How do you successfully execute a free trial? A recent conversation with a group of peers turned to this question when the value of free trials came up. In our business, we know if someone does an onboarding session with us before a free trial, we have a better than 50% chance of converting them to a customer. Without an onboarding session the conversion rate is significantly lower. The challenge is getting someone to agree to the onboarding session.

It seems I’m not alone.

Hands Off Sales Tactics For the Win

It's difficult to get someone on the phone these days. No one wants to talk anymore, instead they want to manage their own discovery process without vendor engagement. Most of the group had, or were in the process of, transitioning to “hands-free” trials, even those with very complex and expensive offerings. In addition, many were also reconfiguring their sales processes to bring sales representatives into the process much later, having learned that prospects are more likely to be open to a conversation post-trial.

It’s hard to let go of great conversion numbers but the reality is we can’t achieve the scale we want if we don’t allow prospects to initiate engagement on their terms. It’s a good reminder that customer experience has to be top of mind from the very beginning of the sales process. 

Our immediate plan is to provide prospects with more than one way to experience a free trial: the traditional way with an onboarding session upfront, or a self-guided experience supported by user guides and videos. Time and experimentation will tell us if we are on the right track. I think we have a lot to learn about delivering a good self-guided trial experience for our prospects. 

Related Article: No Country for Old Sales Reps

Marketing Audit: Are You Delivering the Experiences Your Customers Want?

As I review our marketing plan for 2020, I’m looking at each element to see if we are creating programs that align with how our prospects want to engage. As a company we are reviewing our entire email strategy. If anything, we are much lower touch than our peers when it comes to email marketing but even with that, I’m not sure we’re creating the right customer experience. We’ve got work to do! The one exception is our newsletter which is short, focused and designed for a fast read. Our newsletter subscribers routinely tell us they read it every week.

We are approaching our marketing plan with a view to how we can deliver tangible value through an experience a prospect will appreciate, at each point in their journey. It takes a lot of discipline across the organization to not revert to focusing on our past conversion metrics and traditional programs. We have also taken a step back from our analytics and continue to remind ourselves we are selling to humans who for the most part, are just like us. 

Learning Opportunities

We don’t have it all figured out, but we do know we need to keep evolving in step with the changing needs and wants of our customers.  

Related Article: How Flow Science Helped Us Align Marketing and Sales

Marketing Has Come Full Circle

I’m happy to experience a demo of a product I’m interested in, but I despise cold calls. My kids don’t like talking on the phone in any circumstances. If I need to reach them, I have to text them. My 92-year-old father-in-law has perfected Facetime. 

It’s hard to know what’s around the corner. Will prospects react to privacy concerns and try to take themselves off the grid? Will new ways to interact continue to emerge (btw I’ve totally missed out on TikTok)? Who knows? What I do know is we have to continue to reevaluate our ways of connecting with prospects and work hard to make every connection point a useful one for everyone involved.  

There was a time when marketers complained that digital was taking the creativity out of marketing, and for a while it looked like marketing was turning into a numbers game. We’ve now come full circle. In our noisy world, not only do we need creative content more than ever but we need creativity around engagement. It’s exciting — it reminds me of why I wanted to be in marketing in the first place.

One last thing, as exciting as the challenges are ahead, I’d still occasionally like someone to talk to!

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