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.