To Trial or Not to Trial??

Karen Chambers
Karen Chambers Member Posts: 15 Thought Leader
edited January 2021 in CS Technology
Hi GGR Community,
I've had a question continue to pop up in my final stages of mapping our our Customer Journey.  Do we offer a free trial or no free trial?
Our software tool helps track telecommunications commissions.  It is rather tedious to set up on the front end, but once its done, it cuts tracking commission time in half at the very least.  
Currently, if a prospect is wavering on if to buy or not, our salesman will offer a two week trial.  Typically, getting setup and running commissions takes at least two weeks to get started so we usually end up offering them a month trial.  The salesman is the primary contact in assisting with setup so our "ideal" onboarding journey is already altered.  

My ultimate question is would you offer a trial, why or why not?  And, how would you amend this process?

Thanks for any input!  
Karen

Comments

  • Shari Srebnick
    Shari Srebnick Member Posts: 111 Expert
    First Comment First Anniversary Name Dropper
    edited January 2021
    Hi Karen,

    Great question.   

    My first thought is:  What is the current conversion rate of the free trials?  YoY or even QoQ.   That can help make the decision as to whether it's worth it or not.  To take it further, do you have any supplemental data to support it?  For example, for the prospects that converted - what is their LTV vs those that didn't have a trial?  Did those that didn't have a trial churn sooner?  Is there any other data to connect the dots to help you make this decision?

    If this was me, I'd want to start there first.  Then if I decided to go ahead with free trials, I'd work on amending or making it work in the best interests of the customer.

    I hope that helps.
  • Karen Chambers
    Karen Chambers Member Posts: 15 Thought Leader
    edited January 2021
    Thank you, Shari, for taking a moment to respond.  Yes, this is extremely helpful.  I haven't been able to find the conversion rate data on my own so I'll engage with sales a bit further to learn some of the metrics you asked about.  "LTV"... sorry, is that time to value??  Thanks again!
  • Shari Srebnick
    Shari Srebnick Member Posts: 111 Expert
    First Comment First Anniversary Name Dropper
    edited January 2021
    HI Karen,

    LTV = Lifetime value.  Essentially, is there any data to support that the prospects who had trials remained customers (and thereby increasing LTV) longer than ones that didn't?  This may be hard to prove and also just coincidence.  At the end of the day I'd want to understand conversion rate and if there is a way to quantify, data supporting the theory that those who had a trial were more engaged or saw value sooner than others.  (time to first value).

    If it makes sense to go forward with trials, then I'd suggest collaborating with Sales to create a playbook that is most beneficial to the prospect first, and supportive of the customer journey and CS's role in it.
  • Josh Rosenthal
    Josh Rosenthal Member Posts: 5 Seeker
    First Anniversary
    edited January 2021

    #freemium and #freetrial offers are excellent avenues to reach influencers and decision-makers at your prospective customers, lowering your COA. It allows you to focus on your marketing to generate users to grow instead of leads to convert, and leaves room for analytics to assist your Sales and Customer Success teams to increase conversion size and frequency. This #landAndExpand methodology works at both SMB and Enterprise opportunities; just look at Slack.

    Making your onboarding (or at least the free or trial portion of it) as frictionless as possible will help in both your sales and adoption.

    Be ready for the dance when it comes time to pay ?  and recognize that your goal is only to convert a small percentage of accounts. Of course, YMMV depending upon factors such as the product and the prospect's persona.

  • Dennis Doyel
    Dennis Doyel Member Posts: 5 Seeker
    First Anniversary
    edited January 2021
    Hi Karen,

    I ran Customer Success as well as Sales and other departments at a fast growth SaaS company.  When we hit a flat revenue cycle I suggested to the CEO that we try a 60-day free trial.  We reduced it to 45 days after 6 months. My rationale was once a company became a client they rarely left; we had a 98% retention rate due to the exceptional Customer Success and Customer Support teams we had.  The trial became the primary focus of the sales team and we wrapped a marketing campaign around it.  We didn't offer it to just anyone.  There were certain qualifications they had to meet, but the outcome was incredible.  Close rates grew from 57% to 87% and there was no uptick in churn.  We treated those customers just like paying clients and we developed a framework around expectations/objectives, touch points and reporting that we reviewed with them weekly.
  • Julie Chapman
    Julie Chapman Member Posts: 3 Navigator
    edited January 2021
    Dennis,
    I think a big key to your success was treating them like a full-fledged client. In my experience, if you do a trial and expect them to serve themselves it's not as successful.  The fact that you had specific criteria in place also, likely, contributed to the success of your initiative.
    I also think it's important to keep the audience in mind. If you have a non-tech minded individual as a customer, someone who is less likely to get in there and figure it out, the trial can be problematic. It may actually end up being quite overwhelming for them, and since they aren't really invested in the success, it will go by the wayside. 
    From a sales perspective, if you have less experienced sales professionals in place, the urge to toss a trial at a prospect may be appealing, and give them a false sense of moving the sale forward, when in fact, all you've done is provide the prospect a reason to delay the purchase.
  • Karen Chambers
    Karen Chambers Member Posts: 15 Thought Leader
    edited January 2021
    All very good points, Julie.  I agree, we need to keep in mind how tech savvy the client is.  I talked with my team just yesterday that we should try offering the free trial (as last ditch effort) and treat them as a guided implementation like a full-on, new client.  The idea is to wow them with our implementation support and possibly bill for guided implementation upon signing up and just set that expectation up front.  If we lose them, we will need to gather the details as to why so we can improve our onboarding experience.  Trial and error, right?  (pardon the pun ;-) )
  • Dennis Doyel
    Dennis Doyel Member Posts: 5 Seeker
    First Anniversary
    edited January 2021
    Hi Julie,

    I didn't want to go into too much detail on the post, but I would like to add some clarity around a couple of things you brought up.  First, one of the requirements of doing the trial is we had to have the ultimate decision maker, the person who had authority to sign the contract, involved.  Second, your point about less experienced sales people is spot on.  Due to our YoY triple digit growth we were adding salespeople every quarter.  One of the keys for us to not allow the trial to be given to just any prospect was a) my first point...the decision maker had to be involved.  And b) the salesperson had to document the prospects critical success factors for a successful trial.  These would be reviewed with the prospect in advance and would be part of the trial agreement.  It was also helpful that we introduced them to their team prior to the trial.  This included their assigned CSM, who would review the trial objectives, reports they would receive and the meeting cadence, which would be calendared during the meeting.  They would meet the person doing the on-boarding, who would review the training schedule, key milestones and roles/responsibilities and they would meet our Director of Customer Support (help desk) who would explain her teams role.