Secrets of High-Converting Free Trials (Part One)

Secrets of High-Converting Free Trials (Part One)

Dennis van der Heijden
November 27, 2012

This blog post is a recap of a webinar presented by Lincoln Murphy at Convert Academy. Watch the full webinar here:

Free trials are a great way of offering your prospects a limited amount of time to try your product before they either buy it or stop using it. In this two-part blog post, we’ll dig deep into the secrets of creating high-converting free trials.
Free trials are an integral but often overlooked part of the sales process. You need to identify all customers who come in through the free trials and have a well defined plan for converting them. If 99% of those who signed up for a free trial did not convert, that’s probably an indication that you are doing something very wrong and there is a problem in your process. People do not sign up for free trials for fun, therefore it is safe to assume that they come in with the intention to convert.

Not all free trials are created equal. They can be limited by usage, features, or by other secondary metrics but the number one factor is that they are limited by time. This is in contrast to a freemium model, which gives away certain features for free with no time limit. When using a freemium model, it is possible to ask for money later, however it often becomes very difficult. With a free trial, there is a psychology around it which tells us that there are two potential outcomes:

  • The prospect is going to buy it.
  • The prospect will stop using it.

The webinar featured the following poll question: Do you offer a Free Trial to your prospective clients?

The audience answers were:

  • 57% yes
  • 43% no

In essence, a free trial is the part of your sales process where you offer your prospective customers for free, a limited amount of time to become so invested in your product that becoming a paying customer is an absolute no-brainer.
Here are some free trial highlights from the webinar:

  • You spend money to get prospects into the top of the funnel, only to waste it when they drop out of the free trial because you failed to engage them properly.
  • A successful Free Trial should decrease Customer Acquisition Costs (CAC) and increase Customer Lifetime Value (CLV)
  • The Free Trial is the only part of the sales process you have any real control over, so take advantage of that

You spend a lot of money to get prospects into the top funnel only to waste it out of the Free Trial, because you failed to engage those potential customers. Those potential customers are not engaged by your Free Trial. So, it is your Free Trial’s fault, not that of your prospective customers.
A successful Free Trial is going to decrease the CAC (Customer Acquisition Cost), and it will increase the CLV (Customer Lifetime Value), how much money we make over the 3-5 years they’re a customer minus the cost to support them and minus the cost to acquire them.
A Free Trial done properly will increase the CLV because we lowered the CAC and we increased the ASP (Average Sales Price) which drives up the CLV. If this is done early enough, then they convert at a much higher price, which could exponentially increase the CLV.
A free trial done correctly can significantly increase the success of a SAS company, and it does that because it is the only part of the sales process where you have any real control of.
If you are not taking into consideration the power of the Free Trial you are missing out a part of the sales process where your customer has opted in because he wants to have an interaction with you and because he is communicating with you and spending time with the product you have. We may lose the opportunity to come into contact with them because we do not want to bug them! Nobody really wants to bother them or bug them for there are ways of doing this, but the worst you can do is to do to nothing.

Secrets of a “High Converting” Free Trial

Average SaaS Conversion Rates are awful and horrible because most people don’t know how to do them.

  • 44% said they had a conversion rate of 10% or less.
  • 66% have a 25% conversion rate or less.

A high-converting Free Trial strategy requires continual analysis and optimization. J. Abraham the famous marketer defined it as: “Getting to the highest and best use of something.” One has to optimize the Free Trial.

Remember: A High-Converting Free Trial is a well-designed and engineered process created specifically to efficiently and effectively convert prospects to customers, and it is not an accident.

This is part one of a two-part post on Creating High Converting Free Trials. Check back next week for Part Two or watch the recorded webinar here:

Originally published November 27, 2012 - Updated July 17, 2014
Dennis van der Heijden
Co-founder and CEO of, Dennis is a passionate community builder and out of the box thinker. He spends his time innovating to make Convert Experiences better. Learn about his journey as an entrepreneur and leader on the SaaS Club podcast.
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