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The Problem with Most “Try it Free for 30 Days” Models

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We use lots of web products that have a paywall between the freemium and the premium. Naturally, those services try to push us free users down the funnel into converted paid users. That’s the name of this internet game, right? 

While there are a variety of tactics to facilitate this flow, email marketing is a big one. You’ve got a freemium users who’s expressed an interest in using at least part of your product. They’re likelihood of upgrading (aka, paying) for something is higher than that of a total non-user.

Enter the “try it free for 30 days!” email. Get a taste. Give it a spin. See what you’ve been missing out on. In theory, this makes total sense. However, most products that employ this tactic do so with one seemingly slight yet major flaw when it comes to the realms of trust and respect: the requirement of a credit card in order to activate the 30 day free trial. 

Why is this so fatal? Isn’t the point to get payment? 

Converting to paid is absolutely the point. But by telling the user that a credit card is needed in order just to try the paid version—which you’re giving away for 30 days—you’re activating a voice in the user’s head that says, “They’re just hoping that after 30 days I’ll forget.” (Whether or not that’s your intention only you know, but to the smart consumer, guards are always up.)

(Side note: It’d be interesting to see how many products that take this route issue a “You’re free trial’s going to expire and we’re going to charge you soon!” email. My gut says it’s a low percentage, but I could be wrong. )

Now let’s bring it back to trust and engagement. Imagine you offer the paid version of your product to a freemium user for 30 days without demanding a credit card. Communicated correctly, this builds affinity with the user. You’re not hoping they forget. And if you can stomach giving them 30 days free without forcing them all the way through the funnel, it can work. Think of it as a half-step. They’ll be more engaged and more likely to take you up on the offer. And ideally, more primed for conversion. 

So come Day 25, the user gets a “how do you like it?” email. That’s where you set the hook. (That’s also where the paid version of the product needs to smoke the freemium eliciting that, “I can never go back!” sentiment.) And at the very least (i.e., they don’t purchase), you avoided the negative sentiment that comes with the “credit card up front” tactic and its cousin, “Cha-ching! This schlep forgot that he gave us his CC number! Let the ‘he might not remember they’re happening’ monthly payments begin!”

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