Zero-incentive marketing: Why free trials don't make sense

June 1, 2009

Adobe does it. So does Wordtracker. And Keyword Spy and many, many other businesses. It comes in many different forms, but the basic premise is the same: You get a free trial period to sample a product or service, and upon expiry you must either pay for continued use or forfeit your access to it. I contend that the free trial, in its current state, does not make sense ... but it could. Adobe The problem with free trials is that they're too limited. Adobe offers a 30-day free trial for its Creative Suite products, which gives the busy designer precious few chances to really try the software out. Instead, why doesn't Adobe allow designers to try out CS4 long enough to actually complete a professional project with it? If I have the time to learn your product to the point that I can see how purchasing it will benefit me professionally, I'm more likely to buy from you. Wordtracker And how about Wordtracker, which offers a seven-day trial? For the uninitiated, Wordtracker helps you optimize your web pages for search engine visibility by identifying and comparing potential keywords and key phrases. If I ran Wordtracker, I would offer a six-month free trial. This way customers can come to rely on it as an integral part of their marketing strategies. At that point, Wordtracker becomes an invaluable “must-have.” Keyword Spy Keyword Spy takes a different approach. Instead of a time-limited trial, the company offers a feature-limited trial. You only get to view a fraction of potential keywords, so it's really impossible to tell how helpful the software actually is. Now, if I could harness the power of all of Keyword Spy's features for a full six months, the application would have ample opportunity to show me how it can make me more profitable. Such limited free trials are basically zero-incentive marketing. If I can't take your product for a true test run, I have no way of knowing if it will actually do what it says it does. But, if I can spend ample time learning your system and how to work it to my advantage, I have incentive to buy. If I use Wordtracker for six months, and the keywords it generates for me have boosted my website traffic by a few thousand hits per month and my revenue by hundreds or thousands of dollars, I'm sold. What about you?

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About Brian Morris

Brian Morris serves in various capacities as a freelance writer, content developer and public relations specialist for growing small businesses. When he’s not writing, he can be found on the racquetball court - usually getting his tail kicked by guys 20 years older.

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