The free trial is a way to bridge the trust gap. Sales and marketing actions can help or hurt that outcome.
The free trial is an essential go-to-market strategy, particularly for subscription-based services and SaaS solutions. But between the trial sign-up and the conversion to a paying customer, the business needs to earn the customer’s trust.
Businesses vary widely in how they approach and manage the free trial. Some require a credit card up front (an investment of trust), others don’t. Most fall into one of three categories:
- For some, the free trial is the end of the marketing funnel. At that point, the prospect is handed over to sales, which works to convert the trial customer to a paying customer.
- Other businesses count on the excellence of their solution to do the heavy lifting of conversion, and essentially leave trial customers on their own.
- In some businesses, marketing organizations collaborate with sales, support, and customer success teams to help customers find success quickly during the trial and to earn the customer’s trust.
This third approach is difficult, but it pays off in the long run if it builds trust into the relationship.
If you read the book Subscription Marketing or read my blogs here, you’ll know that this last approach is a variation on value nurturing – the set of practices by which marketing organizations nurture the experience of value in existing customers. For a description, download the free value chapter about value nurturing from the Subscription Marketing book site.
During the free trial period, lead nurturing becomes value nurturing. You can focus on selling and converting, or you can focus on building success and trust.
Rainmaker and Earned Trust
A few weeks ago I signed up for the Rainmaker Platform, to use as a new platform for my author website and blog. After providing a credit card, I began a two-week free trial started. Other consultants had referred me to Rainmaker, so I started from a position of trust.
Three days before the trial ended, the company sent an email reminding me that the trial was ending, and that my credit card would be charged. The email implicitly gave me the opportunity to cancel the trial if I wasn’t happy. It also included also included links to extensive training and resources.
How often does a company remind you when a free trial is ending, if it already has your credit card? Not often. By taking this simple action, Rainmaker earned my trust.
Beyond that email, the company did several other things right during the free trial period:
- Nobody called or tried to sell me during the trial.
- The company offered huge amount of training to help me achieve success during the trial. And the information was available in different formats, including written guides, webinars, videos, and guided tours.
- Support responded promptly to my question.
I expected good things from the people behind Copyblogger Media. The free trial delivered on those expectations and made me a fan.
Earned Trust Becomes Advocacy
Satisfied customers are more likely to become advocates.
Case in point: because I’m now a fan, I signed up as a Rainmaker affiliate. If you’re interested in Rainmaker, check out the Rainmaker training. Full disclosure, if you become a customer after following the link, I may benefit as an affiliate. But I wouldn’t recommend it unless I believed in it.
In a short period of time I traveled from prospect to customer to advocate, along a well-managed path.
If you have a free trial, are you
- Helping customers find success during the trial?
- Responding quickly to questions, without selling?
- Earning trust by giving people an opportunity to cancel before charging them?
By offering the opportunity to cancel, you may lose a few conversions in the short term, but end up with better retention, loyalty, and advocacy in the long run. That’s a trade-off worth making.