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Mike Lieberman, CEO and Chief Revenue ScientistWed, May 20, 2015 7 min read

4 Reasons Free Trials Or Demos Won’t Drive Inbound Marketing Leads

Free Demo Doesn't Drive LeadsSoftware companies are notorious for rolling out self-serving bottom-of-the-funnel offers, like "Try Our Free Demo" or "Download Our Free Trial." Then, they’re surprised when hardly anyone fills out the forms to experience their software.

There is a major misconception among the leadership of these technology companies. They think that people would be interested in investing time and energy in trying the software before they buy it.

In reality, 90% of the people visiting your site are NOT ready for a demo or trial. By ignoring those people, or not having something for them to download, you run the risk of sending them away from your site before they do anything.

After working with a wide variety of software marketing and high-tech marketing engagements for the past 10 years, I’m here to tell you that these offers typically underperform compared to all other bottom-of-the-funnel offers – in a dramatic way. In fact, they underperform versus almost every other offer at every level of the sales funnel.

Here’s the how and why behind these historically underperforming offers.

It’s Not As Easy As You Think

I get it. You think that if someone sees the software, they’re going to want to buy it. Guess again. Unless your software is an app for a smartphone, it isn’t self-serve. So, don’t treat it like someone is going to start using it without any help from you or your team.

In fact, whereas you see "Download A Free Trial," your prospects see "Invest A Lot Of Time Trying To Use Something I Don’t Know Anything About." More important, you have to consider the feelings that prospects have when they see buttons and offers like this. They get nervous, anxious and stressed, which is the opposite of how you need to make them feel.

If you’re going to insist on using these types of offers, at least give your visitors additional offers – ones that make them feel safe by educating them on how to make a solid purchase decision.

You’re Trying To Get Them To Do Your Job

Why do you think your software can be demoed or even used by someone who has no knowledge of or experience with your product? Prospects are smart. They know, even if it’s subconsciously, that you’re trying to get them to do your job. After all, it’s your job to show the software, to prove its value, to apply the features to your prospects' specific challenges.

It’s also your job to diagnose and consult with your prospects to make sure the software is a good fit for their challenges. Asking your website visitors to run the software on their own or watch a demo when you have little or no knowledge of their business is a little like asking a doctor to diagnose your disease without ever examining you.

They’re Just Not Ready

Demos and trials have their place, but don’t expect people you’ve never talked with to stop by your website and click on those buttons. They’re just not ready to look at software yet. They might be in the awareness stage or still considering options. Demos and trials are true bottom-of-the-funnel offers, and in our experience, they only work well when the leads have been nurtured to some extent.

You Need To Test Other Offers, Too

Make sure your content strategy and your content marketing plan has offers (downloadable, educational, value-oriented content) for everyone: the person in the awareness phase, the person in the consideration phase and the person in the decision-making phase. More important, make sure that these offers deliver real education for your prospects no matter where they are in their individual buying process.

You need to consider a Trio of Offers: No-Risk Offers for people at the top of the funnel (in the Awareness stage), Low-Risk Offers for people in the middle of the funnel (in the Consideration stage) and Direct Business Offers for people at the bottom of the funnel (in the Decision stage).

All of these offers are equally important because you have people coming to your website right now at all stages of the funnel. You need to give them educational content that makes them safe and smart so that they convert from anonymous visitors into leads, who can then be nurtured until they turn into new clients.

Once you shift away from what you think works and toward what actually works, you should see your pipeline grow and the number of leads at all phases of the sales process increase exponentially. Remember, don’t discount top-of-the-funnel leads. If you can properly nurture these, they do turn into bottom-of-the-funnel leads at a very high rate.

Start Today Tip – If you’re using offers like "Try A Demo" or "Free Trial," benchmark the current conversion rate and then swap them out with more value-oriented bottom-of-the-funnel offers, like "Get 10 Ideas In 10 Minutes" or "Give Us 30 Minutes For A Tool Evaluation." You’ll see a significant lift in conversions, and the leads will be just as qualified as  if not more than – those who wanted a Free Demo. More important, your sales reps who are following up on those leads are going to have move constructive, more consultative and more engaging conversations with those prospects, which WILL make it easier to close that business.

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Mike Lieberman, CEO and Chief Revenue Scientist

Mike is the CEO and Chief Revenue Scientist at Square 2. He is passionate about helping people turn their ordinary businesses into businesses people talk about. For more than 25 years, Mike has been working hand-in-hand with CEOs and marketing and sales executives to help them create strategic revenue growth plans, compelling marketing strategies and remarkable sales processes that shorten the sales cycle and increase close rates.