Uncategorized December 7, 2015 Luke Grimstrup

Trial Conversion — Where Email Marketing Campaigns Fall Short

In an ideal world, you want as many prospective customers test-driving your product as you can get, so the less friction during a trial signup the better. However, you aren’t giving out product trials for charity, so you need some way to contact these users and try to convert them into paying subscribers. For products sold online, an email address is generally the minimum piece of information required. In essence, you are trading a free trial of your product for an email address you can use as a channel for marketing content. How effective is email in the context of trial conversion? Is there a better alternative?



The Shopper’s Perspective:

Imagine a potential customer, let’s call him Ted. Ted has just landed on your product page. He likes what he sees and thinks it may be the perfect solution to an immediate and ongoing problem he needs to solve for. Great news, right? Even better… Ted gets to try your product free for 30 days and he doesn’t even need to provide his credit card info! Awesome! In fact, all Ted needs to provide is an email address which is a no-brainer because he never reads marketing emails. In fact, Ted is pretty crafty. He hates getting “Junk” email so he just provides a fake email address. Win-win for Ted, right? He gets full access to try your product without ever having to deal with your pesky marketing efforts. Seems like Ted’s day couldn’t get any better, right?

Your dilemma, as the software company:

Now, let’s take a look at this from your perspective. You have provided a free trial to Ted in the hopes of gaining a new paying customer. The only thing you ask in return is to be able to reach Ted via email with information on how to get the most out of his trial, promotional offers to hopefully persuade him to become a paying customer, and you might even want to learn something about Ted and others like him in order to help you continuously improve your customer-driven product focus.

But what do you really want?

In reality, you would love to know a lot more about Ted like what company he works at, what position he holds, his level of influence over the purchase process, his phone number, etc. There is just so much that could help pre-qualify Ted as a potential lead and allow your sales team and/or a targeted email campaign to put the best foot forward in order to seal the deal.

Unfortunately Ted wants to try your product immediately and doesn’t have time to answer a bunch of questions. In fact, if Ted has to provide all of this information up front he is probably just going to bounce and try a competitor’s product that requires less of a commitment.

So the Ted in this scenario has the upper-hand?

Absolutely! Most companies that rely on e-commerce and a mostly automated sales cycle will do almost anything to get prospective customers to try their product. The average amount spent on marketing within SaaS companies is around 10% of revenue. (Gartner). Therefore, it is imperative that the entry barrier to your product is minimized during the trial signup process to really capitalize on every dollar spent.

The best way to remove friction during the signup process and avoid drop-off via your signup flow is to limit the amount of information required(e.g. Contact, demographic information, and credit card info). It has been proven; force the shopper to jump through too many hoops and you’ll get less prospective customers. This is especially true on mobile platforms where input of data is more time consuming.

With this in mind, you’ve kept your entry barrier at a bare minimum and prospective customers such as Ted are signing up to try your product! Time to start that email drip campaign and hope for the best!

The problem with email campaigns:

Think of all the steps an email needs to go through in this context. Is that email address really all that useful? Email fatigue is a legitimate issue with the average person receiving 85 emails per day (The Radicati Group, Inc.) of which 10 on average are spam. In fact, over 50% of emails are promotional in nature. It quickly becomes evident that email marketing campaigns are not long for this world.


Recent metrics for email marketing campaigns in the SaaS industry show an average open rate of less than 22% and a click through rate of about 2.5%.

From my many years in product management roles for B2B and B2C SaaS solutions I can say that these numbers actually seem pretty ambitious! In my experience the numbers are closer to 10% and less than 2% respectively.

There has got to be a better way!

What if there was a guaranteed way to display contextual, promotional messaging (e.g. subscribe now and get 20% off) and educational tips and tricks (e.g. get started in just 3 easy steps) to your users? Imagine reaching 100% of your prospective customers without ever asking for a single piece of information. Better yet, what if you could reach them exactly when they’re most apt to be thinking about you and your product, when they’re using it?


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