Why a 30 day free trial could kill your product

Posted by Cameron Barrie on 24 June
Cameron Barrie

In the Digital Age – Big Time Conversion is the Key

Free trials have been around as long as there has been commerce. Customer acquisition is never cheap, but is there any real value in free product trials in the digital landscape? How many offers have you received for a 30 day free trial when a new product launches online or to subscribe to a new product with the first 30 days free?

In the offline world, this style of selling has been repeatedly successful, and likely will continue to be as long as the product is good or better still, great. A delicatessen, offering the latest exotic cheese from a local organic farm or perhaps from an exotic international location works. How could this not be attractive to customers and engage them in an experience that not only sees them as buyers but also likely advocates for their new found discovery. If the product is good or great, then the experience of tasting or using it could be the difference between Big Time Conversion and a customer response of “that’s nice but not to my taste”.

Remember that in the online world the same principles apply but are staged differently. The test drive of a new car for a week, free dessert at a new restaurant or coffee is free at a new café on opening day, all have a level of human interaction. Not the same with 30 day free trials where access to the product is provided online!

Even if you execute the trial perfectly, you might not get the conversions that you are looking for. Unless you are driving massive conversions, the free trial is probably hurting you. Making your product free cheapens its value. Free trials also attract freeloaders who will use your product as long as it is free but will opt out once payment is required. Users will pay for value but will accept free offers, so it is likely that you are leaving money on the table. Unless you are attracting huge numbers and converting, the net effect of your free trial will in most cases be disappointing.

If your marketing strategy is to release a minimally viable product with the intention of attracting a volume of users with a 30 day free trial, and then converting them into paying customers with new functionality and features – stop.

What is the alternative? Create a product that at its core is loveable. Loveable is the key to big time conversion. Yes release the product in a limited way to a targeted customer base. It may be free to a specific audience; at a particular event or within a definable demographic, but their experience of the product must be extraordinary, memorable and shareable within the target demographic. The customer becomes the seller.

If you want to succeed but need to get to market to prove your concept will work and has market appeal, then all of your efforts must go to ensuring that the product, even if minimal in functionality initially, is truly Lovable to interact with. Your target customers will love the product and accept that additional functionality is coming and as a result will pay the price for having that unforgettable experience of falling in love with something new.

If your product is not lovable, a 30 day free trial won’t fix the problem. Likely it will be the beginning of the end.


Originally published at LinkedIn on June 22nd, 2015.

Topics: Strategy