Don’t bother the trial user with licensing stuff until the user is hooked

2 minutes

What makes a person want to whip out their credit card and buy your software?

Hint: It’s not being nagged about how many days they have left in their trial every time they run your program.

It seems logical to nag the user.  Remind her that the trial is “time-limited, so act now!” like a fast-food commercial.  Remind her that she’s using your software for free, and doesn’t she feel guilty about that?

Sales people say “Pressure until they pay“, which for software trials means you should ask for money or at least guilt the user into paying. But you and I don’t like used-car sales techniques, and neither do your potential customers.

But the fact is that just saying “act now” doesn’t get people to buy software, and it can actually be a deterrent.

The reason is that besides being nagged, the user has to already be thrilled with the software.  It has to be making a real impact in her life. She has to feel a void if she uninstalls it.  And nagging doesn’t get you any of these things.

To see how your nagging might be misplaced, consider a new trial user who just installed your application. She runs it for the first time, and the first thing she sees is a modal dialog box saying “You only have 15 days left“.

So what“, she thinks, “I don’t even know what this is yet“.

Then she has to make a choice between “Enter License Code” and “Continue with Trial”.

Just let me see what this is“,  she thinks. “I just installed it, how the hell would I have a license code?

Or worse, you have a count-down timer so she can’t even run the application until she stares at this useless, annoying dialog box for what seems like an eternity.  Maybe she should open a new browser and check out one of your competitors.
Or she starts the application and half the features are disabled because it’s a trial.  So she can’t even decide whether she likes it!

Want to nag?  Fine, but do it after the user has a chance to get hooked!

Here’s a bunch of ways to nag in a more sensible manner:

  1. Nag on startup, but only after the 5th time the application has been started.
  2. Allow all features, but watermark all results.
  3. Nag exactly when the user has been successful at doing something useful, not during a meaningless even like starting up or shutting down. Examples:
  • Nag on “Save”
  • Nag after an “Export”
  • Nag after 30 minutes of active use
  • Nag after 3 different features have been used

Think about how to please customers, and bother them after they’re happy.  They will not give you a credit card on your home page before they try it.  They won’t buy during the installer.  They won’t be impressed with your splash screen.

So get them successful before you nag.

Wait until it solves their problem or they are thrilled with how it works and they see the potential for themselves.  Then the “hard sell” is the way to close the deal.

This is part 5 of a 5-part series: How to convert more software trials to purchases.

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