The Benefits of Offering a Free Demo, Trial, Tool, App, etc


Whether you’ve been in business for years or you’re just launching a new website, sending samples of your products/services can grab the attention of buyers. You might be a little reluctant to give away free samples or demonstrations of your products and services. After all, there’s no guarantee that you’ll see a return on your investment. However, isn’t that the same for any other form of marketing?

Businesses wishing to promote a new product or service are often faced with a competitive marketplace. This is where “product samples” come in handy. Offering product samples to prospective buyers is beneficial, as it increases exposure, gives the buyer a taste of what’s to come and allows them to feel confident about purchasing.

Your Customer’s Brain

Before we examine some of the more “tangible” benefits of offering a free trial, let’s discuss your buyers’ brain.  In discussions on influencing behavior (and this is certainly what we are trying to do with offering a free trial), reciprocity is a recurring theme.  The concept of reciprocity suggests that doing someone a favor, or giving someone something, establishes a subtle return feeling of obligation.

Armin Falk, a German researcher found through a very interesting study, that a bigger gift further amplifies the reciprocity effect.  So, the higher the perceived value of your free trial, the greater the feeling of obligation on the recipient’s part.

The Magic of FREE

There have been numerous studies that show that not only is FREE a magic word, but that the openness to free is hardwired into our brains.  This is due to our brains aversion to loss.  In other words, a free item carries no risk.  To put it another way, using the hunter-gatherer mentality, a free item represents the so-called low-hanging fruit.  Whichever it is, a free item represents a resource that can be obtained with near-zero effort.

Bottom line, FREE is more powerful than any rational economic analysis would suggest.  If you want to sell more of something, use that power.

So, now that we understand the power of free, let’s look at some of the benefits:

Benefit #1: Exposure and Ownership

The unfamiliarity of new products may make buyers wary of reliability, impact on lifestyle or business, or effectiveness. By providing product samples, or a free trial, you eliminate the fear factor and allow them to test the product “risk-free”.

Establishing buyer confidence is the first step toward developing brand loyalty. If you’re giving out free trials, you’re immediately increasing awareness of your brand.  Work out the best way of getting free trials to your target market and let them spread your brand to others in their circle of contacts.  People who have never encountered your brand before can experience it directly with a trial/sample. Once they’ve used, experienced, become familiar, tasted, touched, smelled, seen, or heard your product, what you sell starts to become “theirs”.

This strategy has been used for decades; think about all of the items where “try it before you buy it” has been the standard sales model; cars, encyclopedias, vacuum cleaners, software, to name a few.  This is using your customer’s imagination.  You are helping your customer’s imagine they own the product, experience what owning the product would be like.  Once the customer “owns” the product, it becomes very hard to give it back.

Benefit #2: Feedback

By providing product samples/trials, you are also welcoming feedback regarding the product. When people test a new product, they often make mental notes about what they love or hate about the new product, and quite often, they compare the product with a competitor’s product. This serves as an opportunity to learn more about your target market and how you can improve the product so it exceeds customer expectations and gives you a competitive edge.

The further value of feedback is to help populate your reviews and testimonial pages. Be transparent and let recipients know you’d appreciate their feedback. If one of your customers is a blogger, for example, this could help grow sales for that product.  Include a hashtag or your Twitter handle on the “packaging”, and it’s likely you’ll get some online feedback. You can retweet the most positive endorsements that your product receives, further improving brand awareness.

Benefit #3: Product Testing Cost Effectiveness

Once you’ve undergone a rigorous internal testing procedure for new products/services, you might want to offer a free trial to a small limited group of your target market.  This allows further testing before you commit to mass marketing and/or mass production of the product. This strategy safeguards your cash flow.

Sample “Free Trial” Strategy for Software and App Trials

If you work in the SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) industry, as an example, your goal as a marketer might be to drive as many new free trial starts as you can.

One of the important keys to success is instant gratification; send access to the product as soon as they hit “sign up for free trial”.  This starts things off on a very positive note and and you  already have a better chance of converting them into a customer. This instant gratification is easily accomplished using either marketing automation software or autoresponders that are triggered as soon as a new user has signed up for a free trial.

You want your customer to start using your product as soon as they have access to it. Give them basic instructions to help them get started.  And be over-generous with support.

Personalize your emails.  Address people by name and sign off on the email with your signature, contact information, email and Twitter handle.  Remember that the goal of your email marketing is to activate the customer. This means prompting them to log in and use your product or service as often as possible within the free trial period.  Each time you send out an email, make your call to action clear.

Once you start seeing your free trial list grow, you can host a monthly webinar and invite new users to join. Make the webinar available at a convenient time and then follow it up with a link to the presentation and video so those who couldn’t make it can still benefit. This is a great way to show potential customers that you take your community seriously and that you’ll continue to serve them with great content once they’ve joined for real.

Free Trials are one of the best marketing tools available.  We are happy to help roll out a free trial strategy.

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