Are you worried that offering a free trial could be hazardous to your startup’s health?

You don’t have to worry — as long as your product is compatible with the basic concept of a free trial, and you execute the trial properly.

“Free trials can be incredibly powerful user acquisition tools,” says serial investor and free trial expert Vivek Rajkumar.

First, let’s take a look at some product types that may not be ideal for free trials.

  • Complicated Products
    A typical free trial period lasts 30 days. Maybe you can stretch that to 60. But, at some point, the novelty of the trial wears off, and the product sinks or swims on its own. If you’re selling a product or service that’s too complicated for new users to grasp during a limited-time trial period, another value-discovery channel may be a better option.
  • Products That Can’t Conceal Their Value
    The opposite problem can be true too. What if your product is so simple that there’s nothing left to discover after the trial period? If you’re worried about your solution outliving its usefulness before customers pay for it, shrink or do away with the trial altogether — or add new features to keep things interesting.

Still think a free trial is worth pursuing? Follow these best practices to increase your effort’s ROI and ensure that more “free trialers” become paying customers.

  • Don’t Get Credit Card Information Upfront. This seems counterintuitive, but remember: compelling users to provide their credit card details before they’ve even tried your product is really just a shorthand way of saying, “We expect you to be too lazy to cancel before the trial period ends.” Have more faith in your customers — and earn their trust in the process.
  • Clearly Communicate the Offer’s Terms. If there’s a golden rule for free trials, it’s this: no surprises. Make sure your early adopters know exactly what they’re getting into. If you consistently hear certain feedback from them — for instance, that they didn’t know about this or that caveat — adjust your T & C’s accordingly.
  • Maintain Contact Throughout the Trial Period. Free trials aren’t set-it-and-forget-it. Keep users engaged and interested with frequent email or social media outreach laced with actionable suggestions or novel ideas about product use or features. The more you push users to explore your product’s features, the more likely they’ll be to stay on after the trial ends.
  • Use Judicious Pressure Tactics to Encourage Adoption. In this context, “judicious” means, for example, limited-time offers or “don’t miss out” appeals. Don’t oversell it — you’re not losing their business yet.
  • Deliver Benefits Sufficient to Convince Users They’ll Lose Out When the Trial Ends. You don’t have to give the whole game away, but you definitely want your free trial to include a representative range of features, functionality, and benefits for users. The more value you provide, the more users approaching the end of the trial will feel they have to lose.

Learn from Your Mistakes

Every big new business initiative carries its own set of growing pains. It’s likely that your free trial won’t be headache-free, either. The important thing is that you learn from your mistakes, improve your offerings, and keep sight of the most important thing of all — delighting your customers.

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