Growth Hacking the Psychology of SaaS Lead Nurturing

I’ll admit it, SaaS lead nurturing often times gets reduced to the experiments…

Sending several emails to find out which copy works best, changing the color of your opt in to see if it increases sign ups, running a few ads, etc.

…When it really should focus on the psychology of lead nurturing – and figuring out how to “growth hack” it all.

Those things are fun and it’s truly exciting to see the numbers skyrocket based on those little tweaks.

But they are only part of the process.

If you’re trying to grow the number of accounts for your SaaS, it’s going to take a good hard look at the entire funnel—not just the top.

Changing those things can rapidly increase the number of people who are giving your product(s) a quick look which will probably lead to more users. The flaw with a great top-of-funnel and a weak system of follow up and nurturing is the loss of revenue.

Key Point: Increasing sign ups and free trials is awesome, but we want more customers.

This happens when we look at how to woo those who sign up using psychology. Using processes to ease their mental hurdles until they excitedly become a paying customer. Everything from start to finish in this process is your sales funnel.

Let’s see how to improve it.

Important: Most of the references we are going to give are specific to SaaS companies. In particular SaaS products that offer a free trial or freemium model. If you don’t do software, or do, but don’t offer a free trial it’s ok. There is still value in here for anyone who collects emails in order to convince people to buy their stuff.

First, Think Big

Fun Fact: Did you know that in many cases less than half of people who sign up for a free trial will sign in a second time?

Thinking big isn’t a new idea. There are books, articles and even entire companies set up to helping business leaders do it. Specifically, you need to think big in regards to impressing those who sign up for your free trial.

Don’t just expect them to run to the product like the day after Thanksgiving at the local mall. It’s probably not going to happen.

You have to, well, think big (about them). Ask yourself two questions:

  • What do they want? (In relation to your product and their industry/market)
  • How can we OVER deliver on those things? (This is where big thinking is needed)

Don’t think about how to get them to pull out the credit card (yet). Just think about delivering mad scientist level value—completely free.

What kind of things are we talking about here? Let’s make a small (but not complete) list.

  • Put the information they want into various forms (videos, ebooks, webinars, white papers). Not just how to use your product, other things that relate to them.
  • Tools and other aids that increase the usability of your own product. This could include partnering with other companies to “bundle” a year of their tool with yours for new signups.
  • Good communication. Sometimes people just want to know that they can email or talk with someone to set up their account and figure it out. Give them a chance to succeed in the free trial and they’ll be much more likely to be a customer.

After you have some great resources that they really want—give them away. Little or no strings attached, but give them a way to communicate (more on this in a second).

How It Works in The Brain

There is a now famous experiment from a guy named Phillip Kunz. Way back in 1974, Kunz sent out 600 Christmas cards to random strangers. Each card had a handwritten note (from Kunz) and a picture of his family. No requests were made in the cards at all.

What happened?

That year, he and his family received over 200 responses, mostly in the form of Christmas cards (many with pictures of the sender’s family).

Take into account that a certain number could have moved, passed away, or had any number of circumstances to keep them from responding and you have an impressive ROI from, what Kunz called, “a shot in the dark”.

Why did it happen?

Scientists have labeled this as an emotional reciprocation. When someone gets something, they want to respond in like manner. Think of all those people in the late 90’s who made the term “pay it forward” famous.

Humans (mostly) want to reach back out and give when they receive.

If you give them something that they deem valuable, the natural response for many is to respond in kind. Hence the importance of both finding what your audience really wants and gifting it to them.

Then, Think Small

After you’ve developed the “free” gifts to enact the human need of reciprocation, it’s time to get back to your roots of growth marketing.

But instead of getting new sign ups, you’re going to experiment within your funnel.

Once you have your equivalent of Christmas cards to send, it’s time to get them in the mail (or email). Sending not one, but several emails chock full of value with no sales pitch (at first) is the key to generating a mental need for your audience to reciprocate.

This combines the inherent need we outlined earlier with another form of psychological lead nurturing—essentially continual exposure.

Not pestering (this is why you need to deliver multiple points of value), but exposure to your brand. When you go to a movie, you’re going to see a Diet Coke commercial. When you watch a reality tv show, they’re going to plug a specific product.

You are exposed to certain brands.

Breaking your content up into micro conversion opportunities (in the form of multiple emails) is key to both getting reciprocation and keeping the exposure up.

Interesting: Did you know that properly done drip email campaigns (pre spaced email delivery) are critical to increasing funnel conversion?

Put them both together correctly and you’ll have more people logging into your product during the free trial which gives it an opportunity to shine and convert users into paying customers.

While Kunz didn’t know what to expect, we do (at least a little). This knowledge gives us the ability to ask for the kind of reciprocation we want. Not a sales pitch, but a micro-conversion down the funnel.


  • You send an email with an offer of a white paper, but they have to click the link to get it. The link is a small way for them to reciprocate. They are saying a small “yes” and signaling you that they are a bit further in the sales process.
  • Ask them a question or to be part of a survey and they’ll get a copy of the report detailing the results. They want their voice heard and a copy of the report. They say “yes” to that and move closer to saying yes to your product.
  • After someone signs up for a free trial they are invited to a webinar that helps them get the most out of the product. They say “yes” and then show up (toward the end of their trial) and you can deliver a hard pitch.

The possibilities are plentiful here, but it’s important to ask for a mini yes with each value email you deliver. It keeps them talking and moving down the funnel.

Keep Talking (and Experimenting)

The number of emails and segmentations you have in your funnel can and should increase. If certain users click through a certain lead magnet and others another—you may have to provide a separate funnel for them to be nurtured properly.

Again, this is where growth marketing comes into play.

You have to set up those silos of communication that bring the largest number of people into the same place (customers). For this, it takes multiple emails and big value. Then, it’s a matter of going over the data and watching the conversions increase.