Back to Blog

SaaS Q&A: How long should a free trial be for SaaS products?

There are all kinds of models and practices when it comes to offering free trials in SaaS. And “how long” is usually one of the first questions to answer. Read on to learn how to determine what best suits your business and your product.

Every free trial is designed for the same outcome: for a user to have an ‘aha’ moment, where they realize they cannot live without your product. Not every free trial will end with a conversion to paying customer, but if the user has this ‘aha’ moment — when it all clicks — then they are still hooked and a sale could come down the line.

So, the simple answer to your question is: your free trial should be as long as it takes to reach that moment. Of course it’s a bit more layered than that!

The free trial model

The first complexity is this idea of “length.” Not all free trials come in this dimension. The length — or size or volume — of your free trial depends on the type of product you provide. Ross Knap makes a great point here. His company Callpage is a call service so they provide 10 free calls. Soundcloud does it based on uploaded minutes. Some project management tools will let you run just a limited number of projects until you have to upgrade to a paid account. Of course, the 14- or 30-day span is the most common form of free trial, but just remember that the “duration model” is not necessarily the form it must take. Once you’ve decided the form, you will have to experiment to see what length or volume allows your customers to reach their ‘aha’ moment.

Revising the model

Even once you find that sweet spot, you may have to adjust the size again. Product developments can dictate how you tweak your free trial. Which follows logically, since product developments tweak how your customers use your product. For example, at ChartMogul we extended our trial period from 14 days to 30 days when we released an Import API for our subscription analytics software. Why? Because it takes time for customers to integrate and build onto our API. Which delays their full-blown experience with and use of the product, which delays their ‘aha’ moment.

So every time you release a new feature or function, consider whether your current free trial model suits and allows for a successful customer experience of your product. And it won’t always mean extend or expand the free trial, as we did at ChartMogul. The new development could mean the ‘aha’ moment comes much sooner, in which case you should shorten or limit it.

Limit when you can

Once your user is convinced of the value of your product, they should feel urgency to buy it. You can help create this by designing your free trial to end or max out shortly after the ‘aha’ moment. Yes, generally, a good rule is to “keep it short.” But only once you’ve hit your objective. Why? Because shorter free trials help your bottom line. Close.io’s blog breaks down the reasons.

  • Very few people use free trials for the full duration.
  • Users take short trials more seriously (urgency!) and are more engaged.
  • Lower customer acquisition costs.

Longer or larger free trials allows more opportunity for users to fall inactive, and attempts to revive them cost you money. But really, the fact is that users will fall inactive no matter what, and you will always put in some effort to bring them back in the funnel. What are those efforts? Here are some tips on how to reengage mid-trial customers.

What else?

Of course, the length or size of the free trial is only one factor to consider when it comes to getting trial users to convert to paying customers. First you need to identify the ‘aha’ moment in the first place! And you also want to get the user active immediately and provide a frictionless experience throughout, from onboarding to upgrade. For some actionable advice on these areas, check out these tips on how to convert free trial users to paying customers.


This answer was originally published on Quora. View the original thread here: How long should a free trial be for SaaS products?

Product

Build a better subscription business.

Use data to understand your customers and grow your business.

Learn More