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Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Power of Free Trials

Sunday, February 28, 2010

This week I was surfing the web looking at different types of offers and couldn't help but think about all of the different approaches to getting prospects further along in the purchase decision funnel. This is one of the most important areas that we, as marketers, can focus on.

One type of sales/marketing promotion that I'm seeing quite a bit of is the free trial. Online, the way this generally works is to offer a 7 day or 30 day free trial.  When signing up for the offer, you are asked to enter your credit card information. Upon trial expiration, you're charged the full amount for your product or service.

Many services are subscription based too, charging your credit card a recurring fee. Subscription sites are a great way deliver information and provide a great deal of value. These sites, and others like them, are using free trials to allow you to experience the product or offering. Those who continue on with the product or service are more loyal and better informed about what they are buying.

I know a number of Internet marketers who offer subscription based services and they claim a much higher level of engagement among customers and higher degree of satisfaction. The question I have to ask myself as a marketer is how I can apply this methodology (free trial) to my own products and services?

This week, think about the products you're marketing or selling. Is there a way to give your prospect a sample of what you offer? If you are offering an informational product, can you share the first chapter or first couple of pages ( I have with my book, SEO Made Simple)?  Can you offer a small sample of your physical product? If you are a retail store, can you construct product samples that would allow prospective customers to take something home and try it out for a short period - charging them if the item is not returned or returned late?

I realize that free trials aren't ideal for everyone or every product.  None-the-less, they force us rethink how we expose our prospects and services to our target market.  If free trials aren't viable for your business perhaps they can encourage you to rethink the payment model for your products or services.  Can users buy a basic service (sample) and then pay for the standard or platinum service?  What type of upgrades can you offer - adding features beyond an initial purchase.

By rethinking the value of a trial you can take your marketing to the next level.  The key is to experiment with different offers.  Measure how many prospects take you up on the initial offer and then the upsell or ongoing subscription.  It's important to focus on life time customer value, not just the initial purchase price.

Let me know if you're usin free trials and how successfuly they are for you!


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