SaaS: How We Automated Free Trial Extensions To Increase Paid Conversions By 33%

At Trak.io, we’re extremely passionate and confident of our purpose as a startup. We know what we want to do in this industry: we want to make other SaaS companies more successful.

But the exact way that we execute that purpose has been a very fluid process since we started work on our very first prototype in May 2013. Like many Lean Startups, our product needs to be able to adapt and evolve as we search for our own product-market fit.

And that means getting constant feedback from customers and potential customers.

“Would you sign up for this? Would you use that every day? Would you pay for this?”

You can ask potential customers these sorts of questions in interviews all day long, but the ultimate validator comes when they’re actually faced with that credit card form.

As the saying goes, “Pay up or shut up”.

We’d already validated our original purpose with a $29 Beta queue jump and $499 “Launch Partner” deal. But our product had changed considerably in the last few months, both in target customer and price point, and in some cases we were asking users to pay upwards of $299 per month.

Now here’s the honest truth: since we launched our public Beta, users were getting to the end of their free trial (after installing our tracking code) and then….. nothing. They weren’t paying. Our conversion rate sucked!

Something had gone wrong. Had we misunderstood our customer conversations? Had we been arrogant to assume these companies would actually ditch their existing customer analytics and put their faith in us? All of our feedback in emails and conversations had been great, everyone had told us they loved the product!

We were spinning and didn’t know what was wrong.

We needed to get very specific feedback. We already knew people were using the product from our own data tracking. But asking “Would you pay for this?” hadn’t translated into conversions. We needed to ask a different question to a different segment of our users.

“Why did you not pay, after using the product successfully during your free trial?”

This post is an explanation of how we segmented our onboarding users, and then how we implemented a super simple, very scaleable tactic to filter out our most engaged users and find out why they weren’t ready to start a paid subscription.

By the end of this process, we were receiving 27% more feedback, and increased our paid conversion rate by 33%!

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SaaS Onboarding: Do You Really Know What The “Aha!” Moment Is For Your Product?

You’re part of a team who have built something truly amazing. This product revolutionises the lives of football coaches world-wide. Or enhances the post-op care experience for all elderly patients. Or perhaps it sheds 64% from the average software product development process.

Your app is quite simply, amazing. Google/Facebook/Yahoo should start writing a check straight away – they’re going to want to own this product. Absolute painkiller, no vitamins here.

But then the reality hits. Your 9,573 free trials last quarter only converted to 47 paying customers (0.5% conversion rate). What the hell? Are they crazy?! This product will change their lives, save their time and make them money. Why aren’t they paying to become subscribers?

Chances are, it’s because they never got around to using your product. Because your SaaS onboarding experience was totally wrong.

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This Is How We Got Coverage From The Next Web & Venture Beat

UPDATE (16th May 2014): Now includes response from Mike Butcher, Editor @ TechCrunch, after reading this post

We were lucky enough to have our public launch of Trak.io covered by The Next Web and Venture Beat. This brought a huge spike in traffic, credibility, newsletter subscribers, investor calls and most importantly: new signups!

This success wasn’t the result of a “shotgun strategy” of spamming hundreds of journalists! Instead I had a laser targeted approach, crafting a Press Release (yes, they aren’t dead) and working on getting covered by 3 big publications (of which I achieved 2 out of 3 – I’ll come to that later).

I wanted to get some of the “big guys” to cover us first, and then move onto smaller publications with that credibility in hand The whole process was far from perfect, and I learned a lot. I wanted to share as much as possible about the launch, including the exact press release, so that it might be useful for other early stage startups who are looking to get their launch covered by a major tech publication.

In this post, I’m sharing:

  • The exact Press Release I wrote and shared with journalists and the process I used to write it
  • The data to show how much impact an article in TNW and VB can have for your startup
  • The conversations I had with journalists
  • How we fucked up TechCrunch, and what Mike Butcher emailed me after reading this post
  • The mistakes I made during this PR launch and what I’d do differently next time

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Freemium vs. Free: Why We Ditched Our Free Plan

As we came out of private Beta, we announced a pretty unpopular decision at Trak.io: we removed our free plan (and replaced it with a $9 per month plan).

I wanted to explain the reasons behind this and why we think it’s the best decision for our company and our paying customers.

Hopefully, other SaaS founders can take some insight from this and think hard before jumping immediately into Freemium! Because if you aren’t careful, you’ll actually just be giving away your product for Free!

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Our Startup Culture At Trak.io: Innovation & People

Culture is essential at any company, and tech startups are often labelled with having the best culture of any industry. Honestly, I wouldn’t know as I’ve only ever worked in tech startups, and startup culture is all I know.

I wake up every morning and get excited about the thought of coming to work on Trak.io. To advancing our mission one step closer. I genuinely feel happy about the contribution I’m making every day.

Matt and I wanted to make sure that this formula for happiness, for this sense of purpose that we feel every morning, was captured and written down. This happiness comes directly from an extension of our own identity.

We wanted a point of reference for whenever a decision threatened to compromise that identity. Here’s our culture deck: unfinished, imperfect and evolving… but never compromising.

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Growth Hacking Pre-Launch Revenue

As many of our earlier users will know, we switched to charging $29 to gain access to our Private Beta. It helped us to control spiralling server costs while bootstrapping, and also acted as a kind of “serious filter” so that testers were more engaged and receptive to customer development.

I wrote up the key results into a slide deck (testing different content types!) Check it out below

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Write For Us

A few people have asked if we’ll accept guest posts – the answer is yes!

We’d love to get more opinions, guides and resources for our audience. Having multiple authors means we can give more back to the startup and growth hacker community. However, we’re only interested in high quality posts that deliver “Wow” reactions from readers.

Here are our submission guidelines and instructions to get started:

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