How are you getting your users?
Are you trying to squeeze as many people as possible into your free trial? And then hoping they will stick around and become paid users?
In many cases, that’s what SaaS companies do. And more often than not, it’s a mistake.
A SaaS is a SaaS. It’s more complicated than most products being sold online. You can judge and decide to buy a pair of shoes simply by it’s look, but before you decide to sign up for a software, learn how to use it, and pay a monthly fee… you need much more than a screenshot of the platform.
The solution? Nurturing.
In an article on SaaS customer retention Neil Patel emphasized the importance of nurturing by providing value to your leads:
“There are several advantages to such an approach. First, you’re increasing the value of the SaaS to the customer. Second, you’re creating a deeper relationship between you and the customer. Both of these features can help to reduce churn.”
Now, there are many ways you can nurture a prospect, but I believe the most effective and simplest method to implement is drip email marketing.
I won’t go into all the details of drip marketing, as it’s a fairly complex subject, but in short, drip emails consist of a series of emails that are automatically delivered to your prospect’s inboxes over a specific period of time. It has the purpose of building a relationship, trust, and to finally nurture prospects in order to make them sales-ready.
So if you already have a drip email marketing campaign ready and running in the background, how do you get more people in it as a SaaS company?
Most articles that talk about techniques to get more people onto your email list focus on popups, banners, content upgrades and a plethora of other widgets that are made mostly for bloggers.
But as a SaaS, what if your blog is not your main source of traffic? Or what if you don’t even have a blog? Some marketers would tell you “well start one” and collect email addresses!
Although that’s definitely advice you should follow, you don’t NEED a blog to capture leads.
In this post, you will discover 6 powerful methods you can use to get more prospects into your drip marketing engine, and finally increase paid account conversions and reduce churn. Let’s dive in!
Offer An Ebook, A Checklist Or A White Paper
This is by far the most common method to get people inside a drip marketing funnel, and the concept is simple: Create a freebie that your target audience will find valuable and will want to download.
This can be an ebook, a checklist, a cheat sheet… anything really, that you create and can give away for free in exchange for an email address.
WP Curve, for example, provides a list of tool that can be downloaded after entering your email address.
Typically, this is the easiest type of free bonus to implement. You can quickly create a PDF ebook or list by repurposing your existing content, create a “cheat sheet” using your customer’s most frequent questions about your industry, or make a checklist based on key processes of a topic your target audience wants help with.
This type of free bonus content is most often promoted in blogs such as in a sidebar, in a popup or under the blog post as a “content upgrade”. As a result, through discussions with founders and SaaS marketers, I’ve noticed non-bloggers often forget they can create and promote such offer – without even having a blog.
For example, let’s take proposal software Bidsketch that increased their revenues by hundreds of thousands of dollars using drip emails.
When you land on Bidsketch’s homepage, they don’t ask you to sign up for a trial or even ask you if you want to see the software’s features. Instead, since they know nurturing prospects is key to increase their paid account conversions, they ask you to enter your email address to receive a free sample proposal.
This instantly qualifies leads. If someone’s looking for a proposal software, chances are good they will request the free sample. Bidsketch, with email addresses of qualified leads in hand can now send drip emails that will nurture the leads for 30 days. Eventually, a large portion of leads convert into actual paying users.
2. Create A Resource Library
If you’ve been giving away different types of ebooks, cheat sheets, white papers, and similar types of bonuses as a way to get people inside your funnel, you’ll start to have numerous resources scattered around your site, which can make a specific piece hard to find for someone looking for it.
In order to exploit the value of the material you created in full swing, instead of just featuring them under blog posts as content upgrades, on a webpage or in popups, I recommend you create a member’s area where visitors, in exchange for their email addresses can get access to all the freebies you’ve produced. By doing this, the “members area” becomes a bonus by itself too…
This improves the experience of your subscribers quite significantly, and quite frankly, you can only gain from doing it.
And there’s more… having many free bonus downloads can also become quite a pain for you to manage and integrate with your autoresponder software…. Replace the clutter with that one central area on your website where all of your downloadable bonuses are available, and you’re eliminating all sorts of automation and tech troubles.
Kissmetrics uses a similar technique to organize over 32 marketing guides they have created over the years as free downloads.
3. Offer A Simplified, Standalone Feature Of Your Software For Free
It’s always good to stand out in your offers, and this method is a prime example of something that’s useful, free, and that create instant, massive value for your target audience.
You see, a bonus like an ebook or something similar has to be consumed in order to be valuable. Often, these types of bonuses ends up sitting on the virtual bookshelves of whoever downloaded it for it to be read later; thus delaying its power to beam instant value.
On top of that, someone who downloads and also reads an ebook is not always going to be trying to solve the problem you’re teaching right away… People love to have courses, books, and materials “just in case”.
However, if you look at your software and identify one little but popular feature that you can let people use for free, you might have found the perfect lead magnet.
Accounting software Freshbooks has a great example of this technique in action:
Freshbooks is known powerful invoicing features. They know their target market – small businesses – are likely looking for a way to easily create invoices for their clients.
With this in mind, they created the Free Invoice Creator that lets anyone easily create professional looking invoices for free.
For the user, this is instant value. For Freshbooks, not only are they able to capture a user’s email address as they send the invoice, but they’re also slowly nurturing prospects by already gaining trust and building a relationship through having people use their tool.
A very smart move on their part.
I still want to warn you that this might not work for your company, it really depends on your software, your audience, and what are the problems that you’re solving. It’s also more complex to create as it will likely require a developer to build it.
I believe these types of tools are always going to be champions for lead generation. Don’t let the extra work repulse you, this might be the strategy that will give you extra results.
4. Offer Personalized Recommendations
People absolutely love free tool like Freshbooks’ invoice generator, but something people also love are tools that provide personalized recommendations. Think of landing page graders. website speed analyzers, content reach calculators, etc…
People don’t always recognize their own problems or roadblocks and needs (or think they need) someone else to diagnose it for them. Great, so use this to your advantage by creating a free tool that does just that: diagnose problems.
Not only is such tool engaging, which is great as you always want to engage your audience as much as possible, but a tool like this also provides tons of value to people using it.
Think about this. People are getting useful snippets of personalized information out of it for free, it’s a little piece of software; thus runs automatically without you or your sales team doing the heavy lifting, and as a result, people will associate your company as an authority.
One of the best examples I’ve seen over the past few years is Hubspot’s website grader.
With Hubspot’s tool, by simply entering your website’s URL and email address the software will generate personalized recommendations to help you improve your SEO, your website’s speed, performance and security.
This engages people, which wins Hubspot attention (and according to many, is the new currency). Even better, since they give instant insights in exchange of an email address, they can now send drip campaigns to nurture the user into using Hubspot. It’s a Win-Win situation.
Now a tool like Hubspot’s Website Grader is not only great because it provides instant valuable feedback, but also because it highlights right away what they’re doing wrong and what they need to change and improve.
This tool is like a doctor doing a diagnostic, and your software being the prescription.
See how it can quickly turn a cold lead into to a subscriber, and then into a prospect that clearly understand his problems and your solution?
At this point, a prospect that used the tool will be further into its decision making process than someone who downloaded a free ebook, which is much less engaging and less likely to be fully consumed.
5. Offer An Email Or Video Course
When you teach people something valuable that will help them accomplish their goals, they will automatically see you as an authority on the subject you’re teaching.
This is something that can be accomplished through an ebook, a free video, a webinar, and using most strategies listed in this post. These are great at kickstarting a relationship, and If done right, you’re giving away something of value for free that will help your prospects achieve X goal.
That being said, you don’t want to forget that after people download your free bonus, your drip email campaign kicks in, which means you need to create multiple emails that also have to provide tons of value…
If you don’t want to deal with that extra work, an effective way of leveraging the enticing effect of a free bonus, without actually creating one is to make your drip email campaign the bonus itself.
It’s not extremely hard either… The best and simplest way to do this is by creating your drip emails in a way where they all tie into each other. They should be a series that teaches something valuable over the course of a few days or a couple of weeks.
In other words, create a mini email course that people will look forward to receive and learn from. Within your email, where it makes sense and without over-doing it, you can briefly mention and show how your software helps accomplish what you’re teaching even better.
When I Work is a great example of a software company nurturing visitors through a drip email course.
Over the course of 6 days, people who sign up to When I Work’s crash course get to learn tips and trick on how to better schedule employees. And it doesn’t matter if the person who subscribes becomes or doesn’t become a customer, at the end of the 6 days that person will still have received valuable takeaways and action items.
In the person’s mind, these learnings will either consciously or subconsciously be attributed to When I Work, and no matter what, this will have kickstarted a positive relationship between the prospect and the company.
Finally, throughout the course some of the software’s features will be mentioned; thus making it clear in a non-salesy way that the software will make what’s being taught even more worthwhile.
6. Host A Free Webinar
Done well, webinars can be crazy effective. They’re the closest you can get to a live in-person event or to a live call with prospects.
Instead of just sending text or videos to your prospects to entice them to give you their email address, a great free bonus can be a value-packed webinar on a topic related to the problem you’re solving.
Now, there’s one thing you definitely need to avoid, and that is to use your webinar as a way to demo your product. At this stage, people might not even be considering your software, so don’t skip important steps in your sales process.
Instead, your webinar should focus on showcasing the problem you’re solving, why it’s important to solve that problem, and then providing easy to implement, actionable solutions.
This builds relationship and gives away tons of value… just like the other methods I told you explained, but with the added element of human interaction. Keep your pitch and call to action for the last 10-20 minutes of your webinar.
A webinar will possibly require more work than many of the other types of bonuses you can give away, and on top of that, people who aren’t fully comfortable with public speaking will tend to avoid it. Is that you?
One thing’s certain, and it’s that you shouldn’t let this stop you. A good webinar can convert 20% to 40% of its attendees into qualified leads. It’s a great growth engine for your business. Some webinar systems will even give you the possibility to make them “automated” after recording a live session, which removes the necessity to physically host every single webinar.
The human touch of a webinar is what makes them so good. People hear your voice, and ideally, also sees your face while you’re presenting. Because of this, people are able to trust you much faster, and in return, you’re warming leads faster too.
There’s something very powerful that happens in someone’s mind when they can associate you and your brand to a voice and face… to a human. I’d be a mistake not to leverage that.
Landing page platform LeadPages definitely recognizes the power of webinars. In 2014 alone, they hosted over 200 webinars. That is, multiple per week in order to nurture and convert leads into loyal customers.
They mastered the art of hosting webinars too. Sure, they’ll show off some of their product’s features, and make an offer in the last 10-15 minutes. But they will legitimately teach without any type of hard sells for a good hour.
A win for anyone attending, as well as for LeadPages who’s reaping the benefits of increased authority and sales-ready leads.
Have you noticed any recurring themes while reading this article? Because there are definitely a few: Value, Trust and Relationship. And these are key to a lead magnet that gets people into your drip funnel effectively.
People hate being sold to. Think about the last time a telemarketer called you, what did you do? Chances are you hung up. He probably was trying to get your credit card out as quickly as possible, skipping the “must” haves of nurturing.
This is why creating a free resource, such an ebook, a whitepaper, a mini-software or a webinar that helps people achieve their goals will benefit your paid users conversion rate immensely. It avoids people “virtually” hanging up on you.
When you do this, people will listen to you, trust you, and want to do business with you. It’s reciprocity, do this and your business will probably grow like crazy…
Finally, let me ask you: What are your favorite ways of getting people into your drip email funnel? Did I miss a method that has done wonders for your business? Share it in the comments below, can’t wait to read what you’ve got to say!
About the Author: Raphael Paulin-Daigle is a conversion optimization consultant that helps SaaS companies skyrocket their growth by boosting paid user conversions, increasing customer lifetime value, and revenue. Increase your conversions with drip emails by getting his free “Essential and Complete Guide to SaaS Drip Marketing” here.