Trials, Demos or Tours – what’s right for your SaaS Solution

How do you know what’s going to work best to help prospects evaluate and buy your SaaS solution: Trial, Demo, or Tour?

Let’s start with some definitions.

Free Trial – Opt-in and Opt-out

In thinking about offering a free trial, the first question you need to ask yourself is – do you want or expect 100% of your customers to come through the Free Trial?  And the next question is – is my SaaS solution inexpensive, easy to use and transactional? If those of these are Yes, then it becomes a marketing tool with clear goals, and is a defined stage in the sales process.

Let’s be sure to point out that Freemium and Free Trial are not the same.  Freemium is when you offer a free and a paid version of a product.  Free Trial is a full use of your B2B SaaS product for a specific amount of time (30 – 90 days usually).

In this case, an opt-in free trial can be started when a prospect opts-in to the subscription and usually doesn’t have to provide payment or credit card details until the trial ends.  Here the emphasis is not so much getting them INTO the trial as OUT of the trial and converted to active paid status.

Research tells us that best-in-class SaaS companies are able to convert around 25% of free trial sign-ups into paying customers.

This is different from an Opt-Out Free Trial.  For an opt-out trial, you give your credit card and the subscription goes live at the end of the period UNLESS the buyer cancels.  Think magazine subscriptions. Even for these, the conversions aren’t going to be 100%; typically these are around 60%.

If you want to drive all of your customers through a trial, then you need a website that’s completely focused on that effort with lots of content including blogs and video that provide education.  In addition to content marketing, you’ll want to invest in advertising and social media marketing that drives your prospects to landing pages full of free trial information with a clear call to action.

This works best if you have a fairly simple SaaS tool that’s purchased and used by one individual so the decision-making process is easy and relatively fast.  The price point would typically be “credit card friendly”.  Let’s call that less than $500 per month.

Even if your solution is a little bit more complex, and will be used by several people (multiple seats), then your free trial will involve sales, most likely an inside sales rep or SDR who has some initial qualifying conversations and helps the prospect get set up.  The SDR will keep in contact with the prospect throughout the trail, answering questions and staying actively engaged with the conversion. Usage analytics are valuable to sales to let them know whether the prospect is using your product during the trial or not.  Sales and marketing will need to work together to help the prospect be sufficiently engaged that they fall in love with the product during the trial and clearly see the ROI potential.

Animated or Video Tours

If your SaaS solution is a platform that’s either complex or the underpinnings for managed services that run in the tens of thousands of dollars, then a demo or a tour is more suitable for your buyer. In fact, we highly recommend having an animated or video tour of your solution on your site so the buyer can get a general idea of the interface and how they’d work with it.  This isn’t a training, it’s a benefits-rich tour.  We recommend that it’s not longer than 3 to 5 minutes.  Ideally if you have more content than that you want to share, break it into multiple tour segments of about 3 minutes. It’s most powerful if you can create tours that are industry focused, so buyers can see how others like them solve their problems with your solution.

SaaS Solution Demos

The most frequent mistake I see in complex solution sales is demoing too early.  While a Free Trial may be the first step in a transactional SaaS sale, we recommend that a demo be used much later in consultative sales process. Here is why.  Offering demos will attract tire-kickers, Looky Lou’s and maybe your end-user, but hardly ever your qualified VP or C-Level decision makers.  If you encourage your sales team to schedule demos as their first call, they’ll be wasting an hour or more on unqualified prospects.  The demo isn’t a qualifying step.  Before your field sales, inside sales, or BDRs agree to give a demo, make sure they are qualifying the prospect, verifying need and budget, and then agree to give a demo. That way, ability to customize the storyline and demo based on the needs that were gathered in the early conversations will make it more compelling for the buyer and be a valuable step in further qualification.  Otherwise, your sales reps will be wasting a lot of time and effort they could be spending on selling.

Be careful about the message you put out there in your content and website.  Unlike the free trial scenario, you DON’T want a DEMO button everywhere on your website and it should not be the call to action (CTA) for your marketing. Generate interest and leads. THEN demo. That will result in a better outcome for both buyer and seller.

Deciding the best options for your B2B SaaS customers – trial, demo, or tour – should be discussed and agreed upon jointly by the sales and marketing teams. That way your buyer will receive the signals they need to make their way through their buying journey to your SaaS solution.