Tom Benattar
January 21, 2019

5 Ways to Onboard Free Trial Users With Retargeting

If you run a SaaS product with a free trial, you already know the sad truth: most free trial users will never become paying customers. You work hard to offer a wonderful trial experience, and yet people are just there to kick the tyres.

Unfortunately, that’s the cost of doing business.

And it’s not just free trials. A whopping 92% of any website’s visitors aren’t there to buy. They shop around, look for the best bargain, and test out a whole range of things for free.

Some of these are just never going to convert. But some are genuinely looking for a solution. And you definitely don’t want to let them go to waste. You know who they are, can see they have potential, and they’ve shown a real interest in your products.

So what can you do if your standard onboarding process hasn’t converted them by the end of a free trial?

We suggest retargeting.

Why retargeting for onboarding?

As much as you like to hope that your onboarding process is smooth and simple, you’re reading this post because you wish it was better. Drip emails, in-app pop-ups, and product walkthroughs are all excellent, and need to be your first steps.

But what if users aren’t even logging in, and don’t open your emails?

The beauty of retargeting campaigns is that they reach users in a new context. It’s a pretty safe bet that they’re on social media regularly, and you can reignite interest where other methods have lost effect.

But you also need to be a little careful. People are more wary than ever of companies on social media – especially Facebook. They don’t want to feel that they’re being spied on or chased around the web.

Your messaging needs to offer something new and valuable to the user. An exclusive offer is good; “why won’t you open my emails?” is bad.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at the kinds of retargeting messages you should be sending to help onboard customers more effectively.

5 ways to retarget and onboard new users

1. Deliver product-focused content

You probably already use social ads to promote high quality content. It’s an effective way to generate top-of-funnel leads.

But what about users already in your funnel? A high-level beginner’s guide or research report isn’t going to take them from free trial to paying customer.

Here’s where one form of content is incredibly helpful:

The problem-solving strategy guide

If they’ve signed up for your trial, they’re past the awareness stage. They know they have a problem, and they’re hoping you can solve it. It’s time to show them that you can.

Identify one (or a small handful) of the biggest issues that cause people to choose your service. Why do people buy your products? Then create a short PDF or Powerpoint guide to show them how they can solve exactly that problem with your help.

It needs to showcase your offering, but should always focus on solving the problem first.

In other words, you can’t just show them the product page of your website.

Start with the problem, and then methodically show them how to solve it once they’re logged in.

Then, set up your retargeting campaign to deliver this content right to the user on social media.

This strategy even works well for Amazon visitors and Medium readers. But it’s most effective for trial users who may have started with a clear goal, and then stalled in the onboarding process. Just remind them how they can easily achieve that goal, and walk them through it.

2. Offer discounts for more urgent conversions

Your social media feeds are likely awash with retargeting deals. Every time you log in, you get an ad for those shoes you looked at on Amazon, or the hotels in Mexico you checked out on Expedia.

Yesterday they were full price. Now, they’re 20% off.

The principle is pretty simple. A user was interested in your products yesterday, but they didn’t feel the need to buy. I’ll sleep on it and keep looking. So here’s a chance for them to commit now.

Present a special offer to help them make that decision. It could be a discount, the first month free, or an added extra that normally they’d have to pay for.

You need to give them a reason to convert now. So it needs to be a limited time offer that they can take advantage of immediately.

If you give them more time to think about it, there’s a good chance they’ll never actually convert.

3. Promote an upcoming webinar

Webinars are a great onboarding tool because they let users interact with you directly, but on a one-to-many scale. In other words, you can talk to lots of users and answer questions without having to make one-on-one calls.

And since onboarding problems will be the same for lots of users, it pays to be able to deal with all of these at once. Customer support and sales teams love this.

Webinars also have a sense of urgency; since there’s a fixed time and date, it gives the user a deadline or decision date.

And it’s good for the user. They can have their questions answered, and get to hear from the real people behind the company. If you’ve only dealt with chatbots and email workflows so far, this makes for a nice change.

So what kinds of webinars could you promote with retargeting? Two obvious ones spring to mind.

Your next live product webinar

We’re not talking about top-of-funnel, broad topic webinars. You want to convert prospects into customers, or at least to get them thinking about continuing their trial.

This makes product webinars ideal. These could be demo-style walk-throughs where you show off your incredible features. Or better yet, choose a common problem and show them how they would solve it with your tool.

And as with any product-focused content (above), show off the benefits, not the features.

An evergreen webinar

Have a webinar recording that you know went well and showed your company in a great light? You can use it again and again, and it’ll always be new and exciting to the audience.

The best part about this is that the webinar is completely automated. So once you’re set up, there’s nothing to worry about.

It doesn’t make sense to always be creating brand new content. Sometimes, it’s better to get the most out of what you already have.

4. Offer a one-to-one onboarding call

Especially for potentially high-value customers, your best bet may be to get them on the phone. While some users might prefer self-service onboarding, there are still those who’d rather speak to someone in the hopes of having their questions answered directly.

Some users get stuck while setting up an account. Or perhaps they have one clear goal, but haven’t quite figured out their way around the software. If you can offer them a quick call to solve these issues, there’s a good chance you’ll keep the relationship alive.

Once again, it’s common practice to start with drip emails or a chatbot. But so many businesspeople have learned to ignore these techniques. Perhaps a friendly social media ad will catch their attention and encourage them to take that call.

5. Suggest a longer trial

Plenty of users will finish their free trial without converting. Why not offer an extra two weeks for free, or a significant discount off their first month if they do so through your ad?

This may be a last-ditch attempt, but it’s worth trying.

If a user is about to hit the end of their trial, they may just need a little more time to make a decision. Some businesses won’t want to offer this – you want to keep the sales cycle short.

But if the options are to extend the trial or have them gone for good, it’s probably worth giving one last push.

Pro tip

Limit these retargeting campaigns to particularly active trial users. If someone signs up, then barely touches the platform during their trial period, it’s unlikely that a time extension will help.

But if they’ve been highly active, and just haven’t quite taken the plunge on a paid account, an extra week or two may be just what they need to see real results.

If possible, try to combine an extended trial offer with a one-to-one call. The goal should be to find out what they’re trying to achieve, and help them see results in their extended trial period.

If they’re using the service but aren’t ready to pay, they likely don’t see the value yet. If you can help get them to that point, you’re more likely to convert them into a paying customer.

Make the most of every trial period

Free trials are a wonderful way to let users test out your products or services without risking their precious money. They’ve become so widely used that virtually every SaaS tool and B2B business uses them.

But despite their wonderful potential, trials don’t always convert as you’d hope. Users test so many products that you’re always in a competition. And plenty of people never intend to buy in the first place.

But that doesn’t mean that you can’t use them to great effect. Your product is already the best it can be, and you just need to provide an onboarding experience that proves this. With that comes highly personalized communication, and this is where retargeting is so powerful.

Using social media, you can reach trial users when they’re away from your products, and convince them to become paying customers. It’s an extra shot worth taking.