One of the lesser known and quite charming side effects of stress are infomercials. Yes, insomnia leads to wakeful nights filled with gadgets to suit your every need. Given the sheer randomness of the items for sale, each with a money back pledge, how do the QVCs of the world possibly make a living? I’m sure the answer to that is simply “middle America,” however, it did get me thinking about the psychology of free trials. These days people want to sample everything from cheese to software before they commit to a purchase, so as a software vendor how do we avoid wasting time on people who just came to the store hungry while still creating an opportunity for stickiness?
Free trials fall into a few basic categories: 1) independent Exploration – where you hope they love the landscape so much they have no choice but to emigrate; 2) guided demonstrations – maybe used car salesmen can teach us something; and 3) money back guarantees – the buy first, and you can return it method, which, by the way, is my preferred fashion fulfillment philosophy. Sugar, like most software vendors, offers come combination of the first two, providing customers with an environment complete with demo data to help facilitate the vision, and reserving the empty evaluation for qualified prospects only, but is this truly driving the fully engaged behavior we want out of our customers?
I appreciate that SugarCRM doesn’t subscribe to the traditional vendor lock-in paradigm, choosing instead to create a product that will stand on its own merit. Since we do that quite well, one might wonder why not take a lesson from late night television, and offer a money back guarantee? Among several administrative reasons I imagine it boils down to the fact that CRM, while a critical tool for a successful business in today’s social business climate, still requires humans to buy, which is tough to guarantee. CRM might not be as complex as other applications, like ERP, but similarly smoking cessation is simpler than rocket science and yet a greater percentage of ships achieve orbit than do people succeed kicking that bad habit.
So this week, don’t underestimate the human element. Whether we like it or not, prospects continue to “try” our product long after the completed transaction. Leverage the expertise at your disposal, and set your customers up to renew from the get go by recognizing that the battle isn’t our features vs. another application’s. CRM success stems from utilizing quality features, tools, accessories, and even the free trial, to drive proper behavior from our users.