Conversion rate optimization (CRO) for SaaS companies can be both more forgiving and more challenging when compared to CRO for a single landing page, product page, or checkout process.

Here’s why:

SaaS has different business cycles, purchasing decisions, and key metrics. The free-trial-to-subscription business model means you need to be constantly “converting” – when your customers see the invoice at every billing cycle, they’ll decide if they want to continue the subscription.

CRO For SaaS is More Forgiving

The SaaS customer lifecycle means you’re constantly interacting with your customers, giving you multiple touchpoints to build trust and relationships with them.

There are more opportunities to test and refine your branding, messaging, and user interfaces to optimize results across the board.

In addition, the multiple touchpoints mean that incremental improvements in the individual stages can multiply to deliver a substantial increase in the overall conversion rate.

On the other hand…

CRO For SaaS is More Challenging

The flip side of having these multiple touchpoints in the customer journey is that there are more moving pieces – every customer touchpoint could either lead the users further down the customer lifecycle or cause them to discontinue the service.

This means CRO is no longer just for the landing page or checkout pages. It needs to be treated as a mainstream discipline that’s applicable to all stages of interaction with customers.

The approach to optimizing SaaS conversion rate requires a strategic approach, starting from understanding the complexity of every single step in the customer lifecycle:

SaaS Lifecycle Steps

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Don’t be intimidated by the complexity of CRO for SaaS – instead, use it to your advantage to strategically build trust and relationships with your customers every step of the way by implementing these 7 CRO strategies:

1. Identify Strategic Touchpoints and KPIs

The relatively complex customer lifecycle for a SaaS business model means you have to plan out and measure interactions before users sign on, as well as further down the relationship, (e.g. 90 days after signing up).

SaaS Customer Relationship lifecycle Pinterest

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Start by mapping out how your customers are interacting with your brand, and identify key performance metrics (KPIs) to optimize:

  1. Attract high-quality leads to sign up for free trial
  2. Turn free trial customers into active users with a well-designed onboarding process
  3. Convert users from free trial to paid plans
  4. Reduce churn rate with continual customer support
  5. Encourage upgrades
  6. Cultivate loyalty and advocacy that leads to referrals

2. Generate High-Quality Leads

To capture leads, you’d most likely be directing traffic to a landing page where customers sign up for your free trial.

You can tweak your landing page design till the cows come home, however if the traffic you’re driving there is not a good match for the offer, your conversion rate is not going to budge.

You need to generate high-quality leads that are most likely to convert. You can do so by:

  • Driving high-quality traffic by making sure that the messaging of the traffic source is helping you attract the attention of your ideal customers.
  • Creating multiple versions of the landing page, each with a slightly different messaging or emphasis to match that of the traffic source in order to deliver a coherent user experience, which will help increase conversion.
  • Now that you’re getting the right people to your landing page, you can optimize its layout and copy to make sure it’s turning traffic into leads.

3. Activate Free-Trial Users

Getting people to sign up for your free trial is just the beginning. Did you know that when people sign up for a free trial of a SaaS application or software, 40% to 60% of them will only use it once and never return?

If they don’t stick around to use your product, you won’t have the chance to convert them into paid customers.

Free trial users stats

You need to design an engaging experience for your free trial users to get them “hooked” the moment they sign on:

  • Engage users right away – serve up a couple of hands-on tasks that users can complete so they can experience success with your software.
  • Identify the “aha” moment – the “tipping point” at which using your product becomes a habit for your customers – and take the users to that point as quickly as possible. E.g. Twitter found out that once users are following 30 people, most would be active forever. They design the first-run user experience so those who sign up for an account will follow 30 people quickly possible.
  • Keep the user interface simple – don’t make your customers read a 40-page how-to manual or jump through a 16-step account set up process, (hint: they won’t).
  • Inspire users to stick around – use simple demo videos or a product tour to showcase the full capability of your product without overwhelming your customers.

4. Turn Free-Trial Users Into Paying Customers

This is a key stage in the customer journey. How successful you are at converting users from free trial to paid plans translates into how profitable you can be.

To optimize the outcome, implement a well-designed customer onboarding process that encourages those who sign up for a free trial to continue engaging with your application:

  • Move users along the customer journey with highly relevant content that maps to their progress and success milestones, delivered via life cycle emails, in-app messaging, or even personal emails or phone calls.
  • Encourage users to integrate other apps with their accounts, or upload their data or contact lists so they get more involved with your software.
  • Make transitioning into paid plans as frictionless as possible.
    Review your metrics and see if there’s any particular point at which users tend to drop off – you can look into improving the user experience of that step to increase conversion rate.
  • For many SaaS products, a clear feature and pricing comparison chart will help facilitate the customers’ decision-making process.

5. Reduce Churn Rate By “Constantly Converting”

Every time a customer gets billed, he’s making a decision to continue paying for the usage of your product.

In a sense, you’re constantly “converting” users by making sure they’re getting value out of being your customers.

Not to mention, you need your customers to stick around long enough so the customer lifetime value exceeds that of the acquisition cost.

To cultivate customer loyalty, you need to continually communicate with them, build trust and relationship by adding value, and provide excellent customer support:

  • Offer relevant content to increase trust and relationship. E.g. guides to help users get the most out of your software, a repository of relevant resources, or bonus customer-only training or events.

    Raven marketing tools
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  • Design a comprehensive customer support system and provide omni-channel customer care, to make sure customers are having an outstanding experience at all times.

6. Encourage Upgrades With Customer Communications

Sometimes you just have to remind your customers how awesome you are! Seriously, to be “constantly converting” you need to regularly reiterate the value that your product delivers so your customers will stay on and even upgrade to higher-level plans:

  • Implement a customer communication plan to share new functionalities or creative ways to use existing features on a regular basis.
  • Conduct survey to find out what your customers want, and let them know when you launch these new features (this may entice some customers to upgrade if their dream features are available in higher level plans.)
  • Offer free trials of features available in higher-level plans to entice customers to upgrade.
  • Reach out to customers with a personal email or phone call to help them get the most out of your product. When they understand the values your product delivers, they’re more likely to upgrade.

7. Convert Customers Into Advocates

Turning your current customers into advocates can help boost your conversion rate.

Not only will you be getting high-quality leads at lower cost but these leads are also more likely to sign up as customers.

Referral marketing stats

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To optimize conversion rate of referral marketing, make it as easy as possible for your customers to share your SaaS product with their family and friends:

  • Include referral prompts in all interaction points, such as in-app, in email, on social media, and on website.
  • Incentivize and clearly communicate the reward.
  • Streamline the referral process so your customers can share your product with as little effort as possible.
  • Reinforce success by letting customers know they’ve earned a reward every time someone uses their links to sign up.

It Doesn’t Have To Be Complicated

Technology is fast evolving and there are always new tools and widgets that claim to help you increase conversion rate.

Instead of chasing bright shiny objects, make sure you start by designing a user-centric experience, which is the foundation for conversion rate optimization.

Over to you – what have you done to optimize conversion rate for you SaaS business? What works best for you? Leave a comment below and share your insights.