Free trials are a great option for many businesses and can be a wonderful marketing tool if implemented correctly. Free trials attract new customers, increase brand loyalty from existing customers and garner good reviews and testimonials. If you’re just starting out, a free trial can allow you to get more feedback on new products and then make improvements.
How Do Free Trials Work?
A free trial essentially is an offer to a customer or potential customer to try your product or service for free for a set period of time.
The intent is to attract people, show them the value of what you have to offer and convert them into paying, returning customers.
People are not always keen on purchasing products or paying for services that they aren’t familiar with or don’t know how to use. Offering a free trial allows people to try your product or service and become more comfortable with their understanding of your company.
When to Use a Free Trial
Free trials work well for a wide variety of companies. They work best for software companies and websites because they are easy to offer for a limited time. Free trials have become the norm in this environment and are often requirements for more discerning buyers.
Any online service, whether it is a travel site, music provider, software or application, networking site, content provider or B2B service, should at least consider offering a free trial. As long as your service is high quality, customers will be more likely to pay for your services after having a good personal experience with it.
Publications, credit card companies and consultants are also good candidates for free trials. These types of companies have traditionally fared well from the responses and customer retention provided through free first-time interactions.
However, if offering a free trial is not in your marketing budget, or if your business doesn’t have the profit margin to offer a product or service for free, you shouldn’t host a free-trial campaign. If your competitors aren’t giving free trials, it’s probably a good sign that free trials may not be cost-effective for your business type.
If you need more feedback on your product, consider offering it to a very small group instead, and encourage them to give you feedback and share their opinions to generate more buzz around your business.
It is a good idea for anyone offering a free trial to start small and test the responses before spending a large portion of your budget. You need to decide if the influx of potential customers is worth offering your product or service for free for a period of time.
How to Successfully Use Free Trials
To successfully implement a free trial and to boost conversions, there are a number of factors and steps to consider:
- Plan well. You really need to understand your audience and consumer and know what they want. What part of your product or service is appealing, and how do you convey that to them? Planning includes determining the length of the trial. Consider your costs and the complexity of the product. You want the trial to be long enough for users to have time to use it, understand it and want to convert to a paying customer, but not so long that you lose potential profits. Be open to changing the length and terms of the free trial, or even testing different trials to see which ones lead to more conversions.
- Be flexible and use urgency. Make the offer “limited time only” to get people to act, but also be willing to make compromises. Was there a technical issue that prevented the customer from using the product for the full period? Give them extra time and assistance.
- Encourage engagement of the product or service during the free trial. Get users to see the value in what you are offering by letting them actually use it. If a consumer gets something for free but doesn’t actually use it, then you are wasting your time and efforts.
- Outline your terms and conditions clearly so that users are aware of what they are getting into and therefore less afraid of signing up. Enforce the ideas of “no risk” and letting users “cancel at any time” so there appears to be less commitment at initial signup. By reinforcing the notion that they can back out if they are unsatisfied or unwilling to pay, they will be more likely to test out your trial because there is a smaller risk of getting stuck with something through tricky terms and conditions.
- Pay attention to the people who sign up, and communicate with them throughout the process. This includes personalizing the experience by using names and presenting satisfaction surveys. You also want to make sure the entire process is easy and explained well. Offer support often, and let customers know how to get help if they need it. Consider offering a webinar; this will ensure that you don’t lose customers due to confusion over usage. In general, just stay in touch.
- Make it easy to sign up, or you will lose potential customers quickly. Make the offer visible and include a call to action. Simplify the signup forms and include instructions for use.
- To gain interest in your trial, you need to raise people’s awareness. People love getting things for free, but they won’t sign up if they don’t know about your trial. Incorporate the free trial into your overall marketing plan, enhance your page with SEO, use your social networks, leverage Google AdWords and attend events to spread the word. Make sure you have a good elevator pitch so you can get people interested fast without them losing interest.
Of course, the process of a free trial doesn’t end once the trial period is over. Consider offering your free-trial user a special discounted rate to sweeten the deal. If the customer decides to purchase, continue offering the same level of service and assistance as before. Maintain strong communication to get feedback on any issues that arise, and then make needed changes in response to that feedback to continue to improve your customers’ experience.