General BusinessMarketingSelling

Why Free Trials are Rarely Actually Free

Dharmesh Shah, fellow member of Feedburner’s My Way network, has a terrific post titled Selling Software: Why Free Trials Aren’t on his OnStartups blog.  In the post, Dharmesh makes excellent points about how free trials are far from a zero-cost decision from the customer’s standpoint.  He also points out that the success of a free trial depends on the developer putting extra work into both the product and its support.  Thus, the word, free, is a misnomer for both sides of the table.

In my experience, I have also found that free trials or, free products for that matter, are often perceived to have value equivalent to what was paid for them – nada.  Most people have a deep-seated belief that you get what you pay for and will often not invest the time or energy into making the implementation of a product successful if they did not pay for it. 

This is not to say that free trials or products are bad.  It just means that to make such a distribution device successful, you need to think of what your end-goal is – upgrades, add-on services, unseating the competition, seeding the market, or whatever.  The “free” part needs to be a piece of a much bigger strategy – one which includes making the customer successful with the “free” trial or product and a path to eventually getting revenue from that customer.  You’re just not going to make it up in volume.

Check it out.

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