We asked pros from 60 SaaS businesses to share tips for converting trial users to paid customers. Here’s how they’ve improved their paid activation rates.
Product and Design | Jun 26
Kevin Kononenko on January 9, 2018 (last modified on August 16, 2018) • 26 minute read
You know how this works: some cool, new tactic begins to get traction with early adopters. You jump on the bandwagon, and watch as you convert more leads from your website than ever before. It feels like you have made a breakthrough!
This tactic might work well for a couple of years, but you soon realize that your conversion rate has gone way down. Everyone else is subscribing to the same tools as you, and site visitors have gotten used to the same old tactics.
After all of that, you need to restart the process and find the hot new tactic that delivers an exceptional ROI.
For example, some marketers now use the term “YAEB”- “Yet Another Ebook”. It is a pretty straightforward case study- ebooks were an excellent tool for capturing leads 5 years ago. Now, buyers have become exhausted by the constant stream of mediocre ebooks developed by marketers that try to imitate best practices.
So, we polled marketing agencies from the Databox Partner Program and other marketers in the Databox community to learn what tactics have been working today (early 2018).
Some of these suggestions are timeless digital marketing advice: they have been valid for the past 15 years, and will be valid for another 15 years. In other cases, marketers suggested tactics that are working well today, but may only be valid for 2 more years. It is up to you to decide which is which!
You have just 10 seconds to communicate your product’s value to the typical first-time website visitor, according to the Nielsen Norman Group. One way to spark curiosity in your site visitors is to give a hint that you understand their problems more than anyone else.
You can accomplish this by doing extensive customer research and then using that knowledge to design your site’s brand and copy for specific customer personas. Or, you can choose a niche and appeal to a smaller audience. Even better, since this is 2018, you can now tailor the site’s content based on whether the person is a repeat visitor or came from a specific source. You don’t need to pitch to customers with multiple levels of awareness at once.
One Tactic We Have Used Successfully: The visitor to lead conversion ratio logically depends on two things – the type of person coming to your website and the quality/relevance of the offers presented.
As marketers, we spend a lot of time building out great offers and bringing in more traffic. It’s easy to get carried away with attracting visitors but it’s important they’re the right visitors for your brand.
At our agency, we have a very niche audience. By focusing on bringing only the most relevant visitors to our site, we are able to achieve a very healthy conversion rate that keeps our sales pipleline strong. Just a few hundred visits a month can result in some really great leads – I don’t want to spend time on the phone to low quality leads.
Our highest converting landing page (and blog post) is a customer persona template. It focuses on UK schools, a very specific audience. The leads generated by this content all come from organic search – people actively searching for ‘teacher customer personas’ or ‘school customer personas’. This is a great qualification process for traffic – the company is large enough and savvy enough to know they need solid personas. The right traffic, the right offer.
07 Heaven Marketing
One Tactic We Have Used Successfully:
These are the best starting points for any business looking to gain leads and convert them through digital marketing.
One Tactic We Have Used Successfully: The best tip, though broad, is to always provide VALUE for your visitors. If you set out to help your audience members achieve a goal (i.e. get more visitors, drive more leads or close more customers), then you should also provide them the best information in an easily digestible format.
Incorporating video, and other forms of premium content, is a key component of that. Once your visitor sees how valuable your content is, they are more likely to convert and submit information on an offer, or subscribe to your content.
Inbound Marketing Agency
One Tactic We Have Used Successfully: Specificity
Create a SPECIFIC offer for a SPECIFIC audience and conversion rate will skyrocket.
You do not have to spend hours on end to create an offer such as a lead magnet. In fact, more complex lead magnets convert poorly.
Put yourself in the shoes of the audience – start by looking at keywords they search. Try and understand their specific problem and come up with a specific solution. Most websites fail because they target 5% of visitors with an offer to sell to the audience.
Most visitors are in the awareness / consideration stage and need more information.
An example of an offer would be a lead magnet such as “How to create the perfect client dashboard in 10 minutes” or an information pack on a particular service/product that explores the audience’s questions.
One Tactic We Have Used Successfully: One example that we use is targeting visitors based on source. For instance, if someone is coming to our site on a mobile device, we’ll show them a more streamlined and mobile-friendly version of our traditional welcome message for desktop. Taking it one step further, if we know a visitor is coming to us from social media, say, an Instagram ad, we can take that mobile-friendly template and use the same messaging and imagery from our ad when they reach the site to provide a cohesive and relevant experience.
By making on-site campaigns highly targeted to that specific user’s experience, it’s easy to provide an offer or message that speaks directly to that user, and doing so dramatically increases our conversion rates.
One Tactic We Have Used Successfully: Clients have a vast variety of needs, and each of their customers go on different journeys and on different timelines – depending on where they are in their decision making – so increasing a visitor to lead conversion rate is not as simple as changing the color of your button or its placement on the page.
We focus on a variety of methods that can drastically impact a visitor’s path to becoming a lead, including:
We believe the key is to be aware of the customer’s pain points and be ready to offer immediate solutions when they are at various stages of their decision making.
What if a customer has a question while they are checking out your product? They could try and find an FAQ page, but that still might not solve their problem. Or, they could email a salesperson, but then they will need to wait days for a response.
Instead, chat bots allow you to quickly answer common customer questions and make it easy to learn about your product. If your chatbot cannot help, it can automatically pass the question along to the sales team so that a real human can join the conversation. You should make it as easy as possible to buy your product!
One Tactic We Have Used Successfully: At Drift, we use the “three visit” rule to turn blog visitors into qualified leads for Sales.
Our secret: We’ve set up a chatbot on our blog that only appears to visitors who have dropped by at least three times. We figure if they’re that interested in our blog, there’s a good chance they’d be interested in learning more about our product. So we have the chatbot ask them: “Any interest in seeing a demo?” If they say yes, our bot will show them a sales rep’s calendar (based on our Salesforce routing rules) and let them book a demo. It all happens right there, on the blog, in real-time — no lead forms or follow-up emails required.
One Tactic We Have Used Successfully: Ebooks are useful lead generation tools for top of the funnel prospects. However, if you’re looking to convert visitors who are in the consideration phase of your product or service, try implementing a chat widget such as Drift or Intercom.
We’ve been using Drift for over a year now and love how it’s helped us to quickly answer questions and concerns from our site visitors when they’re actively searching for answers. Even if they aren’t ready to purchase at that moment, it captures their email to nurture them down the funnel via email marketing.
One Tactic We Have Used Successfully: By far the most impactful lead generation tool has been the successful implementation of chat scripts, notifications, and bots. We began to experiment various companies scripts last January.
We quickly realized that all scripts are not created equal. Intercom and Drift indeed received the higher engagements from website visitors. Other scripts were seemingly clunky and not as friendly to use. Recently we began toying with Facebook Messenger directly on the sites, but the interface does not seem as mature.
Chat programs are a fantastic way to generate new leads into a sales pipeline. The conversation rates are nearly triple typical web conversions. Find a champion for chat scripts in your business or at your client’s ecosystem and watch the dialogue develop.
Prospects are exhausted from seeing e-book offers on every site, many of which are low quality. Instead, leading digital marketers are using tools like quizzes and calculators to create a customized experience for site visitors. These tools provide a quicker path to value for prospects and also pre-qualify leads based on responses.
One Tactic We Have Used Successfully: We build online assessment tools on the HubSpot platform for traditional professions.
One great example of how these work is CleanSlateLawyers.com. This legal referral service deals in criminal expungements and pardons. The user fills out a series of forms and the online assessment immediately tells them if they are eligible for an expungement or a pardon.
Before we built the assessment tool, the entire site was converting around 2% visitors-to-leads. The first full month with the new tool the site converted at 4.4%.
Ebooks are old and busted. Interactive assessments are new hotness.
One Tactic We Have Used Successfully: We regularly design and develop interactive calculators for our clients that serve as lead capture tools. These perform far better than many standard ebooks.
These include things like:
In addition, we often include a “share your results with a colleague” feature which allows you to capture two leads. In addition, you can collect additional information about the prospect based on the information they are entering in the calculator. Here are links to a few that we’ve recently launched:
Manuel Algaba Cortés
One Tactic We Have Used Successfully: Instead of “YAEB” for a top of the funnel content (I don’t know if leads read ebooks at all), we have successfully used Typeform to make an online test with multiple answers. That helps our leads to:
1. Ask themselves some questions to evaluate their current online presence: Is the website responsive? Does it have an updated blog? Does it have a newsletter? etc.
2. Depending on the lead answers, there are three possible results with some extra advice and a link to a relevant post.
3. It takes less than a couple of minutes to complete the test vs the time needed to read an ebook.
It is also useful for us as it allows us to see how the lead answered these questions and it takes far less time and resources to create new online tests.
Here is a link to the landing page. Once the form has been completed, the lead is redirected to the test.
One Tactic We Have Used Successfully: One method we used to increase the website visitor to lead conversion rate for our client in the higher education industry is replicating HubSpot’s “New Type of Landing Page”.
Traditional landing pages include a brief overview of the content and a form visitors fill out to receive a PDF via email or a PDF that can be viewed online.
What’s the problem? You don’t receive any organic search traffic from your PDF and it is difficult to rank a landing page organically.
The new type of landing page is the best of both worlds. The top of the page looks and reads like a traditional landing page, but when you scroll down to the beginning of the content a pop-up form appears and blurs out the live text. To view the text online and receive a PDF via email, the visitor needs to complete the form. The new type of landing page is great because our clients benefit from on-page SEO without sacrificing leads.
In the first 2 months since the page was published we received over 1,100 views, 211 form submissions, and our landing page is currently ranked #10 on Google’s results page for our primary keyword.
This is probably the most straightforward strategy. Create a toolbox of different tactics that you can use to get more performance out of existing high-traffic pages.
Beware: if a page is low-performing, there is only so much you can optimize. Eventually, you may need to reconsider the content and purpose of the page itself. Optimization cannot fix problems like a lack of knowledge about the customer.
One Tactic We Have Used Successfully: This one is painfully easy. Open up your Pages report in HubSpot, or your Landing Pages report in Google Analytics, and look at the percentage of visitors who clicked on your call-to-action (CTA) on each page. Look for the underperformers. If that click-through-rate (CTR) is too low, or non-existent – you need to come up with a better offer to promote on that blog post.
Start with your most popular posts first, and gradually work your way down the list. Don’t stop until each blog post has at least a 1% CTR. Then start again and get those numbers even higher. You can easily double your volume of leads by doing this.
If you’re not sure what offer you should link to or create, stop to put yourself in the reader’s shoes. What was that person trying to achieve when they did that Google search that led them to your article? Did your article help them achieve that? What will they want to do immediately after they read your content? Learn something? Do something? Can you create an offer that facilitates that?
One Tactic We Have Used Successfully: When it comes to “content marketing,” most aren’t seeing the measurable results they had hoped for. I find that’s due to the fact that most are generating very general “thought leadership” content, which is fine, but it doesn’t do much to generate leads that have an immediate, specific need.
Instead, I recommend that companies develop assets that solve specific pain points. Then, take a given asset and develop a narrative version of what the asset does — this is the instructional version of what the asset does. For example, if you have a calculator that helps your target audience assess and calculate something related to a specific pain point, the narrative version could be a blog post that explains how to do an assessment and calculation.
Then, within that blog post, you would link to your asset and say something to the effect of, “if you’d like this process to be even easier, be sure to download our XYZ calculator — we’ve done all of the complicated stuff for you.” In this way, the asset becomes the “missing link” to the post. The relevance between these two pieces will be extremely high, creating high click-through rates from your blog to the related landing page. Once this framework is in place, you can then run targeted cold traffic to the blog post. For those that don’t convert on the landing page, re-market the landing page offer (this would be your “warm traffic”). This little package should convert at a much higher rate than general “content marketing” and “thought leadership.”
One Tactic We Have Used Successfully: For our customers that are a local, serviced based business, nothing beats having the phone number in the top right-hand corner of their website. We make sure we include things like ‘Free Phone’ or ‘Call Today’ as a slight call to action to grab the user’s attention.
We ran a 50/50 split test using Google Optimise across 5 customers. The first half of the visitors did not see the phone number in the corner. The second half, did. On average, we saw an 8% increase in conversions across the 5 websites.
For extremely reactive service-based business – like an emergency plumber, the conversion rate increased by a phenomenal 17.4%.
If you do plan on A/B split testing for any phone call activity, it is vital that you use a call tracking software. Trying to do so without is like trying to catch flies in the dark. CallRail and Call Tracking Metrics are both great.
Olive & Company
One Tactic We Have Used Successfully: Yes, you need ebooks. You need webinars. You need guides and free trials, and all kinds of other goodies to entice your visitors to give you their contact information. But, for many businesses, the simplest way to convert more website visitors into leads is to optimize existing landing pages.
If visitors are coming to your landing page, but they’re not converting, there may be a problem with the content or design of the page that needs to be addressed. Maybe the design doesn’t feel trustworthy. Maybe the user experience is creating unnecessary friction. Maybe the landing page content is too long, unfocused, or simply off target. Whatever the case may be, improving the performance of an existing landing page that already attracts traffic is an efficient way to generate leads while maximizing the value of the existing campaign assets you’ve already invested in.
Not sure where to start? Have someone familiar with landing page best practices review your page and suggest optimizations. If bigger changes are necessary, consider running A/B tests to evaluate the impact individual changes have on page performance.
One Tactic We Have Used Successfully: One thing we’ve noticed with some frequency is that businesses try to do too much with their home pages.
Most visitors won’t scroll very far down on your homepage before leaving or clicking, so if your header is cluttered with multiple buttons, images, and links, they won’t click on the CTA or button you need them to click on to convert.
Our tip is to clean up your home page as much as possible. Make it as short as you can, use your white space, and place that conversion opportunity front and center. It could be a link to a content offer or a button that links them to a contact form for a free consultation, sample, quote, etc.
This can be a challenging for businesses who want their websites to speak to both visitors and existing customers, but if your objective is to convert visitors, you have to optimize your homepage to meet that objective. You could also remedy this problem with smart content, so that your current customers see different messaging on your homepage than new visitors.
One of our clients came to us with a simple enough home page, but it had no conversion opportunity up top. We added a “Contact Us” button and some call-to-action copy, but we didn’t see much traction.
However, once we added a conversion opportunity in the header image (a button for a free sample of their product), conversions increased by 262.5% over the next quarter.
One Tactic We Have Used Successfully: This one actually came up by mistake but we saw great conversions on this. We tried placing a pop up on the landing page prompting people to download the content on the landing page.
Seems like an overkill yes, but we saw that sometimes when people land on a landing page, they may get turned off knowing they have to enter their info to get the content. But, a reminder of why they are there in the first place encourages them to forget their reservations and do it anyway.
One Tactic We Have Used Successfully: New Breed delivered conversion optimization services for SpringCM, a SaaS company that struggled with converting visitors on their most valuable landing pages.
This low submission rate meant that the client was forced to drive up visits through paid traffic to hit their lead goals. On top of that, they had zero visibility into the influence these pages had on generating new opportunities and customers.
Knowing this would not be sustainable in the long term, New Breed identified conversion rate optimization through Growth Driven Design as the best solution to create the efficient and scalable model they were looking for.
A primary initiative that drove conversion for SpringCM was gating an essential demo video behind a landing page with a middle-of-funnel form.
Mike Del Cuore
One Tactic We Have Used Successfully: Conversions are a numbers game. A general rule of thumb that we follow is “the easier you make it for them to convert, the more often they will”. Too often do people get caught up in the analysis of the specific verbiage of a call to action, or the color, or the size. Although these things are important and can definitely have an impact on your conversion rate, it’s important not to lose sight of the big picture.
When viewing a website holistically, how many conversion points do you have? Do you have at least one on every page? Are they positioned next to relevant content that connects to the conversion?
By implementing more conversion opportunities that are strategically positioned next to relevant value props, your audience will more easily convert to leads more often.
Prospects may not be ready for an ebook or another offer that will take them 20 minutes to review. At the same time, you do not want them to visit your site once and then leave without a plan to review more information.
You can try smaller, less-intimidating conversion offers that will engage prospects that are still not even sure if they have the problem that your product solves.
One Tactic We Have Used Successfully: Not everyone who visits a site is going to purchase something the first, second, or even the third time. You can’t entice all these customers with a hard sell, because they will go somewhere else, but you can capture a small piece of information. Simply getting an email address will make sure you stay in this potential customer’s consciousness.
This way, you can target the user with possible promotions or other products that can convert them into customers. A great way to entice customers to leave an email address is by offering some kind of discount, or the opportunity to enter a competition. Your customers will feel like they are getting something for free, whilst you gain valuable email addresses.
One example of how we achieved this was to add a ‘spin the wheel’ promotion to a client homepage in which visitors needed to leave their email address for a chance to win a prize. This gave our client the ability to re-target these visitors later on and convert them to customers.
One Tactic We Have Used Successfully: One tactic that has worked consistently well at increasing conversion rates for my clients is focusing on micro-conversions. Instead of starting your conversion funnel by asking for a prospect’s information in exchange for something like an e-book, focus on something even smaller that requires less commitment.
This can be something simple like a two-question survey, asking for social shares in exchange for a download, engaging your prospect for a few minutes through your websites chat, or best of all: breaking down the price of your product/service into smaller, bite-sized payments that are less intimidating.
One company that does this especially well is Ahrefs. Instead of asking prospects to commit to a minimum of one month on their platform at $100, they offer a 7-day trial for $7. Although competitively you make think a paid trial is less appealing than the free trials many of their competitors offer, asking for the $7 psychologically conditions prospects by getting them to say yes once, while conveying a silent confidence in the software.
They’re essentially saying hey, we know our tool is good and we’re so confident you’ll love it that we’re not offering free trials. The companies that do this well understand the importance of a value ladder. They build a funnel around their core product/service with small actions that ultimately lead to the bigger conversion. It’s a process that works off human psychology, our fear of commitments and distrust for sales processes.
ProFromGo Internet Marketing
One Tactic We Have Used Successfully: One thing we have done for numerous manufacturing clients is run Trade Show giveaway campaigns through Facebook Ads/Blogging.
In one case the offer was to schedule an appointment at the trade show, in another, it was an offer of a free cooler, etc if the prospect purchases something at the trade show. Our most recent saw their sales increase and more buyers using them for other products for the first time as well.
One Tactic We Have Used Successfully: Checklists! For a customer at our agency who helps companies develop manuals for their products we offer a checklist: ‘Does my manual comply with regulations?’ as a download.
Then we send a follow-up mail ‘You may have found that your manual doesn’t comply, here’s how we can help.’ A checklist is a handy tool by itself, but it also helps leads discover the issues they need help with. Then you can offer that help.
One Tactic We Have Used Successfully: With podcast interview marketing, we have found that sending listeners to a show-dedicated welcome page (similar to a landing page, but different) with 3 specific offers helps convert listeners into leads. Here’s an example.
Sakas and Company
One Tactic We Have Used Successfully: Pre-address your prospects’ top 3 sales objections. For me, those were about payment terms (I accept credit cards and clients can pay over time), where I work (most of my work is remote, but I’ll sometimes do on-site consulting), and how fast I can start (which depends on the service and time of year).
One Tactic We Have Used Successfully: Tip: Don’t just market your events, use your events FOR marketing.
For our conference this year called Marketing Loves Sales, we wanted our attendance to include both leads that we were already in touch with and new leads who discover us through this event. The Marketing Loves Sales website included all conference information, including sponsors, speakers, location, etc.
But we saw more opportunity to get people subscribed to event updates and registered for tickets through the site. Instead of simply promoting who would be speaking, we wanted to create content that would go more in-depth with what our audience could expect, and use that in our prospect email campaigns and social media posts.
So we started a blog series called “Speaker Spotlight”. They were simple interviews with some of our biggest names, and included both questions about what to expect at Marketing Loves Sales, and a more personable side to them that we otherwise wouldn’t be familiar with.
These blogs were posted on the site, featured in email newsletters and campaigns, and then shared through our social media accounts with the speakers and their organizations tagged. By doing this, their own networks noticed the articles, expanding the audience who would see our content. Not to mention, it’s more publicity for our speakers, resulting in a mutual benefit.
This resulted in a large increase in website traffic, and ultimately ticket orders, where we surpassed our goal attendance of 250 B2B marketing and sales professionals and about 60 new qualified lead contacts.
One Tactic We Have Used Successfully: We use case study video at the top of the funnel rather than just at the bottom where it has been traditionally used. Video case studies are expensive to make so you want to leverage them as much as possible. You need to use high-quality imagery to attract prospects attention on social. So re-edit 2-3 min video case studies into 1min videos to accompany blogs or 10 second video cards that can be used on social.
Pepper Inbound Marketing
One Tactic We Have Used Successfully: Video can be a great way to increase landing page conversions, once you’ve done the obvious things (eliminate navigation menus, shorten the form, etc…) Our client account, Roux Luxury Travel, had a landing page for collecting leads for Oceania Cruise Deals. When we first set up the landing page, following best practices, our conversions were about 20%. We added a short video to the page, and the conversions jumped to 28%. Here’s the page.
So, how do you know which strategy is right for you? The answer is not straightforward, otherwise, bots could be running your marketing! Instead, think of these suggestions as a checklist. If you are looking to grow your leads from inbound marketing, you can try multiple tactics.
Every tactic centers around one KPI: your visitor-lead conversion ratio. If you want to stay on top of that ratio for every page on your site in real-time and for free, here are a couple options.
The Blog Quality Metrics dashboard lets you track engagement and conversion on a page-by-page basis.
The HubSpot Landing Pages dashboard lets you track conversion across all landing pages in one place, and even see if they turn into customers.
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