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Case study: Ungated content leads to 7% increase in signups


I was working with a SaaS in the project management space, and we had thrown just about everything we could at a particular paid search landing page.

We tried concise copy versus detailed copy. Formal vs informal. Tested different value propositions, different hero images. Rearranged form fields.

We tried the obligatory exit intent popup - the annoying kind that says “Wait! Before you leave … um … you sure you don’t wanna sign up for a free trial?”

None of this stuff made a difference.

Meanwhile, over in content marketing-land, this client had put together a PDF full of generous industry research. The kind of resource you look at and think “Ooh, lead magnet.”

The typical play would be to offer the report, require an email address to access it, then follow up with a series of emails enticing the visitor to sign up for a free trial.

But they weren’t set up for an email sequence like that, so we tried something different.

We changed the annoying exit intent popup to say “Hey, before you go … you might find this report interesting” … with a direct link to the PDF.

No email required, no tricks, no begging.

We ran this as an A/B/C test - some visitors got no popup, some got the annoying “Plz sign up! 🙏” popup, and some got the free download.

It took a while, but the free download led to a 7% increase in free trial signups.

“Took a while” because when we dug into the data, we found that these visitors were still leaving the site. But they were coming back, a week or two later. And signing up.

For this client, a 7% increase in free trial signups meant, conservatively, an extra 35 trials per month, and at least an additional 10 monthly trial-to-paid conversions. With a customer lifetime value on the order of $5k, that’s huge! An extra $50,000 in CLV, every month.

It’s not just the numbers or the money that make this an exciting result, though.

It was surprising. None of us thought giving away a PDF to visitors who were already leaving the site … would show any measurable value.

It taught us about our visitors. Despite clicking an ad mentioning a free trial, they weren’t in a hurry to sign up. They needed more confidence than a single landing page could provide. (🤔 An email campaign probably would’ve been worth the effort :)

And it was generous. A giveaway, instead of a “gimme-your-info” barter. This result encouraged us to think even harder about what we could do to educate and empower our visitors, rather than stay stuck in an instant gratification feedback loop.

I’ve run a similar test with several B2B clients since then. It hasn’t always increased conversions by 7%, but it’s always increased them. And it’s always been a healthy exercise to ask, “What’s the most valuable thing we could give away to our visitors?”

What do your visitors need?


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© 2022 Brian David Hall