Saturday, September 5, 2009

In B2B what is better paid pilot or free trials

While reading some recent blog posts I ran across this post from Adam Blitzer's blog B2B Marketing ROI "Are Paid Pilots or Free Trials better for B2B?".

As someone who works in the B2B space and constantly looking for B2B tools to help our team, this is a good relevant post.  Additionally I think it applies to the B2C market where I will sign-up for a number of free trials, but stop them or not continue because I just don't have the time, or they haven't shown me any value.

I am in agreement that 'Free trials' are rarely worth their time and effort in a B2B environment as companies tend to walk away, or the product is too complex for anyone to use without significant training.  The 'free trial' tends to work better in a B2C environment IF the consumer can see value immediately.  For B2B sales rarely is the 'free trial' ever always require some time from the user trying the solution, and in some cases requires paid professional services to make it it is never FREE.  That said one good example of a 'free trial' is the Sample books you can get for the Amazon Kindle, and free 14 day trials you can get for magazines, newspapers, but I would love to see what their conversation rates are from free samples.

On the point of 'Paid Pilots'...Adam's points all make sense and are right on with getting a customer to convert.  The issue I have seen with paid pilots is they do not always have a definitive 'ENDING' and a definitive 'CONVERSION'.  Both of these points lead to the Pilot which neither the customer nor the vendor consummate the deal.  If you have to make a decision always do Paid Pilots unless of course you can go straight to a full deal.  If you do decide to go with a Paid Pilot, or have to because of the complexity of the product, or size of the customer make sure you...
  1. Have a clear measure of success that is SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely)
  2. Define a clear ending point for the Pilot within the agreement
  3. Insert a trigger point within the agreement at which the Pilot rolls to a full deployment
  4. Plan for a case study / way to prove the value up front; don't design it into the process after-the-fact
  5. A point I can't emphasize enough....KEEP the executive sponsor(s) engaged and informed throughout the pilot
I'm sure there are other major points, maybe you'd care to share your thoughts, but these were at the top of my mind before I headed off to the pool and dinner.

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