The art of the tease

Imagine this scenario: you visit a dealership and ask to take a car for a test drive. The salesperson invites you to a showroom where the car is resting on four jacks.

"Since the test drive is free, we had to disable premium features that would allow you to experience this amazing car. You can touch the leather, check out the radio and even turn the wipers on. With the windows closed, you'll have an incredible surround sound experience too."

Enter the 21st century where "free" is has become a way of life: "try our app for fourteen days, no credit card required", better yet, "try us for sixty days no credit card required."

The "try before you buy" promo is a very old concept. What's new are the sleek new ways that on one hand tease us to sign up for a free trial and on the other never disclose that the real 'features' have been turned off; much like testing a car that is mounted on jacks - real benefits are reserved for paying (premium) customers only.

Here's the thing: if your software is as good as you claim it is, then let me test drive it without limitations. Why would you put me through setting up an account, importing my data, creating my own template, tweaking its design but when I'm ready to press "send" tell me I can't because "this feature is only available for premium users."

I have no doubt that the strategy session went like this:

"You know, once a user takes the time to set up an account, import the data and design their template, we've got her committed and if she really wants to use it, she'll just pay and become a paid subscriber. Surely, she is not going to go through all of this again with one of our competitors, would she?"

Or, "let's show her what our app can do but not really; we want her hooked on features (that are turned off). Everyone wants the latest and greatest and so they'll just have no option but to pay right?"

Or, "help is available to paid subscribers so please check our FAQs section."

Cheap 19th century tactics that lead to nothing but frustrations. A live and well trained help desk employee can create more sales conversions than any knowledge-based software. Nothing can replace a human connection, even in a world dominated by digital technology; what customers crave is for someone who genuinely cares.

When it comes to paying, customers always have options. That's why it is shocking that companies with some pretty cool solutions still resort to idiotic 19th century sales tactics. Back then, a tease almost always resulted in a sales conversion, today, a tease leads to the worst outcome for any business; "unsubscribe" or, "cancel subscription"

Make the offer, show me what you've got, all of it. Be generous, be helpful and be there when I need help. Once in a while, I would welcome and appreciate if you check up on me to make sure I am okay.  If you're as good as you say you are, I will become a paying customer .

If you your business is driven by a nickel-and-dime culture that's likely all you will ever count.

It may be difficult for some to comprehend but here's a simple truth: we need customers more than they need us. We must, in the words of Seth Godin, "earn the right to ask for the order" and then,  spend the rest of our time proving to customers that buying from us was the right decision.

Keeping customers is easy, teasing is a sure way to lose them forever.