Why we don’t try to convert more trials

A coffee shop is currently running a free Schedulefly trial. Chris, the owner, signed up a few weeks ago, but he hasn’t logged in yet. The trial will expire soon. The coffee shop won’t become a Schedulefly customer. At least, not yet.

In this case, I happen to know the owner. I drink his coffee daily. He has been extremely busy lately, focused on opening his second and third location. He intended to get Schedulefly set up to help make that transition easier for himself and his team, but he simply hasn’t had the time to sit down and do it. At some point, he’ll get around to it. He’ll do it when scheduling and communicating with his staff becomes unbearable – when we have the solution to his number one problem. But right now, he has other issues to tackle.

This single example is why I’m so thankful we don’t try to manipulate the organic nature of our free trials. Conventional wisdom would indicate we should hire somebody dedicated to “increasing our trial closure rate.” (I put that in quotations because we could never phrase it that way, but that’s how most business people would phrase it – and it’s what investors would say to us, if we had investors: “You need to increase your trial conversion rates. Arrrrrrrggghhhhhh!!!!” O.K., they probably wouldn’t say the Arrrrgghhhhh part.) Anyway, about 33% of our free trials “convert,” which means if we have 300 trials running at any given time, about 100 of those restaurants become customers. That’s pretty awesome as far as we’re concerned, and it gets even better when you look closer at it, because many of those “converted” trials are restaurants that had already run a free trial once or twice (or more times!) in the past, and it didn’t work for them at the time.

Which brings us back to Chris. I’m not sure when his coffee shops will run another free trial, and it doesn’t matter. He’ll do it when he’s ready, not when we want him to. And that’s exactly why we won’t ever be myopic and try to “move the needle” (another common business phrase I would never use) by having sales people who are incented to turn more trials into customers. But couldn’t we realistically go from 33% to 40%, meaning an increase of 240 more new paying customers per year? Maybe. Maybe we could. We certainly could measure it, and pat ourselves on the backs if we were successful.

But we believe in silent evidence, the evidence you can’t measure. How many people would be turned off by our pressure during their trial, deciding to look at other options because we were trying so hard to get them to pay us? We have no idea. We can’t measure that. Or, more importantly, how many people would become customers because they ultimately decided they like our software, but that didn’t enjoy the whole experience because we annoyed them during the trial, and therefore wouldn’t say the words “I love Schedulefly!” or highly recommend us to their friends? Again, we have no way to measure that. And that’s the issue, because that’s a very important part of all of this. You see, we are not trying to build a big company, we are trying to build a great business and a brand people love. You can’t do that if people buy your product begrudgingly due to a lack of other good options, or because you pressured them into it. But you can do it if you get out of the way, and let people buy when they are ready. (You clearly have to do a lot of other things well to build a great business and a loved brand, but this is a critical piece of the puzzle.)

There are other reasons we’ll never try to manufacture a higher conversion rate (we don’t want to have a sales person offering discounts and incentives to get people to convert, we want to keep our small crew of just five guys at just five guys for as long as possible, etc), but the most important reason is that we are here for the long haul. We are patiently growing, one customer at a time. We don’t intend to ask restaurant people to use Schedulefly on our time frame. Rather, we intend to be here when – and only when – they are ready.