5 Hacks to Boost Free Trial Sign-ups

  • Written By:
    Ann Smarty
  • Published On:
    September 15th, 2020
  • Read Time:
    5 Mins
  • Category:

Unlike a freemium model that engages a customer for lifetime allowing them to utilize their free tools without ever being required to upgrade, the free trial is limited in time, so it is normally believed to be better for conversions to the paid level.

But how to increase your free trial sign-ups?

Here’s what other SaaS companies are doing:

1. Give your site visitors a taste before asking them to sign up

People love playing with things, so allowing them to pay prior to asking them to register for more play works so well.

Spyfu uses this strategy allowing to run their tools for free, no registration required and even showing some initial data while inviting to register a free account in order to see more:

Preview functionality for free

Spyfu is probably the most generous in the marketing niche. Other platforms use a different free-trial conversion tactic:

2. Pretend to give a taste before asking to sign up

This may sound a bit misleading but it seems to be a popular trick these days: Instead of inviting a user to register for a free trial right away, give them an option to run your tool right away, and get them to sign up there.

For example, this is the screen you are getting when attempting to run SEMrush tool from the home page:

Pretend to give a taste before asking to sign up

My first reaction was that it might be annoying to visitors expecting to see results to their query. Yet, on the second thought, this may actually work well.

This strategy relies on the persuasion psychology phenomenon called “Foot in the door” tactic that is used in the two-step optin model

The basic idea is that, once a user performs an action (like clicks a button or tries to search), they become agitated to get results / complete the process that they are more likely to perform the second – more important – action, like opt-in or register for a free trial:

“Foot in the door” tactic that is used in the two-step optin model.

3. Try conversational marketing

Do you know that type of a buyer that always needs a sales person to get him/her into buying anything?

I am not that type as I rush to leave any store any time a sales person starts approaching but I know many – many – people who love chatting with someone before making a purchase.

This is the type of a buyer this tactic will work for, and the good news it’s free, and pretty easy to implement.

That link – the helpful bot gave to me – was personalized and leading exactly where I had asked for. I didn’t have to browse the site to find the solution I needed and it took me two seconds to converse with the bot.

Chatbots are becoming more and more accessible to business owners. You can even create one using your Facebook page and embed it to your site. Facebook offers an easy visual editor allowing you to create rules and logics for the bot to converse with your site users.

Another conversational technology which can generate leads and sales while your team is sleeping is IVR (Interactive Voice Response) which is also quite easy to set up.

[The nice thing about this tactic is that you can design your customer’s journey and create suggested questions they wouldn’t think to ask otherwise]

4. Ask for nothing else

Try creating landing pages that only have a single free-trial call-to-action, and nothing else.

Many years ago, GetResponse had only one – major – “Buy now” CTA, and then fpr testing purposes they added a “Free trial” option:

As a result, they saw a 158% increase in trial sign up conversions.

In fact, the free trial has apparently worked so well for them that it is the only CTA that exists on the site now:

5. Use exit-intent popups

I have never heard of anyone saying “Hey, I like this popup”.

I cringe at them either.

But you know, they work! And this is one of those marketing mysteries (that and the long ugly landing pages) that we will have to live with.

This step aims at saving free customers that are about to change their minds and leave. This is where exit-intent technology comes in handy: It identifies when a user is ready to leave and catches their attention right before they close the browser tab.

Exit intent popup showing up on pixelme.me

Cloudways is a good example of this tactic working. They have been testing seasonal exit-intent popups through biggest US holidays (Independence Day, Halloween and Christmas) as well as seasons (summer and winter) to see an overall 120% increase of free trials of Cloudways’ managed cloud hosting platform:

seasonal exit-intent popups

Be careful with this tactic as you don’t want to lose people who were not going anywhere but may be annoyed by your popup. Most of the exit-intent technology providers allow you to adjust the sensitivity sensor that would help you catch the attention of people who are definitely ready to go:

Exit intent technology provided by Optin Monster

Bonus: Monitor Your Sales Funnel Closely

You cannot improve what you are not measuring. This may have become a cliche at this point but it doesn’t make it untrue.

If you are not monitoring your sales funnel closely, you should start now!

Finteza is a great analytics suit that allows you to build conversion funnels to track their performance. You can filter your reports by a certain demographic, by a certain traffic path, etc. It gives you clear view of where you are losing conversions and how to fix any issues:

Set up your free trial using PayKickstart

PayKickstart supports membership and subscription businesses, offering you an array of tools to manage your product levels and convert free trial users into paying customers. There’s a variety of membership integrations.


I haven’t included the obvious advice you’d usually see when reading about increasing your free trial sign-ups. These tips are always as follows:

  1. Simplify the free trial form to make it easier to register
  2. Remove the requirement to enter the payment details.

While #1 is pretty obvious and you may have already read it everywhere else, #2 may impact your bottom line, so it is not as straightforward (here’s a more detailed article on that).

Getting people to sign up to your free trial offer is only the first step of the process. Converting those subscribers into paying users is a more challenging – and a more important task, which is what I’ll talk about in the next article. Stay tuned!

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Ann Smarty

Ann Smarty is the Brand Manager at Internet Marketing Ninjas, as well as co-founder of Viral Content Bee. Ann has been into Internet Marketing for over a decade, she is the former Editor-in-Chief of Search Engine Journal and contributor to prominent search and social blogs including Small Biz Trends and Mashable. Ann is also the frequent speaker at Pubcon and the host of a weekly Twitter chat #vcbuzz

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