May 13, 2015
Case Study

Personalization Marketing: In-trial messages increased online registrations by 15% for a B2B SaaS

SUMMARY: Brainshark, a cloud-based B2B service for training, sales conversions and marketing, offered a freemium product for one aspect of its enterprise solution and a free trial of another product. The challenge was converting these non-paying users into customers. To do so, the team implemented a personalized messaging campaign that met its audiences’ needs and reached them at known roadblocks.

Read on to find out how this effort directly influenced $1.1 million in Brainshark’s sales pipeline.
by David Kirkpatrick, Reporter


Brainshark is a cloud-based B2B service that seeks to improve its customers' training, sales conversions and marketing, and it serves all size of businesses, from SMB to Fortune 100.

Arthur Gehring, Vice President of Demand Generation, Brainshark, said the company's marketing for the sales segment targets director level and above, particularly looking for people in sales training, sales enablement and sales operations. For the marketing segment, it targets marketing directors, training managers and above.


Brainshark offers several products through both freemium and free trials in order to engage prospects. An issue with the strategy was turning those prospects — particularly freemium users — into paying customers.

"Like any freemium product or free trial, people got hung up at certain places," Gehring explained. "We saw in our analytics that if we can get — there are certain sort of 'bumps' in the road — and if we can get [prospects] over that, we have a much higher probability of getting them to engage with the freemium product and then ideally buy our for-pay products."

Another internal challenge for the team was the difficulty in getting engineering to implement technical changes in Brainshark's marketing and on the website. The challenge was that the group's priorities involved improving Brainshark's product offerings. To solve this issue, Gehring said the team brought in a third party vendor to help the team have more control over delivering targeted messages to prospects to help get them over that conversion hurdle.

Find out how Brainshark overcame this messaging snag that occurred at an early stage in the buying pipeline and how that solution increased free trial signups by 150%, while influencing more than $1.1 million in the sales pipeline.


In this effort, the technology tool Brainshark implemented allowed the team to market targeted messaging to its users on the website and directly on the product interface.

The goal of this messaging was to get freemium users of the myBrainshark product over what Gehring described as those "bumps in the road" and also to encourage free trial users of the SlideShark product to convert to paying customers.

Step #1. Identify freemium user roadblocks

About Brainshark's product, myBrainshark, Gehring said, "It's a viral way to experience one of the core capabilities of Brainshark, which is to easily create video presentations out of any static content."

He added that the marketing strategy behind myBrainshark was to offer it as a freemium product, rather than a free trial. This allowed educational users who would likely never upgrade to a paid product and were not a part of the company's targeted prospects to use the software. Meanwhile, business users would be allowed to use myBrainshark but would also get prompted to possibly upgrade to a more robust paid experience.

Of course, for this freemium model to work, Brainshark had to make sure people who signed up for the freemium experience actually used the free product.

"We [collected] extensive aggregate analytics on the usage of ... myBrainshark," Gehring said. "We looked at the initial behavior of new and frequent users and were able to observe differences in their usage, content and journeys."

These analytics led to the team finding two key roadblocks, or what Gehring described as "bumps in the road," in getting users to fully engage with the freemium myBrainshark. These "bumps" included users not:
  • Uploading a presentation after registering

  • Sharing a presentation once it was uploaded
Gehring said, "We noticed many new users were failing to upload a presentation or to add sound to their video presentation."

Step #2. Learn how users respond to messaging

"We started with some initial tests around the holidays to see how existing users would respond to more direct messaging within the site, such as sidebar ads and pop-ups," Gehring said.

The messages tested were focused on educating and encouraging use of the product through tips and helpful hints while cross-selling Brainshark's other free product, SlideShark. Gehring said the testing progressed to offering useful content such as webinars and whitepaper downloads as well as messages promoting upgrades. These update prompts outlined key differentiators in Brainshark's enterprise product.

"We mapped out the most logical places for [users] to be interested in taking those actions," Gehring said. He added that the team knew that users also shared this content, so the messaging would reach potential new users as well.

Existing users saw this messaging on their homepage and "My Content" page, and visitors who were potential users saw messaging on the site inviting them to explore Brainshark's enterprise solutions and to sign up for free accounts.

Step #3. Tailor the type of messaging to the product

With myBrainshark, the messaging was based on getting freemium users to take actions, such as uploading a presentation or adding audio to a presentation, and providing information that might lead to increased use, such as helpful hints.

View the Creative Sample

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With the SlideShark product the team took a different approach. Since SlideShark was a limited free trial and not a freemium, the messaging took the form of an online wizard that was offered after registration was complete, and this wizard was displayed immediately after the new user logged in.

Gehring said the wizard took the new user through three steps of uploading, adding team members and scheduling a walkthrough with a SlideShark representative to gain a more in-depth understanding of the product's features and how the user could get the most value out of the trial.

"After each step was completed, a checkmark appeared on the tutorial, marking their progress and reminding them to complete the rest of the actions listed," Gehring said.

Explaining why SlideShark's messaging was different from myBrainshark, Gehring said, "We chose to create a wizard to guide new users through the SlideShark team edition, as it was a slightly more complicated product, and it was a time-based free trial for a paid product, so it made more sense to provide a wizard to guide [users] through more quickly and reduce the time-to-value."

He continued, "For myBrainshark users, they had unlimited use of a limited, light version, so that goal is to educate and drive engagement, then educate those engaged users on the additional value of the paid enterprise solutions."

Step #4. Add personalized, relevant offers to the website

MyBrainshark and SlideShark users saw the messaging within the product interface, and the team expanded personalized messages to the main Brainshark website with offers.

The personalization began when a visitor would navigate to one of the three main areas: sales enablement, marketing solutions or onboarding and training. From there, data points such as time on site and pages engaged with added another layer of personalization to the offers Brainshark would display to visitors.

Gehring said personalized offers were seen by all logged in users during the time of each promotion. Some of this personalized messaging was based around upgrading existing users.

For example, myBrainshark registered users would see a message — "See what you are missing" — that would promote the value of the enterprise product and led them to an upgrade page on the main Brainshark website with three main points:
  • Providing an opportunity to experience the Brainshark brand

  • Explaining reasons to convert

  • Including a call-to-action to contact Sales


This campaign has directly led to several key metrics:
  • registrations (from content downloads and webinar offers) increased 15%

  • Free trail sign-ups for the enterprise product increased 150%

  • More than $1.1 million in the sales pipeline influenced by effort

About this campaign, Gehring said, "Personalizing messages can increase engagement drastically, and it provides value to both the business and the user. It's all about being relevant. I think the key benefit for us with these things is that we're in control … we can see something going on — we can see bump [in the road in terms of usability] or perhaps we have a new piece of content that our visitors or users will value — and we can make it available to them right away, when it's most relevant to them."

Gehring said the next stage of this effort would be linking Brainshark's email campaigns to the personalized messaging so engagement with either piece would trigger more messaging via both email and on the website and within Brainshark's product interfaces.

Creative Samples

  1. MyBrainshark messaging

  2. SlideShark wizard messaging



Evergage — Brainshark’s website personalization vendor

Related Resources

B2B Gamification: How Autodesk used game mechanics for in-trial marketing

How to Harness the Power of New Technology to Personalize to Your Audience

Personalization Marketing: 630% ROI for Portland Trail Blazers via dynamic ticket pricing

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