Software Demo Functionality
Offer Limited Functionality Even for Evals That Are Not Yet Activated
If one of your requirements is for trials to be started without an Internet connection, then you should consider simply reducing your product’s functionality to a lower level until Internet activation becomes possible, at which time a full evaluation period can be authorized. You might consider hard-wiring a fixed expiration date into each release – say six months from its release date – just in case the user never activates, the version will eventually expire.
Up-sell Marginal Users
Also, make sure that this “base level” of functionality does not cannibalize your existing base. Set the level high enough to attract marginal users that would be otherwise hard for you to reach. Over time, some of these fringe users may find that your application has become an indispensable tool, motivating them to upgrade to a full commercial version.
If you decide to restrict access to some application features, you should always make your users aware of what is being disabled. For example, gray out menu choices that are disabled. This generates user curiosity and hints at what the full product capability would be should the customer choose to upgrade later. Here are some other ideas in this vein:
- Turn off highly support-intensive features.
- Limit size or service levels – useful for server-based products, databases, etc.
- Use watermarks or notices – useful when the software’s value is in its visual output – better than the “Can’t-Print, Can’t-Save” models.
Best Practices Summary:
- Use an expiration date of n-days from Internet activation – creates user urgency and a timetable for sales follow up.
- Provide “sample data” or sample “use cases.”
- Expose all functionality to the user; even if you limit scope of use, show the user what could be possible.
- Allow a liberal eval period extension policy; requests to extend the eval period often come from your most serious prospective customers.
- Show “number of eval days remaining” on the start-up screen.
- Always remind the user how to buy, even after the eval has ended, by providing a link to information on how to buy.
- Let your application work in a reduced functionality mode even if it has not yet been activated.
- Do not require the software to be re-downloaded or reinstalled when upgrading to a paid license.
- Offer the user the chance to take a survey when the eval period ends; there is great value in understanding why someone didn’t buy.
- Use a license manager and/or Internet activation server to maximize control and flexibility.
Using a license manager can and should be the foundation of a successful sales/business model. Feel free to contact us for more best practices details about what we’ve seen work successfully at other software companies.