What is the best trial length for your SaaS product? How do you know your trial length is optimized for the highest conversion? Does trial length matter at all?
We decided to ask some of the top marketing and product experts in the SaaS world and find out what they think about this hot topic. As you read this post, you’ll come to realize that the answer is: it depends. Some of them prefer to stick to a single proven number, while others take a more holistic approach when deciding the perfect trial length.
Let’s dive in and see what they have to say!
Head of Growth, Baremetrics
The perfect trial length is just long enough for someone to have adequate time to get set up, experience the product, and record real usage. But still short enough that they feel pressure to use it while they have it and not put it off.
If you’re analytically driven, the ideal trial length can be easily found by tracking the average time it takes for someone to reach certain milestones in onboarding. If you’re more intuition-driven, you can just observe customers who onboarded and converted successfully.
As a principle, I always recommend matching your activation model (trial, onboarding, etc.) with how users are already behaving — sometimes, it’s a week, sometimes a month, and sometimes there’s no trial needed at all.
Author of Product-Led Growth, ProductLed Institute
Your time-to-value should heavily influence your trial length. If it takes five minutes for someone to experience the value of your product, you can have an extremely short trial period. However, if you’re like most B2B SaaS companies, that’s not the case. It might take a month for someone to see value in your product.
Yet, you create this artificial timeline for people to make a decision on purchasing your product in 14 days. What I would strongly suggest doing is monitor how long it takes for people to experience the value of your product and give people that much time in a free trial. Don’t try to overcomplicate it.
Chief Churn Crusher, AnitaToth.ca
I hate to say this, but you’re probably not going to like this answer. The answer is “it depends”.
One thing for sure is there are a number of factors that need to be considered before determining the ideal length of a trial.
Some of these include:
- Time to value.
- Customer acquisition cost.
- Available features.
The challenge is these factors are not evenly weighted.
Time to Value
For instance, the biggest determining factor to the length of your “perfect” trial should be answering the question, “How long does it take for trial customers to find the value proposition of the product?”
If it takes weeks for customers to find the value proposition of the product, then a 30-day trial makes the most sense. A longer trial gives the trial customer enough time to play around with the product and integrate the product into their workflow, increasing the likelihood it will become more sticky.
If, however, it takes just a few days to find the main benefit of the product, then a shorter trial, like 7 or 14 days, is better for both the trial customer and the company.
Customer Acquisition Cost
Shorter trial periods (7 – 14 days) can benefit the company in terms of customer acquisition cost (CAC). The shorter the trial duration, the less a company has to provide unpaid support. Depending on the stage of the company (startup or scaling), this factor might be a big consideration for the length of the free trial.
The features available during a free trial need to consider in determining trial length. Including features in the trial that help the customer see the product’s value quickly will reduce the trial length from long (over 14 days) to short (1-14 days).
Determining the ideal trial length is a constant trade-off between time to value, CAC, available features, and company goals. There is no single “perfect” SaaS trial length. Each company needs to determine the right trial length for them and their customers. Testing various trial lengths, monitoring conversion rates, keeping an eye on post-trial churn, and watching CAC will all help point a company to the “perfect” trial length for their SaaS.
Head of Growth, Userpilot
It depends on how fast the “aha and activation moments” are. For instance, if a user gets the aha and value realization fast, then I wouldn’t wait for more than 7 days. To understand the value, you need to pass those custom events to see if the user was able to set up. With Userpilot, our Aha! is quick, and the activation moment is delayed because PMs need to wait for a sprint for the app to get installed and go live. Hence, we give 14 days and allow for a further extension.
Similarly, a video marketing app like Bonjoro should not wait for more than 7 days because aha and activation are fast, and the user gets value quickly. If you figure out the gap between aha and activation, that’s it, you have struck gold.
If your application takes ages to set up like Segment, Hubspot, or an analytical tool, abandon your trial period, and go freemium. That’s the only way for the user to realize value.
I don’t think there is a perfect trial length. It really depends on your product and how long users take to get acclimated to it and to experience real value from it (wow moment). I think the standard is 14 days, BUT you definitely see shorter and longer all the time. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything longer than 30 days or shorter than three so while there might not be a perfect one, there is sort of a range as to what people think is reasonable.
In general, though, the shorter you can make it, the better. That implies that your tool is delivering value more quickly, and from a marketing perspective, it also allows you to iterate faster.
SaaS Marketing Consultant, Cortes.design
I would say 14 days is ideal because it’s not too short to where they feel they won’t have time to try it and not too long, so they don’t lose the urgency and end up not using it.
Here’s the REAL question, though — “How fast can you get them onboarded and using your product?”
We want them to use it, not just sign up for a free trial. The more we focus on getting them to use your product, the more likely they’ll be to become a customer. You’ll never convert a free trial user that didn’t ACTIVELY use your product during the trial… Focus on that instead 😉
Trial length is a gimmick that marketers use to create artificial urgency with their products. The users, however, don’t care much about the trial length and will experience value and make a purchasing decision at their own pace.
Still, there are a couple of things to consider when designing your trial.
А report on 600 SaaS companies by Redpoint Ventures, shows that conversion rate is the same across long and short trials. Giving people more time to test your product would not make them more likely to become a customer. In other words, there’s little reason to go with 30-60 days long trial unless absolutely necessary.
Another report by MadKudu shows that it takes about 40 days to get 80% of SaaS conversions, with half of the conversions happening after the last day of the trial. Regardless of trial length, people need up to 40 days to pull a trigger on a new product. However, a 14-day trial has a bigger spike in the beginning – more users are upgrading faster – compared to a 30-day trial.
To sum this, there isn’t anything magical about your trial length, and some people will continue to convert after the last day of your trial. However, providing a longer trial will not increase your user to customers CR, so it’s best to keep your trial 7 or 14 days long to benefit from quicker conversions. Then, from day 14 and beyond, you need to follow up regularly with expired trial users — you can offer a trial extension or re-engage the ones that seem like a good fit for your business.
Growth Marketer and SaaS Consultant, SiddharthBharath.com
Like most things in marketing, “it depends” is the best answer here. There’s no one trial length that fits all. The ideal length for your SaaS is the time it takes for your customer to get to the “Aha” moment where they really get the value and they’re happy to pay. Most companies default to two weeks or one month as it’s a nice round figure. So if your customer takes less than two weeks, set your trial period as two weeks. If not, round upwards to the next cut off (one month, two months, etc.)
There is no one-size-fits-all trial length for all SaaS companies. You may get an idea of what a trial period may look like if you’ve got some competitors that haven’t switched their model for a while. That typically means whatever they are doing is working for them, and perhaps you should study it (but at the same time take it with a grain of salt).
“It depends” is still pretty broad, so you need to look at the factors that will make this a well-thought decision.
The most important factor to keep in mind is when your user experiences the “aha” moment, which is ideally shortly before the point the trial is coming to an end.
Other factors to keep in mind are:
- Will the user know if the product is good for them?
- Is the length of the trial going to affect your sales cycle?
- How long can you financially support a free trial (unit economics). Here you need to keep in mind two main metrics: Lifetime value (LTV) and Cost per acquisition (CPA).
You can improve LTV by finding ways to increase the amount of money each user spends, or by figuring out how to improve user retention. CPA can be tweaked by optimizing your virality or improving the effectiveness of your online advertising.
If you can improve your LTV and your CPA, then you could potentially elongate your trial period as well, but only if you need to in order to give your users more time to experience the “aha” moment. If that’s not necessary then you’re only going to be increasing your sales cycle time which would harm you.
Your free trial should be a representation of the problem you solve.
If you solve a complex problem, it is likely that your trial will be longer so that users can get the benefit of the product and the time they need to figure how to use your product as a solution. A complex product typically means your pricing will be higher as well, so it balances out the economics behind it.
The inverse would be true for a shorter trial period if it’s a relatively simple problem you’re solving, then your trial should be relatively short, and the price of the solution won’t be as hefty, which balances out the economics as well.
Growth Marketing Manager, HelpCrunch
I think there is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to SaaS trial length.
In our product category of all-in-one customer communication tools the standard length is a 14-day trial period. That’s how long our trial at HelpCrunch is as well. As our platform is a pretty complex one, 14 days seems to be a perfect length for:
- Our trial users: as they have enough time to explore all of our tools (and we have a lot) and get value before subscribing.
- Our team: as we have enough time to onboard and educate trial users with personalized content, as well as self-serve and human support.
That said, not every user has the opportunity to get enough value during a 14-day trial period due to various reasons. That’s why we’ve set up an automated email that is sent on the 13th day of the trial, asking whether they need any help or require a few more days to test out the platform. That proved to be an effective engagement and conversion tactic.
SaaS Consultant for Global Audiences, SophiaLe.com
It takes about 21 days to create a new habit, BUT it depends on how motivated the user is to make a change and their ability to do what you’ve asked them to do. See B.J. Fogg’s Behavior Model. Of course, you can get away with 7-14 days IF you know and can replicate that Aha moment for a user.
CEO, Brainy Bees
We’ve been working with 15+ SaaS businesses from all over the world, and in our experience, 14-day trials work best. It’s enough time for clients to get into the platform and check its capabilities, but only if it goes hand in hand with the right onboarding and customer service — webinars, demo, reliable customer support. In our opinion, it also generates less “hassle” for customer support teams, as they need to handle support for free users for two weeks only, and not for an entire month.
Editor, Process Street
There’s no one length that works for everyone, and for some services, it’s best not to offer a free trial at all. The question should not be what the perfect length is, but what the perfect process is for finding the length.
For us at Process Street, we played with a number of different pricing plans, freemium options, and trial lengths. We ended up settling on a two week trial of access to premium features, followed by a downgrade into a limited freemium service.
For people who aren’t going to buy, the limited feature set is sufficient for them to use the product to solve their core problem. For people who are going to buy, two weeks is long enough for them to get to a certain level of activation where they can see the true value of the service.
Some products have value that shines right off them; others have more layers of complexity that can obscure that value. The key for us was finding out what was the series of actions a user would take at the beginning of their journey which would indicate whether they would end up being a paid customer.
Then we need to see how long it is taking people to do those actions and engage with the platform to that level, and what’s the range on that number? Then we knew how long we had to make the trial for people to have enough time to complete that journey, which predicted the likelihood to buy. That’s not the only aspect involved in our investigation process, but it was certainly an important one!
Director, Marketing at Inspire Planner
If you are looking for a magic number, I am afraid you will be disappointed. A perfect SaaS trial length depends on several factors and your particular business. However, it all comes down to one key component — how much time it takes until your customers reach the “aha” moment with your product.
I would say there are two major schools of thought – that your SaaS trial must be short (under 14 days) or that it must be longer (up to 30 days).
Some of the typical arguments for a short SaaS trial are that you create a sense of urgency in your customers, increase the efficiency of your sales team, reduce customer acquisition cost through a shorter sales cycle, and that no one actually uses your trial for its whole duration. This is the model mainly used by B2C and some simple B2B SaaS products.
The most common arguments for longer SaaS trials are that your users need more time to learn the product if you are selling complex software, it makes your customers stick to your product more, and that your customers might have multiple other priorities before even testing your product. This option is typically chosen by more expensive, sophisticated B2B products, that target larger customers, and often require buy-in from several stakeholders.
My advice for SaaS companies is to consider the industry trends but then use your data to determine the right trial length for your SaaS product. You can A/B test trial CTAs with different numbers to see which option gives you more signups and a higher overall conversion to paid customers.
After that, forget about your trial length and focus on how you handle your customer experience during the trial. Do you provide a great onboarding, no matter if it’s a self-service user onboarding or a human-assisted one? Does your product offer enough value during the trial? Are your customers engaged?
With Inspire Planner, a Salesforce project management app, we chose a longer 30-day free trial. Even though our software is intuitive, our potential customers typically need more time. First, their Salesforce admin needs to install and configure the app. Then business users can test it, invite their colleagues, play around with workflow automation opportunities, and more. The more time they spend using Inspire Planner, the more they stick to our product by seeing the tremendous value and efficiency gains.
Before our free trial expires, we also offer a 14-day extension in case people didn’t have time to evaluate our app for whatever reason. It costs us almost nothing, but it is a nice gesture towards our clients. Most of the people who request a trial extension then convert into paying customers without much effort from our side.
Vice President of Marketing at Red Stag Fulfillment
The shorter the trial length, the lower your customer acquisition cost will be. This is why, in my experience, I would recommend a trial closer to 14 days, rather than 30 days. However, if you’re concerned that’s too short for people to evaluate your product properly- consider just extending it to anyone that directly asks for it to be extended. Not only are you getting through to the people who are truly invested in your product – you can engage directly with them, find out their specific needs, which bodes well for your own learning of your customer base as well as being able to help convert them.
As a SaaS-y fanatic, 30 days is the perfect mark. 30 days has a way of saying, “we’re not stingy, take your time to enjoy our service, which we know you will. Plus, if the product is really good, customers rarely wait for the trial to finish before they purchase it.
We’ve also noticed that consumers prefer trials without adding a payment info. I know lots of buyers who never went through a SaaS trial to experience it because they didn’t want to be forced to add their credit card.
Head of Marketing at Nifty
When considering the length of a trial, my recommendation is to ask yourself these most important questions:
1. What is the time it takes for a trial user to understand the product benefits?
2. Can the user evaluate if our product is a good fit for them from the features accessible in the free trial?
3. How will the trial length affect our sales cycle?
After you understand these three key points, I recommend moving into an action plan to create a complete trial strategy.
Let me give an example with our product, Nifty.
Even though our trial length is 14 days long, It takes about 35 days on average for a trial to convert into an active paying customer, and more than 70% of our conversions happen after the trial ends.
Our biggest mistake was stopping sending transactional emails on day 14. We kept on sending newsletters and product updates but it was obvious that our ex-trial users didn’t see the benefit of those emails.
What did we do to improve the Average Sales Cycle length?
We concluded we need to continue sending emails after the trial email sequence ends, and these emails need to be more transactionally focused.
When we added two additional email sequences per week on week three and week four we saw a 20% improvement of the average sales cycle over the previous period.
Author of SaaS Email Marketing Handbook
In my opinion, the ideal trial length isn’t a set number. The ideal length is determined by a lot of variables.
For example, if it takes your users 5 minutes with your product to achieve the results they desire, not having a (free) trial is okay. Ahrefs is a great example of this. They have a “$7 for 7 days” trial because they have a lot of users with an “I want just a quick report that will keep me busy for 3 months” need. Normally, people would sign up for the trial, get their report, and cancel before the trial period is over. Ahrefs is avoiding that by not having a free trial.
On the other hand, if you can’t influence when your product will have a positive impact on your users, you should have a free trial. An example of such a product is PPCProtect.com which provides fraud prevention for Google Adwords. After a user has set up PPCProtect it takes an indeterminate amount of time before enough fraudulent clicks occur for PPCProtect to justify their monthly price. In that case, you want to give yourself at least 14 days to show your users the value of your app.
This scenario serves well to highlight another factor in determining the ideal trial length: A shorter trial keeps the momentum going. PPCProtect could go with a 28-day trial but that leads to a high percentage of users to sign up without completing the onboarding. There is no time pressure and users will drop off as a consequence.
Another example of this is when the new owner of HitTail at that time reduced trial length first from 30 to 21 days and then down to 14 days. Every time he shortened the trial he saw no drop in trial signup rates but an increase in trial-to-paid conversion rates. If you’re interested in this, there’s an excellent conference talk by the owner available on Youtube.
At the end of the day, you have to find a balance between a trial that is long enough to properly onboard your customers and short enough to keep them moving forward.