Is offering Free Trial ‘Green’?


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When we talk of popular and effective ‘Call to Actions’, free trials have always, managed to make the list, in both the B2C and B2B industries.

Here are few questions and thoughts which are usually considered while offering “Free Trial” options on a corporate website –

– Placement effectiveness of ‘Free Trial’ call to action?

Free trial generally is the primary call to action and gets the top billing in terms of placement – above fold along with the key value proposition or image. Sometimes it is even repeated twice in a smaller print below the fold or on the top along with the login.

– Do ‘Free Trials’ give away too much?

Well, depends on the confidence you have in your product and how hands-on are the ‘researchers’ in your domain. Free trial remains most comprehensive form of evaluation for any product or offering.

– How much time is ideal for a ‘Free Trial’ offer – 1 week, 2 week or 1 month?

From a sales perspective, it always makes sense to offer the shortest time and then on an individual case to case basis, make exceptions where required.

– How to create a sense of urgency around ‘Free Trial’?

By indicating the free trial is available for a limited time in a subscript, one can create a sense of urgency around the call to action. You can also mention “No credit card data required” in the subscript which would emphasise – “no obligations for taking the trial”.

– Does it make sense to provide more Information around ‘Free Trial’ tabs?

Providing links to video, demo, tutorials or other resources may result in more click-through for these links as prospects would like to read more about the product & value proposition before engaging in a trial.

– Is providing dummy data in a sandbox better user experience than ‘Free Trial’?

Depends on whether your product produces data in a free trial which can show the prospects true value and new perspectives which they would find difficult to associate otherwise. If yes, then nothing can beat a free trial option.

Overall, offering free trials is a practical proposition and works wonders from a prospect’s perspective, for it is an opportunity to go beyond the marketing collateral and jargon and check if the product or service being marketed matches the claims made.

But it seems not all agree with this theory; recently an Atlanta-based marketing automation provider, wrote to one of our prospects that LeadForce1 is “green and immature to offer a free trial”.

As a B2B marketer, do you agree that offering free trials to prospects is a sign of being ‘green’?
If that was the case, would we see the biggest names ( Cisco, Salesforce, Webex, Autodesk cite some examples) in the industry to the latest entrants offering free trials for their products and services?

From my personal experience as a Marketing and Sales professional, I can say that, free trial is a great option for B2B companies, if data produced during the trial period highlights the value of the product and provides with a strong motivation to buy.

The free product trial experience goes a step further than making available dummy data in a sandbox environment, as it shows how valuable the product is in the prospect’s own environment, thus reinforcing the value proposition.

Why should you offer Free Trials

It is a universal rule followed by most customers around the world in any industry; they want to get the maximum returns for their investments, and what better way to let a customer know if a product/solution fits his requirement than let him test it in his own environment.

Free trials help a prospect gain familiarity with the product, its features; not just in a sandbox environment, but right in the production environment. If the prospect does not like something in the promo run, prospect can voice his opinion and feedback, which can find its way back to the vendor company, who may just be able to accommodate the suggestions in the paid version.

Since most B2B decisions are taken by a group of individuals, going with a certain vendor becomes easier if there is data to showcase the merits of the solution offered by them. Free trials help put together such convincing data.

Also, a free trial allows you to make your first contact with the buyer, it allows you to present your case and build a relationship with the decision makers, which can affect the final purchase decision.

When to offer Free Trials

Offering free trials of course depends on the kind of solution you offer and the time and resources required to put in practice the solution. Free trials are more an option for companies, whose solutions are cloud based or can be downloaded and used without much effort.

Also, only companies who believe in the strength of their solution and are confident about its value proposition should venture out with a free trial. You would not want a prospect to see through the mismatch in your marketing claims and real user experience.

Companies which opt for free trials do so because they are confident that their product is going to make a difference to their customers, who eventually, after the expiration of free trial phase are likely to buy the product because of the promise and value they see in it, after having tried it.

How to offer Free Trials

Just having a free trial lead bait on your website is not enough. Free trials are more successful, when you have a plan in place as to how you will ensure the client gets to experience and use your solution most effectively.

  • Ensure your free trial offer is visible and prominently displayed across your website.
  • There is no set rule when it comes to the timeline for a free trial, it can vary from a week to 3 months depending on the solution you offer. Decide on your trial offer period, by analyzing the time it would take for a prospect to truly understand and experience all features of your solution.
  • Provide clear instructions on how to download, install and use the solution. Your supporting marketing collateral should clearly highlight features the prospect should check out.
  • There should be a customer support available, which the prospect can approach to seek help and clarifications.
  • You should also take feedback from the prospect, once he completes 50% of his trial period. Advice him if required on how to optimize his user experience, if he missed on some aspects in the initial phase.
  • Once the trial period is over, connect with the prospect and find out about his user experience. Spend time finding out about his reservations if any, and try to convince him on how you will help him work around these issues.

Remember a prospect who opts for a trial is a sale-ready Lead and needs careful handling and Lead nurturing before he finally decides to close the deal.

Free trials are awesome as lead baits as they help build credibility and provide concrete proof, that the company’s marketing claims match the quality and content of its solution.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Shreesha Ramdas
Shreesha Ramdas is SVP and GM at Medallia. Previously he was CEO and Co-founder of Strikedeck. Prior to Strikedeck, Shreesha was GM of the Marketing Cloud at CallidusCloud, Co-founder at LeadFormix (acquired by CallidusCloud) & OuterJoin, and GM at Yodlee. Shreesha has led teams in sales and marketing at Catalytic Software, MW2 Consulting, and Tata. Shreesha also advises startups on marketing and growth hacking.


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