I’m going to start this one by stating the freaking obvious: customers like to try before they buy. Would you make a down payment on a brand new car without going for a test drive? Of course you wouldn’t. So why should your customers be expected to sign up for your product or service without taking it for a test run?
Of course, making a free trial available is only half the battle. The next step is getting your visitors to actually take advantage of it. Stick with me – we’re going to look at 15 growth hacking techniques that’ll help you to boost the number of visitors that opt to take up your free trial:
1. Simplify Your Pricing Structure
Don’t make your customers work to understand your pricing. It can be a huge turn-off if the customer’s unable to figure out whether they’ll need your $4.99 a month “entry-level” package, or the $200 a month “enterprise” package.
Groove found this out when they realized their customers were overwhelmed by their ultra-flexible pricing structure.
Despite believing their pricing structure (below) was a “breath of fresh air” compared to the competition, they were seeing a paltry 1.11% conversion rate.
In response, they spoke to their customers and asked what sort of pricing scheme would work for them. The overriding opinion was that “people wanted to pay for the number of support tickets they handled, not the number of agents on their team”.
The result was this new “straightforward, pay-as-you-go pricing.”
Can you guess what happened? It flopped too. Turns out, despite what they thought they wanted, customers were scared about the prospect of not knowing how much they would be paying to Groove from month-to-month. The page converted at just 1.17%.
In the end, they designed this:
One single price for every customer. This boosted their conversion rate to 4.15% and resulted in a 25% increase in revenue.
Key Takeaway: Your pricing can make or break whether a customer chooses to take up a free trial. Although there is no one-size-fits-all answer to product pricing, if in doubt, keep it simple.
2. Offer Incentivized Referrals
While we might like to think that our happy customers will tell everyone around them how great we are, in the real world, referrals are rarely offered so freely.
Instead, it’s often necessary to incentivize your customers in order to get that referral.
How do you do that? Cash incentives are the obvious choice, and for some brands, they might be the best choice.
In its early days, PayPal offered a cash referral scheme – a move that was pretty instrumental to its growth.
However, cash incentives have limitations. For one, you can’t (realistically) hand over the referral fee in exchange for a lead. Unless you want to do some serious damage to your bank balance, that lead needs to become a paying customer before you can settle the referral fee.
Thankfully, there are alternatives. Instead of cash, offer your existing customers a product upgrade in exchange for a lead (i.e. for each customer that signs up for a free trial).
Dropbox does this by offering additional storage space as a thank you to their customers for inviting their friends.
According to Dropbox’s founder and CEO Drew Houston, this strategy increased their signups by 60% and took them from 100,000 to 4,000,000 users in just 15 months.
Evernote does something similar, by which each referral earns the customer points that can be exchanged for access to Premium features.
Key Takeaway: Instead of cash, offer your existing customers a free product upgrade, or points towards one, as a thank you for each referral that successfully signs up for a free trial.
3. Reduce Friction By Allowing Users to Sign Up Without their Card Details
You don’t need to be an expert in growth hacking to figure out that the easier it is to take you up on a free trial – and the less commitment that’s asked of visitors – the higher your signup rate will be.
Research from customer engagement platform Totango confirmed this. They found that when they required visitors to enter their card details before starting a free trial, their visitor to free trial conversion rate was just 2%. When they removed this requirement, their conversion rate went up to 10% – that’s an increase of 400%.
If your sole goal is to increase free trial signups, then this is a must. However, I can’t stress enough that although this tactic will almost definitely see your visitor to free trial conversion rate increase, it will also, almost definitely, result in a decrease in your free trial to customer conversion rate.
Because asking for card details filters out those visitors that aren’t serious about your product and simply want to try it because it’s free. Consequently, this reduces the quality of your leads.
Totango’s study confirmed this hypothesis too. When visitors could take up a free trial without their card details, just 15% of free trial customers went on to take up a paid subscription. When card details were required, a massive 50% of free trials turned into paid subscriptions.
I think the overriding lesson here is that, when it comes to payment details, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Again, if your only concern is increasing free trial signups, making it as simple as possible for customers to get started is a no-brainer. Otherwise, always, always perform a split test to ensure the approach you take is the one that works best for you.
Key Takeaway: Reduce friction by allowing customers to take up a free trial without entering their card details.
4. Simplify Your Signup Form
Another potential cause of friction – not only with free trial signup forms, but with pretty much every single form ever – are forms that have too many damn fields.
This is ridiculously, and unnecessarily, intimidating:
However, would you believe me if I told you that having four (yep, just four) fields on a form could be hurting your conversions?
NeilPatel.com’s opt-in form used to have four fields:
He, understandably, thought that having four fields wouldn’t be dragging down his conversion rate because really, how long do four fields take to complete?
Well, being Neil Patel, he decided to test that theory. He removed the “revenue” field, leaving the form with just three fields.
The result? A 26% lift in conversions.
Key Takeaway: Make getting a free trial as simple and pain free as possible by shrinking your signup form down to the bare essentials.
5. Tempt Visitors with Special Offers
If the promise of free use of your product for a few weeks isn’t enough to coax customers through your doors, try offering an additional incentive in the form of a special offer.
This could mean…
“Sign up for a free trial today and if you like us, your first six months are half price!”
“One month free trial: First 100 users only!”
“For a limited time only: try our product for free – no credit card details needed!”
There are no hard and fast rules here – experiment by trialling different offers and when you find one that fits, mix it up and tempt new signups with slight variations of your most lucrative deal.
Key Takeaway: Experiment with different offers – try running each for a month at a time until you land on one that gets the results you’re after. That said, an offer isn’t an offer if you run it continuously – either be honest and let it run for a limited time only, or swap and change between different deals.
6. Move Your Free Trial CTAs to Your Homepage
Maybe you’re happy to offer a free trial, but you don’t want to make the option too obvious. I get that. You wouldn’t want to entice a visitor that’s ready to become a paying customer to sign up for free instead.
However, what if a handful of straight-to-paying customers are being acquired at the detriment of lots more potential paying customers?
It’s pretty simple really: if you want to boost your free trial signups, make the option to do that as clear as possible.
Email marketing platform GetResponse used to feel this way. They were concerned that adding a free trial button to their homepage might reduce the number of paying customers they acquired.
However, like all good marketing companies they decided to test this theory with an A/B split test.
Before the test their homepage looked like this (plenty of CTAs, but no mention of a free trial):
The test pitted that original page against a version with a clear “free trial” button:
By now, you’ve probably guessed that the results fell in favor of homepage number 2, but you’ll probably be surprised at just how well it performed.
Adding free trial buttons to their homepage increased the number of free GetResponse accounts by a massive 158.60%. Even more interesting was the fact that there was absolutely no drop in the number of paid accounts that were created through that page.
Today, GetResponse has gone one step further by actually removing the option to “Buy Now” from the homepage entirely:
Key Takeaway: Don’t hide your free trial option. Link to it from every page of your site, making sure to give the offer pride of place on your homepage.
7. Remove the Words “Free Trial” From Your CTAs
The company began by testing various permutations of “Free Trial”, such as “Sign-Up for Free Trial”. Then, they decided to try:
This was the phrase that resulted in an incredible 200% uplift in signups.
Why did it work so well?
Jason believes that “it’s because people are afraid if they click a link that says “Free Trial” then they’ll somehow automatically sign-up for something and be trapped. However, “See Plans and Pricing” encouraged them to explore, without the fear of commitment.”
Key Takeaway: Split test the text you use in your CTAs, including some versions from which you eliminate the words “Free Trial” entirely.
8. Include a Guarantee
Even when something is completely, 100% free, some consumers will still ask questions. They’ve probably heard the phrase “nothing in life is free” too many times, and consequently they believe it – point blank.
Well you know what? Sometimes things are in fact, completely free. You just have to convince your visitors of that.
This might mean:
- Reminding your customers that no card details are required (only if they’re not, of course)
- That you’ll never pass on their contact details.
- That trying out your product won’t subject them to a lifetime of follow up phone calls asking “if they’d like to give it another try.”
- That they’re not committing themselves to anything by signing up for a free trial.
Key Takeaway: Tackle a huge conversion killer by making it crystal clear that enrolling on a free trial is completely and 100% risk free.
9. Implement Pop-Up Forms
Pop-up forms are a controversial marketing tool. Customers tend to dislike them (70% of internet users said irrelevant pop-ups were the most annoying type of advertising), but it’s no secret that they work, meaning marketers tend to love them.
However, much of the hostility towards pop-ups stems from websites that use them aggressively and allow them to interfere with the user experience.
Thankfully, it doesn’t have to be that way. You can utilize pop ups in a manner that boosts conversions without negatively impacting your user experience.
The trick is to:
- Be relevant.
- Ensure the pop-up is easy to click away from.
- Take a hint – if a customer clicks away from your pop-up, keep repeat appearances to a minimum.
Still not convinced? Visual Website Optimizer added a pop-up to their homepage and saw a 50% increase in signups via the page.
Key Takeaway: Encourage signups with pop-up forms, just don’t be annoying!
10. Offer Extra Incentives
Regardless of what you want your customers to signup for – whether it’s a freebie, a free trial, or a paid subscription – offering an additional incentive can really help to boost your conversions.
This could be as simple as offering a free whitepaper or eBook, access to an exclusive email shot, or a one-to-one phone or email consultation.
It’s a classic strategy that’s by no means exclusive to the web.
Destroyer offered free socks with every purchase:
Amusement parks tempt visitors in with 2 for 1 (and other) offers:
As do fast food chains. Here’s an (expired) offer from Chipotle:
It’s all about enticing customers in by offering them better value for their money.
A great way to make your freebies even more appealing is to add a dollar value to them. QuickSprout did this with their free “Double Your Traffic in 30 Days” course and saw a 22% increase in email opt-ins as a result.
Key Takeaway: Encourage undecided visitors to take the plunge by offering them a little extra incentive in the form of a freebie.
11. Provide a Live Chat Service
If you’re not already offering a live chat service, you probably should be. For starters, customers kind of love it (of all methods of customer service it was found to have the highest satisfaction levels).
But, it’s not only an awesome customer service tool – live chat’s also great for up-selling, reducing returns, and of course, helping to increase your free trial signups.
It all comes down to communication. The easier it is for customers to ask questions, the greater the likelihood that when a query arises, they’ll actually ask you for help. This is far better than the alternative – leaving your site and going to a competitor.
What’s more, most live chat providers offer a page tracking service; use this properly and you’ll be able to track when customers are on the fence about your free trial, initiate the live chat yourself, and get the opportunity to encourage them to convert.
Key Takeaway: Open the lines of communication by offering a live chat service like LeadChat, then use page tracking to automate chat initiation and potentially “save” an on-the-fence customer.
12. Create Content that Makes Users Want to Take Action
What do you look for in a content idea? Are you trying to gain links? Drive traffic by increasing your search presence? Or do you want to turn your visitors into conversions?
Chances are, it’s a mix of all three. However, if your key goal is to boost your free trial signups, you need to be creating content that targets visitors at the optimum point of the sales funnel – namely, the point between knowing what they want to buy and deciding who they’re going to buy it from.
To do this, you need to establish what questions your target audience are asking at this stage, and create content that answers their queries.
This could entail:
- Using Google’s Keyword Planner
- Analyzing your site search data
- Using a tool like Answer The Public
- Asking them directly
Key Takeaway: Create blog content that targets visitors when they’re nearly ready to buy by writing posts that answer the questions your target audience typically have at this stage.
13. Split Test the Length of Your Trial
How long does your free trial last? Why does it last that long? If you haven’t executed tests to establish how different trial lengths affect your signup rates, you could be sitting on a very quick win.
Most trials last 14 or 30 days, with 30 days often seen as the “industry standard”. The result is that tons of companies are happily slapping a 30 day trial on their product and calling it a day, without ever testing how well it actually works for them.
Hubspot pitted a 7-day-trial against a 30-day-trial. For them, the 30-day-trial came out tops.
Growth hacking expert Lincoln Murphy further supported their results, saying: “30-days is a good trial length most of the time.”
They might all be right, and, consequently, if you’re currently offering a 14 or even a 7-day trial, you could see a boost to your signups simply by switching to a 30-day model.
That said, always perform your own tests. There are no guarantees that what works for Hubspot and other companies will work for you.
Key Takeaway: 30-day trials are generally seen as the industry standard. If you’re currently offering a trial that’s shorter than this, try pitting it against 30-day trial in a split test. However, if you’re already offering a 30-day trial, it can’t hurt to test a shorter trial out.
14. Social Proof the Heck Out Of Your Site
It’s human nature to observe the actions of others and allow their decisions to guide our own. If we see lots of people doing the same thing, we tend to assume that it’s the right thing to do (whether or not it actually is, of course).
It’s for this reason that social proof on a website is so, so important. Knowing they’re in good company could be the deciding factor that makes your visitors actually take up your free trial.
Thankfully, there are plenty of different ways to incorporate social proof into your site, including…
Key Takeaway: Reassure consumers that you’ve got a great product that plenty of their peers use with social signals like testimonials and social counters.
15. Go Barebones on Your Homepage
Lots of companies think they need to fit everything onto their homepage. The result is often messy, complicated, and confusing.
Some brands can get away with this. Do you remember when Amazon’s homepage looked less like this:
And more like this?
Sadly, we’re not all Amazon, and most of us need to think a little more carefully about the information we do – and don’t – include on our homepage.
The fact is that offering any more than the bare essentials can distract visitors from the task at hand and prevent them from doing the one thing we want them to do most of all – in this case, sign up for a free trial.
With that in mind, try stripping your homepage back. Include key links, reassurance factors, and social proof, but beyond that, simply include a clear call to action that tells your visitors precisely what you want them to do.
Key Takeaway: Design a super-simple homepage that tells your visitors exactly what you want them to do – and very little more.
Now, I’d love to hear from you. Take a minute to let me know what strategies you’ve tried out for increasing free trial signups – and how successful they’ve been – by leaving a comment below: