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Lee Gladish
Lee Gladish
Co-founder
5 months ago

3 CRO Tactics Every SaaS Business Should Employ [Expert Interviews]



Welcome to the third episode of our new Expert Interviews series where we invite a panel of leading industry experts to answer our Reply customer’s most burning questions related to growing their businesses.

This week, we’re taking a look at the world of Conversion Rate Optimization. I’ve always been fascinated by CRO methodologies, and as Co-Founder of Reply, I feel it’s one of my responsibilities to ensure we squeeze every last drop of business potential out of our various marketing channels.

And I’m pleased to say, I’m not alone, as I see more and more Reply clients who are continuously looking to increase their business’ conversion rates via improved website pages, content, and ongoing email optimization strategies.

So we reached out to a group of experts in the field of conversion rate optimization field and asked:

“What three CRO tactics should every SaaS business employ?”

And once again, I’m delighted to say that ten of the world’s leading authorities on conversion rate optimization generously gave up their time and responded with their thoughts and wisdom, including

Brian MasseyConversion SciencesDavid HoosUncommon CreativeAlex BirkettConversionXLKevin CotchTopRank MarketingJon MacDonaldThe GoodQuentin AisbettOnQ MarketingPol RodríguezFacturaDirectaVic MaineTwittBuilderKhalid SalehInvespXavier ColomesConversion Garden


Ready? Let’s hear it from this week’s Experts…

Brian Massey

Brian Massey is the founder of Conversion Sciences LLC and author of the book Your Customer Creation Equation. An online marketing expert focused on the science of turning web traffic into leads and sales, his rare combination of interests and experience was developed over 25 years as a computer programmer, entrepreneur, corporate marketer, international speaker, and writer. Founded in 2007, Conversion Sciences helps businesses transform their sites through a steady diet of visitor profiling, purposeful content, analytics, and A/B testing. Brian Massey has worked with hundreds of companies to improve their online business. He is a sought-after speaker, presenting at IBM, Content Marketing World, Affiliate Summit, the Conversion Conferences, SearchLove, Chinwag Psych, Printing Industries of America, and others. He has written for online publications including ClickZ, Search Engine Land and Marketing Land. He is a frequent guest on a variety of webinars and podcasts.
Linkedin

What three CRO tactics should every SaaS business employ?

Conversion Sciences runs on SaaS products. It exists because of SaaS products that deliver A/B testing, analytics, UX measurement tools, and snacks.

We also offer programs to optimize SaaS websites. There is NO tactic that EVERY SaaS business should employ, but here are three that every SaaS business should test:

Start lead generation with what they want, not what you want.

Increase the cost of your trial.

Understand the relationship between your trial conversion rate and purchase conversion rate.

Test ways for new visitors to start your process when they sign up as a lead.


Registration processes focus too much on what the SaaS business needs to start selling and billing. Give the new visitor a win early and often during the process.

Let them:

  • See what’s for sale.
  • Download a drawing.
  • Tell you their dog’s name.
  • Tell you their size.
  • Enter their ZIP code.
  • Get one recommendation.
  • See their rating.
  • Enter the type of car they own.
  • Tell you their preferred color.
  • Tell you their current mood.
  • Tell you their favorite artist.


The point is that you ask them for something relevant to them before asking for things that are relevant to you (like their name, email address and credit card).

Increase the cost of the trial. Ask for a credit card (opt-out trial) instead of asking for one after the trial (opt-in trial). Charge a very small amount for the trial.

Charge for a trial?

The more expensive the trial is, the lower your conversion rate will be. However, your tryers will be more motivated to spend time with your service. If your service is good, this will increase your sales rate.

If you graph your trial conversion rate against your purchase rate (close rate), it will look something like this:



Here, you will see a sharp drop in conversion rate when you move from a free trial to any price, even a penny. You should also see a sharp rise in close rate. Then conversion rate and close rate will change as the trial price rises.

As you get closer to 100% of the price of the service, you elevate the perceived value of the service. Price is a great way to communicate value. Conversion rates should drop steadily and close rates should rise.

Paid trials may also decrease churn and increase average purchase (increase in annual plans, for example). I would map these metrics against trial cost.

You may find some emotional trigger points, trial prices at which revenue spikes for no apparent reason. These are golden discoveries.

Don’t rely on freemium. Consider feemium. Find out what a trial optimization program takes. Contact Conversion Sciences at ConversionSciences.com

David Hoos

David Hoos is Content Marketing Strategist for The Good, conversion rate experts who deliver more revenues, customers, and leads. David and the team at The Good have made a practice of advising brands on how to see online revenue double through their conversion rate optimization services.
Linkedin

What three CRO tactics should every SaaS business employ?

Include Social Proof. The bottom line is word of mouth is still king. Social proof provides the closest thing to word of mouth advertising right on your site.

Have you worked with major brands? Are your customers ecstatic about your business? Include that proof front and center.

Get Micro-Conversions. Most visitors want to research and see value before they purchase. Give them a handful of ways to research that will allow you to keep in touch. This can be an ebook download, a newsletter signup, a free trial, or something similar. Get to know each other before you pop the question.

Do User Testing. Some of your biggest website and product user experience problems can be identified with about five user tests. Get started with user testing to identify these “big E on the eye chart” items and continue with A/B testing to help you test and iterate further improvements.

Alex Birkett

Alex Birkett — Growth Marketer at ConversionXL, one of the world’s most popular conversion optimization blogs — which is also an optimization agency and a digital marketing training program.
Linkedin

What three CRO tactics should every SaaS business employ?

Conversion optimization isn’t about tactics, per se; it’s about a continuous and data-driven process of growth. But three things that SaaS optimizers should focus on:

Optimize for the right metric. Do you care about

  • visit → trial,
  • visit → sale,
  • visit → qualified trial,
  • or visit → active user?


Visit to trial conversion is the easiest to track, but visit to active user is probably the most indicative of a successful experiment for longer-term value.

Because you have a recurring customer base to track, cohort analysis can be used to track longitudinal data in what I think is a far easier way than something like e Commerce.

Of course, these insights are correlative, but you can often find great value, especially for behavioral correlations, in doing cohort analysis.

Focus on retention. As Brian Balfour said, “growth is good, but retention is forever”.

Take a look at the differing growth rates and acquisition costs with different churn rates in this interactive visualization.

Kevin Cotch

Kevin Cotch is a SEO Analyst for TopRank Marketing. He focuses on all things related to search engine optimization but gets the most enjoyment spending time uncovering technical SEO and CRO tactics to help clients get the highest return on their investment.
Linkedin

What three CRO tactics should every SaaS business employ?

There are many different approaches that SaaS companies can take to improve conversions. Below are three CRO tactics that I think SaaS companies can really benefit from.

Offer Free Demos or Trials. Companies should have an option to start a free trial, or at least, have an opportunity to schedule a demo to learn more about the software.

By offering a free trial or a demo you can get people engaged or interested in the product. Also, add the prospective customer to a drip campaign to continue to educate them on the product.

Optimize Calls to Action. Another simple tactic companies can leverage is creating more effective CTAs.

Your CTAs should include words that your customers use most often. This information can be uncovered from reviewing feedback surveys or reviews.

An effective CTA will focus on the benefit of the software or imply urgency when appropriate. To find the best CTA, make sure to find each CTA for your audience with different messaging.

A good location to test the CTA messaging is on the pricing page of a website.


Test to see if removing the price or changing the CTA increases conversions.

Improve the Mobile Experience. Finally, companies can leverage CRO to improve the mobile usability experience. Just because the mobile version of a site passes the Google Usability Test doesn’t make it a solid user experience.

Use CRO tools to track scroll depths and heat maps of the mobile layout to identify opportunities to convert all types of users.

Obviously, there are many additional CRO tactics companies can focus on, which is dependent on the situation. For SaaS companies, CRO should be focused mostly on client retention to grow and sustain the business.

Jon MacDonald

Jon MacDonald is founder and President of The Good, conversion rate experts who deliver more revenues, customers, and leads. Jon and the team at The Good have made a practice of advising brands on how to see online revenue double through their conversion rate optimization services.
Linkedin

What three CRO tactics should every SaaS business employ?

Stop using pop-ups to capture email sign-ups. Data we’ve collected over 9 years has shown that pop-ups are intrusive and ineffective. But your pop-ups help you get more email signups, you say? That’s great, but how valuable are those leads?

We’d rather get 100 new subscribers who trust us and want more information about our services than 1,000 signups who entered an email address just to get rid of the annoying pop-up.

More often than not, email capture pop-ups drive the conversion rate down.

Avoid corporate jargon. Depending on your particular audience, some will be up on industry vocabulary, but many will struggle to understand.

One client of The Good’s couldn’t understand why their product wasn’t drawing the sales they expected. Visits to the field revealed their college-educated salesforce refused to use the vernacular of the end users.

The end-users took the sales team’s highfalutin vocabulary as a sign there was no real understanding of their supply needs.

Speak the language of the people you serve. Save the jargon for research papers and C-suite bragging sessions.


Involve your customer success and customer service teams in website content updates. Ignoring feedback from your customers will cause you to miss invaluable lessons.

Customer service should not be customer facing only. Cultivate communication between those who speak daily with customers and your management team. Don’t ignore the gold mine sitting right in front of you, then apply those findings to improving your website.

Quentin Aisbett

Quentin Aisbett is the owner of ONQ Marketing, a digital marketing agency with specific interest in analytics and conversion optimisation and how both can be used to understand influence the customer journey.
Linkedin

What three CRO tactics should every SaaS business employ?

The primary objective is to acquire customers, so the number one priority is to lower the obstacles.

Providing free trials without requiring the use of a credit card will allow you to get more conversions. Your challenge will then be to convert your free trial customers to paid subscribers.

Your second tactic is to test your free trial period. It’s great to offer 7 days, but what if they don’t get active until the last day and they don’t give themselves enough proof that they need it?

Can you extend it to 14 or even 30 days? How about sending them a series of automated onboarding emails to get them engaged earlier.

The point is that you will not know for sure until you test different periods, different onboarding sequences and even different offerings. Don’t just offer a trial and hope for the best.

After testing various scenarios, you will identify that you have a sweet spot and that it will convert more free trials than any other.

Just as important to the success of an SaaS business is the ability to keep your churn rate to a minimum. Customers will have varying reasons for looking to cancel their account and some of these you will not be able to influence.

But a customer retained is a customer gained, so you should be looking at the opportunities.


I’ve seen success from the client-side, and from a consumer point of view. I’ve changed my own mind when being contacted by email in the window of time between the moment you cancel and your subscription period concluding.

The key is to find out during the point of cancellation why they want to leave and then remind them that their account will be active until their next “billing date”.

Produce offers to bring them back based on their reason for leaving.

If you have nominated options, you could even automate the process. However, the personal touch will always be more effective.

Pol Rodríguez

Pol Rodríguez SaaS & Email Marketing lover. Growing FacturaDirecta.
Linkedin

What three CRO tactics should every SaaS business employ?

Do something that doesn’t scale. Make something that does not scale during the trial period to improve conversion rates.

At FacturaDirecta, we make a phone call to our activated users with no commercial purpose, just to tell them that they can ask us anything whenever they want. That simple tactic improved our conversion rates to paying users by 3%.

Be human. People love to talk with other people, and your users love it too.

Use a personal tone in your emails and customer support, be kind, always sign your emails by name (not as a brand), introduce triggered emails to help customers use your tool, invite your customers to ask anything. Help them as a human and conversions will grow faster than ever.

Guide them to activation. Let your user know the power of your tool as fast as you can.

Let them try your product immediately after they sign up and guide them through it to discover the greatest features you offer. Show your ‘aha’ features when they are ready to be impressed.

Vic Maine

Vic Maine is the Founder of TwittBuilder.com and where he grows twitter accounts for small businesses & startups that don’t have the time or patience to do it themselves. He’s also working on a short book regarding the same.

What three CRO tactics should every SaaS business employ?

Extreme Focus. This first one is super-obvious, but can’t be left out.

The very first CRO tactic every #SaaS needs to employ is definitely “focus” (EXTREME-FOCUS in fact). I think the reason average sites don’t do it to the extreme level needed is because of fear.

They fear losing a potential lead that doesn’t want ‘that’ specific offer, so they put other links and such as a backup plan. That’s just basic insecurity plain & simple.

If you don’t have confidence in your product, instead of hedging your bet, just make your product better.

Enhance The Facade. People buy things as “props” in the story they’re telling themselves about who they are.

Everyone wears a facade and the #1 mandate in life is selling your facade to yourself (and to the rest of us).

This is why it’s so friggin’ important to know who you’re selling to. The landing page needs to remind them who they are (or at least who they’re trying to be).

This example is an extreme-generalization, but you get the idea: Bodybuilders feel small so they want to be big.

Check Your Own Emotion: This isn’t about you. You’re not being rejected (nor loved); the product is (or the page, or the headline, or the offer, or the CTA, etc).

If you’re emotionally attached to your product, page, copy, etc, then it’s 100% odds you’re making emotional decisions that are costing you sales.

If you’re emotionally attached to any part of it (especially if you created it yourself for example, like if you created the product or you wrote the copy) you need to let go and pass the CRO off to someone else.

In short, you can’t be trusted.

People think split-testing can eliminate this, but if you’re still the one approving which variations to test, then it can’t.


CRO needs to be outsourced in order to reach its full potential (and I don’t sell CRO services, so that’s not why I’m saying it :).

So there you go…

Stop hedging your bets out of fear.


Remind the buyer who they’re trying to be.


Outsource your CRO if you really want it to work.

Khalid Saleh

Khalid Saleh is the CEO of Invesp, a conversion rate optimization agency with offices in Detroit and Istanbul. He is also the cofounder of FigPii, an all in-one growth hacking platform.
Linkedin

What three CRO tactics should every SaaS business employ?

Extend Trial Periods. Most SaaS products resort to a standard “14-Day Trial Period” or a “One-Month Trial Period” which is not enough for users to get convinced.

The best CRO hack is to provide a limited time free trial and extend the trial period. This will help build a positive feel about your service and improve the existing relationship with your customers.

This way, customers would have been accustomed to your product and have a good reputation on your after-sale service to them get converted easily.

Custom Landing Pages. The landing page is one the most underestimated CRO techniques.

Let’s look at it this way, you spend thousands of dollars marketing your SaaS product, but, redirect the traffic to your homepage and wonder why your conversion rate is so less.

Obviously, your target users wouldn’t convert because they are just bombarded with generic content that is not in sync with your marketing message.

By creating custom landing pages that are tailor made for each campaign, you can easily convert your traffic with convincing content and CTAs. Testing each campaign becomes easy as you can optimize your campaign and marketing budget based on conversions.

Start understanding your customers and build campaigns that brings in maximum ROI.

Bringing In The Human Touch. Most SaaS owners try to automate most of their communication with customers to minimize dependency, but this is one of the biggest conversions mistake they make.

Only with verbal communication, either through emails or phone calls, you can connect better with your customers. The success of any SaaS product is through positive reviews and referrals.

Start building good relationship with existing customers and witness conversions.

Xavier Colomes

Xavier Colomes is a veteran digital marketer with a focus on CRO, Web Analyst. Xavi started working in the internet world in 2000 as a web developer. Today, after having worked in all types of digital roles in leading tech companies (Google and Intuit), he has become a skilled marketer that has worked in the Marketing Teams of the #1 and #2 B2B SaaS products in the world: Google Apps and Quickbooks. His areas of expertise are Analytics, Conversion, UX and Strategy. Under his brand Conversion Garden, he consults for all type of companies and startups and helps them to succeed in digital.
Linkedin

What three CRO tactics should every SaaS business employ?

Every business is unique and different, we all know that, and nowadays it’s getting harder to find easy and quick ways to increase conversions in a SaaS project, as most of the new players launch with a set of already built best practices that help conversion.

The days of easy hacks and quick wins are long gone, and we need to spend time and resources in Analytics and Research to come up with winning hypothesis for our tests.

That being said, and based on my experience as CRO in the #1 and #2 B2B SaaS products in the world (Google Apps and Quickbooks Online) these are the 3 tactics that I’d recommend to any SaaS marketer:

Pricing page. Probably is the most clicked link in your homepage menu, isn’t it?

And probably that’s one of the pages with a bigger abandon rate. You are not alone! The pricing page is one important moment of truth in the SaaS funnel, and needs to accomplish too many things in only one page: Inform, Persuade, and help Choose.

Stop for a second and think about the dozens of questions that need to be addressed:

  • “Is this for me?”
  • “What’s the right version?”
  • “Why should I pay for this tool?”
  • “Is it worth it?”
  • “What should I do?”
  • “Can I try it for free?”
  • “What’s the difference between basic and premium?”


And so on.

Is your pricing page clearly solving these questions? If the answer is “No”, you know where to start testing, and keep iterating this page until you find the best version of it.

Product discovery. Don’t assume that users will use the free trial period as you envisioned it.

Many users won’t even start it until they are certain that you are what they need it.

If you’ve done some qualitative research (you should) you’ll already know that most of the users who end up converting to paid customers made the decision before the trial period.

So, what’s the problem then?

That the website fails to inform about the real capabilities and features that your tool does.


And let’s face it, sometimes it’s our fault!

When Conversion specialists and Product owners try to push the users into the funnel too fast, there’s the risk to pay a price in “qualification”.

So, what can you do / test about it? Use lots of quality screenshots in the website, and make sure they can be enlarged. Show the product. Show the features.

Use videos, demos and “walk me through’s”, but put the focus on the product. That’s what the user wants to see, and they should have a clear idea of what it does before they click on the “Start trial” button.

You’ll definitely pay a price in signups, as some users will realise that you are not the right tool for them, but in the other hand you’ll win more subscribers from better qualified users who will start the trial and use it to unleash the potential of your software.

Onboarding. In a SaaS project the Conversion is not the signup, but the paying subscriber.

This means that having them register and start a free trial is not the end of the funnel, it’s just a middle step.

In order to maximize the % of users who end up subscribing, we need them to fully understand the potential of the tool, and walk them through the setup that will make their experience the best possible, Of course we are talking about onboarding, and this is one area where Marketing, UX and Product teams should meet to deliver a “wow” experience for the user.

You can find many ideas in UserOnboard.com by Samuel Hulick.

These are 3 examples of tactics that we can use in a SaaS CRO project, but as I said in the first line: every project is unique and what worked for one product, will not work for another, that’s what makes a SaaS website one of the funniest and more rewarding funnels to test.

So, be creative, test, learn and enjoy!

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What three CRO tactics should every SaaS business employ?

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  • Rina Venglovsky

    Great article!

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