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I've been wondering if using the word "free" too much when promoting a free trial of a product subconsciously tells your perspective customer that they should value your product less; meaning they're less likely to try it (and convert to paid if they do try it). Do you think opting for copy that says things like: "Try it for 3 weeks" rather than "Free 3 week trial" has a meaningful impact on how people use (or decide to use) a product?

  • HQ

    Hila Qu

    over 4 years ago #

    In most cases, I don't think free trail will devalue your product. Customers have so many choices now, it's pretty hard to convince them to buy without allowing them to experience the value, so free trial is a pretty standard way to achieve that. Also, there are even freemium products, for example, Optimizely, it is free for websites under certain traffic threshold, would you say it devalues the product? No, it actually demonstrate the value to the users.

    • AK

      Alex Kehr

      over 4 years ago #

      That makes sense. I guess, what I'm wondering, is that does overusing the word free ultimately have negative marketing implications? Do you think that somebody is going to value your product less over time when the word free is used too often?

      • JB

        Joseph Bentzel

        over 4 years ago #

        You're right to think through the implications of the word 'free' relative to perceived reduction in value. Plus, it's massively overused as a word and largely ignored.

        What I've found is that it can be more effective to focus on other attributes of the trial offer, e.g.
        -the time period (as you've stated),
        -"no credit card required" to sign up for the trial,
        -"no salesman will call you" (can be big one that sets you apart from the inside sales team folks that call you 5 minutes after you download a whitepaper),
        -invite your coworkers/friends get a trial extension, etc.
        -and last but not least "full featured product" (to separate your stuff from the feature limited free trials out there.

        The word 'free' does have baggage. But having a free trial is now mandatory in so many app or "as a service" products that you have to just work "trial marketing" to set yourself apart from the rest of the free clutter.

      • HQ

        Hila Qu

        over 4 years ago #

        That's an interesting perspective. Do you have any examples in mind?

      • ST

        Sandeep Thakur

        over 4 years ago #

        Hi Alex,
        Yes, there is a mindset one gets valuable products and services only at a high cost. And, if the cost is low or free, people’s automatic reaction is to consider it as a low quality product. So, it is important for the vendor to put some efforts in order to assure customers about the quality of the product. Here are some tactics that you can follow in this context to make your campaign successful.
        1. Offer coupon for free trail.
        2. Set specific time and date for the free trail offer
        3. Run event to offer free trail feature
        4. Offer free trail only through social referral
        5. Run contest where only winner gets free trail
        By using above tactics, you can ensure that your product get good publicity and your customers also don’t have doubt about its quality.

  • BD

    Brian Driscoll

    over 4 years ago #

    Hey Alex, as a copywriter I would agree in some respects that overusing the word "free" would devalue a product, BUT it depends on the angle and context in which your present your product. For example, saying your service is "cheaper" than your competitors will make your product seem cheaper, but saying "we are offering a free trial because we are confident in its ability to help you do X & X" comes from a place of confidence.

    It's saying, "all you got to do is try it, then you'll see the value."

    So it won't devalue your product, unless somehow the message isn't presented clearly.

  • VB

    vincent barr

    over 4 years ago #


    I like the nuance of your question.

    Generally, I believe free trials demonstrate a company's confidence in its product/service and is a quick way to build trust with prospective customers while reducing potential abandonment and frustration.

    However, I believe the timing, copy, and means by which a free trial is communicated determines how it will be perceived and acted upon. I don't think the 'free' messaging will have any impact on how a user chooses to actually use the product after download.

    A few suggestions:

    1. Provide the free trial information prominently and clearly to users who demonstrate the intent of trying or considering your product. Don't make it difficult to begin a free trial, but don't ask someone to marry you on the first date (e.g. spam them with modal windows to try your app as soon as they hit the homepage).

    2. I believe clarity is king, and using the word 'free' cuts right to the point. However, I wouldn't abuse it. I would instead build momentum and optimize for conversion using social proof (how many users you have, press, awards), relevance (what titles and functions use your product), and great usability.

    3. Test. It's definitely worth testing the two versions you proposed, and I believe you would want to measure a few metrics: form submission/app download rate; download-to-activation rate; activation-to-purchase rate. From there, you can decide which version is worth using and where the opportunity lies – landing page optimization, email onboarding flow, etc.

  • RS

    Ravinder Singh

    over 4 years ago #

    Instead, I think that it enhances the usability of your product. With offering free trials, you are allowing your customers to test the product. And if they find it really interesting for their own use, they will undoubtedly purchase the paid version.

    On contrary, if you are not offering the free trials, most of the users will not use the paid version as they will doubt the functionality(reason being they have not used the product.)

    • AK

      Alex Kehr

      over 4 years ago #

      I agree the free trials are important, but I'm wondering if there's a better way to write the copy. Does free make people not associate your product with something that's premium? How do you offer a free trial and make your product be thought of as a premium item?

      • AT

        Andrew Tewksbury

        over 4 years ago #

        Are you currently testing it? That's really the only way to know.

        There are plenty of tools to test conversions based on small copy tweaks.

        It would also be worthwhile to do a win/lose analysis with willing prospects and customers to understand why they converted or did not. Asking about the 'free' copy should be one of your interview questions. You can learn a lot be talking to some of your customers/prospects.

        The Pragmatic Marketing Co. offers some good information around this idea - http://pragmaticmarketing.com/resources/winloss-analysis-checklist-for-product-managers

  • KD

    Karolis Dzeja

    over 4 years ago #

    A free trial doesn't. Optimizely was mentioned here. I just signed up for a trial of Blue Bottle Coffee's subscription and they are a premium brand.

    But if you constantly have discounts, sales, coupons, pushy cross sells and up sells, then it does devalue the brand. I'm thinking about Godaddy and Vistaprint.

  • BM

    Brian Mallia

    over 4 years ago #

    Personally, I don't think it's a bad thing, unless you write something like - 'try our free product for free' (it doesn't seem like that's what you're doing).

    I think knowing that it's free is important. In my opinion, I would rather overuse the word free then underuse it and potentially turn customers away who might get the notion that it is not a free trial.

    • DS

      dS Squirrly

      over 4 years ago #

      Nope. No no no. You shouldn't overuse it.

      When you said you would rather overuse the term "free" than underuse it, I think you're not aware that it would have the same consequences, maybe even worse... Let's explain my point with a basic example: if you want to seduce somebody, is it better to overuse compliments or underuse it? If you want to attract people, you have to let them discover how special you are. Overusing compliments or "free" terms will not give you credibility, it will produce the opposite effect. You should always use those kinds of terms with parsimony.

      Of course people are more likely to buy a product they have tested before. But 1) it's not always possible and people know it (look at the electronic devices for instance) 2) if you propose services or products for free during a long time, the attractiveness and authority will raise inversely proportional to this duration 3) scarcity is a concept that is in my opinion still minimally used in marketing and that can have huge impact on your outcomes.

  • KB

    Kirsty Band

    over 4 years ago #

    Hi Alex,

    Everyone has really great advice on this, thought I'd add mine to the mix. In my experience the use of free is very dependent on the product or service you're offering and the industry in which you operate. As some people have mentioned, giving a free trial of a product or service can show the confidence you have in what you're offering, and it it's a long-term product that people are purchasing thereafter, people won't consider it a sign of lower value as they know after the trial they need to pay the going rate like everyone else. At this point they've accepted that it's worth it.

    Where I would avoid using the word free for trials is if it's a one off product that then you hope they will tell other people about. This can devalue your offering as it suggests you don't believe in your product enough that people should have to pay to use it (even when they are the early adopters). Now that's not to say giving trials to people free of charge doesn't have it's place in your marketing strategy, but I'd consider wording it in a way where you're looking to bring on board early testers to the product, to help you refine and ready it for the wider market. This works two fold - it makes those involved feel special, like they had an inside hand in the product or service development, they will share their experience and encourage others with first hand knowledge to definitely part with the cash (as long as the product is quality) and it also avoids you stating you're giving your product away.

    Just one perspective. KB

  • AI

    Alex iftode

    over 4 years ago #

    Other people have already offered great advice on how to avoid overusing the word "free" while still making a compelling offer but I honestly doubt that saying "free" too many times can devalue your product in any meaningful way.
    If it's extremely overused it might sound a bit fishy to people and that might be a deterrent form even starting the trial but I don't see how it would affect their perception of the value of the product. They will decide how valuable it is based on the firsthand experience they'll get during the trial, not based on the number of times you said "free".

  • AG

    Andreas Giordimaina

    over 4 years ago #

    I agree with most of the advice being given here.

    I think the biggest factor in choosing whether to opt for this strategy or not should be based on the trial duration.

    It needs to be long enough for your customers to realize the value of your product, yet short enough so that it gets customers to "act immediately".

    With that being said, for the majority of SaaS companies out there, shorter trials are the way to go. The reason is that if a company is interested in using your product, it shouldn't take them a month to decide whether they should use it or not.

    What we noticed was that the shorter the trials, the more engaged your trial users become.

  • SR

    Sarah Rios

    over 4 years ago #

    Don't use "Free" as it's a common word that has been too much use for unworthy service/product with unsolicited action afterward.

    You can use "On the house"! Sames meanings but you gvet ride of the side effect of the "free" word.

  • VH

    verena Ho

    over 4 years ago #

    Don't think a free trial devalue a product. In most cases, I'll just optin an try it. If it's a great produt, I'll continue using it. That's it.... the idea of product value doesn't even cross my mind ;)

  • EJ

    Ehsan Jahandarpour

    over 4 years ago #


    It all goes back to your business model pattern, AKA business Strategy. Using free trial or free offering can make sense in these 2 strategies.

    1) If you are using a Freemium Model, then using a free trial can even be considered as an added value.

    2) If you implement Multi-sided platform business pattern, You must offer a free service to attract users to use your service. That helps you generate revenue from the other side of your business mode which is your ability to attract sponsors, Ads, premium membership etc.


  • EL

    Earl Lear

    over 4 years ago #

    I was curious about this too, to get around the use of the word free I put 'pass' after it so that there would be no negative connotations with the word FREE. I could have tried 'ticket' too, folks tend to like free tickets.

    I guess the age old mantra 'test' is best would be true here.

    Thanks for all the responses!

    EJ Lear