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By giving users online trials, they have an opportunity to engage with the offer, learn what can meet their needs and become a product qualified lead.


In the 1984 play (and 1992 movie) Glengarry Glen Ross, a sales team fights over getting the good “leads” from the corporate office. Back then, as is the case now, leads are what drives the pipeline, and ultimately revenue.  Fast forward to 2021, and leads are still just as important, but now they are digital, created through self-service mechanisms. Let’s look at how and why that has changed.

Marketing qualified leads (MQLs) historically have been a great way to measure the effectiveness of the marketing spend, as well as forecast and generate sales pipeline.  This has been tracked for so long, and by so many firms, that the conversion of marketing qualified leads to sales qualified leads have resulted in its own KPI: “MQL:SQL.”  Depending on the industry, and the definition of “qualified”, the conversion rate can be in the 9%-15% range – not a great ROI, but certainly much better than a passive return on, say, direct communication blasts (1-2%).

But now with subscription offers, there’s a new sheriff in town: online trials. For firms with as-a-Service offers, online trials have become part of the overall lead generation engine. The difference is online trial users are far more actively engaged, and as a result they have pre-qualified themselves.  These potential buyers use the offer directly to see if it meets their needs to solve their problem. And by using the product directly, they become product qualified leads (PQL) once the trial concludes.

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When the trial period is over, users have two options: opt in or opt-out.  Opt-in means they must take an action to buy the product.  Opt-out means the opposite, unless they act, the trial will automatically convert to a paid subscription. PQLs often have conversion rates 5x higher than traditional MQLs.

There are implications for opt-in and opt-out. While many B2C trial users opt-out, most B2B firms implement an opt-in approach. Especially where the price could be several orders of magnitude higher than a $12.99 monthly subscription to Netflix, and the buyer is committing their company to a long-term agreement.

Ok, so we know trials are important.  But what can we do to ensure trial users convert into paid subscriptions?

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First, leading firms make the signup process seamless and painless.  Users can go from the initial website click to up and running in under 60 seconds and empower the user during the signup process through a self-guided journey. (This contrasts with the “old school” signups where registration could take an entire day.)

Second, trial experiences help the potential buyer see the value of the offer. Sometimes meaning the provider helps them along the way with useful tips. Product-based usage information (“telemetry”) tracks what users are doing, leading firms feed this information to an Inside Sales team whose role it is to matriculate the lead into a buyer.

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Finally, all activity is integrated into the firm’s marketing and sales automation tools.  Once a potential buyer registers for the online trial, a pipeline entry is created.  From there, all human and electronic touch points are tracked and recorded, allowing marketing and sales teams to focus on the customer and provide an integrated experience.

We have come a long way since the 1984 classic Glengarry Glen Ross with its infamous “coffee is for closers” punch line.  Gone are the sole reliance on leads from marketing or the corporate office.  Now, online users expect far more self-service – including their pre-purchase (trial) experience.  With effortless signups, valuable trials experience, and integration to the sales and marketing automation technology, PQLs have become the new MQL.

How are you thinking about your MQLs? Is it still 1984 where you are? How will you transform to a PQL mindset? How are you catering to your B2B consumers who now expect a B2C type experience? It’s possible you’ll have more questions than just these. If so, how can we help?

Disclaimer: This content is provided for general information purposes and is not intended to be used in place of consultation with our professional advisors. This document refers to marks owned by third parties. All such third-party marks are the property of their respective owners. No sponsorship, endorsement or approval of this content by the owners of such marks is intended, expressed or implied.

Copyright © 2021 Accenture. All rights reserved. Accenture and its logo are registered trademarks of Accenture.

John Goble

Senior Manager – High Tech, North America

Kevin Stoll

Senior Manager – Technology, North America

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