Free trials as a B2B Marketing tactic: why is it so common?
Updated: Apr 3
In the Cloud and SaaS sectors, product trials are so common nowadays that for a provider, not affording free trials means being condemned to hard times. Indeed, free trials are advantageous for the users as well as for a marketer working in a B2B Marketing context. But, as a Cloud or SaaS business, you have to respect some rules to make the most of free trials.
Product trials: a clear added value for the user
For a business user, having access to a Software-as-a-Service tool through a free trial presents 3 main advantages. And this is not only because it is free.
UX is king
First, the user can test the User Experience of the product: its general interface, its performance, etc. This initial rough feeling regarding the UX of the product is key because, in some minutes, the user will know if he is convinced or not by the tool. He will therefore decide if it is worth going forward, for example by contacting the SaaS provider.
The product is your best advertising. Free trial is the Marketing tactic to leverage the power of your product and transform it into inflow.
Checking the level of integration
Secondly, free trials allow the user to check very quickly the level of integration with other solutions, which is very relevant as the most the SaaS tools are connected between themselves, the most the user will save time and energy, and be efficient. Free trials make this very easy.
Free trial = independence
As a third benefit for the end-user,
Free trials mean the freedom of not depending on anyone to try the tool, neither a Salesperson nor a manager.
The user can wake up early in the morning and start using a new SaaS instantly, in a fast and uncomplicated manner. Experimenting with SaaS products can be done spontaneously through free trials, which is priceless.
Why providing a free trial? The advantages for a SaaS Marketer
On the side of a Marketer or Salesperson promoting SaaS products, free trials are extremely valuable, which explains their success.
Scalability made possible
This is because on the contrary to product demo, free trials scale. You don't need any employee behind each trial all the time: your Marketing success mostly depends on having the right tools in place to automate the full process of giving and cutting the access to the product. It is easier said than done. However, the time and efforts you invest in putting a free trial in place will save you a lot of energy in the future. And maybe even more important: your SaaS will be able to grow. Indeed, free trials are a classical way of converting users into customers. The free trials act as a lead magnet, attracting potential customers for your SaaS products that become qualified leads.
Free trials and branding
One aspect that we often underestimate with product trials is that even if a user doesn't buy the product yet, he will have a much more precise image of your solution and your brand, which is very valuable for the future. It means that this person may generate word-of-mouth ("Hey, I tried this tool last week and...") and become a brand advocate. Also, if the user needs a similar tool in the future, he will automatically think of yours as the fact of directly experimenting with the product through a free trial makes the product (and the brand) much more top of mind.
Providing free trials may be quite cheap as you can run most of the process in an automated way, having a human contact only when it is needed and relying on a tool like Hubspot to do the follow-up of the users in the Sales SaaS funnel. The implementation of such a tool has a certain cost, that's true. However, compared to a B2C context, offering free trials in B2B Marketing is a very used Marketing tactic in SaaS because it doesn't cost you much more (just a bit more of server capacity). It is not like giving samples of muesli in a supermarket, where you will have to produce the samples, deliver them, rent a space, etc. This is the magic of SaaS and Cloud products.
Implementing free trials: practical advice
As just seen, free trials are usually a win-win situation for both the user and the seller. However, differences in the execution of free trials make this tactic more or less successful. Let's see why and how this can be solved.
Free trials don't have to request any payment card
For example, sometimes the user has to give its credit card to access the product trial. This practice should be banished for at least two reasons. First, the user may not trust the SaaS company that he can stop the contract after the trial period; so he just won't start the free trial. Second, in the case he likes the product, it can be that his payment card is not the one of his company, so it becomes complicated to adapt the payment methods afterward. Allow this option only if the user is the buyer (this is the case of freelancers, for example), and only the time your developers need to give access to the product without a payment card. Free trials have to be free.
Free trials need a detailed Marketing communication
Another situation often observed is the following: the trial is accessible but there isn't any orchestrated communication to guide the user. The result is: the user may not try the product at all because he forgets about it and didn't get any reminders. In the end, he is frustrated, which is not desirable for your company. To avoid this, prepare and implement a detailed and tactical communication plan to engage the conversation. For this, you will need a Content Marketing strategy but also beside a Welcome email, a trigger-based communication to develop personalization. Your Marketing communication has to focus on the Product onboarding and bring the user through the product by showing concretely how the tool answers his challenges.
Your goal as a Marketer is that the user truly tries the product, not just that he goes through it and looks at it.
If the trial lasts a short time, you can almost send an email every 2 days, following a defined customer lifecycle communication. Very important too: don't stop the communication when the trial period is over. On the contrary, continue communicating to the user: it will be beneficial to your brand because the user will remind you when he will need you. Just find the right tempo and the right tone of voice.
Free trials (as well as premium models) are a very powerful marketing tactic because it relies on the proof by the example. That's why the strategy behind as well as the execution has to thoroughly be under control.