Things Worth Knowing About Your Trial Users

I've been thinking a lot about Funnels lately. You know, that thing where a bunch of people sign up for a Free Trial of your product, but only a handful of them eventually give you any money?

Yeah, that kind of Funnel. The Software as a Service Trial Funnel. It's totally exciting.

The cool thing about these Funnels is that you can kinda adjust either end of the thing. You can pour more Trialers in the top, and a certain percent of them will come out the bottom. More Trialers, more money. But you can also mess with the innards of that Funnel so that a higher percent of Trialers make it through (and again give you money).

Now, any fool can turn the spigot and pour more people into the top of the Funnel. It's as easy as cutting a Big Check to your local Ad Agency. Having no Big Checks on me, however, I tend to advocate first spending a bit of time adjusting the bottom end of that Funnel. All that requires is Hard Work, and I do in fact have some of that lying around.

And besides, if you have your funnel tuned to separate just about everybody who falls in the top from their Corporate Mastercard, you're going to get a lot more bang for your buck when you finally do write that check to turn on the spigot.

Here is one of the things I've been doing to widen that Funnel.

Spying on your users for fun and profit

I've been collecting a lot of data about my Trialers. I first wrote about this idea almost a year ago, and while I initially had grand visions of using Machine Learning on the data, I find that I can actually learn a lot of actionable stuff just by looking at it. Specifically, I can ask some simple questions and bucket users into actionable categories. Then I can act on that action!

The low hanging fruit

Let's start with the low hanging fruit. These are things anybody running a business (meaning you, incidentally) should be able to pull straight out of the database using only the information you need to be tracking anyway:

  • These Trialers just signed up.
  • These Trialers signed up a week ago.
  • These Trialers will expire in a few days.
  • These Trialers just expired without converting to Paid.

Notice how this is all the information you need to send out Lifecycle Mails.

Lifecycle Mails are a series of emails you send your users over the course of their Trial that remind them that they're signed up for your thing and should go log in and play with it. They can offer some quick training and walkthrough type stuff about the product. And, most importantly, they remind the user when it's time to pull out their credit card and actually pay for the thing. Lifecycle Mails are kinda table stakes for Onboarding, so if you're not doing them, you might want to bookmark this article and go get them up and running like right now.

Oh, and incidentally, I wasn't kidding about that "ask them to pay you" thing. Here's a little histogram I put together showing when the people who eventually paid for S3stat did so. Care to guess which days were the ones where I sent out the Lifecycle Mails with the "Don't Forget To Activate" message?

Digging a bit deeper:

You'll need to log user activity to pull these next ones off. I've written in depth about how I collect this data, but there are a lot of ways to do it. Collect it though, because this is where things start to get good:

  • These Trialers have never come back since starting their trial.
  • These Trialers haven't logged in for a week.
  • These Trialers never finished setting their account up.
  • These Trialers haven't yet done $ImportantAction
  • These Trialers were engaging with their Trial, but let it expire without converting to Paid.
  • These Trialers recently expired, without ever really engaging with the product.

Oh dear, these folks are straying off. But notice how easy it would be to craft the email we send to each of those different groups that tries to steer them back on course?

"Hey, Ralph, I notice you haven't yet added any Foozles to your account. We can't really give you a good Foozle Tally without any Foozles, now can we? If you want to get the most out of your Trial, here's a link you can follow to add your first Foozle.

Haven't had the time? No problem. Let me know and I'll add an extra couple weeks to your Trial.

And just in case you've forgotten why you signed up for your trial in the first place, here's a link to our Whitepaper on Foozle Tallies and their Impact On Industry.

All the best,"

Don't forget to encourage success

  • These Trialers just finished setup.
  • These Trialers just completed $ImportantAction.
  • These Trialers recently converted to Paid.

Finally, it's worth following up with your Trialers who are cruising along happily. Touch base, congratulate or thank as appropriate, and ask for feedback about how things are going and questions about the product in general.

What we're doing with all this is turbo charging that Lifecycle Mail campaign we talked about above. Instead of a simple timed list of mails to send off on certain days, we can build something that looks more like a State Machine, where each Trialer gets to move along his own path and receive just the exact amount of nudging so that he can successfully end up on your Purchase page ready to buy on day 28 of his Trial.

Wrapping Up

The point of all this is that you can get a lot of actionable information out of your Trialers if you take the time to collect a bit of data on them. Naturally, those of you who have been following my writing will remember that I'm actually working on a product called Unwaffle that does all of this right out of the box and am therefore probably selling something. But even if you make the gross blunder of not buying my thing, it's still really important that you do all of this.

Because my Trial Conversion Rate has gone from about 9% to just over 13% since I started collecting this data (so like 45% better). That Funnel is getting fatter by the month, and it's really starting to make a difference in terms of revenue.

I'd give it a go if I were you.

Jason Kester

I run a little company called Expat Software. Right now, the most interesting things we're doing are related to Cloud Storage Analytics, Online Classrooms, and Customer Lifecycle Metrics for SaaS Businesses. I'll leave it to you to figure out how those things tie together.

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