From trial users to happy paying customers: how to convert people with better UX

Simon McCade

As the founder of a SaaS company, you’re likely to encounter many different conversion challenges. It all starts with getting and retaining the attention of people who may benefit from your product. Then, you’ll want to build different assets and find ways of converting website visitors into leads. And there’s no better way to qualify your leads than to offer free 7-, 14- or even 30-day trials. 

By doing so, you’ll increase the probability of attracting high-quality leads who are at the bottom of the funnel, or BoFu, meaning they have already acknowledged their problem and are actively searching for a solution. 

However, this comes with a very specific set of challenges revolving around converting these leads or trial users into paying customers. And we all know how difficult this process can be. After all, you’re trying to convince your leads how valuable your product is and why they should pay for it. 

The Fit and Perceived Value Matrix

Although there are no clear statistics about the behaviour of trial users, you’re already familiar with the struggle of convincing them to pay for a subscription. Why is this happening, and why do people decide to stop using your product once they’ve tried it for free? 

To answer these questions, let’s look at the Fit and Perceived Value Matrix.

The Fit & Perceived Value Matrix, where Fit stands for “How well your solution can serve the needs of your potential customers” and Perceived Value stands for “The value people think they can get out of the product.

This matrix helps us identify four scenarios where your trial users may decide to pay for your product or abandon it after one or a few tries.

Scenario 1: Bad fit, low perceived value

Once your trial users use your product, they may realise that it’s not what they actually need. So because there’s a bad fit, they won’t be able to identify your product’s value. Obviously, you shouldn’t be interested in retaining these users. After all, they need something else, and you can’t control that.  

Scenario 2: Bad fit, high perceived value

In this case, trial users may understand that your product won’t help them achieve their specific goals. However, by using it, they may perceive its value and subsequently recommend it to someone who actually needs it. However, again, these aren’t the people on whom you can count for revenue. 

Scenario 3: Good fit, low perceived value

Your product may be exactly what your trial users are looking for. Moreover, it can help them overcome all of the challenges they have and automatise the process they want to deploy. However, they may fail to identify the real value your product can provide. 

Scenario 4: Good fit, high perceived value

These are your future paying customers, unless they have some budget-related issues and can’t afford your platform. But overall, these are the people your software can serve best and who understand the real value your product can generate. 

As you can see, there are multiple scenarios that can be derived from the trial use of your product. And most of the time, you can’t predict how your trial users will behave. However, there are certain things and scenarios you can control.

You’re in control of Perceived Value 

You can’t control the Fit parameter. After all, it’s completely up to your users to decide if your product is aligned with their needs. But it’s your job to make sure they can easily identify the Perceived Value. 

In other words, you can—and should—control the Perceived Value variable. But what exactly can we call Perceived Value? What defines it? 

Perceived Value is the ability of trial users to integrate your product into their daily workflow without encountering any specific difficulties. Or, better said, it’s the ease of use and adaptability of your product. 

To get people to move from trial users to paying customers, you’ll have to make them see how well-aligned your product is with their needs.

Plus, they should experience - on their own - how easy it is to achieve a certain degree of success by using your SaaS product. Compared to the Fit variable, you can easily increase the Perceived Value of your software. How can you do that? One way is through better UX.

Steps to turn your trial users into happy paying customers

By increasing the Perceived Value, you’ll be able to convert users into customers easily. But how exactly can you improve an already existing product with better UX and make it more attractive for your trial users? 

I recommend taking the following steps: 

Step 1. Provide personalised templates as a starting point

When offering free trials, you have two options. The first one is to simply invite your leads to try your product. The second option is to personalise the user’s experience with specific templates. 

Let’s say that you’ve developed a remote work tool that involves collaborative project management. Instead of just inviting people to access your free trial, you could share a series of templates aligned with the different projects that teams may need to manage. 

For example, you can have templates such as:

  • Yearly and Quarterly OKRs (Objective and Key Results)
  • Product Launches
  • Sales Tracking
  • Editorial Calendar
  • Social Media Calendar 

Likewise, you can classify all these templates using different filters or use cases people can choose before signing in.

Notion offers a multitude of templates that adapts to the needs of their trial users

By having access to a multitude of templates, your users can choose the one that fits their needs best and enjoy a more personalised experience when using your product from the beginning.

Typeform has an interesting template filtering system that enables the trial users to find what they need

Step 2. Help users to import their data when trying your product

Another important element that will give your trial users a strong personalised experience is letting them import their own data. Let’s say that you’ve developed an event management software and your free trial revolves around creating an event from scratch and segmenting the attendees. 

In this case, you can give your trial users the option to import their guest lists to your product and use their own data when discovering how your product works. Mailchimp is a great example. Instead of wondering how its software works, you can just import your email list and use it to get familiar with Mailchimp’s features and options. 

There’s nothing more powerful in terms of personalisation than letting your trial users import their own data and seeing how your software works in real-time. That’s a great way to increase the Perceived Value users will have about your product. 

To understand better how Mailchimp works, the trial users can import their list of contacts

Step 3. Provide a seamless and friendly onboarding process to reduce user anxiety

Trying a new product can generate a certain level of anxiety, especially if it’s a product users need to accomplish their work. But in most companies, before deciding which software to purchase, employees are asked to sign up for several free trials and see how different platforms operate. 

What will make your software stand out from the rest? A friendly and pain-free onboarding process can do wonders when trying to differentiate yourself from the competition.

If you can design a hassle-free and engaging onboarding experience, along with the feeling of being assisted, chances are your trial users will be more inclined to choose your brand and advocate for you inside their companies.
Memory has an entire "Getting Started" library, accompanying their trial users through the onboarding process

Step 4. Reduce the number of options your users have

You want to charm your trial users and show them everything your product can do. However, when it comes to designing the free trial experience, you’ll want to reduce the number of options and features users will have access to.

Asana provides a few clear options trial users can explore

You want to make the experience as smooth as possible, meaning you don’t want users to become paralysed by too many choices.

Show them how clear and straightforward your product is by minimising their options and features.

Step 5. Make sure your users experience their first success

Here’s a simple rule you’ll want to remember: If you want to convert your trial users into paying customers, make sure your free trial helps users reach their first success. 

Let’s take the example above and imagine that you’ve developed an event management product. Your free trial, in this case, should focus on helping your users launch their first fully-fledged event, with a real online registration and a live event landing page. This is the only way to truly communicate your product’s real worth and value. 

Or maybe you created a CRM platform for companies. In this case, you can accompany your trial users through the creation of their first email sequence and help them achieve their first success once they’ve designed and sent their first message.

Close help their trial users to achieve their first success by enabling them to launch their first email sequence

Key takeaways

If there’s one thing you need to remember from this article, it’s that apart from developing an engaging onboarding process and a delightful user experience, it’s also important to focus on designing the discovery process of your trial users. 

Start by personalising their experience with different templates and the possibility of importing their own data. Then, deliver a friendly onboarding process, along with a clean dashboard. Finally, accompany your trial users through their first success. 

By incorporating all these elements, you’ll greatly increase the Perceived Value of your product and gain more control over the conversion numbers from trial users to paying customers. 

Get in touch today to find out if there’s a way I can help.

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