Give them a taste of what you have to offer and they'll have no choice to pony up the money. That's the thinking behind the multitude of free trial offers that are out there these days. But is that really the case? Should your business offer a free trial on services or products? Sometime it makes sense. Sometimes it doesn't. Before you decide to include a free trial into your marketing plan, you should understand the benefits and the risks. But that's not all. You need to understand what's needed in order to make it success for your company. You have to realize that there are many factors that come into play before a new customer signs up for the free trial it, during the trial and after the trial.
Not all free trials are created equal
If you're running an SaaS business model, free trials are almost expected. For example, Asset Record is an online property management software company that helps realtors, lenders and brokers transact business easier. Jacob Hagberg, shareholder, says that offering their system to new users on a 30-day free trial has increased their visitor-to-paying member conversions by 13.8 percent in merely two months compared to when they weren't offering it. That may not seem like a huge number, but if growth stays on par with that rate it could lead to an enormous boom within a single year.
If you're thinking there's no way you would offer your service for free or you're a startup that would struggle to pay for your servers, staff, customer support and bandwidth... you might just be surprised. There are workarounds that could make it possible.
You could offer an ad-supported free trial. During the free trial, users would have ads within the user area. This is ad space that can provide you with some compensation to make up for the costs of giving your new user a free trial.
You could offer only partial access – those parts that likely don't require as much resources on your end or help from the support staff that you have to pay. Users have the ability and benefit of seeing what your system has to offer, but in order to use the more advanced features they will have to upgrade their account.
Getting noticed and converting trial users to customers
Once you decide which route you want to take, you need to sit down and start planning. How will your target audience find this amazing new free trial for your service? Are you going to focus on SEO, pay per click advertising, social media, participating in local events? How are you going to quickly convince them that they need your service and should try out the trial?
But getting them to sign up for the trial is far from the end. How are you going to convert those users into paying customers? Here are just a few methods to consider that have been successful for others:
Get them to use it: This may sound painfully obvious. However, many people associate free with no value. They don't put an emphasis on actually getting in there and using it. They're simply a name on your trial member list. Make it easy to access and easy to use. You want to find the shortest route to trigger the “ahaaa!” moment.
Personalized messages inside the system: Use automated, dynamic help messages within the system itself. When a user navigates to a new section of the software or app, a message can appear explaining common questions or problems with that area. It can point out features that may commonly be overlooked. This is in real time and relevant. Users will find it helpful and it will cut down on potential customer support requests. It also helps them understand and grasp the power of your system quicker, so they don't end up at the end of the trial still not getting any benefit from it (and therefore not paying to continue).
Monitor progress: If at all possible, make sure you have a way to track a user's engagement in the application. If you notice they've started to use it, but haven't logged in in three days, send an email with helpful hints or a step-by-step guide to get through the part they might be stuck at.
Flexible trial durations: Some users may stop using your service simply because life got in the way. Maybe there was an emergency in the family. Maybe a major storm knocked out power for a week. Who knows? What then? They will be highly impressed if you've built in the ability to extend their trial under this kind of situation.
Finally, don't assume your work is done once a user has become a paying member after the trial. There's probably a good chance they haven't yet got it all figured out or they haven't learned to maximize the benefits of your service. Make sure that the transition from free to full-fledged member is as seamless as possible. It's a good idea to offer guides within their new member area for getting the most out of their membership. Keep them up to date and continue adding more as needed.
Converting visitors without a free trial
If you're still not convinced that a free trial is the answer for your business, then there are several other effective ways of converting users into buyers. First of all, you could offer a demo version or a sandbox version of your software. You can create (high quality) videos that demonstrate using your service, its features and how it's helped other customers.