Freemium and Frictionless

Challenge:  While companies are chasing freemium and frictionless sales motions, they are missing the main point.

It’s clear that the freemium sales model, where prospects can download products for free, has taken off.  Successful companies like Dropbox are clear winners, but will this work for enterprise B2B marketers?  Well Box, Zendesk, Atlassian, Splunk and others prove that it certainly can.  It’s obviously a marketing model that works.  Prospects try a free version and upgrade to a more robust, paid version easily and seamlessly. This breathes life into ‘see-try-buy’ or frictionless sales models.  So is that all we need?  Freemium sales model is our salvation?

The challenge is that you can’t automate or accelerate a bad experience.  What is important to deliver is a positive and engaging customer experience, and it must be enticing very quickly.  Your prospect must be able to easily understand how to use your product and find it engaging right away.  If they need training or other have requirements to meet, you may be setting yourself up for disaster.  Your prospects will freely download your application only to be confused and wander off – not upgrading to the paid version.  In this outcome, you have just proven why yours is not the right solution.  Even if you convert a small portion of users, you’re building up a base of prospects who now ‘know’ that your solution is not the right one.

So you need to consider a few things as you pursue a freemium strategy.  First, do you have a process where your prospects will be highly successful in their free trial of your product?  If the product is not immediately intuitive and usable, can you provide supporting materials to make their usage successful?  Then, do you have a process either inside the product or as a separate communication path to help them explore your product and ensure a successful outcome?  Finally, what is your process to monitor usage and outcomes from your trial/free users?  How will you know if the process is working?  To quote Stephen Covey, “Start with the end in mind,” or in this case, start with a plan to measure success.  This may be tracking trial usage, getting usage surveys, measuring conversion rates and more.

Strangely enough, your path down a freemium model may start with improving or adding components to the product itself.  A more fool-proof usage process will drive greater success.   Constant learning and adjustment will yield great results and hopefully drive that hockey-stick growth curve we all seek.

Lesson: Charity starts at home.  Give a hard look at your product before chasing a freemium model.

Money for Nothing and Leads for Free

Challenge: Turn your customers into your best lead generators.   

Salespeople have very short memories.  Certainly the old adage, “what have you done for me lately” springs to mind.  Unfortunately, lead generation programs often have diminishing marginal returns – meaning that as you look to drive more leads, often the conversion rate to sales will drop.  So just driving more leads will not necessarily drive profitable growth.  So what is a marketer to do?

No one can better advocate for you than your customers.  Leveraging your customers to speak to your prospects is an ideal way to drive new leads.  Current customers understand the challenges prospective customers face and exactly how your solution can address their needs.  The materials coming from your company are ‘discounted’ in terms of their value.  Prospects come to your website for data sheets, demonstrations, solutions and even customer case studies and videos.  However, even case studies sometimes feel ‘produced’ by your organization.  Prospective customers are looking for ‘the real story’ about your organization, and they’d rather get it from other customers.  But how can you systematically gather the details about your current customers in terms of their deployment, usage and benefits?  You need information like industry, geography, use case, competitive comparisons, deployment, integration, value realized and other key dimensions related to your outbound and inbound marketing. 

Gathering data is the first step, and encouraging specific groups of customers to take certain actions on your behalf is the second step.  Both are challenging tasks, especially the latter because these customers are busy and have many other things to do BEFORE helping you!  The solution – make it fun and competitive.  There is a new social media tool that encourages your customers to become advocates – it is called Influitive (www.influitive.com).  This tool uses gamification to make it fun AND easy to be an advocate for your company.  The concept of gamification (gam(e) +‎ -ification) is hot (http://gamification.org/) in B2B marketing.  With Influitive, you create challenges for your customers and reward them with points as they meet those challenges.  For instance, you might reward them for Liking you on Facebook, re-tweeting one of your posts, commenting on a blog post, serving as a customer reference, taking a customer reference sales call, or any number of other actions.  Your customers can use these points for value added items like training, time with executive staff, access to a product roadmap presentation, company apparel or any number of other items.  You’re limited only by your creativity!

The result?  You’re able to create your own competitive environment for customer advocates to earn points by advocating for your company and its solutions.  You turn your best and most loyal customers into an extension of your marketing team.  They can take natural steps and actions that fit within their interest and ability.  This product is currently in beta – so stay tuned to see more developments.

Lesson: Leverage your most valuable asset – your customers – to drive new prospects!