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How to Optimize Your SaaS Free Trial for Increased Revenue


So you have a free trial, and you’re probably thinking—why wouldn’t people sign up, it’s free?

Well, just because something is free doesn’t mean people are going to take their time to sign up. Even free ebooks, courses, and other freebies need to be optimized in order to get more people to subscribe or download. People won’t sign up simply because something is free. It needs to be enticing and something they’re interested in.

The same holds true for free trials.

Prospects might think that they’ll be forced into some type of commitment if they sign up, or that they might not have enough time to try it out. Whatever the case, free trials and free offers need to be optimized just like anything else.

Listed below are a few ways you can optimize your SaaS free-trial funnel to improve conversions and boost revenue.

Should You Ask For Credit Card information Upfront or When the Free Trial Expires?

The biggest question when offering a free trial is whether to ask for credit card information upfront or to wait until prospects become paid customers.

It seems that if you ask for credit card information upfront to join the free trial, then you’ll eliminate that step when the trial is over. And therefore, the process will be automatic because maybe some people won’t enter their credit card information once the trial ends, right?

That sounds good in theory. But research shows otherwise.

In fact, a study by Totango revealed some interesting differences in conversion rates between free trials that ask for a credit card upfront and those that don’t.

They studied the free trial conversions of businesses such as Zendesk, StreetEasy, and Cloudbees.


According to the study, an average of 2% converted to a free trial sign up when a credit card was required, and an average of 10% converted to a free trial when no credit card was required.

So far, this makes sense. People don’t want to be locked into something and give out their credit card information without knowing more about the product or service. They also don’t want to get accidentally charged at the end of the free trial period if they decide not to sign up.

The study goes on to reveal that 50% went on to become paid customers when the credit card was required, and 15% went on to become paid customers when the credit card wasn’t required.

This seems to turn the tables and make it seem like asking for a credit card up front is better because 50% is a a much better conversion rate from free trial to paid.

But don’t jump to conclusions just yet.

When a credit card was required, .6% saw an end-to-end conversion, whereas those that did not require credit card information saw a 1.2% end-to-end conversion.


In other words, the free trials that did not ask for credit card information upfront won out in total paid conversions.

So if you’re wondering whether or not to ask for credit card information upfront, this particular study indicates that not asking for credit card information before offering a free trial is the best way to go for a higher end-to-end conversion rate.

User Engagement Plays a Key Part in Converting Trial Users Into Paid Customers

Engagement is an important factor for free trials. If prospects never engage with your product, they’re less likely to move forward as a paid customer.

Totango reported that only about 20% of trial subscribers are true evaluators, 70% tend to be accidental sign ups who do not engage with the trial at all, and 10% are potentials who’ve activated the trial but are not very active.

So how do you get prospects to become more engaged with your product after they’ve signed up for a free trial?

Well, for starters, send a welcome email people who sign up to encourage them to engage with your product and to form a relationship.

For leads that aren’t converting, introduce them to your sales team for further assistance with the trial by reaching out to offer help. Just letting your visitors sign up blindly without any interaction would be a mistake.

You can also set up an autoresponder series that walks trial users through your top features and encourages them to try it out. A simple tool like MailChimp can be used for something like this, but Vero offers an even better solution where you can send targeted emails based on the actions free trial users do or don’t take. If they’ve already tried the product, you can send an email to get them to use a new feature, but if they haven’t even tried it yet, you can send an email to get them to engage with the product, etc.


Optimizing Free Trial Sign Ups

So far you’ve read tips for optimizing your free trial process. But how do you entice visitors to sign up for the free trial in the first place since free trials like any other campaign require optimization as well.

First, make sure the free trial offering is prominent and can’t be missed. Hiding it among your content may mean it gets overlooked. It’s best to keep it above the fold and to make the free trial sign-up button really easy to find.

GetResponse was concerned about adding a free trial button to their home page thinking that it might reduce their number of paid visitors, but they decided to run an A/B test to find out.

Here’s what their original page looked like:


Here’s what the GetResponse page looked like after they added a prominently placed free trial button:


Adding the prominently placed Free Trial button proved to be a success for GetResponse. Once added, they saw no decrease in paid customers, while with the prominently placed Free Trial button they saw a 158% increase in trial sign up conversions.

Besides prominently featuring your free trial, there are a few other things to consider.

  1. Like any other offering on your page, it’s important to increase the perceived value of signing up for the trial. Let visitors know the benefits that they’ll get when they do. The more you can tell them and make it sound really appealing, the more likely they will be propelled to sign up. And always keep in mind—just because something’s free doesn’t mean people will spend their time to sign up for it.
  2. Don’t forget to use button text that spells out the value of clicking it. Benefit-oriented button text typically does very well. At the very least, opt to use text that says something like “Sign Up for a Free 15 Day Trial” rather than a button that simply says sign up.

So now you know more about what you can do to increase free trial sign ups and conversions from a free trial to a paid account.

Offering a free trial isn’t a guarantee that everyone will jump on board. A properly set up free trial needs to be optimized to warrant maximum conversions.

Based on the data included in this post, free trials seem to convert best when a credit card isn’t required upon sign up. However, you may want to test that to see how it pans out for your particular business.

You may also want to test the amount of time your free trial gives your prospects to try it out before they’re required to make a decision. If the trial period is too long, there may not be enough urgency to motivate people to try it out, but if it’s too short, they may not feel like it’s worth their time to sign up.

Engagement is another important piece of the puzzle. You want visitors to engage with your trial so that they are better prepared to sign up when the time comes. If they never use the product, then the free trial isn’t serving it’s purpose.

And like any other offering, it’s important to optimize the placement and copy that you use to describe the free trial to give it optimum exposure and to increase conversions.

Add all of these elements together, and you should start see a higher number of trial sign ups and a higher number of trial users converting into paid customers. What are you waiting for? Choose one of these options to test, set up an A/B test, and start boosting your conversion rate today!


Marie Marie Dean is the Innovation Director at ConversionLifters and has worked in the field of conversion optimization for over 10 years. She helps clients lift their website conversion rates and revenue with in-depth audits, heat mapping, user tests, and split testing. Interested in free conversion optimization recommendations that pertain to your website? Sign up for a Free Conversion Lift Strategy Session at