Social Proof is the effect that other people have on our decisions. It has a powerful influence on our choices, especially when there are too many options to pick from. This article shows you 17 ways that major SaaS companies use Social Proof in their marketing, helping you to increase your conversion rate and grow your recurring revenue, month after month.
17 Ways To Improve Your SaaS Conversion Rate With Social Proof
- 1. Display reviews to build trust
- 2. Use Ratings Platforms Like Capterra or Trustpilot To Build Trust
- 3. Use Case Studies To Create The “Aha!” Moment Faster
- 4. Highlight Your Popularity To Build Prestige
- 5. Use Social Media (Especially Product Hunt) To Create An Online Buzz
- 6. Get Expert Testimonials And Endorsements
- 7. Use Popular Choices To Create Default Options
- 8. Encourage Referrals Or Offer a Referral Marketing Scheme
- 9. Use Social Proof In Email Subject Lines To Increase Trust and Open Rates
- 10. Tag Popular Features To Smooth The Onboarding Process
- 11. Use Social Proof In Your Exit Pop-Ups
- 12. Use Social Proof To Present Yourself As a Service (Not Just An App)
- 13. Use Industry Awards To Reduce Competitor Switching
- 14. Announce New Features Using Social Proof
- 15. Activate Your User Base With A Message Board
- 16. Use Social Proof To Deliver a “Dopamine Hit”
- 17. Highlight New Ways To Use Your Product
Marketing your Software is not like marketing consumer products. Not only is your product invisible, but you have to explain what it does and how it works before anyone can buy it. Because of this, small changes in the way you communicate can have a big impact on your conversion rate. Social Proof provides a completely different way to get your message across, improving the impact and authority of your content.
A famous report by the customer management platform Totango suggested that SaaS businesses using a “credit card required” trial convert around 1% of leads into paying customers. For a “no credit card” free trial, the figure was estimated at 1.5%. However, these numbers are considerably lower than the benchmark usually suggested for SaaS businesses. For example, in its landing page report, Unbounce put the benchmark for SaaS companies at 2.9%. The software comparison site Capterra boasts even higher conversion rates from the traffic it refers to its users.
In truth, any conversion rate benchmark for a SaaS marketing campaign is likely to be misleading. It is impossible to provide a true benchmark because the value of your service, the costs involved, and the lifetime of your customers all make a difference. Not only this, but the funnel used by SaaS companies looks nothing like a traditional sales funnel. In fact, for a SaaS business, there are three different kinds of conversion that you need to worry about:
- Sign-Up Conversion Rate
- Free-to-Paid Conversion Rate
- Customer Lifetime Conversion Rate
What Does a SaaS Conversion Funnel Look Like?
Most SaaS companies use a free trial or freemium subscription model. This kind of “product led” strategy lets you demonstrate how valuable your software is without spending huge amounts on advertising. To optimize this kind of funnel, you need to increase three things: the number of people who sign up for a free trial, the proportion of those people who pick a paid plan, and the number who continue to use your service for more than 90 days.
Free Trial or Freemium: Which Is Best For Your Conversion Rate?
A free trial reduces the amount you spend on non-paying customers, and creates a natural deadline for them to subscribe. On the other hand, a freemium strategy provides you with powerful exposure because each user becomes a source of referred traffic. In a sense, freemium pricing is the simplest form of SaaS Social Proof.
Again, it is not always obvious which strategy is best for your Free-to-paid conversion rate, because the answer depends on your service and your competition. Some companies adopt a hybrid approach in which a premium account is downgraded to a basic one after the free trial. Others use a composite model in which each customer provides more than one source of revenue (usually advertising and paid subscriptions).
To keep up with your monthly churn rate (typically between 5-15% for SaaS products aimed at small and medium businesses), you have to attract enough sign-ups to replace your cancelled or downgraded plans.
If you have 1000 users, a churn rate of 10% and a 20% free-to-paid conversion rate, you need 500 sign-ups per month just to maintain your recurring revenue.
The pressure of maintaining your MRR with a high churn rate is one reason for the popular SaaS industry mantra, “you’re either growing or you’re dying.” However, there is another reason: the cheapest way to acquire new customers is through word of mouth. These SaaS Social Proof strategies will help you to get more free trial and freemium sign-ups.
Used By: Intercom Best for: Home Page
If you have positive reviews about your services, it makes sense to display them on your homepage. Customer reviews help to build confidence in your business, so companies like Intercom display them alongside forms and CTA buttons.
People have a tendency to copy the decisions of others when they are unsure or anxious. Using this kind of Social Proof each time you ask for a commitment is a good way to increase your conversion rate. Alternatively, you can use a Social Proof app to display reviews on any page in your conversion funnel.
Used By: Convertize Best for: Home Page, Landing Pages, Features Page, Sign-Up Page
Ratings platforms like Capterra and Trustpilot are essential to growing a SaaS company. Not only can you display the ratings on your homepage, but the listing page gives you an extra funnel to acquire new sign-ups. As we mentioned previously, leads referred from Capterra tend to provide a higher conversion rate than organic or paid traffic, because the person has already demonstrated buying intent.
Because reviews and ratings on these platforms are carefully monitored, customers know they can trust the information. With Nudgify, you can add Capterra reviews and Trustpilot reviews to any of your features or sign-up pages. You can even adjust the settings to display your most recent reviews, or only those with a 4 or 5-star rating.
Used By: Xtensio Best for: Home Page, Landing Pages
Explaining to people why they need your software is difficult. Because attention is a valuable resource, you need to get to the “Aha!” moment as quickly as possible. The quickest and easiest way to do this is by using examples of current users.
One powerful SaaS Social Proof strategy used by new or disruptive companies is including case studies in blog posts, adverts and even product pages. Not only does this make it easier to show what makes your software unique, it also helps to build trust faster.
Used By: Adobe Photoshop Best for: Home Page, Landing Pages, Features Page, Sign-Up Page, Confirmation Page
Social Proof is particularly powerful when someone is unsure about a choice or a decision. In a crowded “Red Sea” industry like SaaS, Social Proof can help to position your product as the default option. Companies like Adobe, WordPress and Google are able to leverage their popularity to increase their conversion rates.
An effective way to use this strategy without sounding like a sales person is to use it on your confirmation page or on-boarding sequence. It might not get your more sign-ups, but it will provide Choice Closure by reassuring your customers that they have made the right decision.
Used By: Trello Best for: Home Page, Landing Page, Features Page, Social Media Pages
Social Media is a powerful engine for building Social Proof. For example, by incorporating Facebook into your marketing stack and adding the pixel to your site, you can show people more specific and targeted forms of Social Proof. Most websites include a set of Social Media icons inviting visitors to “Like” or Retweet the page. Not only do they provide an easy form of user engagement, but they add credibility to the page.
One of the most under-valued Social Media platforms for SaaS companies is ProductHunt. As with Capterra and Truspilot, the product page you create becomes another acquisition funnel. If you can plan your product launches to get featured on ProductHunt’s front page, it gives your listing a valuable endorsement. There are a number of free guides to planning the perfect launch, and a platform like ProductHunt is a low-cost way of creating Social Proof for your SaaS product.
Used By: Landingi Best for: Home Page, Landing Pages, Features Page, Sign-up Page
Expert reviews are a way of highlighting your best features without creating a sense of excessive bias. When an expert or somebody with specific knowledge gives their opinion, it often has more authority than a user testimonial.
The marketing psychologist Robert Cialdini has identified authority as a particularly important influence on the opinions we trust. Social Proof is more powerful when we receive it from
By adding an expert endorsement to a sign-up page, which requires a commitment from your visitors and therefore leads to a lot of site exits, you can create a feeling of familiarity and security. Reducing the anxiety your visitors feel on key pages is a quick way to increase your SaaS conversion rate.
Used By: Crazy Egg Best for: Landing Pages, Pricing Page
The biggest obstacle you face when persuading someone to sign-up for a free trial is procrastination. Usually, this is due to the effort involved in choosing between different options (your free trial, one of your other services, a paid plan, or a competitor). The effect is known as the Paradox of Choice: having more choices makes it more difficult to choose one. To reduce the number of decisions your visitors have to make and increase your SaaS sign-ups, you can highlight some settings as the default option.
Usually, a large number of SaaS sign-ups come from the website’s pricing page. Unfortunately, the combination of a free trial with pricing plans that each have a separate CTA can be confusing, as in the example above. By highlighting the “most popular” plan, you can remove a lot of this confusion and prevent new leads from procrastinating.
Used By: Shutterstock Best for: Home Page, Landing Pages
For most SaaS websites, referred traffic has a higher conversion rate than any other kind. Every customer is a potential source of new leads, so it makes sense to encourage referrals.
The only downside of a referral marketing model is that it reduces the recurring revenue you receive for each user. Some subscription services avoid this problem by offering a one-time payment for each new lead.
Most SaaS companies lose 75% of their free trial users in the first week. In fact, a study by the customer management platform Totanga suggests that 70% of people who sign up for a trial never even use it. There are lots of ways to increase your free-to-paid conversion rate, such as creating welcome messages and on-boarding sequences. These SaaS Social Proof techniques will help you to engage your free trial users, turning more of them into paid customers.
Used By: SocialBee Best for: Emails
Welcome emails and on-boarding sequences tend to have a good open rate. According to the conversion rate optimization agency Invespcro, welcome emails have an average open rate of 50%, making them 86% more effective than a standard newsletter. More importantly, welcome emails can dramatically increase product engagement for a SaaS product at almost zero cost. One of the best ways to make sure your welcome emails and on-boarding sequences stand out in a packed inbox is to add some form of Social Proof to the subject line.
The same principle applies to automated emails at every stage of the user journey. Adding Social Proof to your “end-of-trial” emails is a great way to get more opens, click-throughs and subscribers.
Used By: Monday Best for: User Interface, Menu
Most SaaS products have more features than a user could explore in one session. Whilst you need to show them off during an on-boarding process, it is important to avoid overwhelming your users. A great way to highlight one or two key features is to tag them as “popular”. That way, free trial users can explore your service at a gentler pace.
This strategy has the added benefit of highlighting your product’s popularity. By making it easier to discover your software, you can turn more free trial users into paid subscribers.
Used By: Spocket Best for: Home Page, Landing Pages, Pricing Page, User Interface
Exit pop-ups are an effective way to encourage your current free trial users to choose a paid plan. The strategy is particularly effective when you place the pop-up on your pricing or upgrade pages. To get the maximum number of conversions from your exit pop-ups, you can experiment with different kinds of Social Proof.
The problem with any pop-up or email capture widget you use is that they can seem intrusive and spammy. Adding a testimonial or an industry award can make a pop-up feel more sophisticated.
Customer loyalty is one of the most reliable predictors of a SaaS business’s success. In fact, the Harvard Business Review reports that companies with the best retention in their business sector grow their revenue 2.5 times as fast as other businesses. These SaaS Social Proof strategies should help to improve customer loyalty and reduce churn.
Used By: Appcues Best for: Blog, Home Page, Landing Pages, Emails, User Interface
If you want to earn recurring revenue from your customers, it’s important that they think of your product as a service rather than a simple tool. Users often prefer upfront costs for software that feels like a tool, whilst a service that provides continuous support and value is much more likely to retain its paid users.
A common strategy for positioning a SaaS product as a service is to publish regular updates about new features. Another technique is to provide a high level of customer support. In both cases, Social Proof helps to communicate the work you do behind the scenes. By combining a monthly newsletter with regular case studies in your blog, you can demonstrate to your users that they are still getting value for money, month after month
Used By: WalkMe Best For: Home Page, User Interface, Email Newsletters
Industry awards are an easy way to show your users that they are getting the best possible service. You can add them to almost any page, or include them in your newsletters or email footers.
Whilst new leads may not be interested in the content of your award, associating your brand with the prestige of an award sponsor helps to build credibility quickly. For current users, a continuous flow of industry awards shows them that you are adding value to your product every month. It also helps to remove the nagging feeling that they may find something better elsewhere.
Used By: Amplitude Best for: Emails, User Interface, Notification Bar, Blog
Introducing new features is an important part of presenting your product as a service, rather than just a tool, and you can increase the impact of each new release by incorporating case studies or usage statistics into the announcement. If you use a beta testing period or release updates on a segmented basis, there will already be some ready-made examples of your new feature being used.
Feature adoption is one of the most important metrics for a SaaS product. Unfortunately, users tend to resist changes in software they feel comfortable with (for example, only 21% of iOS users install system updates within a week of their release). Part of reason for this reluctance is a Conservatism Bias that leads people to undervalue new ideas. It may also reflect a more general anxiety associated with change and novelty (sometimes called “neophobia”). Because Social Proof can build trust and reduce anxiety, it is a powerful way for SaaS companies to drive new feature adoption and reduce churn.
Used By: Freshdesk Best For: Blog, Documentation
User generated content is the most efficient way to engage new leads and current users. By giving your users a forum to comment on (and ask about) new releases, you can leverage Social Proof to encourage new feature adoption.
The added benefit of this strategy is that it generates pages of valuable SEO content, regularly updated and perfectly tailored to the search terms that your customers use.
Used By: Twitter Best for: Emails, User Interface, Notification Bar
We check our phones hundreds of times a day and log in to social media platforms obsessively because they are designed to be addictive. A “soft gamification” system of rewards is used to encourage people to log in and engage more often. The rewards, which app developers sometimes call “dopamine hits“, can take the form of noise or colour responses (a green tick with a pleasant ring), access to new functions or features, or simply social approval. You can make your SaaS product more fun to use, and increase user engagement, by incorporating Social Proof into your reward system.
For example, when a user completes your on-boarding process, or reaches a product milestone, you can display a congratulations message that compares them to your other users.
Used By: Canva Best for: Emails, User Interface, Notification Bar, Blog, Knowledge Base
The more a user engages with your product, the longer they are likely to subscribe. One way to increase the amount someone uses your app is to show them new things to do with it. By featuring real users in your blog or knowledge base, you can show people new ways to use your product and extend the lifecycle of your product.
Rather than simply suggesting applications for your solution, Social Proof allows you to demonstrate that they work. Seeing that a high-profile brand uses your product will also help to convince users that your product can help them succeed.
Social Proof is one of the most powerful tools for SaaS marketing, helping you to increase your conversion rate at every stage of the customer journey. By applying these SaaS Social Proof strategies to your digital marketing, user interface and customer management, you can acquire more leads, encourage free-to-paid conversions and reduce churn.