Free Or Low Cost Trial Periods?

In Internet marketing it’s common use to give away free trials.
This marketing strategy is often used in conjunction with membership sites. You can get a free trial period to check out what the membership is all about and then have to decide whether or not to continue your membership for a periodic fee.
Aweber is an outstanding example of this free trial marketing strategy.

The software industry uses the same free trial method. You can download the software package, sometimes in a limited version, and try it for a certain time period, after which the package becomes inactive unless you buy it.

Photo Credit: Thowra_uk

But let me ask you this question:

How many of the free trial software packages did you really test?
And how many free trial memberships that you’ve signed up to, did you really try out?

I bet there aren’t many.

That is the result of the human behavior. We always want to sign up for every opportunity we see that is of the slightest interest to us, without really asking ourselves if we really NEED it.
People sign up (and buy for that matter) for things they WANT, but may not NEED.

And we only use a paid membership or software package if we really NEED it!

What we are doing by giving away free trials is postpone the difficult burden of making a decision to buy. Therefore, by using free trials, you will end up with tons of prospects who never wanted to buy in the first place.

A better approach may be to offer a low cost trial period, using an offer that is so interesting that you’re prospects can’t resist. While at the same time you have them make that difficult decision to pay upfront, however small the fee may be.

This will definitely result in less free subscriptions, but those who do take the trial period, are really interested in your product. And they’ve already made this difficult decision! In other words, you just qualified your subscribers.

My friend Willie Crawford experimented with this. Willie owns a private label version of an awesome shopping cart system at and for a long time he offered a free 30-day trial period.

Now he offers the same time period for only $3.95. That is a real bargain IF you want to try out a shopping cart with build in multiple autoresponders, affiliate program and tracking software.

Willie reports higher conversions. He says:

My suspicion is that if they pay ANYTHING for a trial, that makes them feel like they’re wasting their money if they don’t use the account, and that’s what accounts for the increased conversions.
Once they get clients/subscribers into the shopping cart or autoresponder database, there is a pressure to keep using the system.

Food for thought!

Whether using free or low cost trials, decent follow up is of the utmost importance. Without a follow up strategy in place, in my opinion free trials are useless. You SHOULD point them to specific places or features that they should try out and you must tell them HOW to use these special features.

Therefore, your follow up serieis must educate the free trial prospects so they learn to use all the features in a short period of time and experience the benefits.
Once you get them to feel these benefits, chances are they’re sold.

Whenever using either free trials or the super low cost entry period, make sure that it’s always clear to the client what they have to pay after the initial period is over. Otherwise, you will end up with dissatisfied customers.

You should experiment with both options and see what works best.

Personally, I’m very curious about the results of such experiments and would really appreciate it if you would share them here.
Post your comments below.

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4 thoughts on “Free Or Low Cost Trial Periods?

  1. Mark McCullagh says:

    Good point Case. With a free offer, often there is no incentive to really give it a go, unless, like you say, you really need it.

    At least charging a small fee builds some incentive, and provides a cash flow to offset ad costs, kind of like a funded proposal.

    What you have to be careful with these days with free trials is continuity programs. Make sure you carefully read the sales letter to make sure that you aren’t opting in for a monthly membership that begins i.e. 30 days after the “free” trial.

  2. Willie Crawford says:

    Excellent post.

    In my testings… including my shopping
    cart system, a low cost trial consistently
    out-pulls a free trial.

    The key IS to get them to actually
    start using it, and with even a small
    investment, as Dan Kennedy says, “They
    have more skin in the game.”


  3. Doug Hudiburg says:

    Fantastic blog post Case!
    For me, hands down, low-cost trials are much better than free ones.
    A lot of it has to do with the psychology of trust.
    If someone has paid me for something — no matter how small the payment — and *if* I deliver at or above expectations, there is a huge leap in trust.
    Charging for the trial, also qualifies the prospect much deeper, so they are likely to convert much better by nature.

  4. Internet Marketing Firm says:

    I usually take free trial first before buying a software. If I found out the software is credible and accurate then I will buy it.

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