If you make applications that charge clients on a subscription-basis, whether you know it or not, you are a conversion optimization fan. Why is that? Because when your website offers up your sales process in a self-serve format, you are able to see, via your web analytics, how prospects respond at every stage of the game. This rich data gives clues on what changes you can make that will influence their decision to try or buy your application. If your company fits this description, you should consider yourself lucky when comparing yourself to license-based models. Unlike them, you can instantly raise revenues by simply changing your website in ways that convert more visitors to clients.
I have found several opportunities for directly raising revenue, in working with websites of mobile app and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) providers. But before jumping feet first into split testing every word, image and layout element on your site, I would urge you to first look at your analytics to see the weak parts of your current conversion paths. For example, look at the Google Analytics navigation summary for any of your main pages. Where do visitors go once they have seen your pricing page? If they have visited your sign-up page, then your pricing page has done its job. On the other hand, if they most often proceed to your homepage or your careers page, you should look at ways to strengthen how your pricing page works. The ultimate goal, for those who have reached your sign-up page, is to get as many as possible to complete the process and become users.
Optimizing User Sign-Up
There are two different types of subscription sales models, first is the pay-to-play model that requires users to pay up front, second is the partly-free model which can include free trial or freemium offers. While they must both convert visitors into paying users, the free trial and freemium models get there through the two-step process of converting visitors into users and later converting users into paying clients. Let’s tackle the conversion of visitors into users first, which usually centres around the “sign-up” form on the website. Here are some of best practices that you should consider for getting sign-ups:
- You can obviously list all the product’s features, but how about text or video describing how you are improving the user’s workflow. This shows that you understand your different user segments and, if your solution is a disruptive technology, this can help you overcome objections springing up in the prospect’s mind.
- Each sign-up process works slightly differently, try displaying a progress bar or a client testimonial that reaffirms how easy it is for someone to set themself up on your application.
- Users require extra love and care shortly after they sign-up, known as an onboarding period. To maximize their odds of successfully converting, you should send them training tips and job aids on the welcome page after they login. Use your analytics package to see when they hover over or click on these items – a good signal that the product is gaining traction with the user.
- Free trials can be of varying lengths, so if a prospect is looking at your enterprise edition, where you can expect heavy usage in a shorter period of time, you can offer a 15 day trial. For those looking at your starter edition, you can choose a longer time period which will give them a chance to use your product long enough to evaluate it.
- When the free phase ought to be winding up (trial expiring, user has reached the threshold of needing premium features), they should be seeing point-of-sale reminders, which hopefully increase in frequency as they draw closer to the point where they should purchase. If you can blend in analytics, it is even better to personalize them by quantifying their benefit since they started using your product (manual transactions saved, estimated time saved, etc.)
Regardless of which SaaS model you use, you will ultimately put your user at the point-of-sale where they must decide whether or not they will buy your product. Here are some best practices that you should consider for getting paying clients at the point-of-sale:
- Scrutinize your website’s explanation of your pricing, ask yourself if it can be made clearer, tiered differently, even differentiated by vertical market segment.
- Optimize your payment page, following the best practices of comparable e-commerce sites.
- Think beyond your subscriptions to how you might test some of your application’s other potential revenue streams, such as advertising, affiliate income from sales of complementary products and professional service packages.
A quick note about upselling and referral-based sales. If you sell additional modules to the users of your base package, ensure that these modules are presented in keeping with the basic user experience. For example, if your application uses tabs, premium modules should probably be integrated so they appear as grayed-out tabs. A client clicking on one tab could see marketing collateral the first-time, with sales offers on subsequent views. Users should never see a terse ‘module cannot be displayed’ error message. When it comes to selling via referrals, always structure your site so that a prospect can see clients that match the specific business problem they are trying to tackle. You can find this out anecdotally from existing clients or, if need be, by filtering your application’s analytics data into several segments, e.g. heavy report-module users, multi-location-users, etc.
Not sure if these optimization techniques will work on your website? The good news is that these can all be tested – so you have nothing to lose by trying. If your company needs another reason to optimize your web conversions, you can take it from my friend Jeff Bennett of ServiceVantage. He’ll remind you that there is someone besides you cares about conversions, who sees them as direct indicators of future revenue. That someone is an investor, who, as Jeff likes to say, “won’t buy into your company until you’ve nailed your conversion rate.”
Whether you have a mobile app or a web-based SaaS offering, I hope these suggestions can be put to use in how your website markets your web-based technology. Remember how lucky you are, compared to other technology-based offerings; any boost you make to your conversion rate has a direct impact on your revenue. After all, you have the unique ability to not only generate leads with your site, you’re able to convert those leads into online sales.