Thursday, July 24, 2014

How to Structure Your Software Free Trials for Success

Humans have a hard time resisting the allure of the "Free." Most of us already know that there is usually no such thing as a free lunch. Even so, one hardly gives it another thought while picking up a free t-shirt at the tradeshow, grabbing the extra Coke that went with the double pizza order, or signing up for a free mobile app for diet management.

Caveats to "Free" exist on both sides of the counter and are particularly tangible in the context of software solutions that offer free product trials.

For the customer, caveats can encompass a broad range of issues from wasted time and not getting what they really want, to the loss of privacy and trust. From the software vendor perspective, while "Free" might have given the prospects the incentive to get in the door, according to Totango only 2% will go on to become the paying clients. While being a draw on the marketing resources and sales opportunities, "Free" doesn’t always provide an accurate insight into the true customer needs and what it would take to convert them. There are a few things you can do to improve this statistic.

How do you structure a software free trial framework that can be successful at driving your client conversions
1. Set the Entry Barriers
Your objective is to provide an opportunity for the prospects to experience your products and services before signing up. Outlining the mutual expectancies from the get-go will help establish the rules of the engagement, qualify your target audience, assess their urgency to act, and ultimately get them to commit time and resources to explore the opportunity. On the vendor side, once the trial has started, the clock is ticking to engage the potential client, understand their needs, and find optimal ways to get them to the finish line. As far as you know, they've made the move because they saw "Free." That brings me to the next point.

2. Demonstrate Value... Immediately
The first days of the trial are crucial. By keeping a close track on how users interact with your solution you can understand the challenges they have interfacing with your solution. This insight can allow to devise ways to reduce or eliminate the bottlenecks in getting set up and running. If their attention is starting to wane, engage them online or by phone. Share valuable insights to help get them to take the next step. How transformative was taking the next step for existing customers and in what ways were they impacted?

3. Have a Larger Carrot Handy
As the deadline looms, what else can you offer to help push them to the proverbial finish line? You can highlight the benefits they already experienced and share the bigger picture of the ROI  enjoyed by other clients. Can an opportunity to connect with other clients on your company's client forum drive your prospects to make the next step? Few realize that a purchase decision is largely an emotional one. What steps can you take to engage your trial customers in the story of your organization and to help establish that connection?

Free trials are a powerful tool to get people to act. In addition to the core steps above, additional considerations such as the complexity of the product and the length of trial are vital in structuring effective trials.

There are many helpful resources to find additional information. How are you leveraging the magic of "Free" to expand your client base? Let us know in the comments below.

Rachel & the team

P.S. If you are a cloud provider, don’t bask in the glory for too long once your trial customer finally takes the plunge. The job of keeping that client happy subscription to subscription is about to start!

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