Managing Product Trials 101

Effectively manage product trials with visibility, a multi-stage funnel, and product-driven engagement. Prioritize using revenue signals, qualify for sales outreach, create smart audiences, and review the funnel for optimization.

Alok Shukla

By Alok Shukla

Nov 16, 2023 5 min read

TL/DR:

Managing product trials effectively involves gaining visibility, adopting a multi-stage trial funnel, and employing product-driven engagement strategies. You should prioritize trials based on revenue signals, proactively deliver them to sales teams, and build a qualifying criterion for outreach. Create smart audiences for retargeting campaigns and top-of-the-funnel efficiencies. Periodically review the funnel to discover choke points that can slow down conversions.


When a company offers a product trial, they are essentially asking prospects to evaluate their product (at their own time and pace) for:

  1. Quality and value

  2. Likely fitment with the buyer's organization

While any company offering a trial would like to convert as many trials to success as possible, more often than not, it requires product, sales, and marketing to act in concert to achieve such a goal.

A playbook to manage product trials

Based on my conversations with fellow product, marketing, and sales leaders over the years, here is a playbook to manage trials:

  1. Visibility into individual trials

  2. Organizing accounts based on their relative progress in a trial funnel

  3. Engage and Nudge accounts towards the next funnel stage.

  4. Prioritize trials by revenue signals.

  5. Qualify accounts for sales outreach - When and how does a salesperson get involved?

  6. Retargeting disengaged accounts using smart audiences

  7. Periodic funnel review for optimization

Let us go through each one of them

Gain visibility over individual product trials

To effectively manage product trials, start by gaining visibility into individual trial journeys. Create a timeline that tracks activities performed by users in various accounts. This can include in-product activities, conversations, referrals, support tickets, and more.

Tip:- Consider generating signals that represent key moments during the product journey.

Organizing accounts based on their relative progress in a trial funnel

Implement a multi-stage trial funnel to track progress across accounts. This provides a singular view of the relative progress of all accounts.

A product trial funnel is to product-led motion, what an opportunity funnel is to sales-led motion. You can adopt a popular funnel model such as pirate metrics, or you can custom design your own funnel.

A sample stage-based funnel to track product trials.

To custom design your funnel, a good approach is to place onboarding activities in the earlier stages and end with growth (repeat) and purchase intent activities.

Engage and Nudge accounts towards the next funnel stage.

Even the most promising prospects may need guidance through the trial funnel. Utilize various strategies simultaneously, including in-app onboarding, lifecycle conversations, weekly updates, and nudges.

  1. In-app onboarding: Utilize available tools or implement onboarding within the product for a seamless first-time user experience.

  2. Lifecycle conversations: Engage users through emails, in-app chat, or Slack to guide them through various stages, from sign-up to feature usage.

  3. Weekly Updates: Provide regular updates on open tasks, achievements, or key metrics to keep users engaged.

  4. Nudges: Behavioral nudges are the most powerful tool to advance an account in the product trial funnel.

Economist Richard Thaler originally introduced this concept of behavioral nudge, and it has now been successfully applied in the area of product design.

Prioritize trials by revenue signals.

Act on the identified revenue signals by delivering them proactively to the sales team. This can be achieved through email, Slack, or CRM updates.

A revenue signal represents a significant increase/decrease in (but not limited to)

  1. Product usage

  2. # of users in an account

  3. # of support tickets

  4. Sentiment of support tickets

  5. Sentiment of conversations

  6. Frequency of product engagement (e.g., daily to weekly/monthly), etc.

A PQA (product-qualified account) signal aggregates these individual signals in a meaningful whole for sales teams.

A recommended PQA can represent movement of an account from one funnel stage to the next funnel stage.

Deliver revenue signals pro-actively to the sales team.

These signals can be delivered to sales teams through email, slack, or making an update in the CRM. Delivering revenue signals to CRM allows you to orchestrate predesigned sequences and workflows and perform task assignments.

Build a qualifying criterion and a process for sales reach out.

Often, a salesperson is overlayed on top of a product funnel to reach out to a product-qualified account.

Recommended - If a trial funnel is active, an advanced stage can serve as a proxy for PQA. For those without a trial funnel, custom-design a PQA status based on key activities.

If an account becomes PQA, a deal/opportunity should be created in CRM and assigned to a salesperson; this deal/opportunity may contain additional product usage information to help the salesperson craft their outreach.

Retargeting disengaged accounts using smart audiences

A smart audience can mean an active list of accounts that did not complete product trials for one reason or another. It can also refer to cohort audiences based on firmographics, demographics, and behavior inside product trial funnels.

Analysis of the current customer base can help discover ideal customer profiles, which in turn can help a company optimize its marketing dollar spend by focusing on the audiences that matter.

With smart audiences, a marketing team can execute

  1. A retargeting campaign on trial accounts that have not advanced in the funnel

  2. A campaign to entice accounts in the current funnel with a special offer

  3. A campaign to invite selected prospects to an event or consider providing feedback/reference

  4. A top-of-the-funnel ad campaign to focus on the ICP profile discovered through the analysis of product data.

Periodically review funnel for optimization.

A careful observation of slow/stuck accounts and activities performed by users in such accounts can help discover choke points in a product trial funnel. These choke points can help you discover

  1. Activities that are impeding conversions at specific stages of the product funnel.

  2. Effective Nudges to propel stalled/slow accounts forward

Conclusion

Implementing this streamlined playbook can significantly enhance the efficiency of managing product trials, leading to increased conversion rates and improved customer acquisition.