Many SaaS businesses opt to have a freemium model or a product that offers a free trial. In fact, Jason Lemkin says we’re now in “the golden age of SaaS freemium,” predicting “there will be 100 low-touch and freemium unicorns by 2025-2028.”

Both are acquisition models. Both provide an opportunity for prospects to “kick the tires” before committing to purchase the product. While a freemium provides a complete or partial product free to a user for an unlimited time, a free trial provides the same for a limited time.

SaaS businesses that depend on recurring revenue know that the trial phase is not just about giving a prospect time to get to know them and their product. It’s a critical period to ensure that users start adopting the product now.

Because a free trial is limited, and a trial user can abandon ship at any point, you only have a small window of time to prove to the user that your product will achieve their business outcomes. If managed effectively, it leads to higher retention rates and unlocks new revenue growth opportunities for your business. And this significantly impacts not only customer success and product teams, but also sales and marketing teams as they look to increase trial conversions and turn those converters into advocates.

In the free trial phase, there are three key things to note:

  1. Your users are your buyers.
  2. Onboarding and adoption happen before purchase.
  3. Happy customers who are advocates are your long-tail, which is your secret marketing weapon. (All the best software companies are built on word-of-mouth. The more happy customers you have, the faster that positive word-of-mouth spreads.)

Here are a few of the big benefits SaaS companies see when they focus on driving user adoption.

Reduce Time-To-Value

Once a user agrees to sign up for a free trial, it’s the first time they will be able to peak behind the curtain at your product and the experience of working with your company. And you have a small window to show them they’ve made the right decision. Thus, reducing a user’s “time-to-value” (TTV) is a critical part of driving strong user adoption. The quicker they see value, the quicker they are to convert to a paying customer. A free trial duration already provides a sense of urgency to act so if you can give them a reason to act now, they will want to convert immediately.

If they don’t see initial value quickly, they may start doubting whether you can deliver on your promise, and abandon the trial. Worse, they may start spreading negative word-of-mouth.

The best way to reduce a user’s TTV is to quickly deliver on the value your user expects to receive from your product so you:

  • maintain user excitement (we refer to this as WOW moments, where your user sees the benefit they get from your product and goes WOW!)
  • build confidence in your product so users see that it’s actually improving their lives
  • provide a quality user experience and journey that helps them realize a quick return on investment
  • empower them to justify becoming a paying customer

Great ways to deliver a shorter time-to-value are by delivering tailored guided tours for smarter and more self-service onboarding, developing an adoption plan that considers your users’ business value as milestones, and mapping WOW moments into the customer journey.

Increase User Engagement

The goal of every SaaS product is to be a key part of the user’s daily life and workflow. The more users engage with your product, the more likely they are to convert. Delivering the right messages to the right user in the right moment is key to driving adoption in the trial phase. Easily customizing in-app engagements allow you to connect with users as they interact with your product. Campaigns like our onboarding launchers, guided tours, and tooltips help orient users to new features and workflows.

User adoption plays an integral role in another form of engagement – shaping online and offline behaviors that stimulate moments of truth. Moments of Truth are interactions in which customers put a high amount of energy in order to reach a satisfactory outcome. These are key interactions that can make or break a user’s experience with you so these are times when a personal touch will help drive conversions.

Monitoring user behavior will enable you to ensure they stay on track or help you to proactively bring them back when you sense they are veering off-course.

Customer and product analytics will help identify areas that need to be strengthened and predictive analytics will show how various product features attribute to successful adoption. These analytics will help you by providing insight on how to further engage with your users.  

Expedite Path to Advocacy

When you can focus on user adoption in the trial phase, you get a head-start on being able to drive retention, expansion, and advocacy.

Happy trial users are your long-tail, your secret marketing weapon. If you can ensure your product is delivering on the value users expect in the trial stage and users are happy, they will quickly convert, become loyal, and advocate for you. The more happy customers you have, the faster the positive word-of-mouth spreads. And the faster word-of-mouth spreads, the faster you can grow.

Adoption is not only about activity, it’s also about building confidence in your product that it will deliver on its promises. It’s the key to your survival. If you can’t immediately show value and WOW your users, someone else will.