8 Steps to Design a Free Trial Marketing Strategy that Actually Converts

Oct 5, 2022
min read

When you launch a free trial, wouldn’t you love it if conversions were as easy as this:

When you launch a free trial,

Unfortunately, it isn’t that simple. 🙄

That’s why you need a free trial marketing strategy that attracts the right users to try your free trial and then gets them to convert.  

Sound complex?

Don’t fret.

It’s time to book your ride to the bank 💰, because we'll help you design a highly converting free trial marketing strategy. We’ll also introduce you to a tool that’ll unlock all insights you need to launch a successful free trial with a high conversion rate. 

We’ll also cover when free trial marketing works and when it doesn’t.

The Ultimate Guide to Designing a Successful Free Trial Marketing Strategy (Step-by-step)

The success of your free trial stands on how you market it. So let’s make a solid free trial marketing strategy!

Here’s the ultimate guide for it:

1. Attract Potential Users

You can’t have an audience without a show 🤷

Start with finding the right prospects for your free trial to show off your awesome product.

One way to do so is through quality content. 

For example, if your articles, knowledge bases, or social media posts are informative and address your readers’ challenges, they may view you as a subject matter expert and test your product.

Targeted ads are another (expensive) way to attract users.

Good news: Given that you’re advertising a free trial vs. something they’ve to pay for, these ads are more likely to convert.

Either way, you’ll have gathered an audience, so…

Attract Potential Users

2. Define the Details of your Free Trial

Don’t ask your target audience to take a leap of faith based on a few ads and videos. 

Give them ALL the information they need. 

Plan the following in advance:

A. Will you ask for credit card information at the start of the free trial period?

Yes? ✔️

Asking for credit card details make it easier for your customer to convert after the free trial as they’ve already submitted their payment details and will likely automatically be charged once the trial period ends.

However, some users may not want to share their credit card details, leading to lower total signups. 


This means you’ll need credit card information only when a free user converts to a paid customer or opts for a paid subscription. Your free trial signup process will be much easier, resulting in higher signups. 

However, many of these free trial users may churn out at the end of the free trial resulting in a lower conversion rate.

Easy come, easy go 🤷

So is it a yes to credit card data or no? 

Asking for credit card information works best for companies with high brand awareness or products with a competitive advantage. But ensure you look at the data from past years and what your competitors are doing to determine which is better for your specific product. 

B. What details will you ask for during trial signup? 

Don’t ask for their middle name, first pet, hopes, dreams, fears…😛

Nobody likes a full-blown interrogation.

The more information you ask for, the more signup resistance you create for your free trial.

It’s best to use a simple process with minimal friction—like progressive profiling (great for customer onboarding). 

What’s that?

It’s a technique of gradually collecting user data each time they interact with your product, keeping your forms short while still giving you a comprehensive picture of your customer over time. 

Before you know it, they’ll be sharing their dreams with you. 💖💨

C. How long will your trial period last? 

Most SaaS companies usually stick to 30 days. 

But did you know that most people make up their minds in just about 3 days?

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That’s why many companies now design a 14-day free trial period. 

You can decide the trial length based on the complexity of your product. 

A simple product is easy to figure out while something feature-loaded might need a longer free trial. 

Take into account your industry benchmarks before deciding. Check how long a SaaS free trial lasts for your competitors.

Whatever trial length you pick, don’t forget that it’s your only window to woo your Cinderella before the clock hits ‘free trial ends’! 

3. Send Welcome Emails

Did you know that welcome emails have the highest open rates?

Think about it! 🤔

Every time you sign up for something, you verify your sign-in via the welcome email.

It’s the first personalized point of customer contact, so make a lasting impression!

Here’s how to use a welcome email to boost your free trial conversion rate:

  • Tell users what to expect from your product
  • Share resources to help each new user get started with your product
  • Ask them why they signed up. It’ll help with your future free trial marketing strategy

Pro Tip: Be polite. Don’t hard sell your paid subscription here. 

Unless you want your potential customer to…

 Send Welcome Emails

4. Ace Your Email Marketing Plan

Don’t stop at the welcome to free trial email! 

People make critical decisions when checking their inboxes. 

Tap into that with an effective conversion email marketing campaign as part of your overall digital marketing strategy. 

Here’s everything you need to create an efficient email marketing plan:

A. Personalize Communication

So what if they’re still just on a free trial? 

Let every free user know that they’re on your mind 💭

Tailor the emails for them like they’re a gift 🎁.

Here are ways to personalize communication:

  • Use the customer’s name in all emails and get them signed by a real person—like your company’s founder.
  • Show users information based on their product usage. For example, highlight their least used features and explain how to use them to enhance their product and user experience.

Help them get the best of your free plan and keep them coming back for more!

B. Set a Clear Call to Action

Want your users to “upgrade,” “buy,” or “subscribe”? 

Create a call to action (CTA) to tell your users what you want them to do next. 

A good CTA:

  • Makes the benefits of taking action clear
  • Is short and precise
  • Encourages urgent action

Use your CTA in emails throughout their customer journey to motivate every free trial user to take the next step. 🚶🏽‍♀️

C. Segment Email Marketing List

No one likes being lumped in with the crowd. 

Your free trial users have distinct personalities: active, semi-active, and unengaged users. 

Segment them based on these criteria and craft unique campaigns addressing each of these user types.

Toplyne can give you insights into different user personas like promising users, new users, etc., so you can segment your email list and prioritize your prospective customers.

Here are some marketing approaches for different users: 

  • Inactive users: Create a win-back campaign where you can present an incentive to inactive users to give your product a proper shot and eventually result in a conversion.
  • Semi-active users: Focus on increasing product usage by introducing users to new features or showcasing newer use cases for existing features.
  • Active users: Help them become power users with advanced tips and push them to conversion.

5. Speed-Up the Aha Moment

The Aha moment (or activation) is when a user fully realizes the value of your product. 

A good free trial model fast-tracks this moment for their users resulting in customer success.

Here’s how to make users go Aha!:

  • Use in-app messages to ease customer onboarding and show your product’s value.
  • Create demos, walkthroughs, and webinars for new users to get them started.
  • Support new users with content such as case studies, in-depth guides, tutorials, and documentation so they can help themselves—letting live agents attend to the paid customer group.

6. Present Incentives

Even the best of us can’t resist a well-timed freebie. 🙈

  • Offer a new user a discount, 2-day free trial extension, etc., for sticking around or getting referrals.
  • Target users who aren’t very committed with a time-sensitive premium feature trial to help them fully understand your product.
  • Offer inactive users a trial extension or ask them for feedback in return for an incentive. This helps you reactivate the customer-client relationship, and you might even win back the potential customer!

7. Deploy Product Analytics to Prioritize Leads

How your users engage with your SaaS product during the free trial will set the tone for the rest of their journey. 

Do they download anything you offer?

Are they inactive on Fridays? 

Product usage data helps the marketing team recognize product-qualified leads. 

A product qualified lead (PQL) is someone who has experienced value from using your product due to a free trial.

PQL indicators include:

  • Logging in regularly
  • Downloading materials
  • Onboarding other team members
  • Opening emails
  • Specialized page visits
  • Asking questions about paid features

Tools like Toplyne easily integrate with your existing product analytics tools to provide usage data to help your marketing team determine your best leads. 

8. Communicate Urgency

“Your boots will soon be out of stock” 😱

“70% off just for today” 🤩

These are the kind of notifications you tend to take action on because…

Opportunity doesn`t know twice

That’s how brands communicate urgency: a tactic proven to improve conversion rate.

When you want to increase the trial conversion rate, instill urgency by:

  • Creating in-app messages reminding users of how long their free trial will last.
  • Sending “free trial ending” emails so users are aware that it’s almost decision time.
  • Triggering pop-up reminders and paid plan offers when they’re on your site.

However, remember, your efforts are wasted if you don’t know who to market to. 

Thankfully, there’s a solution to help pick out your every highly engaging free trial user from a distance.

Toplyne: From Free Trial Marketing to Conversions

Toplyne helps businesses with low and high brand awareness to monetize their product-led growth strategy to achieve what they came here to do: CONVERT!

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With Toplyne, you can easily spot and target audience comprising of all kinds of prospective customers ready for conversion, including:

  • Promising users: Potential buyers who engage well and have been active lately
  • Champion Users: Power users who show high levels of engagement, retain well, and derive value from existing product
  • New users: New users who were recently active but showed low engagement
  • Needs attention: Users with declining usage and indicating early signs of churn
  • Hibernating Users: Churned away users who didn't derive value from the product
  • About to sleep: Old-timers visiting your product once in a while and not finding any consistent value

You can study your total user base and its composition of different personas.

You can study your total user base and its composition of different personas.

Toplyne draws all of the SaaS product analytics from your existing marketing tools (Mixpanel, Amplitude, etc.) as well as sales workflow software (HubSpot, Salesforce) via integrations. 

All the insights in one place will help you examine active users with high and low conversion potential.

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Here are more things you can do with Toplyne:

  • Experiment with diverse conversion strategies to execute your Go-To-Market strategy. Choose from remarketing, sales-assist motions, automated messaging, and in-product nudges.
  • Design tailored experiences in-product to prompt users to invite more team members.
  • Prepare the sales team of your SaaS company with suitable information needed to make paid plan conversions.
  • Push self-serve conversions through in-product nudges (paywalls, chatbots, promos) or sales-assisted conversions.

Not sure if a free trial will work for you? Let’s find out!

When Does Free Trial Marketing Work and When Doesn’t It?

Free trial marketing is like matcha… it’s not everyone’s cup of tea 🍵. 

So let’s see when and for whom it works.

Situations when free trial marketing works:

  • When high customer acquisition costs are draining your budget, leaving you with an underfunded sales-led customer acquisition model.
    A company will eventually have to pass those costs to paying customers by increasing product pricing. 

Free trial marketing means you don’t have to pass on such high customer acquisition costs to paying customers because your product will market itself.

  • When the marketing department is great at distributing information but struggles with closing sales. Sometimes the only way to acquire a customer is to distribute the product, not product-related content.

Instances when free trial marketing doesn’t work:

  • It’s not great for complex products that require a longer time to fully get the user hooked.
  • If your new product is a niche product for a niche application. This means your total addressable market is small, and relationships can impact sales. In such cases, demo calls or personalized product tours work just fine.

Ready to Convert Free Trial Users?

No one ever said no to a free ice cream 🍨 taste test. 

And no one’s going to say to your product’s free trial. 😎

As long as they know what they’re in for during and (especially) after the free plan for trial is over.
Want to set the right tone with a free trial marketing strategy that drives conversions and promotes customer success?

Try Toplyne!
Spot the most engaged free trial users to push them to convert. Or observe what makes an active user go to sleep and reroute your free trial conversion strategy.

Sign up for Toplyne for free today to combine the powers of nuanced product analytics and targeted marketing to skyrocket your free trial conversion rate!

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