How to Improve Conversions With Activation & Intensification

By Glenn Stovall

Here are some of the things that can go wrong when a user starts a free trial of your software:

  • They use the software for a few minutes and never come back.
  • They get confused on how to use your software, never get any value from it, and decide it’s not for them.
  • They try the tool, have a ‘meh’ reaction, decide it’s not worth the cost, then leave.

Don’t make the false assumption that the same onboarding techniques will work for every user and situation. Instead, let’s look at some ways you can solve your users’ exact problem at the exact right time.

“Don’t make the false assumption that the same onboarding techniques will work for every user and situation.”

I’ve used these techniques with other SaaS companies, and I’ve seen a 25-50% lift in conversions.

The Two Stages of Awareness

Let’s break these customers down into two states of awareness:

  1. They don’t know how to use your product.
  2. They know how to use your product, but they don’t know that they want to pay to upgrade or continue using it.

In the first example, we want to focus on activation. Your primary goal is to get your users to use your software in a way that provides value. You want them to walk down the happy path, which we’ll define in a bit.

In the second example, we want to focus on intensification. The person has used your software and received some benefit. They’ve walked down the happy path. Now we need to increase the intensity of the want they have for your software, to the point where they will pay for it happily.

First, Define Your Happy Path

The happy path is an ordered list of steps your customer has to take to see value out of your application. First, identify the exact moment your user gets value out of your application. For example, if you were MailChimp your moment would be when the user sends their first email. If you ran an invoicing tool, then your moment of value would be when the user sends their first invoice.

From there, work backwards. Are there intermediate steps? For mailing list software, you may need to choose an initial template or add a sign-up form to your website. For invoicing software, it may involve integrating with a bank account or payment processing software.

List out the steps in order. The happy path is the list of steps a user must take to get value. If they don’t, they won’t get value, and thus have no reason to become a paying customer. These steps will inform your emails.

Below are general guidelines for the types of emails to send, and the kind of voice to use. Use these as guidelines to write emails that fit your apps unique challenges.

3 Emails to Send On The Activation Path

These emails are for people who haven’t yet walked the happy path. Your tone here should be educational and supportive. The primary goal here is to help the prospect move forward.

You can use each of these steps multiple times in your campaigns. If there are three steps in your happy path, you may have up to 3 tutorial emails.

1. Specific Tutorials

Send your users guided, step-by-step tutorials walking them through how to get started using your product. Be as vivid as possible. Screenshots, GIFs, and video can all be useful here.

2. “We’re Here to Help”

Send an email that says something to the effect of: “it looks like you're having trouble getting started. Hit ‘reply’ with any questions you have, and we’ll help you get started.” This email serves an additional benefit of letting you gather data identifying issues in your application’s onboarding.

3. The Victory Email

When your user starts getting value, send an email to let them know it. Pat them on the back and congratulate them on taking a step forward. Reinforce why it’s important and what future benefits they can expect from your software.

After the Happy Path

Once your user has completed the happy path, you have graduated them from the first path (the path of inaction, which leads to death) to the second (the road to getting value, which leads to life). We’ve moved from activation to intensification.

“Identify the exact moment your user gets value out of your application.”

This change requires a similar change in voice and tone. Instead of writing for education, we’re writing for persuasion. From customer support to marketing. Education is still useful here and can be used in each email.

6 Emails For Increasing Desire

1. Sell a Specific Feature

In a similar fashion to writing a landing page or sales letter about your product, write one about a specific feature. Explain the problem it solves, the value it can provide, and how to get started. This will help your more paint a positive picture of your software in your prospect’s mind.

2. Provide Case Studies or Other Social Proof

Be as specific as possible. I love using names and numbers, especially numbers, in the subject line: “How Mike made $8,400 in his first month using $SOFTWARE”. Show other people succeeding with your software. It will help your prospect envision themselves achieving the same success.

3. Show the Product in Action

We’ve talked about the car, let’s talk about the race. What does the day in the life of your customer look like when they use your software? How can you describe your software in action? Again, this furthers the case that your prospect could be in a better place if only they continued to use your software.

4. Answer Questions and Objections

Your prospect may be intrigued at this point, but they may still have some lingering concerns. A format I like for this is sending an FAQ email. The questions should be the most common roadblocks and rebuttals you’ve heard in the past. If you don’t know, take your best guess on 3 - 5 of them.

5. Show the Benefits Over Time

Hopefully, your future customer has had a quick win or two while using your software. Let them know there are more and better ways to come. A rush of endorphins might sell someone on going to the gym a couple of times, but how they’ll look in the mirror six months from now is what will keep them coming back.

6. Demonstrate the Consequences of Inaction

I include this in the intensification path, but you can include it towards the end of the trial for everybody. What happens if your customer doesn’t continue to use your software? What will they miss out on? What consequences will they suffer? Show them the dark shadow cast by the light of your app, and give them another reason to stay.

In Summary

These types of email help walk people through the different mental steps they take when evaluating your software. Some people take longer to walk the happy path, and that’s okay. We can focus on giving them more help and attention. Some people are self-starters and that’s okay too. We can give them more information and work on convincing them to stay. I’ve also made some Drip Free Trial Workflows available for download, so you can see what this can look like when put together.

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