What if you could increase free trial sign ups…by a lot…by eliminating the word “free” from your landing page?
Well, I have a case study where we did just that.
We increased clicks by 139% and free trial sign ups by 73% by making a few simple changes to a SaaS home page.
The company is Wedbuddy.com. It lets users design a great looking wedding website really easily. It’s a cool company with a cool product. And they wanted more visitors to sign up for a free trial.
They already had a great-looking homepage (screenshots below), so the question was: what changes could get more people to sign up instead of bouncing?
You would think emphasizing a no-risk, no-credit-card-required free trial would help.
Or you would think emphasizing all the cool features would help.
And you would certainly think adding more testimonials would help.
Alas, in this case, you’d be wrong.
I detail the key experiments that almost doubled their free trial sign up rates below, and in the free PDF bonus, I outline two more experiments that I was sure would increase conversion rates, but…
Let’s get started…
The SaaS Conversion Optimization Experiment
Here are the two main changes we made.
1. We changed the call to action (and nearby) copy from a focus on payments to a focus on value and convenience.
Wedbuddy’s original homepage had a call to action and nearby copy that really emphasized the “free” in free trial:
It makes sense. You have something that’s free: a free trial, a free book, a free product. So you want to emphasize it in your web copy. It could only help right?
Sometimes it can hurt. Here’s why:
For many products, but especially apps and software, emphasizing your free trial often serves only to remind your customers that it’s actually not free…eventually you will reach for their wallet…and they don’t want to deal with that.
So some fraction of them think, “Why go through the hassle of signing up, learning the software, and being barraged with upsell emails? Let me go look for a free alternative.”
Or, “No credit card required? Uh oh, they’re going to try and charge me eventually. Let me go look for something else.”
A little here, a little there, and slowly you start losing chunks of customers.
“But Devesh, those cheap customers were never going to buy from us in the first place!”
Software, apps, and many other non-commodity products need to be used, played with, tried, and tested before a customer can fall in love enough to want to buy.
For example, I have Pandora premium – no ads, and as many skips as I want. I love it. Would I have bought it without being able to listen to free Pandora first? Not a chance.
But what if they had a “killer” landing page? No way. I’m not going to pay for a music service without listening first.
I have MOZ premium because I used OpenSiteExplorer enough to want more searches than the free version would allow:
Would I have bought it based on a description of what it does…without actually using the tool? Zero chance.
I bought Weebly after trying it free. I’m paying Mailchimp after trying it free.
I could go on, and I’m sure you could too.
The point is: People want to use software before they buy it.
So, focusing on converting visitors to free trial users is a great goal for a SaaS business.
We tested this hypothesis for Wedbuddy by changing the copy to the following:
2. We reduced the size of the home page – removing the list of features and reducing the number of testimonials
I’m going to say this right off the bat: don’t universalize a case study where a longer or shorter home page does better. This is very situation dependent.
You. Have. To. Test. It.
In this situation, we hypothesized that visitors may be overwhelmed at the number of features. Here’s why…
Planning a wedding is stressful. There’s a million things to do, they cost a lot, most people have never done it before, and you just feel overwhelmed.
So your first thought on your wedding website is: I just want to get this done. It should look good, work the first time, and not be hard to set up. That’s it.
Now, I think Wedbuddy is a cool service, and their additional features (like pre-made checklists and task reminders) can genuinely help, but when you first land on the homepage, you’re not thinking about that.
It’s not a burning need.
You just want to see how easy it is to make a website that looks good and represents you well.
So in our variation for this experiment, we also reduced the size of the home page and put more emphasis on visitors simply trying it out themselves.
Here’s the final original and variation for this experiment (Click to enlarge):
Key Principle: Get inside your customers heads and understand their real motivations. That’s what was at work behind the two changes we made for this experiment.
Note that the best way to do this is with user interviews and surveys. We hadn’t done that yet when we ran this particular experiment, but I had two key things in place to substitute for it:
1. I researched wedding planning forums to understand what brides to be (vast majority of users were brides to be) were thinking – what they were focused on, how they articulated their pain points, etc. I found nuggets like this from wedding bee that supported my hypothesis above:
Lesson: If you’re just writing copy and running conversion tests based on “hunches”, you’re doing it like an amateur. Find out how your customers talk articulate their problems. What words do they use? What do they emphasize? What do they really, truly care about? And what, as it turns out, do they not care about? Really understanding these questions can be the difference between increasing your conversions vs. trying and trying and getting nowhere.
2. I had the advantage of having gone through wedding planning only 12 months before. (We’re very happy, thank you for asking.) So I knew first hand what it was like.
The Results: 139% increase in clicks and 73% increase in free trial sign ups
The combination of these two changes resulted in a huge increase in the number of clicks to try it now.
We ran the experiment for two weeks and saw the following:
A 139% increase in the number of clicks on the pink “Try it now” buttons:
An 87% increase in the number of people starting the signup process (seeing the first sign up page):
A 73% increase in the number of people completing the signup process:
All of these tests had a 100% “chance to beat baseline” (statistical significance).
Key Takeaways: How to Improve Your Marketing, Copy, and Conversions
If you’re trying to improve your marketing, copy, or conversions, here are some key lessons:
First, try copy that focuses on value and benefits rather than emphasizing costs and prices
Second, don’t assume that inundating the prospect with features is going to win them over, especially not on first contact.
Third, review the first and second points.
Your Turn: What pages, emails, or marketing do you know could be improved in your business? Let me know in the comments. I read every one and respond to almost all of them.