In my last post I discussed how you can determine whether your product is a good candidate for a trial.
Today we will focus on other marketing mechanisms that you can use instead of trials. I should point out that many of these mechanisms are simply good marketing practice. Even if you have decided to offer a product trial, you can also use these mechanisms and shorten the sales cycle.
There are 2 reasons why buyers turn to free trials:
- To help answer questions they may have
- To help them evaluate the ownership experience
Keeping these in mind, the following 7 marketing mechanisms can help address each of these objectives.
- Know your buyer's questions and answer them in your content
- Simulate the user experience with a flash or video piece
- Tell stories to illustrate the user experience
- Enable hands-on access for a critical feature
- Prepare a live demonstration
- Offer a money back guarantee
- Allow for a product pilot
Marketers should be answering common buyer questions in the content they create.
Start by collecting a comprehensive list of the questions buyers have. This may seem daunting. If you look at the prospect's buying process methodically, you will find it much easier to identify those questions. (Understanding the Buying Process eBook may be able to help you here.)
Then for every piece of content you plan, clearly identify its purpose and which questions it will answer. This goes for web pages (one description per web page) as well as for white papers, brochures, etc.
A well done flash or video piece can be just as effective as a trial in creating the user experience. To do so, the piece must tell a story. Many of us (me included) are guilty of calling a promotional piece a "demo" when it really isn't demonstrating a product. Many flash "demos" are simply illustrations of the key features of a product.
However, a review of a product's features is very different from a user experience of the product. A user experience is about the contextual use of one or more product features with the goal of completing some task. In other words, there is a story behind it. Find out what are the most compelling stories and build your flash demo around them.
Flash and video are ways of telling stories. They shouldn't be the only ones you use. Write compelling stories for your content. Those stories should tell how a customer was able to use your product for a specific purpose.
Another idea, capture your customers' stories in their own words in podcasts.>
Rather than delivering dry, self-serving case studies and testimonials, focus on the background stories. They are actually more important. These stories lend credibility to your testimonials.
Rather than create a trial for the entire product, isolate a critical feature and enable hands-on experience with it. Of course, the ability to do this is very dependent upon the configuration of your product. However, often the reason why buyers try a product is to get one or two key questions answered. If you know what those key questions are, you may be able to satisfy the buyer with a limited test that is configured to answer a specific question.
Help the buyer understand how to work with your product with a live demonstration. Prepare for the demo by working with the buyer to understand their critical scenarios. Walk through those scenarios in the demo. Be flexible to extend those scenarios to answer any questions they have during the demo. You retain control, while the buyer evaluates the experience.
Help reduce the buyer's anxiety with the purchase decision. Buy offering a money back guarantee, the buyer has an exit path if the product doesn't deliver to their expectations. There is a subtle change that happens when a buyer makes the decision to purchase. They tend to have more at stake. This may help see them through the more challenging aspects of the product.
Product pilots are very different from product trials. Product pilots are specific, pre-purchase tests of functionality. To be successful they require significant hand-holding by the vendor and appropriate dedication of time and resources by the buyer. Because of the investment required by both sides, an agreement is usually drawn up prior to the pilot engagement that stipulates buyer action based on validation in the pilot.
Chances are that you will need to employ more than one of these techniques to support the buyer in their buying process. To help you prioritize, learn more about your buyer. Audience interviews are my mechanism of choice when gathering buyer intelligence.
Do you have other marketing mechanisms that have worked for you? I invite you to tell us about them.