This article is part of a bigger picture. A chapter from my upcoming book "The Best Things".
In this short read, I delve into the obscure but vital role that free trials and other free-paid marketing strategies play when looking to grow your subscription business.
Although I have written and published over 40 books, I wanted to try something different with my next book.
I will be making this and hopefully other books available on NFT Books, a (still in the works) platform that aims to help authors publish limited, digital versions of their books.
Full disclosure: I am an investor in this project.
In the interest of furthering my ultimate goal, which is to lay out a compelling case for the efficacy of free-to-paid marketing in the context of various subscription business models, via concise storytelling, let me go ahead and use the next few chapters to do just that. Or at the very least, try to.
Allow me to bring to your attention, while simultaneously proposing some main ideas behind many of the most effective free-to-paid marketing campaigns, the key elements I have learned that one needs to consider when engaging in any form of free trial marketing/customer acquisition strategy.
Just a minute of your time
As a reminder, your free trial offer will only, at the outset, need to be compelling enough for your target user to make that initial investment of their time to check out your product or service.
In my humble opinion, this is the only ask you need concern yourself with: Time.
Your ask is that she (your potential subscriber/customer) spends a little bit of time to sign up, to read some bit of info you have, to come check out your new gym, and so on.
Pricing, terms, and all that stuff will come later. For now, “I just want a moment of your time.” This is all we ask.
The perfect fit
I have found that free-to-paid marketing systems, although can be useful for most subscription models, often work best for certain types of businesses.
As humanity evolves and we continue to try to find newer ways to seamlessly avail ourselves of the resources around us, I am pretty sure new verticals and niches will appear that will render previous business models and/or our understanding of said models antiquated.
I mean, just over ten years ago, folks would have thought you had gone mad if you suggested that your company launches a platform that allows folks to watch movies on their phones. Or that there will come a time when a whole industry would emerge based on folks posting photos of their butts (and of other things too, but mostly butts). But here we are. And the booty-based economy is as robust as ever. So, for now.
I think some businesses just work well with free trials and such. I say this knowing this idea may change soon. In my experience, some type of free-to-paid or freemium strategy wroks best for subscription businesses that are:
Complex: and thus require some time for folks to realize the full potential of what they will be paying for.
Costly: Sure, this point may be highly subjective, but, generally, your (prospective) subscribers will want to get acclimated to your service if as compared to your competitors, or the rest of their personal or business budgets, your offering is a bit more expensive.
Niche services are great! Subscription services that appeal to a specific, unique collection of users often thrive, especially in today's convoluted marketplaces.
That is if the folks behind the organization are able to create communication pieces, i.e marketing, customer outreach, support, etc. that clearly speak the language of the very folks they are looking to connect with.
It is always ideal if the platform and/or subscription service, that you are using has the unique set of tools and/or features you need to do your job or fulfill some specific set of needs you have.
It is even better if the folks who put out said subscription service understand you better than the all-in-one platform you previously had.
I love my subscription to Gaia. Now, do I not know that History, Discovery and the rest have documentaries too? Sure I do. But the folks at Gaia clearly understand how to source content for those of us who are only part-time conspiracy theorists and sometimes a bit out there.
All jokes aside, To me, this is one of the most consequential points I or anyone else can make on the matter. And thus, I shall delve a little deeper in the next chapters.
Crowded spaces: Crowded marketplaces and verticals are increasingly difficult to navigate. Not just from the user's perspective, but also as an entrepreneur. These days, it seems, there is a subscription service for anything.
From socks to books, and everything in between, you can pay a small monthly fee for all types of stuff. Entry into any of these spaces will require - as I have alluded to before - clear communication and a whole lot of value-building.
In these circumstances, the whole-hearted employment of some sort of strategic free-to-paid onboarding campaign will certainly go a long way to not only attract new users inexpensively but to retain said users and increase your overall user lifetime value(LTV).
Long-term commitments: Let's be honest. Since it's just us here, I think we can all admit that generally, modern-day humans are naturally apprehensive to long-term commitments.
Whether in our personal or professional lives, we wade into such engagements cautiously. We have many reasons why our brains have this natural response.
Perhaps it is often an involuntary defense apparatus our central nervous systems have developed over time. Who the hell knows?
Well, I guess the experts would but since I am no such thing, I can only speak to the existence of this phenomenon. What I can do pretty well is recommend ways to help ease potential subscribers, especially if your service requires long-term contracts or commitments, into taking that big step.
Goes without saying that creating a clear panoramic view of your service allows folks to become paying customers. Here, having a concierge approach even to your free users will help a whole lot.
So... in the next few chapters, I shall do my best to thoroughly unpack these points a bit more. The rest of this book, as promised, will be spent on digging deeper into the types of subscription models that I have come to realize are best suited for free-to-paid marketing strategies.
I will also talk about the specific kinds of free trial models that work best for each, how to guide your free trial users through the various aspects of your offer while building value, and a few examples of organizations that I have seen execute each model best.