out those steps, as your free trial is like a micro-funnel where people starting the free trial will drop off at different stages.
As an example, Imagine that you are working at LinkedIn in the early days, and you are designing the flow for a trial for a sales rep:
I love working on startup funnels helping entrepreneurs improve them. It’s surprising how often it takes a bit time and work for the team to layout the steps in their funnel. Everyone starts off sure that they know the steps, but when it comes time to draw them, there is often discussion required and redrawing as different people add their views. Then once the steps are up on the whiteboard, something magical happens: without me prompting, they start to realize how they can improve the funnel. The diagram acts as a strong catalyst for creative brainstorming. Ideally the diagram should stay up all the time on a large whiteboard because of this effect.
Once you have the diagram, you’re going to want to understand how well this micro-funnel is working, which means instrumenting the application to gather some metrics.
There are two metrics we need to understand how buyers are engaging with the trial, and where they are dropping off:
We need those for each step in the trial, as well as for the overall trial.
As you see above, the best way to look at these metrics is with a graph that shows how things are evolving over time.
(We may also want to measure engagement with the trial, as well as the business outcomes that the user is experiencing. For more on this topic, see Manage Customer Success to Reduce Churn.)
It’s highly likely that there will be places in the funnel where you’re seeing a lower conversion rate than you’d hoped for.
I have developed a simple methodology for looking at these blockage points that helps trigger brainstorming on how to fix the problems. It involves looking at the two factors that stop people from moving through a particular step: Friction and Concerns, and the one thing that can pull them through a hard step: Motivation / Incentives. Using the ‘Import Contacts’ step in the LinkedIn trial as an example, let’s look at the friction and concerns in this step:
If we look at the original LinkedIn step for Importing Contacts for users of Outlook and Exchange, it involved downloading and installing an app to grab your contacts out of Outlook and send the back to LinkedIn:
As you might imagine, there is a ton of friction involved in getting a user to download and install an app. In an era of Smartphones, where a user’s email contacts are already connected to their phone, the friction can be completely removed by just asking them to install LinkedIn on their smartphone and connect it to Contacts. That is pretty low friction.
If there is no way to remove the friction, or fully address the concerns, we need to look at the other side of the equation: what are the users incentives, or motivations to pull them through doing the step regardless of the friction or concerns. If there is a big prize for them when they complete the step, they will have adequate motivation. Think of yourself as a Behavioral Economist, looking at how human behavior is impacted by incentives. Ask yourself, is the Wow! powerful and exciting enough to pull them through the work you are asking them to do.
, the CEO of HubSpot has a great way of asking this: “Is your Wow! to work ratio high enough?”
If you know the end result of the trial is something of great value to the user, you may want to provide them with a message like “You’re almost there. This is the last step before you get to see the finished dashboard”, and include a small picture of what a typical finished dashboard looks like. This can improve the motivation of the user to get through that last step.
In the above LinkedIn example, there might be an even smarter way to go about this free trial: instead of asking the user to sign up, and fill out a profile, why not simply give them access to the Search report that will give them the Wow! moment before they sign up? Most marketers hate to do this, as they are desperate to capture at least the user’s email address. But if you A/B test this against the other approach, you can find out clearly if you get a higher number of completed sign ups with the new process versus the old. My bet is that this approach will lead to a higher overall conversion rate.
Think about how many bad sign-up forms you have abandoned trying to get access to some system.
If you really have to get some information before a trial, keep the fields to a minimum, and get the rest of the information later, after the user has gone through the Wow! moment and seen some value.
One of the best ways to improve the free trial experience is to provide the user with a guided experience, where the product leads them through the steps. (There are SaaS tools out there that make it easy to add this to your application.) Also providing a “% completed” graphic acts as a gamification-type motivator to complete all the steps. Don’t forget to also offer a way out of the guided experience for those who want to look at the product in their own way.
Think about a product like LinkedIn. It has many different kinds of users: recruiters, sales people, individuals wanting to get hired, etc. For each of these, what it takes to get them to say Wow! will be different. Make sure you know the Wow! moment for each of your key persona, and don’t forget to diagram the flow of steps needed to get there.
To learn in more detail the steps you can take to increase conversion rates through free trials, you can read the full article on forEntrepreneurs.com: Growth Hacking: Creating a Wow! Moment.
If you want to learn more about customer acquisition, you might find the following articles to be of interest: