8 Tips to Retain Customers After the Free Trial

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Offering a free trial is traditionally a great way for a company to get its digital foot in the door with potential customers; however, all too often, companies miss the mark when it comes to actually retaining clients. Conversions are key to your bottom line, but does your company know how to transition to sales?

How can you ensure your customers will stick around after they take a peek at your product? Read on for eight tips on retaining customers after the free trial.

1. Require a Credit Card

8 Tips to Retain Customers After the Free Trial
Image via Flickr by Jorge Franganillo

Some users are lazy in cancelling a trial membership that automatically converts to paid, but that isn’t why you should require a credit card. The revenue you’ll receive from this stream is little at best and the numbers will hardly reflect your actual user-base. In fact, that’s the point of requiring a credit card. You want real users with real money to take a stab at your service – a credit card number is typically verifiable, which means your free-trial sign ups will be easier to track and analyze.

Actionable Tip: Pair an automatically converting membership with a clear money back guarantee. Make it easy for users to follow through and get their money back if, for instance, they continue on for one month paid, but still decide your service isn’t right.

2. Experiment with Trial Periods

8 Tips to Retain Customers After the Free Trial
Image via Flickr by IntelFreePress

To understand the appropriate amount of time it takes to turn users into paying customers, you must experiment with different trial periods. A 7, 14, or 30-day period may produce different rates of engagement. It’s up to you tryout each length of time for groups of users – your particular service and what’s offered will ultimately determine your company’s trial period sweet spot.

Actionable Tip: Let your users choose their own trial period without risk. In the same way you may offer different subscription options, consider providing three unique trial period points. Use this method for a limited time to obtain critical, honest user feedback about the right trial period for your product.

3. Forget the Trial Period Altogether

Sometimes it’s best to do away with the notion of a trial period. This strategy may seem contradictory to the topic at hand, but it’s really just a matter of semantics. Instead of offering a trial within a defined period, simply offer full-time, limited access. This type of model works extremely well for subscription-based services because it teases users into wanting more.

Actionable tip: Instead of a trial period, consider a “freemium” option that incrementally limits users. Often, users will get excited about using the product because the free version looks and acts like the real thing. Later, however, users understand the value of the service when they reach a limit.

4. Appreciate Your Diverse User-Base

8 Tips to Retain Customers After the Free Trial
Image via Flickr by Spiva Arts

In addition to experimenting with set trial periods, understand that a trial period is still restrictive to users. If a user requests more time to get to know your product, honor it and extend the trial. This personal touch shows users that they’re more than just a conversion data point. The individual customer experience is just as valuable as your overall user-base. Also, an individual customer experience plays a huge role in word of mouth marketing.

Actionable Tip: Reach out to your individual free trial users with a survey, but be sure to send it mid-trial to ensure you can accurately gauge whether or not the person requires additional attention prior to the end of the period.

5. Optimize Your Landing Page Content

Having a clear route for users to not only sign up for a trial, but cancel it, is crucial. Users want to trust in your service, and they’re unlikely to stick around if your most basic content is tough to navigate.

Actionable Tip: Test out variations of your trial sign up page landing content, and use the analytics to determine the associations between the trial page and the actual number of customers retained. Just like “freemium” versus a set trial period, conversions could be a simple matter of language – and your landing page could be speaking the wrong one.

6. Nudge Inactive Users

Have you ever tried to cancel a gym membership? You politely explain that you haven’t been to the gym in months, yet the manager takes this opportunity for a last ditch pitch to keep you around. However uncomfortable it makes you feel, it’s likely still ineffective. Had a gym employee nudged you throughout your inactive period, you may have been more likely to reengage.

Actionable Tip: Avoid the last minute hard sale. Instead, nudge inactive trial users to show them you’re invested in their experience. Send an automated email that notes their inactivity. In the email, offer resources to help get them going again.

7. Show Some Person(ality)

8 Tips to Retain Customers After the Free Trial
Image via Flickr by ukCWCS

There is a tendency toward automation when it comes to online services. While it is an important tactic in retention and keeping users engaged, nothing beats a personal touch.

Actionable Tip: Consider assigning account managers to trial users in the same way would for paying clients. Include the representative’s name and contact information on any correspondence to the user, even if it is automated.

8. Educate, Educate, Educate

We can’t stress this one enough. Educating customers should be your top priority. If your service is confusing, users aren’t likely to renew. Aside from enabling standard support for the duration of the free trial, consider offering weekly live webinars or how-to videos specifically geared toward first time users. The more resources you make available, the more likely users will find value in your service.

Actionable Tip: Instead of heavily advertising webinars or video content via email, which is likely to get lost in the average inbox, add tooltip help guides throughout your software or service. When users don’t have to leave the page to find an answer, they’re more likely to stay engaged.

What’s your biggest challenge when it comes to converting potential clients?

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By Jon Correll

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