SaaS Free Trials: Get’em Started Quickly… or Lose’em Forever


No matter the class of Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) product – utilitarian horizontal, “Enterprise,” or niche vertical – the Web App vendors that have come to me for help with their low Free Trial conversion rates all had a common problem…

… they failed to engage a potential customer immediately after they signed-up.

And when we fixed their Engagement problem, it wasn’t shocking to see conversion numbers jump dramatically.

So, if your Free Trial is not converting prospects to customers at a rate you’d like, you probably need to figure out how to get your prospect to start using your product as quickly as possible.

While that might not be the only thing wrong with your Free Trial, chances are it’s a big part of why your Free Trial is actively turning prospects away rather than working to turn them into customers.

In fact, in my experience – and available industry data and anecdotal evidence seems to back this up – all things being equal, prospective customers active in the first 72 hours of a Free Trial convert at a significantly higher rate than those who are not active.

Of course that will vary based on the class of SaaS app you offer and how you define “active.”

For instance, if you have a smaller, horizontal, utilitarian app, like a file sharing product, you might only have 72 seconds to get them to share a file with a colleague or you’ve lost ’em.

Knowing that they need to get started immediately, to ensure that they keep going, you might have a goal for them to complete multiple actions – what I call Common Conversion Activities (CCA) – over that critical first 72 hours.

On the flip side, if you have a larger “Enterprise” product like CRM or HCM, it might be that you need to get a commitment and lock-down a guided on-boarding web conference in the first 72 hours or you’ll lose ’em.

While there is no one-size fits all “engagement plan” that will work for every SaaS or Web App company out there, I’ve worked diligently to pull together best practices and create a framework for improving engagement.

The SaaS companies with high free-to-paid conversion rates either learned this framework from me or figured it out on their own…

… but either way, they work diligently to engineer, design, test (and repeat that process) to ensure that their first in-app experience is one that pulls the prospect in and sets them on a path to conversion.

Remember… high-converting Free Trials don’t happen by accident or because the app is functionally superior to a competitive product…

… conversions happen because the product was designed with customer acquisition in mind!

So, is your product designed that way?

Lincoln Murphy is the Free Trial Dominator and Managing Director at Sixteen Ventures and created this Free Trial Optimization Resource Guide to help you turn your Free Trial into a Customer-Acquisition Machine!

An editor of SaaSAddict Blog. The SaaSAddict blog was established to create a source for news and discussion about some of the issues, challenges, news, and ideas relating to SaaS and cloud migratio