Free Trial? Great!…wait, what?

Doesn’t matter whether you are a Social Media Marketing Guru, a Product Manager, a first-gen entrepreneur, a freelancer or anybody else – all of us, at one time or the other, have encountered a “Free 30-day trial” website offering an amazing service. One of the oldest marketing techniques – give them a taste of what you are offering. Unfortunately for the lack of a better example, I would give you the example of a drug dealer – a dealer always offers the first sample to a new customer (if the customer is not an actual customer of the drug yet, but nevertheless a potential one) free of cost, may be then one more. It is just later that the charges start flowing in. A most efficient technique. As humans, we all love Free Stuff – without any geographical restrictions, we are all alike that way. So it’s all good, right? I mean there is a good service out there, and as a gesture of good faith, they are letting you avail their services free of cost for one full month so that you could judge the need of the product/service in your business yourself. So, how can there be anything wrong with it? Well, there is actually – but not because of a flaw in the concept of it, but in the way the concept is being executed these days.

First of all, what goal was “Free Trial” supposed to achieve for the businesses? They were to primarily act as a lead generation medium wherein the businesses could get contact information of potential customers who could be targeted once their free trial expired. (Giving them a taste of the offerings was never the primary goal/objective. It was just to incentivize potential customers into filling in their details, thereby generating the leads for businesses.)

Today, other than a select few, none of the “Free Trials” primarily appears to be a lead generation medium. Sure, they do take the contact information of the potential customers, but along with that, they would also ask you to validate a payment method – which will run into effect once the trial period runs out. Had this been a true¬†free trial or a lead generation medium, you would want to keep the details being sought at a minimum, and just the most critical ones. The moment you start asking for too much of info, especially sensitive ones like Credit Card details, the conversion ratio at this step starts reducing. So if your primary objective was to generate leads, why would you incorporate an additional step that might very well result you into getting lesser leads? Unless the objective was not generation of leads rather something else.

What does this help you achieve? Well, say if 100 people signed up for this free trial, wherein you are taking their credit card details with the message that their card will be billed once the trial period get over – some of them, who like the offering, will continue to use the services; some will be who will go ahead and cancel their account/services; yet, some will be left who did not like the services, and discontinued using it – somehow forgetting to cancel the subscription. These people get billed at the start of the next billing cycle, despite them having no intention to do so. Sure, as a business you make some money out of them, but the important thing is – they had no intention to do so; and this leaves them feeling cheated. So undoubtedly you can simply forget any chance of getting them converted to your full-fledged paying customers in future, now that they feel they have been cheated. So what good was taking 1, may be 2 months of fees from them, since you have permanently alienated them? Or may be you just want money to be made in the short term, and you don’t mind missing out on the big picture?

So, how should you go about the free trial your business offers to your potential customers? You could just go ahead and mooch off some money from few unsuspecting ones, and let your business be one big scam; or you could offer a good product and provide a good enough user experience to have a following of more loyal customers down the road – the choice, its completely yours.

One Comment to “Free Trial? Great!…wait, what?”

  1. How to convert free trial users to paying customers?…

    There are a number of ways to go about it – some certainly better than others; but the one thing that doesn’t change is good quality. Offer a good quality product and/or service and the chances of them sticking by increases manyfold. Don’t ask for a …

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