There are a number of different reasons why someone might create a free trial account in your product. They saw an ad, a friend mentioned your company, they read about your product in a blog, saw you at a trade show, they’re doing competitive research, etc.
We can’t simply assume every free trial created is a potential customer.
… but there is a lot of pressure in SaaS businesses to define a funnel, measure the movement through stages, and to continuously grow and optimize. This is where many businesses start to lose sight of the most important growth factor, product experience.
As a marketer, I can grow the top of funnel 20% month over month to infinity, but if the product experience is not keeping its promises or new users are confused, or there is not a clear path to value, then growth will not happen. This is a major, and often overlooked, barrier in building momentum and generating sustained growth that scales.
Product led growth is a growing movement, but growth has always been about the product. In the consumer world when you buy things that suck, you don’t go out and buy more of them! You return the one you bought and try something new. The rise of SaaS has simply made it easier for businesses to “try before they buy” and to “change their minds” if their initial selection doesn’t deliver.
How do you ensure your product delivers a positive first impression?
- Get users through the initial activation process as efficiently as possible
- Provide activated users with a clear path to “value”
Number one is table stakes. There is always a bit of configuration or setup involved in getting started with a new product. For better, or worse this is where your users are going to make their first impression. This experience has to be positive.
Here are a few suggestions to help ensure users get through this step feeling good about what your product can do for them.
- Provide guidance – there are many tools out there to help you guide users through a setup process. I strongly recommend you try a few (appcues, pendo, mixpanel, intercom, etc) pick the ones you like, and build them into your product experience. DO NOT assume your product is so awesome that your users will effortlessly find their way through this process.
- Offer them human help – some people prefer a personal touch, give it to them. High touch is difficult to scale so learn from each of these experiences and build the learnings into your product experience.
- Time matters – people have grown to expect to receive value quickly. Think Amazon same-day deliveries. You can not afford to sit around and wait for users to figure it out on their own. You have less than 24 hours to get your users through your onboarding, keep this in mind as you build out that initial experience.
Getting through onboarding triggers activation. This simply means a user has done the bare minimum required to start using your product.
Do not confuse this with value. They are not the same.
Value is about your product delivering on its promise to the user. Once they have activated you can get on to delivering product value. This is your single most important growth factor. If your product cannot deliver value efficiently, the majority of your free users won’t stick around.
Delivering Value is the Key to Product Led Growth
Delivering product value is complicated. There is not a formula that works every time for every business, but there are a few things to keep in mind:
- Know who your product is designed for (and who it is not) – If you build your product for everyone, then it’s really designed for no one. Don’t underestimate the scope of this problem, countless businesses fail because they are not able to achieve product-market fit. This is about focus and discipline.
- Define “value” and guide your users to it – just like your onboarding process getting to value can be mapped out. Don’t assume your users will get there on their own. Don’t assume your product is intuitive and that the path is obvious. Grab your users by the hand and take them where they need to go.
- It’s ok to be hands-on, but not forever – It doesn’t scale if you need to use humans to get your customers to value. So learn from each of these interactions and use the data to refine (not expand product scope) and focus on getting your target market to value as efficiently as possible.
Focus on your primary target. The users that are going to fall in love with your product, use it every day, tell their friends, mention you on social, etc. Once you capture that market you can scale, but not before. Keep reading about product led growth.