The desire to try something before committing to it. It’s a natural human craving.
Applying this psychological approach worked well for a data service company, and the case even got featured on Forbes.
They used 2 methods to get customers — live sales presentations vs. free trial. Between the two, the no-obligation test drive (free trial) worked better. With a free trial, prospects started to convert at a significantly higher rate overnight.
Providing a free trial is an effective sales strategy, especially if you’re marketing an intangible product or service. Think about software, games, and in the case above, analytics.
If you’re a SaaS offering a free trial, how do you ensure your free trial is effective?
In this blog post, we’ll discuss 28 SaaS free trial best practices you can adapt and test immediately to skyrocket your trial conversion rate in 2023 and beyond.
The best types of SaaS to have a free trial
Before that, we have to verify if the free trial approach fits your specific SaaS product.
Generally speaking, free trials work best for SaaS products that are easy to set up and use, with a low learning curve.
Sophisticated products that are complicated to set up might not benefit as much since their users won’t be able to fully use the product right off the bat.
To back this up, here are pertinent statistics and benchmarks from the 2022 Product Benchmarks Report from Openview. Note that in this report, they collectively refer to freemium and free-trial companies as Product Led Growth (PLG).
Free trials have a superior conversion rate of 17% vs. freemium and PLG products, which are only 5% and 4%, respectively.
Adding in the visit-to-signup rate, you must communicate throughout the free trial process to make your users stay, as 60% of users sign up for your product but never return to it again.
Tip: To boost your activation rate, you can use a tool like Encharge — a marketing automation platform that lets you deliver value faster with behavior-based emails during the free trial.
The tips in this post follow Openview’s PLG new user journey:
We divided our list of SaaS free trial best practices into 6 areas:
- Before the trial
- During sign up
- During the trial
- Trial is ending
- After the trial
Without further ado, here’s the list of SaaS free trial best practices — to increase your conversions before, during, and after the free trial.
BEFORE THE TRIAL
1. Communicate your app’s value early on.
Getting your app’s value across early is key to promoting your free trial. This starts by drawing in the right people to your website.
The most effective way to demonstrate you understand your audience is to use their language across your copy. You should tailor your messaging according to different user personas or use cases.
For example, Avokaado have a designated landing page outlining particular use cases their target customers can relate to. Moreover, they use the jargon of their audience, like “bulk amendments”, “contracting process”, etc., to filter out unqualified users and attract the right trials.
2. Be strategic in your user-targeting efforts
Another practice that comes from a good understanding of your Ideal Client Profile (ICP) is to be strategic in your user-targeting efforts.
Understand your sales funnel and what channels your trials come from.
Focus on targeting based on your ICP, the personas, or the user segments that are the best fit for your app. You can do this through targeted ads like Asana below. Or you can pick profitable marketing channels to invest in and segment your cold email campaigns.
3. Keep signup super simple.
Simplicity is a must when it comes to your signup.
You don’t want to frustrate potential customers with an unnecessarily complex signup process (except if that’s what you’re going for).
Krittin of Writecream shares this advice:
“Simplifying the registration process can encourage more users to sign up for a free trial. Make sure that the sign-up form is easy to navigate, the fields are not overwhelming, and users can complete the process in just a few clicks.”
If a free trial process is long, complicated, or requires too much information from users, they may stop halfway. They might feel it’s just too much work.
However, there’s a catch.
If you make it too easy, you will end up with many unqualified trials that will add no value to your business.
To strike a balance, don’t be afraid to add a bit of friction to your process, as this can help weed out those who may not be the right fit for your product.
And sometimes, just asking for a work email does the trick.
4. Add social proof to keep them going
Personally, I love knowing I’m not the only one trying a product.
Don’t be shy about highlighting positive reviews or customer success stories during your signup process.
With social proof on your signup page, you’ll help build trust with potential users and show skeptical users your product is the real deal. It’s like providing them another nudge to complete signing up.
5. Segment users for personalized onboarding.
You can’t ignore the power of personalization in your free trial strategy.
Onboarding your new customers should be personalized for maximum value during your free trial. Identifying the needs and goals of each user should lead to segmenting them accordingly.
During signup, you can ask your potential customers their goals, priorities, and job roles to understand their motivations. Pipedrive asks for the role, current sales tool, and task priorities.
With this information, you can tailor your messaging and your whole onboarding to push for more conversions.
Nazmul of AIBuster shares:
“Providing personalized onboarding experiences for the trial users can significantly improve their engagement and understanding of the product. This includes offering guidance on how to use the product, giving them a personalized tour of the platform, and offering relevant resources to help them get started.”
6. Make the trial timeline clear
Let’s get real. When signing up for a free trial, nobody wants to be misled, especially when it comes to credit card charges.
Clearly outlining the timeline of the trial like Rize.io, including when and if the credit card will be charged, is a SaaS free trial best practice that shows your transparency. This builds your audience’s trust.
This simple illustration gives them a clear understanding of what they are getting into before they begin the trial.
DURING THE TRIAL
7. Demonstrate value as soon as possible.
During that trial period, you need to show the value of your product to the customer immediately. If you can make them experience it, even better!
One way to do this is through demo content showing them exactly how your product works and how it can benefit them in their daily tasks.
Dovetail has sample data that new users can easily use. Similarly, you can provide pre-filled templates and sample workflows that may serve as the user’s starting point so they can quickly get started.
8. Showcase what’s possible for your customers.
Don’t assume your potential customers know exactly how to use your product or how it can benefit them.
Instead, guide them through the process and highlight the key features that will solve their pain points. Trial users will feel more excited and interested when this happens.
Consider showcasing what’s possible with your product by giving your trial users a helpful checklist, a comprehensive roadmap, or an interactive demo to put your product’s powerful features on full display.
We all benefit from guidance, direction, and a little hype, especially when we are trying out something new for the first time.
9. Continuously tell them what to do next.
Rather than leaving free trial users to figure out things on their own, use behavior-based emails or in-app messages to guide them through the onboarding.
Not only does this help your users get the most out of your product, but it also shows them that you’re invested in their success.
Use automated emails, in-app messages, and guided product tours to show users what to do next.
Salesforce does this with hotspots, letting the users know exactly where to click to do important stuff.
Here’s the catch. Only send relevant messages, or else you’ll irritate users.
When it comes to emails, the average conversion rate for custom-sent behavior-based emails is 24%. That’s 8x more effective than sending time-based emails to everyone. You want to use a marketing automation tool like Encharge that supports behavior-based emails (also known as triggered emails or action-based emails). With Encharge, you can send targeted emails when people do or don’t do something with your product, so you’re sure that your extra help is relevant and NOT annoying.
Further reading: Time-based Vs. Action-based Onboarding Emails. Can they work together?
10. Design your onboarding to deliver small, quick wins.
Instead of overwhelming your users with a lengthy onboarding process with chunky how-to’s and dozens of links inside the welcome email, do this instead:
Break your onboarding down into bite-sized tasks your users can easily accomplish. This will help build momentum and create a sense of accomplishment for your users.
Metamask does it well with encouraging reward emails with ta-da emojis:
Designing your onboarding to reward users helps them experience the value of your product quickly and builds their confidence in using it. This minimizes the risk of investing in your app and makes users feel good about themselves, prompting them to take their credit cards out and upgrade.
11. Sustain interest through gamification.
People love a good challenge.
Keep potential customers hooked during the entire trial by using gamification. By incorporating elements like progress bars, badges, and rewards, you can turn your trial into a fun and engaging experience.
That’s because our brains release dopamine when we complete a task or move forward.
HubSpot does this with the progress bar:
Another essential component to remember is the power of reward emails, as we already mentioned. Personalized messages that acknowledge the user’s progress highlight the value of your SaaS. Offering additional incentives when users are on a streak is another surefire way to keep them returning for more.
12. Support with tutorials, help articles, and success materials.
How can you ensure those users get the most out of your trial?
Simple. Provide support throughout the trial period. Fill that knowledge gap! If they know what to do but don’t know how to do it, they’ll give up and not move forward.
Make sure you have tutorials, help articles, and success gaps materials. These are designed to help users fully understand your product and resolve issues quickly.
By taking the time to offer these resources, you’re not only demonstrating the value of your software, but you’re also creating a more positive experience for your trial users.
13. Track user behavior to personalize support.
Nowadays, offering a trial isn’t enough. You need to be proactive in understanding how users engage with your product during the trial.
An excellent way to do this is to track user behavior. Use analytics tools that capture data on how users are using your app. Like Usermaven:
Waqar Azeem shares,
“We tracked our onboarding with Usermaven analytics to find the points of friction and measure how many users actually reach the activation point. We removed or optimized the steps that had the most drop-off and made our onboarding process simple with fewer steps to improve activation rate.”
Do this and spot patterns and trends in user behavior that’ll inform your support, onboarding, and even outreach efforts.
14. Proactively offer support to get users unstuck.
During a free trial, there will always be users who will struggle with the app and those with new questions about using certain features.
Whether that means reaching out with a helpful tip, responding to an urgent question, or just checking in to see how things are going, your users will appreciate the support. Zendesk has this nailed down.
Don’t wait for the user to come to you with questions, reach out and offer your help. It’ll go a long way in building a loyal user base.
WHEN THE TRIAL ENDS
15. Give incentives to upgrade.
At this point, the user has already experienced the value of your product and might be considering upgrading. But like all ordinary people, they’re busy with the 100s of things on their to-do lists. Your app might be at the bottom of the list.
A time-sensitive incentive that sweetens the deal is a nice way to make people upgrade sooner.
Whether it’s a discount on their first month’s subscription or some exclusive features, offering something extra will encourage users to become subscribers.
16. Check in with inactive users to see what’s the blocker.
Don’t be disheartened by the increasing number of inactive users. Remember that they are not completely lost, as you can always reach out to them.
Ask them what’s keeping them stuck before they lose access to the trial. A check-in is a small step that can yield big insights. Asking so will reveal the roadblocks and obstacles keeping potential customers from converting.
Further reading: How Successful SaaS Companies Use Nudge Emails
17. Remind them of what they’re losing after the trial.
Don’t leave it up to chance when it comes to converting your trial users into paying customers.
Work on it. Remind your users what they’ll miss out on if they don’t subscribe. If it’s access to exclusive features or anything else, convey the value they’ll lose.
This can be done through targeted emails, surveys, or in-app messages highlighting the specific features they can no longer access.
Further reading: The Most Effective Trial Expiration Email Templates You Can Steal Today
AFTER THE TRIAL
18. Offer to extend the trial
The act of extending the trial gives you additional benefits.
After familiarizing themselves with your product, some potential customers are hooked but may have become too preoccupied to consider subscribing.
By extending their trial, you allow them to explore all the benefits of your software without feeling pressured. This is also an opportunity to start a new conversation with hot leads.
19. Collect feedback.
Don’t be afraid to ask for honest opinions from those who have taken advantage of your free trial — whether they’ve decided to stick with your service or not.
Good or bad, their thoughts and opinions can help you shape the future of your product. Learn what’s working well and what needs improvement.
Include a way for users to share feedback. You can use survey forms to make the collection easy or send a feedback email.
20. Nurture those who didn’t upgrade.
Don’t let potential users get away because they didn’t upgrade during the trial. Nurture them!
Follow up with personalized emails and continuously show them the value of your product so you stay on top of their mind and give them reasons to remember you when they need you.
Look! My RedTrack trial ended in 2021:
But a year later and I still get Redtrack’s product updates:
SCALE AND OPTIMIZE
21. Adjust the trial length.
Perhaps it’s too short, and users don’t have enough time to explore your product fully. Or maybe it’s too long, and people are losing interest even before the trial ends.
Consider the complexity of your offering and the time it takes for users to achieve meaningful results. Be proactive and tweak your trial length as needed. Keep testing until you find what works best for our own unique service.
“Make sure the trial period is an appropriate length. This helps ensure that users have sufficient time to get acquainted with the product and make an informed decision, while also preventing them from abusing the trial period and wasting the company’s resources.”Kal Dimitrov, Enhancv
22. Play with pricing.
Finding the perfect balance of features, pricing, and duration that will entice users to convert into paying customers can be a tough nut to crack.
Consider experimenting with different pricing options to find the price point that appeals to your target audience.
Consider offering different plans at different price points. For example, you could offer a basic plan with limited features at a lower price point, a mid-tier plan with more features, and a premium plan with everything.
23. Engineer paid plans to encourage upgrades.
You need to constantly analyze your conversion rates and see where you can make changes to improve them. And don’t forget to engineer your paid plans to encourage upgrades.
Be intentional with your paid features, and make sure your customers know what they’re getting for their money.
Offer a range of plans that provide different levels of functionality and value, with the most compelling features included in higher-priced plans.
24. Tweak UX to improve onboarding.
To maximize the benefits of your free trial, it’s essential to continuously optimize and fine-tune the trial experience. For instance, examine your onboarding flow to ensure it creates a seamless first impression.
Even if it’s simplifying your sign-up form or offering personalized onboarding tours, every little improvement can make a big difference.
Your trial should be engaging, intuitive, and hassle-free, so put yourself in your customer’s shoes and design the ultimate SaaS journey.
25. Use copy to influence user behavior.
Improving product messaging is among the 5 most popular tactics SaaS experts use to convert free trial users.
Messaging can be an effective strategy for scaling your business, so it’s important not to overlook the importance of your copy. Changing the headline on your homepage can indirectly influence the benefits and features new users explore on your SaaS platform.
Day Dixon of Brandkandy focused on this, and they’ve seen improvement in their conversion numbers.
He adds, “Understanding our ideal customers’ pain points and needs allowed us to tailor our messaging and value proposition, leading to better conversion rates from trial to paid users.”
26. Form a team (product, marketing, and CS) to own onboarding.
Let’s not forget the importance of the people you put together to lead your company’s onboarding. A mix of product, marketing, sales, and customer success experts will ensure your onboarding process is cohesive and effective.
The onboarding A team is composed of:
- The product team is responsible for explaining the key features and functions of the software and may help in developing the in-app user guides or video tutorials.
- The marketing team creates messaging that highlights the value of the product. At the same time, they start building relationships with each user at scale with onboarding campaigns.
- The customer service team provides proactive support and resolves any issues during the trial.
- The sales team takes care of special accounts and carries on the relationship initially sparked by the marketing team.
As Wes Bush and Ramli John said, onboarding is a team sport.
27. Always optimize your onboarding process.
Getting people to sign up for your free trial is only half the battle.
The real challenge is keeping them engaged and interested in your product after they sign up — your onboarding process, the very first impression your potential customers will have of your product.
So, evaluate and reevaluate your onboarding process. Ensure that your onboarding flow, like messaging, visuals, and CTA, is the best it can be through A/B testing. When you test different versions of your onboarding process and measure their effectiveness, you can make sure that your free trial users have a positive experience with you.
28. Establish relationships, trust, and credibility.
Offering free trials is an opportunity to establish relationships, build trust, and gain credibility with potential customers. Here’s how this works:
- Free trials help you establish relationships with your prospects. When you show them that you care and are invested in their success, you’re actually setting the stage for a long-term relationship with the customer.
- Next, it builds trust. Being transparent about what they can expect from your product encourages people to trust you and sign up. Also, free trials prove that you believe in your product enough to let users try it out before committing to a purchase.
- Finally, it earns credibility. You can prove the credibility of your SaaS by offering a high-quality product that delivers on its promises during the trial period. Furthermore, you show that your product is reliable by offering excellent customer service and support throughout the trial period.
Boost SaaS free trials with these best practices.
You’ve worked hard on acquiring users. It’s just right that you’re always finding ways of making the most of your SaaS free trials. We hope you will be able to experiment with at least a few practices from the 28 best practices for SaaS free trials we have shared.
To significantly improve your conversion rates, identify the phase where most of your users drop off and focus on the tips in that area first. Pick from:
- Before the trial
- During sign up
- During the trial
- Trial is ending
- After the trial
When we surveyed 33 marketers on how they improved their free trial conversion rates, we found out that communicating with the users better is one of the most effective ways to increase your trial conversion rates.
If you’re still not doing it, then I suggest you do. It’s one tactic that has a BIG impact on conversions. Start with your email communication. Behavior-based emails convert better at 24% vs. 8% for time-based ones. With Encharge, you can streamline your onboarding process and deliver a personalized, interactive experience that leads to successful conversions. Try Encharge today!