What’s the Ideal SaaS Free Trial Length?

So, what’s the ideal Free Trial period is for SaaS and Web Apps?

As you can imagine, I get asked that a lot.

Sure, the 30-day Free Trial is common among B2B SaaS & Web App vendors, but there aren’t any rules.

And with everything from 14-day to 60-day (and longer) trials appearing frequently I understand why this the question persists.

So, the short answer to what the ideal Free Trial period is “there isn’t one, but…”

The longer answer – one that will actually help you make smart decisions with your SaaS Free Trial strategy – requires some setup and a going a little deeper into what Free Trials are really all about.

First, you need to understand that Free Trials – from the vendor standpoint – are not there for the user to evaluate the product.

Nope, Free Trials have one job and that is to create a customer.

A well-designed Free Trial strategy should create an efficient, scalable and cost-effective method of customer acquisition.

One of the key psychological elements of a Free Trial is its time-limited nature.

Paradoxically then, the quest for the mythical “ideal Free Trial length” is a red herring.

Look, when it comes to the length of a Free Trial, many people want to believe there is a magic number – 7, 14, 15, 30, 45, 60, 90; like playing the lottery – that when applied to their Free Trial will skyrocket conversions.

And of course the flipside of that way of thinking is that if the Free Trial isn’t converting customers, it must be the length that is the culprit.

But very rarely – never in my direct experience – does the length of the trial have a major impact on conversions.

From the customer side, if the trial is perceived to be too short, they might feel rushed and not get started.

Even worse, they might not sign-up in the first place.

So it can cause a problem in the Attention Phase of the Free Trial.

And there are examples of using shorter trial periods to position a product or a version as simple; like how Salesforce.com has a 7-day trial on their simple Contact Management product vs. a 30-day trial on their “Enterprise” product.

Salesforce.com Pricing Page

But without the immediate version differentiation or an “anchor” trial length for comparison against, a short trial length may actually do massive damage up front.

Now, from your standpoint as the vendor, you want to get them into the trial and convert’em ASAP.

Yes, ASAP!

That means not waiting until the end of the trial to convert, but leveraging the Free Trial experience, and using a strategic view of the Free Trial, as a way to accelerate customer acquisition!

In my experience, the average time from sign-up to conversion with a 30-Day Free Trial is… 31 days.

That’s because SaaS and Web App vendors like you simply don’t understand how to use a Free Trial to efficiently create customers.

You think Free Trials are for “evaluation” or that your product will sell itself once they get in there.

Let’em poke around and they’ll see just how awesome your app is, right?

So you just let people in and hope they convert when the trial is up.

Or you require a credit card up front and just bill them on day 31 (which has its own potential pitfalls).

Maybe you send an email reminding them that their trial is expiring soon and hope the user will be like “oh, yeah… my trial is expiring, I guess I better sign-up!”

Right… good luck with that.

Look, the ideal Free Trial length from the customer standpoint – what you use in your marketing – is one that gives the perception of being long enough to adequately evaluate the product and not feel rushed.

From your side – the vendor side – however, the ideal Free Trial length is as short as possible!

And to make it as short as possible, you really need to understand the true nature of a Free Trial, the four phases – Attention, Engagement, Investment, and Conversion, and know how to create and execute a strategy around your Free Trial.

Let’s Optimize your SaaS Marketing Funnel

For immediate consultation and advice on optimizing your Marketing Funnel and improving Free Trial conversions, schedule at least a 15-minute meeting with mevia Clarity. If you feel a more involved engagement is required for me to help you,email me with the specifics of your situation (as much detail as you’re comfortable giving) and we’ll setup a meeting to work through the particulars.

– Lincoln

About Lincoln Murphy

I am a Customer Success-driven Growth Consultant. I wrote the Customer Success book which you can buy at Amazon. If you need help growing your SaaS, request at least a 15-minute call with me via Clarity. Be sure to join my mailing list - I send awesome stuff to the list every week or so. Also, connect with me on LinkedIn or follow me on Twitter.

Comments

  1. Nice article. I’ve been trying to decide whether to change from 14 days to a 7 day trial. As you say most people just wait until the trial is over and then the subscription process begins.

    I find most new customer know if they are going to use my product after a couple of days but they’re obliviously not going to start a subscription until the trial comes to an end. As soon as they get to that a’ha moment chances are pretty good they are going to start a subscription.

    I would like to change to 7 days but don’t want to scare potential customers away. I guess it’s something that can be tested.

    -Matthew

    • Most people wait until a trial is over to start a subscription because they’ve never been asked to start the subscription before then.

      Reducing the trial length to get people to subscribe sooner is pretty much the exact opposite of what should typically be done.

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