Even if you have the best product in the world, there is no money to be made if no one knows about what you’re offering. One way to gain a competitive advantage and to spread work about what you’ve got is to offer a free product trial.
When it goes right, a product trial creates a win/win situation for your company and your future customers. You’re getting to show what your product does, while your customers get to try it without the financial risk of a purchase.
Companies which offer free product trials will usually see a boost in their potential customer base right away. When there is no risk, then there’s no reason to not try out a product to see what it does. There are also some specific advantages and disadvantages which must be considered with this type of opportunity to determine if it is the right type of marketing outreach to try.
List of the Advantages of a Product Trial
1. It gives a product the chance to sell itself.
When you have a great product, then it can serve as its own marketing tool. Great products sell themselves. Customers who get to see this fact during their free product trial will see this for themselves. Over time, they’ll come to rely on the product that they are using and decide that they don’t want to return it. When that happens, you’ll have converted a free trial into a paying customer who loves your product and will come back for even more.
2. You can get a competitive edge against similar products.
For some industries, a free product trial may not be considered a standard practice. Offering your product would then shift expectations within the targeted demographics, giving you a chance to expose your product to interested consumers. The opposite is also true. If consumers in your industry expect a free product trial because that’s what everyone else is doing, then not offering one may hurt your reputation – or may help it. Much of this depends on how you’re able to showcase the features of what you offer.
3. People are given an opportunity to invest time into your brand.
We often value money higher than we value time. From a marketing perspective, time with your products and brand message is more valuable than cash in-hand. When people are using your products and investing time into your company, they’re building a relationship with you. Relationships create loyalty. Loyalty creates customers who keep coming back for more great stuff that you offer.
4. You receive critical feedback about your product.
A product trial gives your company the opportunity to see how your product will react in real consumer environments. Tests and simulations will only provide you with a limited amount of data. Consumers can be unpredictable, using your product in ways that you may have never imagined. Having each trialist upload pictures, send reports, or sharing how they use their product can tap you into information resources that may allow you to refine or improve the product over time.
5. There are opportunities to offer incentives.
A product trial creates more opportunities for you to sweeten the deal if you have customers that are on the fence. Once they’ve tried the product and are thinking about a purchase, a simple incentive, like a discount, may be enough to push them over the edge. Referral discounts are another way to help you close a deal and find new prospects that might be interested in what you’re offering.
6. It gives consumers a sense of urgency.
When prospective consumers are faced with scarcity and a sense of urgency, then they quickly evaluate the pros and cons of keeping your product. Urgency is important because it forces the decision. The upcoming end of a free trial period easily creates that urgency, while the thought of losing the product creates feelings of scarcity. This combination will typically result in a sale if the consumer feels like your value promises live up to reality.
7. It aligns customer interests with company values.
When a product trial is offered, it gives your organization an opportunity to set specific expectations for what is being offered. You can communicate clearly to each prospective customer, letting them know what to expect from the product and how to use it properly. In doing so, you’re able to align the interests of the customer with the values of your company, which helps to further reinforce the relationships you’re trying to form with exposure to your products.
8. You’re able to see how serious your customers are.
If a prospect has no interest in your product, then offering a trial to them will confirm that your lead has grown cold. Although there are always a few people who will take a product trial without any intention of making a purchase, most people will try products when they’re interested in the results that can be achieve. This process allows you to score leads better, create stronger follow-ups, and grow your inbound marketing opportunities.
List of the Disadvantages of a Product Trial
1. There are always costs which must be considered.
The bottom line for any business is that profits must be made eventually. With zero profits, bankruptcy will soon be on the horizon. Offering a product trial means you’re fronting the production costs in the hopes that you’ll get a paying customer after the trial period ends. If a free trial period is too long, too short, or isn’t structured correctly, you might find that the cost of this marketing opportunity may not be worth the rewards you’re able to achieve.
2. You have no guarantee that the product will be used.
Many consumers sign up for a free trial because there is a one-time use they have for it. Some consumers may never even use the product during their free trial, even though they expressed interest in what was being offered. Modern life can be busy. Days can become unpredictable. Customers with the best of intentions may ignore your product, not use your tutorials, or give you poor reviews even though you’ve done everything right. The only way to reduce the risk of this issue is to make your product as easy as possible to use and understand.
3. There are always people who try to cheat the system.
When you offer free product trials, you’ll find that there are some customers who try to sign up for multiple free trials using different information. Some consumers may offer false payment information in the hopes that you’ll send them a product to use, which they’ll never pay for. There are always customers who try your product without the intention to ever buy it because they have one specific purpose for it and nothing else. That’s why it is always so important to weigh the pros and cons of offering repetitive trials.
4. You competitors might try to use the product trial to gain insights.
Product trials are a way for your competitors to get a glimpse of your product. You might have technologies or ideas included in your product that they’re trying to develop or improve. Signing up for your free trial program gives them the chance to see what you’re doing without any cost to themselves. To avoid having others get an inside scoop on what you’re doing, you may need to limit who has access to your product trials.
5. It can be a labor-intensive process.
If the products that you’re offering are complex, then you may find that offering a free trial could create a need for your service and support teams to be involved. You may find more calls to customer service with questions about the product and how to use it. There may be negative reviews posted by people who don’t understand the product, but then never tried to find supports for it either. Products that are difficult to understand or use do not always benefit from a product trial marketing effort.
6. Product trials lengthen your sales cycles.
Instead of having a direct sales transaction, a product trial lengthens your sales and marketing funnels. Consumers will use the product trial period to their full advantage. Casper, which offers mattresses that are shipped directly to you, offers a product trial of 100 days of in-home use. Unless your budget is setup for an extended sales cycle, you may find it difficult to support the amount of time it takes to onboard prospects with this type of marketing.
These product trial advantages and disadvantages show that, as with any marketing effort, there is some risk involved. You’re fronting the costs of a product to create customers who decide they can’t live without it after using it. There will always be people who try to game the system. With the right level of supervision and structures that encourage profitability, you’ll find that in most cases, the positives outweigh the negatives with this type of outreach effort.
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