Product Adoption in IT: The Problem With Free Trials
by Heily Speetjens
16 January, 2019 - 4 minute read
A lot of articles and blogs describe how the customer journey should unfold and what gets in the way of achieving real success. Very few have been written about the problem of one of the most common steps for buying a technical product: the free trial. That is why this article discusses the problems with these trials but also discusses a possible solution for this problem.
At Instruqt, our customers are mostly tech vendors who have products or features they need to sell. What we’ve discovered is that success begins at the first touch with the product. You need to show your prospect the value of your product immediately, after all, that’s what they want. And the advantage of the free trial is that your prospect gets to know your product in their own environment. So, often this “first-touch” happens through the free trial. After 15, 30 or 60 days of using a product or service, the prospect can then decide if they’re actually going to buy it.
What could possibly go wrong with a free trial? Well, actually, a lot.
Here’s a summary of all the possible problems your prospect might experience with a free trial.
Avoid Making a Maze of Your Free Trial
We’ve tried many ourselves and can tell you from first-hand experience; your customers get lost in free trials. Too often it takes too much effort to make the free trial work. The longer it takes for your prospect to perceive value, the less likely they are to buy the product or additional feature, which creates customer “churn.”
Your Content Should be as Unique as Your Prospect
The way prospects use your product varies. Companies have different kinds of tooling in place and may or may not use the cloud or have an on-premise datacenter.
You should demonstrate your product in an environment that is similar to your prospects’. That way, they’ll be familiar with the setup and recognize their situation. At Instruqt, we create interactive tutorials for this purpose, with isolated “sandboxed” environments that incorporate and validate hands-on challenges. Prospects and clients can try out the product without having to install or download anything, which removes any fear they might have of losing their data or destroying something in their currently running environment.
We’ve found that interactive tutorials that simulate real infrastructures speed up product adoption by our customers. The value of a free trial increases when you run the product in the prospect’s environment and offer hands-on, guided challenges. Because they can practice, the free trial is no longer the customer’s (only) first touch with your product. Instead, they make the decision and effort to get to know your product even better.
Creating Great Content
Whether it’s classroom-based or via a webinar, certified or not, training is an inseparable aspect of product adoption. However, training comes with its own set of problems:
- Bound by time, teacher(s) and a location
- Generic in content
- Ineffective or not timely; It doesn’t always address the specific customer problems
- Too expensive for one or both parties
Training is important. Knowledge is important. But to get to know your product, a customer may not need several days of training at all. Short, effective, hands-on tutorials can do the trick. Common questions or frequently viewed documentation can be converted into a hands-on challenge.
When you activate your customer’s self-solving learning ability, they get a direct experience of your product.
For example, your prospect has downloaded the free trial and has started to research your product. As we stated earlier, your customer will run into several obstacles while trying out his free trial in his own environment. To overcome these obstacles, you need to guide them intensively in the process. Another option could be something like Instruqt and present them with a sandboxed environment and assignments they need to complete.
Here’s another example---Your product is a monitoring tool but your prospect experiences no incidents during the trial period. To showcase the added value of your product, you give him a hands-on tutorial in which an incident occurs. With the help of your product, your prospect will be able to find and solve the problem easily. This experience makes the value of your product visible, even though the incident did not happen in real life.
Our customers use our platform in three different ways:
- Lead conversion: to convert open source users to enterprise customers
- Product or feature upsell
- Interactive online challenges for training and knowledge sharing
For this to work, you need good content. No matter how good your intentions are, you will still not achieve great results with standard documentation. In our experience, effective tutorials share the following characteristics:
- Short (<60min)
- Quickly address (or simulate) the customer's problem
- Check progress
- Don’t dictate the answers, but provide clear guidelines and instructions
Presenting the problem, rather than explaining it, prompts your clients or prospects to solve it themselves. At Instruqt, we know how to create good content, and we use this knowledge to help our customers. We take care of the entire content creation and maintenance internally and actively support the creation of tracks and challenges for customers. We also provide insight into the use of the tutorials. We see if someone can quickly solve the problem, if they have trouble with the product or feature, and if enough information is provided to solve the challenge. We also can see whether someone is playing the full challenge easily, how many mistakes he is making or when he quits too soon. With these insights, we continually improve the hands-on challenges so we can achieve product adoption even faster.
Are you interested in our vision on product adoption and customer success? Do you want to talk to us about using Instruqt for your product? Please get in touch! We’d love to help!