Get the Most Out of Your 2022 Free Trial Marketing Strategy

David Zeff

David Zeff

Founder and CEO of Whistle, with over 10 years of selling technology to hundreds of SMB and Enterprize companies across multiple sectors.


Table of Contents

Did you know that 49% of high-growth SaaS companies and 44% of lower-growth companies offer a free model as part of their marketing strategy (have a look here)? It is also true that not all free offerings are created equal and sadly most users opt to not stay with a brand once a free trial expires. This is why companies need a good marketing strategy.

According to this survey in which more than 300 SaaS professionals participated, a massive 80% of free trial users on average never convert to paid. If you’re facing this gap between signup and conversion, it may be time to review your free trial process.

Here at Whistle, we are a little obsessed with helping our customers get the most value out of their trial leads. To get an idea of what the standard PLG experience looks like, we tasked a few team members to sign up to various SaaS product free trials over the past few weeks. This is what we found:

  • Up to 30% of companies did not follow up within 24 hours of having signed up for free trials
  • 70% of the follow-up communication consisted of generic copy-and-paste style emails while only 30% of the companies reached out with a phone call
  • Several free trials provided very little or vague guidance after sign-up on how to use the product

If your free trial communication looks anything like the above, many valuable product qualified leads are slipping through your fingers. Which is why, at Whistle, we have used trial and error to find a marketing strategy that works.


Best Practices for Free Trial Process


Reaching out to new leads


Lead speed

Did you know that you are 21x more likely to qualify a lead when your response time is less than 30 minutes?

At Whistle we have a 5-minute SLA on new sign-ups. Strike while the iron is hot or risk losing your lead to the competition.


Welcome Mailers 

With welcome emails boasting an impressive 60% open rate and being 320% more effective than other promotional emails, including one in your free trial strategy is a no-brainer.  Keep in mind though, first impressions count. When you send a welcome email, you’re making a first impression on behalf of your brand. When it comes to messaging, our motto at Whistle is to keep it real:

  • Avoid generic noreply “from” email addresses so your new lead can engage with you
  • Add a subject line that is impossible to ignore
  • Ensure the email copy is sincere – no salesy content! Rather position your brand in a consultative role. Offer assistance with their pain points to help leads optimise their free trial
  • Include a useful and relevant resource like a how-to guide to help the lead get started


Make that call. Now.

If you have the lead’s contact number, follow up with a phone call. Studies have shown that contacting a new lead within five minutes or less increases your chance to connect 100x.


Importance of Customer Satisfaction 

Keeping the process simple is key – but not at the expense of customer satisfaction. In a world where the end-user is king, you need to create a seamless experience aimed at driving positive product engagement and customer referrals. Here are a few essentials to keep in mind:

  • Provide a fast and intuitive sign-up process 
  • Identify and include the most important features of your product in the free trial
  • Make it easy for the new user to understand how to use your product and offer a clear guide on how to reach the desired outcome
  • Speed up TTV (time to value): the lower the TTV, the more likely users are to return. Help users to achieve optimal value from the free trial in the shortest time possible. Time to value varies, of course, depending on the nature of the product or service offered.


Ongoing consultative support, for instance following up with the user a week after sign-up to hear if they require assistance with anything, is vital in optimizing customer experience during the free trial. Enable users to help themselves with a searchable resource base and effective communication channels. Live chat support is an excellent way to engage with customers and keep the bulk of touch points within the product to streamline communication and make it more convenient. 


Use Lead Usage Data to Prioritize Leads

As a PLG company, your product is the driving force from day one. How the lead uses the product  becomes the key component that determines how companies obtain and upsell leads. Based on how the lead interacts with the product, sales teams can continuously improve their efforts and prioritize leads.  

A few indicators that someone is a qualified lead include:

  • Logging in regularly
  • Downloading materials
  • Specialised page visits
  • Opening emails
  • Asking questions about paid features


Lead scoring based on user behaviour can also be based entirely on criteria determined by your sales team who may for instance score a lead higher if they match your ICP. If you’re selling a high end product, factors like company size and revenue may also be a consideration when prioritising leads.


Nurturing Leads

The goal of a free trial is to guide users to that moment they discover the value of your product and, ultimately, to convert them into paying customers. Following a well planned lead nurturing process throughout the free trial period is crucial to maintaining a connection and building trust with the lead until they are ready to make a purchase. 

  • After sign-up, make sure you know what pain points a new user is hoping to solve through your product
  • Tailor the nurturing process around the information you have gathered from the user during the sign-up and welcome phases, and based on behaviour – deliver the right content to the right person at the right point in their user journey
  • Run email campaigns that deliver value and are designed to prove your expertise in the given space
  • Remind them well in advance that the free trial is expiring. This is also a good opportunity to emphasize the benefits of upgrading to the premium version


Offer Incentives

Sometimes the only thing that stands between a free trial user and a conversion, is a well-timed proverbial carrot dangling in front of them. In fact, this survey shows that 75% of consumers feel more favourable towards a company that offers incentives.

For purposes of conversion, an incentive is something that adds value on top of the product or service already in use. These can take many shapes and sizes, including discounts if users upgrade to the paid version or even offering a trial extension to less active users. Ultimately it’s up to you to determine what works best both for your brand and for specific users. 


At Whistle we like the marketing strategy of personalizing incentives based on user behaviour. Research shows that 80% of consumers are more likely to become paying customers when they’re offered personalized experiences. Everyone wants something that is associated with their habits and preferences. This is just one more example, from our marketing strategy, of why a lead usage system that gives insight into user behaviour is invaluable. 

We are also avid promoters of incentives for referrals. Asking for referrals is one of the strongest pillars of any marketing strategy – 88% of marketers rely on referral and marketing software. Incentivizing qualified referrals is an excellent way of turning users into brand advocates. According to Social Media Today, 78% of B2B marketers indicated that referrals generate good to excellent quality leads. It is also one of the lowest cost-per lead growth channels available.

Do you need guidance to optimize your free trial growth strategy for 2022 to ensure the best conversion results? Get in touch with our team for more information.

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