(This post originally appeared at MainPath.com.)
We all love free trials.
The software-as-a-service world thrives on this age-old marketing tactic. Maybe you’re even taking advantage of an eternally free trial from Dropbox, or Spotify, or Hootsuite, or Buffer right now?
But it’s really not a new approach.
Think about that excitable person in Costco offering a pinch of seasoned brisket. Or the local froyo shop and the miniature cups they provide so you try a new flavor. Free samples can work for many industries, read on to see how they can help your business.
What Other Industries Have Learned About Free Trials
Those industries have learned that free doesn’t mean worthless.
Offering people a free trial is a compelling way to turn a potential customer into a paying customer, at relatively low cost.There’s a great thread on Quora with a few noteworthy software companies’ stats on how often they work. If you really want to geek out about this, read this post and check out one professional’s full flowchartfor leveraging free trials and turning them into paying customers.
If you sell to businesses, you’re faced with the reality that 93% of buying cycles start with a search: not a phone call, not a quick review of a Rolodex.
In fact, B2B buyers are often 57% of the way through their selection process before they get in touch.
This means that a decision-maker’s first encounter (or lack of an encounter) with you and your business is likely to happen online, not offline. And that encounter needs to be credible and provide immediate value.
Hence, the popularity of free trials.
Your Service Firm Can Offer Free Trials, Too
If it’s expertise you sell — and really, isn’t that what we all sell? — the “free trial” is your best weapon.
Your industry experience; your case studies of successful work completed for clients; your articles and well-researched whitepapers that show an understanding of the demands in your client’s daily life; your free consultations with customers: these are variations on the theme of free trials.
But if you limit those free trials to free consultations, you’re missing the boat: It’s likely that everyone in your industry offers them, and you aren’t differentiating yourself or your brand.
Smart content is your free trial.
Your most powerful trials are freely available and gated content (only available in exchange for a name and email address) that helps people:
- Develop awareness of you and your company as a subject matter expert.
- Rely on your wisdom and experience.
- Develop a preference for working with you.
You can grow your business through well-built conversion elements on your website and valuable content on your blog, whether you’re a lawyer, plumber, real estate agent, swimming pool installer, or financial planner.
There is no such thing as an industry that won’t benefit from valuable free trials.
4 Keys to Providing Free Trials that Generate Leads for Your Company
Here are four keys to putting your own free trials into motion no matter your industry:
1. Stun People With Your Expertise.
Are there statistics or insights that you’ve come to know are true that are either lesser known or under-appreciated? This is difference-making, preference-building content that serves as the first step in a free trial.
But you can’t state the obvious. You’ve got to really educate them. Stun them, even.
If you want to stand out, go beyond the obvious recommendations like, “File your taxes on-time to avoid complications,” or “Communicate often with your clients to generate trust.” The more specific and expert your content is, the more likely it is to get shared, linked-to, and preferred.
2. But, Speak to People Like a Human.
Don’t overly rely on jargon or acronyms. Write like you speak, but show that you can relate to your customers and clients by speaking to where they’re at in their understanding, not where you’re at.
Don’t over-complicate the simple.
And if you’re using WordPress to power your blog, and you’ve already installed theYoast SEO plugin as well, you should know there’s a valuable indicator in there called the Flesch Reading Ease score. Check it out. Great feedback. Oh, and this post scored a nice, clean 68.
3. Share Data That Backs Up Your Claims.
One company learned that when they share data in the form of infographics, the visibility and traffic they generate is off the charts compared to writing standard blog posts.
For example, if you knew that the average Google first-page result contains 1,890 words, would that challenge your thinking on blog content generation? It should.
Data works to convert free trials into customers.
4. Write Content Aimed at Different Moments in the Buying Cycle.
The companies who have succeeded most with this definition of “free trial” have done so when genuinely aiming to add value and answer questions their customers have.
That means that much of your free trial content should not be promotional. It should educate and inform, but it should not be a sales pitch.
Some people are just getting started — they’re at the Awareness stage. You’re building your brand’s credibility with them. Some are at the beginning of their buying cycle — the Consideration stage, and you’ve helped them with wisdom and factors they should keep in mind.
And then some people are right there, ready to select a new vendor. They’re in Buying mode.
Your Free Trials Will Win You Business
When you seek to solve your customer’s’ problems in the form of content, you’re leveraging your own version of a free trial. You can’t attend every trade show, nor reach every decision-maker via cold call.
Free trials can be your answer, regardless of your industry. And we’re happy to help.