How to Convert SaaS Trial Users with Inbound Marketing

If you build it, they will come.

Ah, yes – the spiritual wisdom from the whispering ghost of Kevin Costner’s father in the 1989 baseball film Field of Dreams that – for some reason – seems to have permeated the SaaS industry.

It’s perhaps a truism to say that emerging SaaS entrepreneurs – much like all entrepreneurs – are passionate about their product and their business. And indeed, this is a good thing – businesspeople of any ilk need to be passionate about what they’re doing.

The idea for a new application will have been conceived in response to a problem. And the execution and development of the product will in turn have been designed to solve that problem.

As such, the SaaS entrepreneur will often catch him/herself thinking – sometimes even out loud – that their product is so darn good that it will sell itself. But, is this true?

Buying “Off the Page” Is So Easy – Conversions Are Practically Guaranteed!

Hmm. Sometimes. But only sometimes.

This is the further wisdom that many SaaS entrepreneurs – especially first-timers – are all too willing to accept: SaaS sales processes are so much simpler than traditional software sales in the fact that potential customers are ready and willing to “buy off the page”. This means that customers will never once have to interact with salesperson, and thereby the process plays perfectly into the demands of the self-empowered modern consumer.

And so, as a direct result, we are met with the ubiquity of the FREE TRIAL button.

The SaaS entrepreneur, so excited with his/her product, thinks: if we give people a free trial, they’ll be hooked and won’t ever be able to imagine their lives without our wondrous, game-changing solution.

free trial button saas conversions

But, consider this – 75% of SaaS companies offer a free trial. But, of these, 66% only enjoy free-trial-to-paying-customer conversion rates of 25% or less.

25%. It’s not a bad figure, but nonetheless calls to mind the Director’s Cut edition of Field of Dreams, in which the full quote from the ghost whispers:

“If you build it, they will come… and check out your free SaaS trial, but the vast majority will not convert into paying customers.”

Doesn’t quite have the same ring to it, so we can understand the decision to cut this all-important qualifier from the movie.


How to Use Inbound Marketing to Convert Your SaaS Trial Users

Inbound marketing is largely thought of in terms of lead generation. It is understandable, therefore, that many SaaS companies don’t naturally gravitate towards the tactic when attempting to convert SaaS trial users into paying customers.

However, inbound marketing strategies are in fact primed for such a purpose. With a simple modification of your inbound marketing goals – i.e. from lead generation to trial conversion – you can craft a strategy that will convert your SaaS trial users in much greater swathes.

Here are three top tips to help you do just that.

1. Target Educational Content at Your SaaS Free Trial Users

At its core, inbound marketing is all about education.

The tactic is well-known to be useful at the lead generation stage – web users who are looking for a solution like yours will be able to find the educational content you produce that, in turn, will draw them to your website where they can begin their free trial.

However, when trying to convert your SaaS free trial users into paying customers, the educational process needs to be ongoing.

With users signed up to your free trial, you will have key pieces of invaluable information that you will be able to use to target them – namely their email address and their name, from which you will be able to track them down on social media.

educate customers along the path to conversion

Your job now is to try and put yourself in the shoes of a free trial user, remembering that they will not necessarily be as naturally excited about your product as you are.

Consider the following:

In answer to the above questions, you should endeavour to create content that explains in no uncertain terms everything that your free trial users might need to know, and from there use inbound marketing tactics to ensure this information reaches them.

For instance, an eBook might be useful to serve as a beginner’s guide to using your SaaS product. And you can dress this up as a free download in an email that you send out to your free trial users.

In the same vein, video tutorials will be of equal value, as will webinars and product demos.

In order to communicate the value of your product, make sure that you’ve got some case studies or testimonials at the ready – perhaps amalgamated into a funky, eye-catching infographic – that can be easily shared and targeted towards your free trial users on social.

And of course, a strong blog strategy that addresses your targeted customers’ key challenges should be employed.

The trick is to identify potential knowledge gaps that might prove to stand as barriers to purchase, and use inbound marketing tactics to educate your users and remove these obstacles.


2. Support and Nurture Your SaaS Free Trial Users

Supporting your SaaS free trial users is one of the most important factors in increasing your conversion rates.

The timely delivery of supportive inbound marketing content to your free trial users as they get to grips with your product will show that you are committed to building lasting relationships with your customers, as opposed to simply being out to achieve as many sign-ups to your paid version as possible.

In inbound marketing terms, this is generally known as lead nurturing. What you will need to do, therefore, is think of your trial users in the same way as inbound marketers think of leads.

Signing up to the free trial is a strong indicator that the user is a sales qualified lead (SQL), and – with proper support, attention and nurturing – will soon be ready to convert.

Constant connection with your free trial users – through supportive emails and a ready presence on social media to answer any questions they may have – will manoeuver you into a position where you will be able to gently nudge them in the direction of becoming a paying customer.

To put it another way, the moment someone signs up for your free trial is the same moment that you should be moving towards building a relationship with the user. Support them, show that you care about their experience with your product, and have all the educational content they could possibly need at the ready to help them derive the most value that your SaaS solution has to offer.


3. Unlock Gated Content

Gated content is generally thought of as being the top end, premium content in your arsenal. It will be gated in the sense that it is only accessible to those who have taken a certain action – such as signing up to your free trial.

Unlocking gated content to your free trial users will make them feel privileged and special, and the gesture will invite them into your world, which not everybody has access to.

unlock premium content for premium users

It will mean, of course, turning to some of the stronger inbound marketing tactics, such as the creation of eBooks, white papers, research reports and other in-depth guides that will prove to be somewhat time-consuming to create.

However, it will be worth it, for the purpose is to position your company as a valuable resource of crucial information that you reserve only for those users who show that they are serious about your product.

In fact, to get the most out of this tactic, the best practice will be to unlock some of your gated content to free trial users, but reserve the most valuable pieces for those that convert into paying customers. This way you will add value to the full version of your product – especially if you make the promise to produce even more exclusive content during the customer’s lifetime with you.

The key, as always, is to build relationships with your customers, educate them, and assure them that you are aware of their wants and needs in their industry, and will strive to be as of greatest value to them as possible.


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