Try before you buy: Why you should be offering free trials

While providing something for free seems to be a bad business model, if you do it right, it just might pay you back.
Written by Eunice Koo

Like most people, my favorite part about going to Costco is grabbing all the free samples. If anything, the first thing I zero in on is where the little stands are. Why? Because they’re free.

Not only that, but taking a sample is also alluring because it is a choice that rests entirely on the consumer. I don’t give up anything and I’m not gaining anything significant from it. So if I were to weigh the pros and cons of the average free sample, it would appear that my life before and after taking a sample will be pretty much the same. So what is the incentive in taking something that I have pre-determined will not dramatically change my life? Curiosity.

Curiosity killed the cat, but satisfaction brought it back. That is exactly what free samples play on.

With every business, you want your potential customers to be curious about you. What exactly do you do? What can you offer me? Will you solve a problem of mine? These are questions that all your potential customers should have when they encounter your product or service. If they are endlessly curious and never satisfied, you’ve lost a customer. But never fear, because free trials are here.

Free trials satisfy curiosities in a way that benefits both you and any potential customers. Obviously, for the customer, they get a chance to play around with what you offer and then decide if this is what they were looking for. For the seller, you get a chance to show off everything that you couldn’t on the website: great customer service, stellar options, and a fantastic product. You are telling your potential paying customers that not only are you so confident in your product or service that you are willing to give it away for free, but also that when the time comes to pay for it, they will be making the most informed decision possible.

Of course, despite the many advantages of free trials, there are some industries where a “trial” just isn’t going to work. For example, if you’re in the real estate business, a free trial isn’t going to make sense. Even so, the logic still applies: you want to make sure you are satisfying your clients’ curiosities. So unlimited house tours and maybe even a discount on administrative fees for the first purchase all work to incentivize potential customers to take that first step in getting answers to their questions.

But here are 4 big reasons why you should offer free trials whenever possible:

  1. You will reach a greater diversity of potential customers who may not have even known that they needed what you offer.

    People will try things if they’re free, even if they think they won’t like it. If you asked me to buy a package of (non-existent) George’s Chocolate Turnip Pies, I’d say no immediately because that sounds terrible. However, if I was offered a free chocolate turnip pie, sure, I’ll take a bite. And then maybe discover that I love chocolate turnip pies. So what you have done by offering a free trial is converted someone who is not in your target market into a customer.

  2. Potential customers will know exactly what to expect from you moving forward.

    By not providing a trial for your product/service, you are expecting your potential customers to purchase something based on a perception of its value. While you can control what this perception is, there is no guarantee that in their eyes, you aren’t over or under-promising. Misinterpretations happen, and if you were to go into every single nitty-gritty detail, your website or flier becomes cluttered with unnecessary text. So why not save yourself the trouble by just giving everyone a free trial? That way, they can find out for themselves what exactly they can take from the product/service and what you can offer.

  3. If your competition does not offer free trials, this could be a competitive differentiator. And if they do and you don’t, you’re at a disadvantage.

    In a sample of 63 web-based companies, GetSocial found that 93% offer a free trial. If you’re one of the 7%, you are automatically at a disadvantage. While there are times where being different from the norm has value, when it comes to offering more to your customers, you don’t want to be one of the few falling behind. And if you are in an industry where free trials are unheard of, why not be the trendsetter? Any kind of service can have a free trial period (I’ve even signed up for a free trial of a mattress-cleaning service once!) but it’s up to you to decide whether or not you want to take the plunge.

  4. You will know who exactly to focus your attention on.

    The moment people start signing up for trials, your list of qualified leads will start to lengthen. You can then start following up with them and even begin a drip campaign to show them how they can make the best use of the trial. Nurturing these leads will make sure you are putting your best effort into converting more of them into paying customers. And isn’t that what we want?


Therefore, because not only are you widening your customer base, but also creating more loyal users by offering free trials, you will ultimately have more paying customers in the long run. In fact, just adding a ‘Free Trial’ button on your website will increase sign up rates by up to 158%, and boost click rates by almost 47%. So why not give free trials a shot? After all, you’re probably already a little curious about how free trials will work for your business!

Looking for more posts like this? Check out these other articles from our blog:

Posted on Nov 9, 2015
Filed under Small Business Tips
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