How To Increase Your SaaS Trial to Customer Conversions Up To 25% Using Behavior-Based Email Automations

Behavior based emails
How much would increasing your trial to customer conversion rate by 25% or more affect your business? This article will walk you through how to set up and use behavior-based email marketing automation to increase your conversion rates.

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Tell vs. Show

Map vs. Guide

Timed vs. Behavior-Based Email Automation

How much would increasing your trial to customer conversion rate by 25% or more affect your business? Given the compound nature of SaaS growth…it would be huge I am sure!

Timed-based email onboarding is like your GPS continually giving you directions WITHOUT waiting for you to get to the next steps. It is telling you to do step-10 before you have gotten to turn-2! Think of behavior-based email automation as a guided tour…that takes you around and tells you the story of each step (how to do it, its value, the benefits, what is possible) as you are there.

This article will walk you through how to set up and use behavior-based email marketing automation to increase your conversion rates. This will typically increase your conversion rate by 25% or more over time-base email sequences. Not only that, but this will also help you with insights to reduce churn…also a major SaaS growth factor! And it will help you focus and improve your messaging for what is important.

But first, let’s explore trial conversion rates and getting leads to be “trial ready” before they even start the trial. This goes hand-in-hand with behavior-based onboarding to maximize your conversion potential.

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Conversion Rates

According to Intercom, 40 – 60% of your free trials will use your app once and never come back! “Never come back!” Yes, this is consistent with many early-stage SaaS founders I talk with.

What is your trial-to-customer conversion rate? 

3%…This is the often-quoted SaaS industry average conversion rate from trial to paid with time-based emails. 

Are you an “Opt-in” or “Opt-out” free trial? 

  • Standard Free Trials (opt-in): No credit card or payments is asked for up-front. Conversion is thus at the end of your trial to become a paying subscriber…assuming they find enough value. 
  • Opt-out Free Trials (opt-out): A credit card is asked for upfront (sometimes even a small fee, like 7-days for $7) to access the trial. You automatically are converted to a paying customer unless you opt-out in order to not become a paying subscriber. These will have a much higher conversion rate but may have a much higher 3-month churn rate also.

Opt-in trials are way more common and have a lower conversion rate, but many more actually entering the trial. What works for you? Depending upon your industry and its norms, it may be worth experimenting with.

From “The 2020 State of Independent SaaS Report”, below is what bootstrap founders reported as their rate for comparison.

Opt-In Conversion Rates

Opt-Out Conversion Rates

Note: There is no comparison of the overall rates from “trial-ready” leads to customer conversion. There can be no real industry metrics here as every business does this differently.

How To Double Your Growth…Getting to “Trial Ready”

Before we get started I want to point out there are two things you can, and should, do even before behavior-based trial onboarding. They go hand-in-hand for best conversion rates and overall growth:

  • First, be sure your trial users are “trial ready”! What is trial-ready? Remember the 40-60% number from Intercom? People starting the trial without being ready to actually use it…this a major reason why this low engagement rate. “Trial ready” is not is running a paid ads and driving trial sign-ups without warming up the leads. I frequently talk to founders that use paid ads to get free trials and fail miserably. Few of these generated free trials actually use the SaaS…and close to zero converts to paying customers. These prospects are not ready to be users, let alone be customers. But they may be interests and do want to solve the problem you address with your SaaS. Use this framework to fix this problem for your SaaS.
  • The next thing is to use a good trial registration flow to get trials to activate the trial. People are busy and often distracted…even when signing up for your trial. This blog post, “How To Double Your SaaS Trial Signups” will show you how.

And then do behavior-based trial onboarding…and you should be able to double (or more) your trial-related growth rate! That is huge!!

Behavior-Based Email Automation

Behavior-based email automation is emails designed to get the user to the “next step” based upon their activities and on their timeline, not yours. 

Yes, still have as small of a trial period as is practical to get to value. This helps generate urgency and encourages waiting until the user is actually ready.

Behavior-based nurture automation can be used for both your app setup and for guiding the trial user to value, the “aha moment”.

“Aha Moment”

The “Aha Moment” is the point in SaaS onboarding, typically a free trial, where the user sees your value. And thus, is most likely to become a paying subscriber after this point. Every SaaS will have different events that signify this Aha moment. What are yours?

Guide to value, the “aha moment” as fast as possible.

Behavior-Based Automation

Put simple behavior-based automation is guiding and encouraging usage of each feature or each step of your application…one at a time until that part is completed. Use their actual usage to see when a step is completed to then help them with the next step or feature. A time-based sequence is designed to your timing…no their real-life schedule.

For each step:

  1. Promote the value and benefits of that step
  2. Show them how to do that step
  3. If they have not completed the step in a few days:
    1. Show them another value
    2. Show them another “how-to” email
  4. Repeat until the step is done


How do we do this?

You need to define and track the actions within your SaaS application that part of each step or feature. You could build your own tool, or use a SaaS specific marketing automation tool like SaturnOne.io

Here is a process to help you:

  1. Step 1: Define the events within your app to track
  2. Step 2: Analyze actual usage to find the actual “aha moment” activities/features/behaviors.
    1. Use cohort analysis to compare trial users that convert vs those that do not.
    2. You will need at least one trial period of data to analyze.
    3. Do you have multiple plans (pricing with feature-set) that may differ? 
  3. Step 3: Build an email sequence to nurture the user to each of these “aha” activities/features/behaviors.
    1. If more than one, pick the best order to nurture users.
    2. This could be plan based
  4. Step 4: From these activities define the behaviors correlated to the events in step 1 that users need to guided into completing.
    1. These events will be used to end the automation sequence in step 3
    2. When the event(s) are completed, remove from the active automation sequence and add the user to the next one.
  5. Repeat Until Done

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How To Define Behaviors

In-App events are the cornerstone of what makes SaturnOne.io a SaaS focused marketing automation platform so valuable. These events allow you to track trials, onboarding, app usage, and churn related behavior and connect automations with them.

What Type of Events

Events can include:

  • Logging In
  • App activation & points
  • Setup configuring
    • Add teammates
    • Import data
    • Configure account settings
  • Key usage events
    • Things that drive user value
    • Things that measure user value


CRM SaaS App

These are the events that give the user value and when done. Meaning they are more likely to be happy users and paying customers.

  • Contacts added
  • Sales opportunities entered
  • Deals recorded
  • Reports generated

These are set up events…for tracking setup & onboarding…important but not of cove value to the end-user.

  • Email templates setup
  • Added email account
  • imported contacts
  • Create custom fields
  • Define the sales pipeline process

SaturnOne.io Events

Core value events include:

  • Contact added
  • Drip email sequences defined
  • Funnels created

Setup events include:

  • Javascript marketing snippet installed
  • email setup
  • Plans defined
  • Email automation sequences created

In-App Event Monitoring

It is crucial to monitor what users are doing in your app. Don’t waste valuable developer time better spent on your product trying to kluge together your own monitoring system. Then you have to link it to your marketing system and reporting tool. Then maintain it…major cost center and management headache!

See in-app events by plan and user type for any date-range within Saturn Funnels.

You can create onboarding checklists, “aha moment” analysis, and marketing automation to grow your business.

Analyze For The “Aha Moment”

If you understand your SaaS’ value proposition you probably have some idea of the “aha moment”…user realization of your core value. Or more often multiple cores features that this value is derived from when set up and used properly by your users. How do you measure this and make it actionable? With in-app events and event groups that illustrate this value is achieved…or not yet!

To analyze for these you need to cohort analysis where you compare trials that “did not convert” to trials that “converted to customers”. Compare the event usage that corresponds to your value features…or maybe you will be surprised at what these are.

Cohort analysis comparing converting versus non-converting trial users.

The above cohort comparison from SaturnOne.io in-app events that converting customers used much more than non-converting trials. This gives you data and the insights you need to design your email onboarding sequences.

It may be a single event or a set of events. 

SaturnOne.io lets you trigger email automations based upon single events or groups of events…completed or uncompleted. Below is an email automation sequence being triggered by four events, with the number of times that are achieved.

We also have a builtin tool that allows you to define an “aha moment”, by SaaS plans, that can itself be used as an event to automations.

As a bonus, these tools let you monitor and combine lead flow, trial flow, “aha moment” flow in one dashboard panel.

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