22 SaaS Free Trial Best Practices in 2023
As a SaaS founder, you must know the importance of a free trial to convert leads into paying customers. Recent data show B2B businesses that offered free trials saw conversion rates of 66% on average.
While it may seem straightforward enough, there are many intricate elements that need to be taken into account in order for a free trial period to be successful; from optimizing user onboarding and making sure your product meets expectations, to billing models and determining which metrics best gauge performance.
That’s why we’ve gathered some of our top tips on SaaS free trial best practices for maximum success. So read on for 22 of the very best strategies for setting up an effective and profitable trial period!
What Is a “Free Trial”in SaaS?
Offering a “free trial” of your software is a strategy used by SaaS providers to increase user adoption and conversions. It works by offering customers access to a limited version of your SaaS for either a limited time or under certain usage restrictions.
This allows potential users to experience the value of your SaaS product without having to commit financially, increasing the likelihood of them converting into paying customers.
Free Trial vs Paid Trial vs Freemium
There are three “free trial” strategies that most SaaS providers use: free trial, paid trial and the freemium model.
A free trial model is probably the most common one that people will often come across when they visit a SaaS website. Free trial allows potential customers to try out the product without needing to enter into a subscription. This model makes it incredibly easy for people to test out the SaaS, get excited by its features, and then make an informed decision on whether or not they want to subscribe.
Free trials are also great marketing points that SaaS companies may use to entice more people to get a “feel” of their product.
And with pricing as a crucial part of any successful SaaS business, offering customers a chance to try out their app before committing to a long-term purchase can be beneficial.
With that said, free trials for SaaS presents numerous advantages for both the customer and the company offering the tool.
For customers, it allows them to see if a certain software system or cloud solution meets their needs before making an investment in the service.
On the other hand, SaaS companies maximize their reach and deepen their engagement with potential customers by letting them experience the application risk-free.
But despite the popularity of free trials in SaaS, it may not be the best option for all SaaS companies. Free trials can lead to leakage in customer acquisition cost and misalignment between customer lifetime value and pricing.
Companies that invest in customer acquisition may also find it difficult to continue funding a platform with limited payment information from trial users.
Additionally, when offering a free trial, it can often result in customers only using the platform for a short duration instead of subscribing – this then leaves the company without receiving any benefit for providing their service or product.
A paid trial streamlines the traditional free trial-to-upgrade path by accepting payment right away. This allows customers to receive the full benefits of the application upfront for a limited time and for just a portion of the original subscription price.
This trial model is made to increase conversion by allowing a smooth transition from trial to subscription after the trial period ends.
Companies that offer this trial model find that it increases their revenues by adding more customers who are willing to pay a smaller amount initially, and can give them the opportunity to upgrade later.
Now, let’s talk about its potential downsides.
For starters, a paid trial can lead to customers who are not fully satisfied with their experience. This is because they have already paid for the service and by the time they decide that it’s not what they expected, it might be too late to get a refund.
Additionally, this model may also result in low adoption due to customers being reluctant to pay for a service without knowing what it is about.
Paid trials also make it difficult to provide detailed customer feedback since only a portion of customers will convert into paying users.
In addition, there is always the possibility that potential customers may not convert after their trial period has ended; this puts pricing models under increased scrutiny and would lead to reduced ROI if gratuitous product offerings were provided during the trial period.
A Freemium pricing strategy is a pricing model where the basic features of a SaaS tool are provided for free.
The user has the option to upgrade and access additional features, or “premium” features, with an upgrade fee. This pricing model gives users the opportunity to try out certain functions of a SaaS before committing to pay for it. Additionally, it gives users flexibility by allowing them to only pay for the features that they need.
On SaaS businesses’ end, this strategy can increase your customer base quickly and introduce new users to the product. You also benefit from having a larger pool of potential buyers and strategically pricing in-app upgrades they may want or need.
The biggest downside to the trial model or pricing strategy is that customers may take advantage of the free service without ever converting into paying customers. Freeloaders can overwhelm the resources of a SaaS company and make it difficult to build a healthy customer base.
Additionally, when companies are offering a wide variety of features for free, they can struggle with generating enough revenue to remain profitable as they invest more in providing these features without recouping much cost from them.
Lastly, providing quality support to users can prove difficult as more and more customers hop on board without purchasing a premium account.
How Long Should a Free Trial Be?
One important decision that must be made in regards to free trials is how long the trial period will be. The length of the free trial should not be too short (as it might not give customers enough time to test out the product) or too long (as they may forget about it, or even worse, take advantage of the free services).
The ideal trial length is usually around two to four weeks. This allows customers enough time to get used to the product and make an informed decision while also keeping them engaged by providing a clear deadline.
22 SaaS Free Trial Best Practices to Increase Conversion Rate
Below are some of the free trial best practices that SaaS companies can consider to improve their trial to paid conversion rate.
1. Narrow down your target demographic
Knowing who your target demographic is beforehand will help you better tailor your trial to their needs. This ensures that customers will get the most out of it, increasing the likelihood that they convert into paying users.
To figure out who your target customers are, you should conduct customer surveys and look at industry trends.
2. Make sure the sign-up process is simple
The sign-up process to get a free trial should be kept as simple as possible so users don’t give up halfway due to frustration or boredom. This means ensuring that the process is intuitive and doesn’t require too many steps.
3. Provide clear instructions
Providing step-by-step instructions on how to use the product can help users get the most out of their trial and make sure that they know what features are available. This will also remove any confusion that they may have and make them more likely to convert into paid users.
4. Offer personalized support
Reaching out to customers during their trial period to provide personalized support can increase the likelihood of them converting into paying customers. When customers feel like your company cares about their success, they’re more likely to remain loyal to your product.
5. Show trial users the value they’re getting
Make sure that users know that they’re getting a great deal by using your product during their free trial and emphasize the value they’ll get out of it. For example, you can show them how much money they would save if they were to purchase a subscription.
6. Offer helpful resources
Including helpful resources such as tutorials and FAQs can help users understand the product better and make sure that they are able to use it properly.
7. Offer personalized account setup
Offering personalized account setup where a representative of the company assists with setting up an account allows users to get started quickly while also providing them with valuable support. However, this isn’t always feasible due to cost considerations.
8. Limit the features available in the trial
Limiting the features available during a user’s free trial ensures that they only get access to the basic features of your product. This will help them understand the core functionality without getting overwhelmed by all the bells and whistles, increasing their chances of converting into paying customers.
9. Make sure the trial period is an appropriate length
As mentioned earlier, it’s important to make sure that your free trial period is of a reasonable length, neither too short nor too long. This helps ensure that users have enough time to get used to the product and make an informed decision while also preventing them from abusing the trial period.
Using social proof such as customer reviews and testimonials can help to increase trust in your product, making users more likely to convert into paying customers. You should also consider using case studies and videos to reinforce the value of your product.
11. Track user behavior
Finally, it’s important to track user behavior during their trial period in order to better understand how users interact with the product and what features they use the most. This information can then be used to improve customer onboarding and convert more users into paying customers.
12. Get credit card details or payment information upfront
Consider asking for a user’s credit card or payment information upfront. This doesn’t mean that you will charge them immediately; instead, it allows you to securely store their information so that they can more easily convert into paying customers once the trial period is over.
However, this may not be the best option for all companies. If you decide to do so, you should be transparent about your policy and make sure that users understand where their information is going. Also, make sure that the information you collect is stored securely. Otherwise, this could damage your reputation and lead to a loss of customers with the addition of legal issues.
13. Send out reminders during the trial period
Sending emails or text messages during a user’s free trial can serve as an effective reminder of the value they’re getting from using your product, potentially increasing the likelihood of conversion. Additionally, these messages can be used to provide helpful tips or answer any questions that the user may have about using your product.
14. Offer incentives for converting before the end of the trial period
Offering an incentive such as a discount code, additional features, or even a free month access can help encourage users to convert before the end of their free trial. This can help reduce customer attrition and make sure that users are able to get the most out of your product.
15. Request feedback from trial users
Asking for user feedback during the trial period is a great way to identify any potential issues with your product and make improvements before customers convert into paying customers. Additionally, it’s important to listen to what users have to say and take their input into account when making changes. This will help to improve user experience and increase satisfaction.
Take advantage of NPS surveys and other customer feedback tools to help you collect and act on customer feedback during the trial period.
16. Personalize the Onboarding Process
Creating a customized onboarding experience for each user is important in order to make sure that they are getting the most out of your product. This can be done by using segmentation to identify user needs and sending automated emails or messages that guide them through the features of your product. By providing a personalized experience, you will help users become more engaged and increase their chances of converting into paying customers.
17. Highlight Secondary Features Through Tooltips to Drive Product Adoption
The key to success with any product is driving adoption and engagement. A convenient way to accomplish this with a SaaS is by providing tooltips for secondary features. Tooltips are small messages that are activated by hovering or clicking, usually within the interface of an application.
By highlighting these features through tooltips, customers can quickly become aware of their functionality and potential value in their use of the product. Tooltips can quickly and succinctly draw attention to an otherwise easily overlooked feature. This additional visibility can encourage a user to experiment with these functionalities, which in turn leads them to journey further into the product.
18. Analyze Competitors to Structure Free Trials
It’s important to consider why customers choose one option over another and what might be turning away potential converts. Making sure your free trial offers the best features and benefits compared to competitors is the number one way to drive up conversion.
Additionally, look at duration length, terms of conditions, offering one-time payment discounts upon sign-up, and utilizing automated follow-ups during and after the free trial period are invaluable ways to increase conversions.
Utilizing a competitive analysis approach when launching your free trial can make all the difference between a successful launch leading to increased users and revenue or a flop resulting in going back to the drawing board.
19. Persistently Follow Up With Trial Users
Following up with your trial users offers customers a valuable opportunity to identify any issues they have and ask questions about your SaaS tool that can be addressed before making their final purchase decision.
The key to success is creating an effective follow-up system that is easy for potential customers to use and provides them with clear direction for using the product more effectively. If you communicate with your trial users regularly, even if it’s just a simple survey after they have completed their free trial period, it will give them the incentive to stick around and convert to paying customers.
Persistent follow-ups take time, effort, and creativity but paying attention to customer feedback, educating trial users on features, and automating reminders will all ensure you’re maximizing your trial user conversion rate. Utilizing a system like this can be very beneficial for increasing conversions when customers commit to using your product for more than the initial trial period.
20. Map Your Free Trial User Journey
Mapping out the user journey allows you to identify critical points in the customer experience, so that you can optimize how they engage with and ultimately convert on your offering.
Start by gathering customer data to build out user personas so that you may better identify their preferences, goals and pain points. This will help you create in-app notifications that are tailored around their needs and direct them according to their personal intentions.
By gathering data from customer feedback, analytics, and event tracking services, you can gain necessary insights into how individual customers use and react to your product or service.
Further tweaking can be done by testing out variations based on user actions, as well as adding elements like rewards to extend engagement while still making sure each step presents an effortless journey towards conversion.
Once you understand their behavior you can create better experiences and form strategies focused on converting free trial users into paying customers.
With a comprehensive map of the free user journey and a plan for improving the experience, you will be able to increase conversions and find long-term success for your business.
21. Prioritize Continued Engagement With Your SaaS Product
To ensure that users stay engaged with your product and eventually convert to paid customers, it is important to prioritize activities that promote user interaction.
Crafting meaningful onboarding experiences and making sure education resources are easily accessible will help ensure users understand the value of your product right away.
In addition, touchpoints such as email reminders that highlight features and automatic notifications when there’s new content could go a long way in keeping users invested in your product while they are exploring its capabilities.
Moreover, taking the time to create personalized experiences for your trial users can help build a strong customer-product relationship and increase their odds of becoming a paying subscribers.
Lastly, make sure to track customer activity throughout the trial period – look out for trends such as usage patterns and customer feedback – so that you can adjust your user experience strategy if needed, recognize when free trials are at risk of churning, and reach out at the right time with targeted messages that further drive engagement.
22. Track Your Trial’s Performance
It’s important to recognize that tracking success doesn’t just mean looking at the numbers; it also requires assessing customer feedback and satisfaction with services, as well as any changes that may be implemented to enhance user experience or drive more conversions.
To get started, determine which metrics you will track in order to measure your success. Keeping track of user interactions such as sign-ups and onboarding completion can be helpful in understanding where potential customers drop off or become successful.
Understanding customer needs and habits is a great way to foster relationships with existing customers and convert more trials into paying users.
Additionally, tracking funnel triggers like human engagement or discount offers can help calculate a path for costs and conversion rates, allowing you to make tweaks to optimize your conversions.
Paying attention to which marketing channels or strategies you use can also create insights into which tactics lead to higher conversion rates, allowing marketers to reward successful efforts and adjust their strategy accordingly.
Finally, utilizing an effective A/B testing system helps provide a deeper understanding of what features work better in converting users from trial versions into paying customers. Ultimately, a successful trial-to-paid conversion rate requires you to track performance metrics that reveal customer behavior and engagement while refining and iterating on your product offerings.
Most SaaS companies these days offer free trials as a way to let potential customers test out the product before committing to a purchase. However, just offering a free trial isn’t enough – you need to make sure that your free trial is effective in converting users into paying customers.
By understanding the journey of a free user, creating an engaging onboarding experience and prioritizing continued engagement, you can make sure that users are getting the most out of your product and increase their chances of converting. Finally, tracking key performance metrics is essential to optimizing your trial-to-paid conversions. With these steps, you’ll be well on your way to maximizing the success of your free trial program.
For more tips on growing your SaaS business, be sure to check out our blog.