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With the growing number of SaaS solutions available to consumers in 2022, it’s only natural that brands will have to fight harder for user attention. Today we are going to discuss 6 proven ways to create a free trial that converts.

The latest Unbounce Conversion Benchmark Report shows that in 2021, the median conversion rate for SaaS businesses fell to 3.0% (compared to 3.3% measured the year before). And while this may not seem like a huge deal, it does attest to a very important point: getting users to spend money on SaaS is growing in difficulty.

Conversion Rates By Report Year Chart. 6 Proven Ways To Create A Free Trial.

Fortunately, businesses can still ensure high success rates by focusing on high-value methods for generating leads and nurturing them into return customers. One of those methods is to create a high-converting free trial strategy.

But what conversion rates should you be aiming for with your free trial in the first place? And what are the proven ways to increase conversions while keeping marketing costs at the lowest level possible? This article will answer these questions and provide a few stellar examples of SaaS brands that have nailed their free trial marketing.

How To Determine Target Conversion Rates For Free Trials

There’s one essential thing you have to decide before getting started with implementing any conversion-boosting strategy to your free trial. You have to determine what your target conversion rate should be in the first place.

Online, you’ll find target free trial conversion rate benchmarks that might seem mind-boggling.

For example, one oft-quoted resource states that the benchmarks for free trials should be:

  • 25% for opt-in free trials.
  • 60% for opt-out free trials.
  • Low single-digit conversion rates for freemium models.

But here’s the deal. This resource was published way back in 2015 (more than five years ago). And data suggests that the SaaS industry has grown 500% since that time. So, adhering to benchmarks set in 2016 probably won’t cut it for most businesses.

So, instead of trying to go from 2% to 25% or even 60% conversion rates, start small. See if you can achieve 10%, 20%, 50%, or 100% increases in how effectively you convert free trial users into paying customers.

The following tips should help you get there.

Include All Features In Your Free Trial

The point of giving consumers access to a free trial is to allow them to experience, first-hand, all the benefits offered by your software solution. 

And what better way for them to find value in your product’s features than to ensure they have access to all of them (at least for a limited time)?

Buffer does this well, as it starts off new app users with 14-day access to its Essentials plan. This plan includes all the benefits of the freemium model. But, it also expands them with extra social channels, added scheduled posts, customization options, analytics capabilities, and Google Analytics integrations. 

But the best part of Buffer’s free trial marketing strategy is that it doesn’t wait for new users to pull the trigger on trying the paid plan. It starts everyone off with the full set of features, then gently encourages them, during those two weeks, to continue using the premium features by delivering educational resources via a well-made onboarding email campaign.

Get started screen for buffer. 6 Proven Ways To Create A Free Trial.

Decide Whether An Opt-Out Free Trial Is Worth The Risk

When looking for ways to boost conversion on your free trial, you definitely have to consider that today’s consumers don’t want to take risks when making purchasing decisions. An average cart abandonment rate of almost 70% will testify to this.

But, you may find yourself wondering: how does this relate to free trials in the SaaS industry? Well, it’s simple.

Research from Totango has found a significant discrepancy in conversion rates between brands that utilize the opt-in payment model and those that choose the opt-out one. 

According to its 2012 study, opt-in models had a 10% visitor to free trial sign-up conversion rate, compared to a mere 2% for the opt-out methods. However, only 15% of the people from the first group became customers down the line. But, in the opt-out group, that number was much higher. In fact, it landed at 50%.

Now, looking at this data, you may think that going with the opt-out instead of the opt-in method may seem logical. But consider that opt-out retention falls to 60% after 90 days, compared to the 80% with opt-in models. That’s why widening the top of your funnel actually pays off more in the long run.

Conversions Comparison Chart from Totango. 6 Proven Ways To Create A Free Trial.

Of course, every brand is unique. So, before you choose a payment strategy, do your calculations and see what works with your goals and your marketing budget. 

Personalize Your Offer

According to McKinsey’s Next In Personalization 2021 Report, consumers expect brands to meet their needs more precisely than ever.

The study surveyed 1,000 US consumers. And, it found that as many as 71% of consumers expected personalization from brands. Moreover, 76% of people became frustrated when they didn’t receive it, and 78% repurchased and recommended brands depending on personalization.

Diagram from McKinsey & Company showing loyalty from personalized offers.

Now, there are creative ways to make personalization a part of your free trial marketing strategy. 

Apple, for example, does it by automatically including a 6-month free trial of its Apple Music service with eligible purchases of AirPods or HomePod Minis.

Get Apple Music for free screen. 6 Proven Ways To Create A Free Trial.

You can take Apple’s approach and make it your own. For example, you can offer SaaS free trials to the people who have downloaded one of your gated resources for the first time. 

Or, even better, you can do something along the lines of Affinda. This brand created a demo of their invoice extractor for visitors to use when they landed on a specific landing page of the site.

AI-Powered OCR Invoice extraction by Affinda. 6 Proven Ways To Create A Free Trial.

Market Your Trial Through The Right Channels

Where do today’s consumers go before making purchasing decisions? 

GWI’s research shows that 51% of Gen Zs and 48% of Millennials do product research through social networks. With this in mind, it’s not a bad idea to consider socials as the place to market your free trial.

Market Your Trial Through The Right Channels. 6 Proven Ways To Create A Free Trial.

Now, if you believe that socials aren’t the best marketing channel for your free trial ads, think again. Unbounce found that social media significantly outperformed paid search in driving conversions, with a 5.6% median conversion rate versus just 2.0%. 

However, the channel that seems to have won the crown is, not entirely unexpectedly, email. According to Unbounce, the median conversion rate for SaaS businesses through email was an astonishing 21%, making it the best distribution channel for you to explore.

Conversion Rate By Traffic Channel.

To get email leads to whom you can market your free trial, you will first have to build a winning lead generation strategy, like the one used by ClickUp.

ClickedUp University Welcome Screen.

Use Design To Appeal To Your Audience

As you look for ways to create a free trial sign-up page that converts, don’t forget that consumers often decide whether they trust a business based on aesthetic impressions. A 2007 study found that website credibility was directly proportional to the aesthetic treatment of the site’s content. With that in mind, you’ll want to do your absolute best to make your free trial sign-up pages visually stunning.

But how exactly can you do this without breaking the bank?

Well, first things first, learn about the best practices of using imagery on your site. When choosing visuals, ensure that they reflect your target audience’s priorities, that they look great on a variety of devices, that they’re accessible and interactive.

But, you can also look for ways to take your design to the next level. 

Try adding video to your landing pages, as you can see on Finli, for example. 

Explore Our Features

According to Wyzowl, 94% of marketers say video has helped them increase user understanding in 2021, and 86% have improved lead generation thanks to the format.

Marketers Who Have Increased User Understanding With Video

Another high-impact visual adjustment you can make on your site is to optimize your CTA button. To ensure that it’s successful at capturing leads, give your free trial CTA a prime position on your homepage, make it visually striking via color and contrast, and fine-tune the copy to speak to your target audience.

Check out how Dooly chooses to use hot pink for its free trial CTA, which stands out wonderfully on an already colorful page.

Dooly Home Screen

Build Trust & Practice Transparency

Finally, as you explore ways to create a free trial that converts, don’t forget that trust is essential for ensuring high conversion rates in 2022. After all, research shows that consumers heavily favor brands that put customers before profits. (And, apparently, 50% of consumers think that businesses aren’t doing too well in that regard).

So look for ways to build trust on your free trial landing pages.

You can go the standard route of using social proof on your site to prove that you’re an authority in your niche, as Twilio did. You can showcase mentions from trusted publications that testify to your product’s quality. Or showcase trust badges from third-party certification resources like G2.

Twilio Website screen

But, it’s also not a bad idea to look for ways to be more transparent about what your free trial includes (and doesn’t include). Audible, for example, has an excellent free trial page that gives in-depth information about every aspect of the service new customers might want to know about.

The page provides info about:

  • The duration of the trial.
  • The number of credits received by signing up.
  • Podcasts, audiobooks, guided wellness, and the rest of the Audible Plus Catalog.
  • What emails users can expect from the company.

Moreover, the page includes a dedicated FAQ section that goes into even more detail on the technical aspects of the service.

What You Get Or About Page

At first glance, this may seem like a lot of data for one landing page. However, the approach works, seeing that Audible dominates the digital audiobooks market, controlling as much as 90% of the market share in some places.

Final Thoughts

Creating a free trial that converts is never a straightforward process. Mainly because getting great results doesn’t just depend on your landing page design and marketing approach. In truth, achieving success will also depend on offering product features indispensable to your target audience. 

However, as you start looking for ways to increase your number of sign-ups, the tips shared in this article are bound to help. And, who knows. If you combine them with the right analytics and testing strategies, you may even reach that elusive 60% conversion rate that everyone is after.

We hope these 6 proven ways to create a free trial that converts and the examples we provided will help you in your endeavors.

About the Author

James McMinn

Senior Digital Strategist

James is a savvy digital marketing specialist with a Masters of Science in Internet Marketing. For the past fourteen years, he has been specializing in SEO, PPC & Marketing Strategy. He has a super sharp analytical mind and a finely tuned creative eye for marketing initiatives that optimize brands.

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