Should you offer a free trial of your subscription-based product? Discover 8 reasons why SaaS free trial should be a must.
In a bid to acquire customers, many subscription-based companies offer a free trial as a part of their pricing strategy.
However, despite the growing popularity of free trials as a customer acquisition tool in the SaaS industry, not everyone is convinced about using them for their own tech business.
Of course, I agree that every company is different and that this strategy might not suit every scenario equally. However, I truly believe that SaaS companies can highly benefit from it in a variety of ways that they might not be taking into account.
For this reason, today we will see some of the biggest benefits of offering a SaaS free trial. But if you are here for the short answer, and don’t want to read through the whole article, here it is:
Should you offer a SaaS free trial?
Yes, most subscription-based companies should offer a SaaS free trial – to reach more high-quality potential buyers, reduce the fear of long-term commitment, get valuable feedback, show transparency, and get higher conversion rates.
And now, if you are still here for the long answer, here it is:
1. Reach more potential buyers
First on our list of reasons why most companies should offer a SaaS free trial is to reach more potential buyers.
SaaS companies are known for offering high-tech, innovative products designed to impress. But in all honesty, customers don’t care how innovative your product is if they don’t see its value in action.
People don’t want products, they want solutions. So, if you are asking for a long-term commitment based on subscription without showing how your product solves their problem, they will probably not even bother to try it out.
Two weeks ago, my team and I went to pitch our newest tech product to one of our biggest clients. In the beginning of the pitch, they reacted with intense skepticism.
The moment we showed how the product works in action and what problems it solves, they initial skepticism just fell off their face! And it got substituted by excitement and questions on when we could start testing it out with them.
My point is that SaaS solutions can sometimes be really hard to understand and process by the user. Your product could be amazing, but if people need to try it for a few days to see its value, you should offer a free trial.
If they have to subscribe and start paying immediately without trying it, they will not want to commit long-term. And they will either move on to a product whose value is more simple to understand, or to a company that gives them an opportunity for going back in case they don’t like it.
This is especially true when it comes to decision making in B2B companies, or just businesses that are growing very quickly. It usually requires a longer research period in which the company wants to try different alternatives before selecting one.
Additionally, companies that grow relatively fast want tools that are able to scale up with them. Which means that they need to have as much information as possible before finally committing to a subscription service.
In the B2C industry, customers are even less prone to pay before trying out a product. And in all matters, they don’t have the time to try out every alternative that exists on the market.
So naturally, they will start with the options that don’t cost them a cent to try. As a SaaS company, offering a customer-friendly free trial can definitely attract the attention to your services, helping you reach more potential buyers.
2. Reduce the fear of long-term commitment
As I previously mentioned, subscription-based solutions require a long-term commitment by nature. Which is not always the case with regular products and services.
Considering that many companies will only make a significant discount if you pay annually instead of monthly, customers are provided with two options. They either pay a higher fee just because they are not sure if they will like the product, or pay a lower monthly fee with the obligation to continue consuming the service for the next few months or years.
And, even when we talk about low monthly fees, users will have to pay the whole sum for an entire year at once. Which is a lot of money for someone who hasn’t even tried your product yet.
Thus said, if you offer a free trial as a SaaS company, you can significantly reduce the fear of long-term commitment with the product. Otherwise, it might stop users from buying your subscription-based service.
3. Get valuable feedback
Many SaaS companies are skeptical about offering a free trial because they are afraid that users will not continue using their service once the trial is over. And that’s okay.
In fact, silent customer behavior provides valuable feedback on whether your service actually met their needs for the right price. If your free trial strategy experiences extremely low conversion rates for a long period of time despite being well-designed for conversion, maybe the free trial is not the problem.
Maybe it’s your service that is over-promising, or users don’t perceive its real value the way they should.
As a conclusion, free trials can help you gather valuable data on customer behavior. This way, you can use it to identify and work on the weaknesses that are leading to high abandonment.
To get even more feedback, ask customers about their reason for not renovating subscription once the free trial is over. You might be surprised!
4. Keep it honest and transparent
Many companies claim that they are customer-centric… while inviting customers to enter their payment details for an automatically-renovating subscription service once the free trial is over. Feel absolutely free to argue with me on this, but I don’t see how this practice is customer-centric.
In my experience as a Marketing specialist and a customer, I have seen many companies offering various tricks to get users to subscribe to their services. However, I think that nothing works better in the long term than keeping it honest and transparent throughout your whole strategy.
For this reason, I believe that offering a free trial as a SaaS company without hidden tricks not only gives your users the chance to try out your products without being forced to a commitment, but also increases their trust in your company.
This will help you build a powerful community of people who value your brand and products. And want to spread the word because they actually believe that your services are making a difference. After all, being aggressive will probably have the exact opposite effect that you are looking for in your Marketing strategy.
And users might cancel their subscription after a few months.
5. Provide first-hand experience for customers
Decision makers, especially in the B2B industry, put a lot of effort to discover different sources of information that will help them make an educated decision. Reviews, tutorials, comments, and experiences of other people are only some of the sources that give them a glimpse into what they are about to buy.
Companies that offer a free trial for their SaaS solutions make it possible for customers to get a first-hand experience of the product. Without them having to rely exclusively on third-party opinions.
After all, opinions from other people can often be misleading because every user perceives something differently. After all, not every customer or company has the same needs. Maybe your subscription-based service did not cover the needs of one user, but will be just perfect for another one.
So, it’s always better to give them the option to try by themselves.
6. Get qualified leads
When you are selling products in a physical establishment, you give people the opportunity to study them in person. They can easily visit the shop, try them on, and feel the quality of the materials before deciding on a purchase.
However, this process is not as easy when you are selling intangible software products. For this reason, free trials are a great way to provide some tangibility to help users make an educated decision. And the best part is that the people who signed up for a trial are already showing interest in your product.
This means that you will not have to spend additional time to educate them on the characteristics and benefits of your solution.
7. Easy to implement
SaaS free trials are extremely easy to set up and implement into your current Marketing strategy. So, even if you conclude that a free trial doesn’t work for your business for whatever reason this might be, you haven’t wasted too much time nor efforts to test out the strategy. And you can easily eliminate it as well.
8. Get a higher conversion rate
Conversion rate is probably one of the most important metrics for every Marketing strategy. After all, it makes little sense to dedicate a lot of efforts to attract potential buyers to your web, if nobody ends up buying your service.
Depending on the estimates, the conversion rate for SaaS free trials is between 15 and 25%. Of course, this may vary depending on the quality of your trial optimization, your niche, your ideal customer, and your company’s business model. According to SixteenVentures, some companies can even reach a conversion rate of 60%!
In what cases is NOT recommended to offer a free trial for your SaaS product?
As I already mentioned in the beginning, despite all the benefits, it doesn’t mean that free trials are a one-size-fits-all.
Free trials are great when your product is standardized. For example, companies that offer specific pricing plans and they don’t change to fit the customer.
However, if your services and prices are tailored to fit the needs of the customer, the situation is different. And offering a free trial might not be as easy because of complex technical integrations.
In these cases, you can consider offering a demo instead.
To sum it up, if your service:
- Is custom-made for each client;
- Requires a complex technical integration;
- Involves upfront implementation work;
- Is generally complex, or the user would need to much time to figure how it works,
You might consider going for a demo, a video, or a money-back guarantee strategy. If you’re looking for a service provider to handle your trials and subscriptions, Chargebee is a great option that allows flexibility at scale.
I hope you liked this article, and I will see you in the next one!
Note: All image sources are from sketchappsources.com.