We all know that build it and they will come is not a valid approach to customer conversion and SaaS activation. And while there is an endless supply of conversion tips and tricks on everything from button colour and placement, to the order to the fields in your signup form - the real truth is that the magic ‘trick’ to converting your free customers into paying customers isn’t really a trick at all.

It’s a commitment to three incredibly simple practices that are often overlooked in the customer onboarding process. 

Have you incorporated them into your strategy?

Encourage Collaboration from Day One

We are living in an increasingly connected world where collaboration has become king. It should come as no surprise, then, that the major players in the SaaS space are heavily focused on creating highly collaborative experiences for users from the very beginning of their engagement with the product. 

The benefit of this strategy is twofold:

1. For existing users: It validates the value of the product and reinforces its usefulness

The reality is that if a user can get other people to collaborate within the product, they are more likely to pay for your service. Dropbox is a perfect example of this. While some dropbox users sign up for an account simply to have access to cloud storage for photos and documents, many users seek out the service as a method of sharing documents for their colleagues to collaborate on. If a user has gotten to the point in their use of dropbox where they have reached the limit of free space available, they are far more likely to want to pay to continue to receive the service if their network is already actively collaborating using the product.

2. For new users: It leverages the power of existing users to get the attention of new customers

Freshbooks is a perfect example of this strategy. The online invoicing service for SMEs allows free users to send invoices to their first three clients for free, via their Freshbooks account. This means that clients receive a Freshbooks-branded invoice delivered from a Freshbooks email address. By default, clients are forced to learn about Freshbooks themselves in the process of paying their invoice. 

But in order to mobilize your user base to want to ask others to join them in using your service, you need to educate and engage your existing customers.

Set Your Users Up for Success 

As Steven Moody, founder of BeachHead Marketing, explains on Quora, “In the first half of the trial, your goal is to get them addicted to your product. You should send helpful tips, highlight power features, and introduce the user to customer support. Your goal is to become indispensable to their life, to make them ask ‘how did I live without this?’”.

E-commerce giant Shopify is a great example of an education-oriented signup process that sets users up for early success. The entire process of visiting the home page, signing up for a free trial and touring the product takes all of 15 minutes. Using a combination of intro videos, simple interfaces and live chat help, customers can quickly become comfortable using the product. 

“The lesson here” explains Sean Work on the KISSmetrics blog, “is it only took about 10 minutes of my time to set up a shop and find answers to all the questions that were lurking around in my head – questions that would potentially cause me to click away and never finish my trial.”

All users have a goal in mind when using a product. By making it quick and easy for a user to accomplish that goal, you are increasing their likelihood of converting to becoming a paying customer because you have already demonstrated the value of your product and proven your ability to solve their pain point.  

Don’t Be Afraid to Get Personal With Customers

Leave it to Derek Halpern, creator of Social Triggers, to turn a trip to the spa for a massage into a case study on the importance of personalized marketing. When the spa failed to ask Derek for his email address, or offer him the opportunity to join a loyalty program, Halpern immediately saw the opportunity to educate the spa on the importance of creating an email marketing campaign that sent out timely messages that were directly connected to the last interaction that the user had with the spa. (Curious? You can find Derek’s tips here). 

What does Derek’s spa marketing advice teach us about SaaS conversions? It’s all about engaging in a conversation with your users that is personal and relevant to their behavior.

With the incredible variety of data tools at our disposal, we have access to information that tells us which users are active, which ones are idle, and which ones have dropped off the map entirely. But what many companies fail to do is to use this information to create a personalzied experience that responds to users’ unique behavioral cues. By using personalized messaging in the form of a banner, pop-up, or a well-timed email, you are engaging in a conversation with the user, allowing you to gain insight into their experience to date and shape their experience for the remainder of the trial period.