Little Things 17 - Free Trials

Welcome to this week’s edition of “Little Things”, a weekly blog series covering the small changes that you can make to improve marketing performance.

Last week’s topic was automate your emails.

This week’s tip:

Offer Free Trials

Offering free trials on products and services to potential customers has long been a successful marketing practice. Software companies have used this practice for years, and web services are taking advantage of the free trial as a means of signing up larger numbers of customers. One of the more famous free trial campaigns is AOL’s old free hours of internet usage that they would send out via CD’s in the mail. And to this day, many grocery stores feature free samples of food products that customers can try at the end of the aisle.

Why is this practice so popular? Because it works. It works on a number of levels.

First, it introduces people to a new product or service without any risk. To get customers to try something for the first time, you have to help them overcome their fears. One fear is getting ripped off. When they can try something for free, they can decide if they like it before they’re forced to pony up the cash.

Second, it gets people committed. If you think about the web services example, most free trials still require people to create an account and start interacting with the product. Once the free trial expires, many customers have already committed some time to the product, and will be more likely to continue their usage on some kind of payment plan.

Free trials won’t work for every kind of company. But don’t take the easy way out and reject the idea without giving it some serious thought. Even if your particular service does not lend itself to free trials, I’m sure you can find some creative ways to offer something for free to get people interested.

Here are some ideas to help get the creative juices flowing:

  1. Get people to sign up for your service by offering a first time buyer discount
  2. Require an email address in order to receive coupons
  3. Offer your first hour or two of consulting at no charge
  4. Delay billing to new customers for one month and allow them to return it within 30 days
  5. Offer a secondary product for free with purchase of the first product
  6. Create a liberal return policy that leaves the customer on the hook for 0% of the purchase