Increase website sales: how long should a free trial last for a customer to pay?

Original author: Lincoln Murphy
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Let's say there is a company that has chosen paid rates and a free trial period for each of them, Free Trial, as a model for monetizing its cloud service. But how to choose its duration? What should you start with when setting a test period? We recommend an article by Lincoln Murphy , where he tells about real customers what to think about when choosing a trial period, why a too short trial period is dangerous, and why you should not attribute service testing to a sales cycle. The article is written in the first person. What should be Free Trial?

There is one thing that no one recognizes: the duration of the free period of using the cloud service is a marketing ploy.

Such a length of the Free Trial period, which would be effective for any SaaS company of any category in any market segment, does not exist. Such phrases do not fit into the classic format of my articles, because I usually say “always do this” or “never do this”, but in this case everything is different. The only true duration of the free trial is the one that works best in the current situation.

For example, I somehow helped through Clarityone company, and the next day they set a free trial period of a week. In the context of their situation - with that demand, market, customers, value proposition, the speed with which this offer was appreciated by customers and so on. “7 days seemed like the smartest choice.” Yes, they had a lot of problems, but the length of the trial period was not included in their number.

There is something that I always advise you to do before building a wall between the service and potential customers from the form for entering credit card data, developing a pricing strategy and thinking through the Free Trial format, including reflecting on its duration.

This article will help you avoid accidents when choosing the duration of a free trial period, and also understand why this method is bad. Perhaps it will become clear to you why you should try to understand customers, the market, expectations, and how your value proposition and competitors will influence the opinion of your potential customers about the length of the free trial period that you have chosen for your product.


Short free trial scares customers away

If the test period is too short, you run the risk that potential customers, in the first place, will not want to register - and this is definitely useless for you.
I always say that we need to come up with more options that would motivate users to register, and not scare them away from this targeted action.

As I already wrote, the duration of Free Trial is just a marketing ploy aimed at attracting customers, and if, according to customers, the trial period is too short to evaluate the effectiveness of your service, they simply will not want to start using it.

When thinking about how long a trial period should be set, remember that “too short” is a relative term and depends on the client.

Remember, people are always busy and distracted. If they decide that you do not want to give them enough time to evaluate the product, they will pass by it. They will tell themselves — and maybe even you — that they will return later when they have more time, or when the time comes. But they will not return. You will lose these customers without even trying to keep them.

You should not attribute the time of testing a service to a potential customer to the sales cycle

The period of free testing in your calculations should preferably be separated from work on sales, including the best way is to consider the conversion of the user into a paying customer separately. And also do not focus on the length of the trial period when planning the length of the sales cycle.

This means that if you are trying to determine the length of your sales cycle based on your current trial period length, you are doing everything wrong. Believe me, this way of perceiving a free trial period runs counter to basic common sense. At least I do not know successful cloud services using this model.

My (not yet disproved) hypothesis about a free trial period for a cloud service

The hypothesis that underlies my idea, which is checked by time and time by my clients over and over again and does not find a refutation, is very simple: the duration of your promotional period for potential customers should be long enough so that they are able to appreciate your offer .

Too often, potential customers leave after too short a trial period, because they did not have enough time to "test", "try", "touch" your product.

Well, well, how then to understand that your test period keeps (or will do so soon) potential customers from registering?

  • Talk with customers to understand how they are going through the product evaluation process.
  • Talk with potential customers about the same topic.
  • Talk to competitors' customers to find out: maybe they didn’t try your product because of the length of the trial period?
  • Talk with consumers of related products with whom you have a common target audience, the same price level, the same sales cycle, and a similar process to understand the expectations of the trial periods in your segment as a whole.
  • Conduct a / b test calls for a 14- and 30-day free trial.
  • Analyze, monitor and optimize the metric "site visitors -> registrations".
  • Imagine, invent ways to determine the optimal length of the trial period.

imageAn example of a tariff plan with a 14-day free trial period

Myth: short trial filters users

I don’t know about you, but I want as many users as possible to subscribe to my product, so that I can convert more customers, even if the conversion rate decreases, but the number of new customers grows. Sometimes the conversion rate may not be such a significant metric.

I know all the arguments that lead against this argument. “If we offer a longer trial period, we will attract users who are not serious about our product and they will not be converted to customers.”

My experience is that if during the test period we have a lot of users who do not convert to customers who are not attracted to the product, this is not due to a lack of pressure on the terms of free testing, but rather for some other reasons. For example, due to the way we chose the target audience, the value proposition brought to it, which partners we have, and so on.

The reality is that people (marketers, startups, executives, investors and other representatives of the human race) tend to consider external factors, but not their own flaws, to be the cause of their problems.

The process of adapting your product can be exciting, worked out to the smallest detail, especially if you have developed a product for the sedate corporate market, you can make a splash on it with its unusualness. But if users don’t even try to register to try, because they don’t believe that they can figure it out and evaluate the product in 3 or 7 days (maybe also because they don’t believe that this segment is such an amazing solution in the corporate market maybe in principle) - you lost.

Of course, when they have already decided to try the product for free, you must work diligently to turn them into paying customers as soon as possible.

Bottom line: yes, the length of the free trial period is just a marketing ploy. Do you offer 30 days of free trial use? Excellent! Tighten and make testers turn into customers in three days.

Take, for example, Constant Contact. The complex of their products works on the basis of the e-mail marketing platform, and their audience was initially selected small and medium-sized businesses. They realized that their customers are very busy people, so they need as many as 60 days to try out Constant Contact.

But if you get acquainted with the ideas of Constant Contact CEO Gail Goodman about how you can quickly create a wow effect in people, it becomes clear that the 60-day free trial period is completely separate from the sales cycle in the internal understanding of this company.

The length of the free trial period of the cloud service is directly proportional to the complexity of the product

You can even do as did - use the length of Free Trial to differentiate the cost of using different service packages.

They give 7 days of a free trial period for a package for $ 5, 14 days for $ 25 and 30 for $ 300.

The more complex the product, the longer it takes to test it. Is it logical? Is logical.

So what should be the duration of Free Trial?

From the point of view of the client: Long enough so that the client can evaluate the product in full.

From a company perspective: As short as possible.

To understand what length is right for your product, you need to understand your customers, know the needs and expectations of the market, imagine the way customers think, keep in mind which product you are superseding.

Once they have decided to try, your task is to turn them into paying customers as quickly as possible, regardless of the length of the test period. If you have a 30-day Free Trial, this does not mean that no one will start paying until the 31st day the service reports that the trial period has expired (although, alas, this is usually the case). Let them think that they have 30 days, but you should look at it from such an angle, as if you have only 3 days to make USE the product fully and turn testers into paid customers in the first week.

You must achieve this by speeding up the adaptation process in order to quickly get a wow effect, to let them understand the full value of your product SO ASAP, AS ONLY AS POSSIBLEand then offer to buy it at a price adequate to that which they used to pay for solving relevant problems.

So I helped one SaaS company reduce the average conversion time for paying customers during their 30-day free trial period from 42 days (yes, 12 days of deliberation after the end of the test period) to 3 days. And through the use of creative discounts, I helped them increase the average value of one subscribed customer by 33%.

I hope this comes in handy for you.

Only registered users can participate in the survey. Please come in.

What, in your opinion, should be the duration of a free trial period?

  • 3.4% 3 days 12
  • 9.4% 7 days 33
  • 23.4% 14 days 82
  • 56.7% 30 days 198
  • 23.2% 60 days 81

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