How to acquire B2B SaaS free trial users
So you have a product and an amazing team? Great! But if you don’t know how to get customers, then you don’t have anything valuable.
In this phase, we’ll go over how you can gain a foothold in your target audience’s mind and build systems to generate demand for your product.
When it comes to a free trial offer, marketing plays the most important part.
For instance, if your product offers video hosting but people are signing up thinking it’s a video marketing agency, they’re doomed from the start — no wizard or product tour can save that.
To acquire more trial users, we recommend going through the following 5 steps:
Step 1 – Get emotional
Now, don’t start crying on us.
But please realize that the prospect, lead, MQL, or whatever you want to call it, is a human being.
They have feelings, frustrations, and maybe even a great personality.
Just because we’re selling to businesses does not mean that we should treat people differently.
People do business with people who they like.
One of the easiest but most overlooked ways we can attract people who would like to do business with us is by becoming relatable.
The hard part here is coming up with the right questions so that you can describe your product in a way that customers get it.
Instead of focusing on surface-level demographic information like job titles and company sizes to determine your ideal target audience, we focus on what emotions drive our customers to buy a particular product.
Because let’s be honest, people are emotional beings and make their initial decisions based on, well, emotions.
The sooner we realize this, the sooner we’re able to break down what is important to our target audience.
Throughout each of these steps, we’ll include a checklist so that you can apply what you’ve learned.
- Ask customers the questions HERE. Note: you don’t have to ask all of them.
- Identify top 5 positive customer feelings
- Identify top 5 negative customer feelings
Step 2 – Identify the job-to-be-done
First off, it’s important to note that whatever human need your software fulfills, you can bet your visitors are already satisfying it, one way or another. Unfortunately for you, people tend to dislike change, especially when they’re the ones that have to start doing things differently. Getting anyone to switch the way they do something is a very tall order — you’re going to have to peel them from what they’re already doing as if they were wearing a velcro suit.
Don’t assume your only competitors are companies that make products similar to yours. In fact, it’s much more likely that your users are currently solving their problem with something they’ve cobbled together themselves, and are only now seeking outside help because they’ve stressed their own system to the breaking point. In that way, your true field of competitors widens to such ingrained incumbents as pen & paper, telephones, email, and Excel. – Samuel Hulick, Founder of Useronboard.com
Put simply, a job-to-be-done, is a pain that needs to be solved – it’s product agnostic and does not change over time.
If we were to make a bet, we’d bet on the fact that you are loyal to getting a job done better (faster, more predictably and with higher output) and/or more cheaply. You’d be willing to replace existing products and services with those that help achieve your goals.
You wouldn’t buy a new Mac if it took an hour to start and required an Ethernet cable to connect to the internet. Right?
Step #1: Sit down with a recent customer.
This is necessary to understand the context behind why someone bought your product. Without understanding the context of the situation, you won’t know the core struggles and pain that your product solves.
For instance, if you’re an iPod user and only have lullaby songs on your device, it’s going to be a pain in the butt finding workout music to listen to if you’re on a run. Whereas, if you had Spotify, you could have found a workout song in three seconds.
If you know the context behind why someone makes the switch, it makes it so much easier to figure out how your product is eliminating a specific pain. If you want some good questions to ask your recent customer, we recommend using our switch interview template.
Step #2 Speak to the right people.
Talking with your friends isn’t enough. You need to talk to the people who are in the trenches trying to solve the specific problem your product helps eliminate.
This can also involve talking with people who are not your customers yet. What really matters is that you understand how people are currently solving this problem to aide you in defining what your main job-to-be-done is.
Step #3 Look for the main job-to-be-done.
In any given product, there should be one main job-to-be-done and lots of sub jobs-to-be-done that support it.
Take Buffer, for example.
Main Job-to-be-done > Attracting prospective customers
Sub-jobs > Peace-of-mind, simple, and time efficient
If we look at Buffer through this lens, you’ll notice that their competitors are endless. They are competing with cold calling, marketing automation systems, digital advertising, and search engines.
This is a good thing.
Although infinitely more competitive, this allows Buffer to compete on how well it helps its customers attract prospective customers vs what gizmo it has in comparison to other social media tools.
If you’re looking to dive more into jobs-to-be-done theory, we recommend checking out this video.
- Define your job-to-be-done for your business and product.
Now, ask yourself, “which page would you click?”
If you’ve been in the B2B SaaS space for some time, you’ll probably laugh at how common marketers try to focus on the technology vs what the product will allow you to do.
When drafting your copy, always focus on the superpower your product will allow others to achieve in their own life.
You want your customer to be the hero for choosing to use your product.
Case in point…
Step 4 – Choose a growth driver
Now that we’ve focused on ironing out what emotions drive our prospects to buy, what core job-to-be-done we solve, and articulated how our product benefits others, it’s time to choose a marketing channel.
If you’re just starting out and don’t have a marketing channel that performs well, please skip the first section below.
>If you have a marketing channels that perform well
If you have channels that are already working, double down on the one channel that works best for your business. Invest to optimize and drive compound growth from what’s already working. Pick the low hanging fruit first to seed that exponential growth and maximize your yield. The more you do this, the faster you will grow and the more this growth will increase your ability to attract the resources and talent necessary to explore new growth opportunities.
What to Do:
Answer the following questions about your business:
- Where has your growth come from thus far?
- Which channels perform well?
- What percentage of your traffic comes from each channel?
- What is the conversion rate on the traffic from each source?
- What is the retention rate on the conversions from each source?15
>If you don’t have channels that are performing well
There’s no better place to start than Gabriel Weinberg and Justin Mares’s bullseye framework from Traction: A Startup Guide to Getting Customers to discover new marketing channels.
The bullseye framework looks like this initially.
Essentially there are 19 marketing channels that you can use to grow your business.
But you can’t pursue anything and everything. You have to spend effort only on the traction channels and activities that move the needle for your business, and these will vary by company.
It’s up to you to find out what channels make the most sense for your business.
At Traffic Is Currency, we’ve found that it helps to run $1,000-3,000 tests on each channel to gauge how effective it is for your business.
You can use this simple Google Spreadsheet to determine what channels make the most sense to pursue first.
Once you’ve identified your top channels, you can complete the bullseye and have a good handle on what marketing channels you are going to pursue.
Here’s an example of what it could look like for your business:
Feel free to steal the Bullseye template.
One of the most important things about acquisition is that once you’ve identified one channel that works extremely well, you NEED to double down on that channel and milk it until it no longer works, while ignoring the majority of other channels.
The key here is focus!
The truth is that most large companies received > 80% of their growth from one channel when starting out.
Case in point…
Zynga —> Facebook
LinkedIn/Facebook —> Virality (via email)
Instagram —> Virality (via sharing)
Hubspot —> Content Marketing
TripAdvisor —> Search17
If you’re still looking for a great breakdown of the 19 marketing channels listed above, I recommend checking out Zapier’s blog post on the topic.
Although this is always going to be an ongoing process, it’s extremely helpful to start answering these questions from the first campaign.
Questions to answer after testing out each channel:
- How much will it cost to acquire customers through this channel?
- How many customers are available through this channel?
- Are the customers that you are getting through this channel the kind of customers that you want right now?
- What “hooks” work best for getting people to sign up?
- What is the bottleneck metric for acquisition?
To break down the bullseye framework even further and set actionable goals, we recommend using the format below to approach setting quarterly acquisition goals.
Feel free to steal the template.
Step 5 – Document every step for each marketing channel
Throughout the acquisition phase, there are often a lot more steps than we usually think of.
What helps a lot of marketers and founders is to jot down every single touchpoint from the marketing channel to using the product.
To easily do this, we recommend using a free tool, such as Lucid Charts to break down your acquisition process.
Here’s an example:
“When approaching this, it’s really, really important to remember that people do not use software simply because they have tons of spare time and find clicking buttons enjoyable. They use software because it significantly improves their lives in some way.” – Samuel Hulick, Founder of Useronboard.com
Once you’ve identified every point in your onboarding phase, it is extremely important to track every step using a tool such as Mixpanel, Amplitude or Kissmetrics. After each event in your onboarding phase is tracked, it’s best to setup a funnel so that you can see where the majority of your users fall off.
This will help you identify many leaks in your funnel.
- Ask yourself the following:
- Is the copy, images, and visual elements all saying the same thing?
- Is it a consistent experience?
- Is there unnecessary friction throughout the process?
- Update the copy, images, and visual elements to ensure all elements are communicating what you want
- Update your experience to remove unnecessary friction
Dive Deeper Into Your Free Trial Experience
Activation (Coming Soon!)
Activation is defined as getting people to a must-have experience. In this phase, we’ll dive into how to get more people to that must-have experience within your B2B SaaS product.
Retention (Coming Soon!)
Retention is defined as a customer who pays for and regularly uses your product. In this phase, we’ll go over battle-tested strategies to improve the lifetime value of each customer.