The Challenge: Building a Scalable Trial Program
As a SaaS technology provider, it is key to be able to offer a trial or demo environment in the buying journey to provide your potential customers with a hands-on experience of your solution.
If your organization has a global reach and is likely going to see an increase in the volume for trial requests while still providing a good customer experience, it is key to look at how you can automate this process as much as possible and not rely on scarce sales technicians or manual steps.
This was exactly the challenge faced by our global organization in bringing an innovative new interactive learning platform called Collaborate to the market. A key bottleneck in the marketing-sales process was that prospects wanted to have a trial of the solution to test it out with their team. Due to the limited band-width of our sales engineers, only a handful of trials could be initiated every month which caused our lead funnel to stagnate. Furthermore, the manual approach meant that requests for trials took over a week to be fulfilled – well beyond the reply in 24 hours best practice for these types of requests.
My Global Demand Center team and I started to look at building a new approach that could handle the volume of requests and could be used by both our own field and web marketing teams as well as our channel partners.
Objectives for a new trial program
We had various objectives with regards to the new approach:
- Build a 30-day trial initiative to help promote our new Collaborate solution
- Increase the volume of trials and leads, moving from 10 trials a month to 50.
- Enhance the prospect experience by improving the communication and shortening the setup time
- Strengthen our promotions across multiple channels and track their results
Building the new approach
To move away from a manual procedure, we first scheduled cross-functional discussions with Sales, Sales Engineering, Product Marketing, and Product Development to analyze current trials, data needs, to decide how an ideal situation would look.
We built out a comprehensive process in Eloqua based on the results of these discussions. It has 5 key components:
- Multi-channel promotions
- Trial request capture
- The trial experience
- Trial Nurture Campaign
- Trial Lead Scoring
To support the promotion of the trial we set up various inbound and outbound campaigns. To track the effectiveness and the origin of these campaigns, we use querystrings with UTM parameters. All links point to a dedicated trial request microsite.
Since our organization is working with channel partners in many countries across the world, using these querystrings is also key to determine the origin of the leads so that we can track down which partner initiated the process.
2. Trial Request Capture
All campaign promotions point to a dedicated trial microsite with an Eloqua form. The Eloqua form captures the contact information and querystring/UTM parameters. As part of the processing, a number of steps are taken:
- Contact and UTM details are captured
- Unique tracked trial links are created
- A record is created in Custom Data Object to hold the trial links, usage counters, and trial status
- A confirmation email is sent to the requestor with blind form submit links to the trial experience.
- The contact is routed to a confirmation page with more details about the trial initiative and the solution.
3. Trial Experience
When the prospect signs up for the trial, they receive a confirmation email with unique links that act as a blind form submit and route the prospect to the trial experience. Once they click the link, the status of the trial is set to ‘activated’ and the usage counter in the custom object is increased.
4. Trial Nurture Campaign
To promote the usage of the trial, the prospects are entered into a 5-step nurture campaign after signing up for the trial. In this nurture campaign we explain the new Collaborate solution, show key functionality, and case studies. In the campaign canvas we have set up several checks to verify if the contact has already activated the trial and differentiate our communication based on that.
5. Trial Lead Scoring
To address the increase in volume of trial requests in a scalable way, we implemented a dedicated lead scoring model to help identify and prioritize quality leads. On the profile side we looked at seniority of the contacts, type of organization, their regions, and if they were using their company email or a free email address. On the engagement side, we looked at the level of engagement with the trial itself and the nurture program.
Conclusion and Considerations
By implementing this integrated and automated approach, we have been able to vastly increase the number of trials and leads for this solution and generate opportunities well over $1M. We exceeded our initial benchmark of 50 trials per month and we now handle well over 500 per month.
Due to the increased volume, it’s key to pay close attention to the buy-in from your sales organization. As they will be receiving the leads from the trial initiative, it’s important to use lead scoring to filter the good quality leads from the poor ones. We review our trial lead scoring model on a regular basis to further optimize it.
Courses that inspired us and which are useful for you if you wish to adopt a similar strategy:
- B2B: Engage & Enrich (Personalizing Campaigns)
- B2B: Profile & Target (Data Cleansing)
- B2B: Prioritize & Process
- B2B: Convert with Custom Objects
- B2B: Develop & Design (Blind Form Submits)
- B2B: Program Canvas