Jul 2019

Generating new users for your software platform sometimes feels challenging. Using free trials is a great way to give businesses a chance to try out features and functionality, but how do you encourage free trial users to convert into full paying customers?

Like any SaaS provider, you’ve probably explored many ways to entice new users to become loyal customers. Some strategies work better than others, so we’re sharing a few of the best ways to move from free trials through to routine subscribers.

1. Create a DEADLINE 

Urgency works well when you're providing a product that people want and you use a limited time offer. When someone already wants something, presenting a rapidly approaching deadline increases their desire to buy it.

Create a deadline that shows your customers how many days, hours, and minutes they have until the sale ends. You can continue amplifying this tactic by sending different emails featuring the deadline as it draws closer.

convert free trial users

2. Reduce the Learning Curve of Your Software

One of the biggest incentives to drive signups is ease of use. While all SaaS platforms have some learning curve, the more user-friendly it is, the better. 

Focus on the user experience. The more seamless it is for the user to adopt your technology into their daily routine, the more they’ll realize they can’t live without it.

Improve the learning curve immediately after signup by offering users the following features:

  • Tutorials 
  • Guided demos
  • User guides
  • Infographics

As everyone learns differently, you may want to consider diversifying the format of tutorials. For example, blend videos, PDFs, and slideshows to broaden your reach and make your learning material more appealing. 

In addition to user guides, onboarding is critical, and perfecting it takes time. You don’t want to overwhelm the new user -- but you do need to guide them and onboard them effectively.

Segment your onboarding into what users need to know to get started, including:

  • Logging into the system
  • Setting up a user profile
  • Configuring a dashboard
  • Starting a project

Don’t assume that your new user has any familiarity with your software. Welcome them into the system in a genuine manner that offers them help and assistance. Buyers will remember these first interactions. If they are positive, they’ll be more likely to say yes in the future.

3. Observe Prospect Behaviour

Understanding your buyer personas and motivating factors is key to transforming trial users to paid users. This means you need to refine your message and speak to your audience in a manner that incites action. Figure out what their biggest challenges are and remind users why your software can make all the difference. You can master buyer personas with this worksheet.

4. Use Triggers to Send Emails 

convert free trial email

Based on different triggers, you can hone your message through email campaigns that resonate with your audience. Examples of potential triggers include usage during the free trial or the number of interactions. Or, sending an email to entice users to purchase software after they've logged into their free trial account.

Just remember that the more you can personalize email campaigns, the more likely you are to have better results. For some ideas and best practices, check out this email marketing checklist.

5. Send a Welcome Email

Using an actionable drip campaign, you can effectively target those free trial users and influence them to convert. The campaign should begin with a welcome email. Research shows that 75% of users expect to receive a welcome email after the initial sign-up. This is just an introduction, so start slow, and don’t push the conversion.

free trial convert email
CC: Send Grid

An excellent example of a welcome email that works is the one above from Headspace. As a popular meditation app, it begins with a free trial and several free meditation sessions. The email doesn't push the conversation by boldly declaring how many days are left. Instead, it gently encourages users to engage with its Start Meditating button. By using a similar approach, you could gently ease your initial prospects into using your trial software too.

5. Wait to Ask for a Credit Card

There are pros and cons to asking for a credit card at sign-up:


Asking for credit card details could deter some users from using a free trial. Asking for payment is likely to make the sign-up process too long. 

Even those who are happy to eventually pay for a trial may feel uneasy with handing over financial details. They may want the chance to test the product's legitimacy before offering their details.

Research shows that when you don’t ask for a credit card, the rate of visitors signing up for a free trial can rise from 2% to 10%. You’ll have more free trial users and more opportunity to convert. 


On the other hand, you may deter users who only ever intend to make the most of a free trial. This means you could refine your leads and gain a more accurate forecast of who will use your product.

As a result, turning your software into a money-making feature becomes possible.

6. Be Upfront About Pricing

pricing for software

Image: Hubspot

Don’t skirt the issue of cost. It’s going to be a big factor in whether or not the user converts. Be clear from the start about the package costs of your software platform and what each user will receive by including the info on your website. Be transparent about any future pricing changes by sending out an email update.

You should also make it clear exactly what can be expected during the free trial in your email messaging. Your messaging should focus on the value of the software.

7. Remove Friction in the Free-to-Paid Conversion

Getting someone to sign up for a free trial is the easiest part of your digital marketing efforts. To ensure more conversions, you have to make the transition from free to paid as smooth as possible. If it takes too long or becomes too complicated, prospects may bow out early.

Removing any friction paves the way for a seamless transition. Request as little information as possible in the beginning. Use short forms, and keep it simple. Ideally, a free-to-paid conversion should be only one to two clicks from the email.

Common friction factors to consider in the email you use to invite free users to become full users include:

  • Using several calls to action throughout the copy instead of just one.
  • Using too many harsh graphics or images that clash with one another.
  • Writing copy that takes more than 30 seconds to read.

8. Use Live Chat to Connect with Your Software Trial Users

live chat to convert software users

Image: Hubspot

An amazing feature of digital marketing platforms like HubSpot is the live chat option. In HubSpot, you can use live chat to instantly connect with your users that need immediate help. With this real-time interaction, you can immediately answer questions and quell any frustration. 

It’s a much more convenient way for users to get in touch with you versus having to send an email or making a phone call. The easier you make it for your customers to communicate with you, the more they’ll trust you and want to use your software.

9. Craft Compelling Calls-to-Action

CTAs instruct your user to take the next step. And they absolutely matter in converting free to paid users. 

The more you can tailor them to fit where your prospect is in the buying process, the better. Your CTAs should be simple, clear, and meaningful to that user.

software users call-to-action

Don’t disregard CTAs in your digital marketing efforts or use generic language like “Sign Up Now.” That’s not very inspiring and doesn’t tap into your software’s value proposition or the motivations of your buyer.

In the example above, generic calls to action are avoided, and compelling and relevant words take their place. The email lets the user know they may miss out, it gives the user a chance to return to their previous work, and it instructs them to register. With direct instructions, the user is more likely to act.

By implementing these 12 digital marketing tactics, you can overcome the challenges that usually keep free users from converting. If you're already generating free users, are you ready to step up and convert each one into a paying customer?

buyer persona worksheet