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What is one way you convert free trial users to paying customers?

To help business owners convert trials into paying customers, we asked marketing strategists and business leaders for their best insights. From highlighting what makes you different to tailoring to customer needs, several tips may help you retain paying customers for years to come.  

Here are nine strategies for converting free trials into paying customers:

  • Establish Trust With Customers
  • Highlight What Makes You Different
  • Reward Customers for Referrals
  • Add in a Discounted Membership Trial
  • Make Every Customer Count
  • Send Personalized Emails
  • Give a True Taste of Your Business
  • Tailor to Customer Needs 
  • Be A Solution

business owners who contributed to this article

Establish Trust With Customers 

When converting free trial users to paying customers, you should focus less on the transaction and more on the relationship at hand. Your free trial users found your product and needed your product for a reason, so how can you demonstrate a level of trust that shows just how valuable your services are to their long-term business or personal success? It is not always about attaining paying customers, but retaining them; retention comes from a relationship and a continued promise to deliver.

-Eli Patashnik, iFax

Highlight What Makes You Different 

When a potential client gets the opportunity to test your product or service, don't hold back on showcasing the features that make your offering different from the competition. Not only does this introduce your best work to a would-be paying customer, it also lets them somehow predict what it would be like when your premium features are no longer available to them. Add that to providing stellar customer support during the trial phase, which is especially important if you're operating on a fully remote basis. With all of these in the mix, it won't be a surprise when the user finds your service indispensable and signs up even before the trial period ends. 

-Vanessa Atan, Markitors

Reward Customers for Referrals

At Lightkey, we have our invitations program that can provide any user up to 6 months of free Lightkey Pro when they refer their friends and family. It offers the ability to send invitations to your friends and colleagues and for each valid and activated invitation your license expiration will be automatically extended by 45 days. By offering an incentive for free continued use of our software for customers to try, they will continue to realize how helpful the software is when used in their favorite programs, like Microsoft Word and Gmail. We make it easy to take advantage of our free license extension by providing step-by-step instructions for our invitations program right on our website.

Guy Katabi, Lightkey

Add in a Discounted Membership Trial 

Brands offering a trial period or version can sweeten the pot by discounting the paid membership fee for a period of time. This will encourage trial users to take advantage of the exclusive rates and most likely land you a conversion because a discounted upgrade is hard to pass up for the average consumer. Reaping the benefits of a paid membership at a bargain price will be extremely attractive to customers, especially the lot that has used your services for a significant period. 

-Jeff Goodwin, Orgain

Make Every Customer Count 

When trying to convert trial users into paying customers, it is important to remember one thing: the free trial is a time for customers to test products and services, but it's also the time to test the way your company treats customers. Don't treat free trial customers any differently than paying customers. Show them that they matter and that you care about their business. Provide extreme personalization of service, check-in with them often, and follow up, asking for feedback. 

If customers feel like they are more than a number in a company's revenue spreadsheet and they like your product or service, they will stick with you when it's time to switch to a payment schedule. 

-Natalya Bucuy, LiveHelpNow

Send Personalized Emails  

If your product really adds value, they'll want to become a paying customer. However, there are ways to promote keeping a subscription. One way to help is to make sure that you automatically send personalized end-of-trial emails. This email reminds them that their free trial is up and they're going to have to start paying. There is the option of setting up the process to automatically start paying after their free trial. This is a grey area, so you must make them aware that this is what they're signing up for. 

You could always stop offering free trials altogether. Instead, a paid trial is much more likely to weed out those who would never sign up anyway. Let's say that you offer a trial for £1/$1. This is a really creative tactic because the user already has 'some' skin in the game. While it's only a small amount of money, there is a subconscious side that makes them want to use the subscription a lot more. Chances are they love it. 

-Charlie Worrall, Imaginaire

Give a True Taste of Your Business 

Traditional marketing funnel starts with awareness, moves to interest, then to consideration, which leads to intent, ultimately turning into a conversion. Free trials help take prospects from interest to intent to purchase. A free trial needs to help walk the prospect through all of the aspects of their consideration criteria. At this phase, the customer needs to know: "Does this product do what I need it to do?" A lot of free trials give everything away in an attempt to answer this question, but that isn't necessary. All the customer needs is the knowledge the product can do what they need it to do. Offering a free trial for some of the "table stake" features and then giving examples of the more premium features is a way many companies have tackled this problem. This is the idea behind the "freemium" business model many apps and software take with customers now. 

-Layton Cox, Media and Entertainment Consultant

Tailor to Customer Needs 

One primary reason for churn is because users don't realize the full potential of a product—especially when there's a high price point. And usually, it's not that the business does not offer an expansive product—they simply fail to communicate the practical benefits to the user. Rather than hitting users with a long list of the company’s product offering—analyze user workflows, identify pain points, and specifically prompt users to try out new features or tools during their free trial when they need them the most. Your goal is for them to go: 'Aha, I can also do A, B, and C with this tool—it's worth paying for.' If you fail to increase use cases, users will leave once their only problem is solved. 

-Hung Nguyen, Smallpdf

Be a Solution

One way we aim to convert our free trial users into paying customers is by centering ourselves towards being a solution. At Comidor, we are working towards increasing productivity by providing automation of core business processes that helps alleviate some of the stress and empower the workforce. This helps you get back to what you do best. We also make sure that we are adding value to the users' experience by providing customized solutions to users' business needs. 

-Spiros Skolarikis, Comidor

About the Author(s)

 Brett  Farmiloe

Brett Farmiloe is the Founder & CEO of Markitors, a digital marketing company that connects small businesses to customers through organic search. He enjoys converting insights from small business owners into high-quality articles for brands.

Founder & CEO, Markitors
four fingers pointing at a red free trial button in a keyboard