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A Complete Guide to Reverse Trials: Maximizing Conversions With The Best of Free Trial and Freemium

Usha Vadapalli
November 15, 2023

The dilemma is real: do you opt for the enticing allure of free trials, hoping users will commit after a taste? Or do you embrace the accessibility of freemium models, risking lower conversion rates as users tiptoe around premium features? It's a pivotal decision. But, Elena Verna,  former Head of Growth at Amplitude suggests getting the best of both worlds with Reverse Trials!

What is a Reverse Trial?

A reverse trial in SaaS is when customers get full access to a product for a limited time, after the trial, customers choose a paid plan to continue using the product’s paid version or downgrade to a free version.

From Elena’s experience, the freemium model typically yields a 5% conversion rate from free to paid plans, while 25% of freemium users sustain engagement. A reverse trial aims to merge benefits, potentially achieving a 15% conversion rate from the trial model and leveraging the 25% on freemium for sustained product usage.

Here are some examples of product-led growth businesses implementing a reverse trial strategy.

Canva welcomes new users to explore Canva Pro for free, offering a 30-day trial period. After this period, users lose access to premium features unless they subscribe. By allowing users to experience the full potential of Canva Pro upfront, the reverse trial method increased Canva's chances of converting free users into paying customers.

Toggl, a time tracking and project management tool, recognized the limitations of its freemium model where businesses exploited multiple accounts. To counter this, Toggl implemented a reverse trial, granting new users 30-day access to the full product. This approach not only retained users but also doubled Toggl's revenue from its premium plan.

Calendly adopted the reverse trial by providing 14-day free access to its premium tier for teams. If users didn't upgrade before the trial ended, their accounts were automatically downgraded. This tactic allowed Calendly to showcase its complete functionality to potential customers, driving conversions effectively.

Airtable opted for a 14-day reverse trial of its Pro Plan, after which users defaulted to the Free Plan if they chose not to upgrade. By striking a balance between offering advanced functionality like integrations in the free plan and providing a limited period for users to explore the premium features, Airtable's reverse trial approach encouraged users to delve deeper into the product's capabilities, fostering trust and long-term relationships.

These examples underscore how the reverse trial strategy can be tailored to fit diverse SaaS offerings, emphasizing the importance of striking the right balance between providing value and driving conversions.

Why Reverse Trials?

One of the best things about implementing product-led growth GTM is the flexibility to fine-tune the strategy for the modern SaaS business. Free trials offer a glimpse of a product's potential but often struggle to foster extensive usage. On the other hand, freemium models lower barriers to entry but face challenges when guiding users toward paid plans. It's against this backdrop that the reverse trial emerges as a strategic game-changer.

Let’s look at the differences between these PLG strategies.

  • Free Trials

    Pros: Effective at converting users to paid plans; users either commit or lose access.
    Cons: Limited in encouraging in-depth product exploration, as advanced features are typically restricted to paid subscribers.
  • Freemium

    Pros: Reduces acquisition friction, allowing users to start for free with the option to upgrade.
    Cons: Struggles with seamlessly transitioning users to paid plans, leading to lower conversion rates from free to premium tiers.
  • Reverse Trial

    Users experience a trial with immediate access to premium features, transitioning to freemium usage after the trial concludes. This drives conversion by enabling users to explore the product’s full potential upfront. Simultaneously, encourages continued product usage in the free state, fostering a deeper user-product relationship.

Amidst the perpetual free trial vs. freemium debate, the reverse trial emerges as can be the compelling solution you need for your PLG business with a promising conversion rate. OpenView’s product benchmarking survey puts reverse trial conversion rates at a better success rate than freemium.

It strategically combines the strengths of both PLG models while mitigating their weaknesses because it grants access to all the features and capabilities at the outset allowing your users to build habits with the product using these advanced capabilities while not requiring a commitment.

An added bonus lies in the ability to restart trials for free users, providing opportunities to reignite interest and drive conversion over time.

Is Reverse Trial Right for My SaaS Product?

While the approach offers significant advantages, certain factors might indicate it's not the best fit for your specific product. Here's a closer look at the key considerations:

  1. Discrepancy between product tiers in terms of feature complexity.

    If your free and premium features cater to vastly different problems, pushing users into a trial might overwhelm them, making it challenging to effectively communicate your value proposition. If your free and premium tiers are designed to address distinct user needs, a reverse trial is not going to benefit you because merging diverse features with a steeper learning curve might confuse and overwhelm the users leading to a less effective conversion process.
  1. The cost of offering a reverse trial.  

    A successful reverse trial relies on a balance between costs including the cost of scaling up resources (like infrastructure, support team, etc.), and the benefits.

    If the expenses associated with running trials exceed your current freemium costs, implementing a reverse trial could strain your resources, making it financially unfeasible.
  1. Product engagement rates.

    Is your product designed for occasional, infrequent use rather than daily or weekly engagement? If the product use cases are the ones that don’t need consistent engagement, a reverse trial might not be the ideal model for you. Habit forming is key for conversions in a reverse trial model.
  1. Vulnerability to Multi-Account Signups.

    Can your users easily create multiple accounts without proper validation?

    In a reverse trial, where users have access to premium features, the risk of abuse increases if individuals can sign up repeatedly with different credentials. This can lead to revenue loss and compromise the effectiveness of the trial.

    If your product lacks stringent measures to prevent multiple account signups, implementing a reverse trial might be risky.
  1. Quality of Support.

    Your customer support team should be able to handle an influx of new users with diverse queries and issues pertaining to premium features for reverse trial to work.

    You have to consider the complexity of your features, learning curve, cost, and availability of resources before going down the reverse trial path. If you fail to scale up support, it could result in poor user experiences and negatively impact conversions.

    Evaluate your product’s compatibility to adopt a reverse trial GTM strategy carefully so it doesn’t strain your resources, impact user satisfaction, and hinder your ability to convert trial users into paying customers.

Mastering Reverse Trial Funnel

If you are implementing or planning to introduce a reverse trial strategy in your PLG business, here are some best practices you can execute at each stage of the funnel.

Awareness and Onboarding

Create awareness about the reverse trial, educate users on premium features, and ensure a seamless onboarding experience with

  • Clear value communication articulating the benefits of premium features. Use engaging content, videos, and tooltips to highlight your value proposition.
  • Implement interactive onboarding via hands-on product tours that take the new users through key features and functionalities. Personalize the onboarding process in addition to being intuitive and enjoyable.
  • Personalize the product experience with relevant communication. Be it welcome emails or in-app messages tailored to users' needs, emphasizing the advantages of the reverse trial for the user.

Exploration and Engagement

Encourage users to explore premium features, engage with the product deeply, and experience its full potential. Get the new users to their aha moments with:

  • Spotlight on premium features during the trial period. Rotate these highlights to showcase various functionalities, ensuring users experience the breadth of the product.
  • Send periodic value recap emails to the users and decision-makers in the account. For example, you can automate a weekly summary email that showcases the product usage metrics or a dashboard of relevant data that highlights value drawn from your product. These value reminders make your conversation about conversion much easier at the end of the trial period.
  • Offer proactive support in real-time or via chatbots to address user queries promptly. Utilize product activity data to identify and reach out to users who seem stuck.
  • Engage with personalized product-led emails triggered by product activity and firmographic data that have relevant resources. You can also send users in the reverse trial emails usage tips, success stories, and case studies, demonstrating how other users have benefitted from premium features.

Conversion

Facilitate a smooth subscription process, ensuring users feel confident and secure when upgrading to a paid plan.

  • Follow up before the trial ends. Automate your communications to remind the users when the trial period is about to expire. Create FOMO by emphasizing the features that are not accessible in the free version and use ‘trial about to end’ messaging to speed up decision-making.
  • Simplify the subscription upgrade process. Minimize the number of clicks, offer multiple payment options, and provide clear instructions. Try it for yourself to identify issues technical or otherwise.
  • Be transparent about subscription terms, pricing, and renewal policies. Avoid hidden fees and clearly communicate the value users will receive with the paid plan.
  • Upon conversion, deliver a welcome email sequence comprising exclusive resources, tutorials, and personalized recommendations, setting the stage for a positive, long-term relationship.

Post-Trial Evaluation and Decision-Making:

Assist users in evaluating their trial experience, understanding the value gained, and making an informed decision about subscribing to your product.

  • Use post-trial surveys to gather feedback on user experiences. Understand their pain points, preferences, and areas for improvement.
  • Introduce limited-time offers or exclusive discounts for users considering a paid plan. Time-bound offers create a sense of urgency to drive immediate decisions.
  • Utilize advanced product analytics to track user behavior during the trial. Identify which features resonate the most and tailor your conversion strategy accordingly.

Post-Conversion Nurturing and Retention:

Foster post-conversion engagement, ensuring users continue to find value in the product and remain loyal customers.

  • Organize customer onboarding webinars or live sessions with the assigned CSM, showcasing advanced features and best practices. Address any remaining questions and demonstrate the product's full potential.
  • Keep users informed about product updates, new features, and enhancements with regular updates to the users and decision-makers of the account. Demonstrate ongoing value to reinforce their decision to subscribe.
  • Encourage users to join your product community or forum, participate in discussions, and share their experiences. A vibrant user community fosters a sense of belonging and product loyalty.

By following these best practices at each stage of the reverse trial funnel, you can significantly increase user engagement, build trust, and the likelihood of converting trial users into satisfied, paying customers, driving sustainable growth and customer loyalty for your PLG business.

Wrapping Up

As the PLG revolution continues to unfold, the reverse trial stands as a testament to the industry’s adaptability. Through a blend of immersive experiences and strategic conversion pathways, the reverse trial strategy offers a promising avenue for seamless user engagement. Learning from industry leaders and adopting best practices, SaaS businesses can unlock the full potential of reverse trials, fostering lasting relationships and driving sustainable growth.

If you are considering implementing a reverse trial model, check out Inflection.io. We are the only B2B marketing automation platform purpose-built for the modern stack. With Inflection, you can guide your users to quicker onboarding, better adoption, and generate more revenue and pipeline without waiting on product or data teams. Request a demo to see how we can help your product-led company.

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