Trial period duration

Curious about people’s thoughts on trial period durations. I know every product/service is unique and some require more time than others for users to get a good feel for how it works and how it will benefit them.

My thoughts on the 30 day trial I’m offering on are that it’s a little too long. People come in try it and then it either sticks within about 10 days or doesn’t. Paid accounts are coming from people jumping from trial generally well before the 30 days. I’m not sure it’s something I could properly a/b test to see if it makes a difference post sign up but pre sign up it could be tested.

I’m leaning towards shorter so hopefully it stays on people’s radar and stays fresh instead of trying it, having some interest and then it goes stale before they might make the jump to paid.

1 Like

It’s one of those things that is really hard to deduce. I’ve always run a 30-day trial, simply because that is so common.

Do people have a fair chance within your trial period to stay hooked? If not, then increase it.

Is your trial period so long that it exceeds the length of time many people actually need your program? If so, then decrease it.

One of the great things about running your own software company is you can simply try things. Why don’t you change the trial period to 15 days right now?

While you are at, you could try increasing your top price level by 100% and increasing the user limits… :smile:

I have no experience in this myself, but have you seen Jason Cohen in MicroConf 2013? He said he stopped giving trials and improved conversions. How? 60 days moneyback garantee.

Another source was a SaaS Survey where the ones with no trial appear to have better convertion than the ones with trials. This is counterintuitive… I know. Would like to hear what other bootstrappers have to say in the subject…

Your trial period should be reflect how long it typically takes for the prospect to derive some sort of value from your product.

Tools like HitTail and KissMetrics take time to prove their worth. They need to collect a certain amount of production data before being able to deliver value to the customer, so if I ran either of them I’d probably go for a 30 day trial period.

I’ve settled with a hybrid trial model with my app, Planscope, which is a project management app.

When you sign up, there’s actually no trial. But the signup process is pretty frictionless, and they’re locked into a sandboxed sample project which gives onboards them into a typical use case of the software. In truth, it’s more of an interactive “tour” page which also gives me the prospects email address.

But after you create your first client project, a 14 day trial kicks off. If someone is still using Planscope on a real project after a week or so (they’ve invited their client in, they’re tracking time, etc.) then they’re most likely going to convert — so I’m able to have a shorter trial period. Hell, I could probably try out a 7 day trial and the results wouldn’t change all that much.

I tried the model Jason referenced at MicroConf last year (see: and it bombed. The idea was that I’d do the perpetual no-limit sandbox project access, and capture CC details and charge immediately once their first client project is created. I think the “no trial” model works fine for companies like WP Engine because with hosting it either works… or it doesn’t work. Most SaaS products require “experiential buy-in” — the customer needs to like your workflow and design decisions, etc. And if they can’t try your product against the way they work first, they probably won’t be willing to buy upfront.

@Shpigford tried axing the free trial for his more traditional SaaS,… Josh? :smile:


(As a quick followup: One way to shorten the trial period — that is, create more customer LTV — is to offer some sort of goodie for paying early. I used to give a discount for converting early, but am now switching to a video course that created that I typically sell for $20.)

1 Like

@SteveMcLeod there is another plan at the $90 level with double the limits but I only show it after people have signed up and go to the payment section. Realizing know I may be missing people because they are above the visible high level right off the bat.

@brennandunn I like the idea of starting the clock once ‘x’ happens. In my case with pageproofer that’s dead simple to determine since the app is pointless unless you add a site to begin collecting feedback and tracking issues.

One thing I am working on along those lines is sending tickle emails if a few days pass after sign up with no site added.

As @brennandunn mentioned, I have axed the free trial. On every SaaS I have.

None of them have a free trial (or a free plan, for that matter).

What they do have is a 60-day money back guarantee. Don’t like it? No worries, happy to refund you.

I found that people are much more likely to stick around if they start paying from day 1. With a free trial they’re much more likely to forget about you. They don’t feel an urgency to start putting the product to use.

I wrote a bit about this when we killed off all things “free” with PopSurvey. Specifically, it increased revenue by 40%:


As a user, a one day trial is all I need for most things. I would almost never subscribe to something without trying it out to see how it works, but once I’ve tried it I’m ready to make a buying decision.

Udemy has five minute trials which worked for me. That would be too short for an app that requires some setup time or a learning curve, but it’s fine for something you can jump right into.

I’d say the trick is to do some user tests and find out how long it takes for a user to get a feel for how it works and what it does. That is how long your trial should be.

It depends very much on the product, of course. I didn’t want to do an N day trial for PerfectTablePlan as people might just download it N days before their wedding. So PerfectTablePlan is feature limited (you can’t save, print or export a plan with >30 guests, unless you buy a licence). Most people buy within 48 hours of arriving at my website. This has the added benefit of:

  • better tracking though AdWords and analytics.
  • I get the money quicker
    Also, time-limited trials are very easy to workaround.

I wrote some more about this here:

1 Like

For our “downloadable” desktop-products we offer 30-days. But for our saas we have switched from 60 days to 21 days with optional extension. Like, “we’re all human beings, drop us a line if 21 is too few, we’ll extend”. Conversion stayed the same. The “contact us for an extension” invitation also increases “engagement” - people start a conversation, instead of just silently testing around…

We found that different teams have vastly different needs for how long they need to try our products to make a decision. Some teams decide within a week and purchase or subscribe, while other teams sometimes need months (either because they don’t have enough time to complete the evaluation or because it takes customers months to get an approval in rare cases).

Just like @jitbit, we are happy to extend the trial (both for our on premise and SaaS editions) if this helps customers make a decision/get the purchase approved. We found that customers are much more likely to buy if they can continue using the product (and fully integrate it into their workflow) until they have the purchase approval.

I guess this depends a lot on the product though. If it takes some time to integrate the product into your workflow to see the benefits, such as a help desk tool or project management app, then a trial is likely more important than with apps such as Baremetrics that are quick to get up and running.

IMHO the trial period length itself doesn’t matter that much. As you mentioned, people drop off after 10 days or so.

The problem is not about time, it’s about churn and lack of engagement. They were unable to derive value and forgot about the product. I strongly think you should increase engagement through a stay-in-touch campaign for these trial users. Send them short e-mails once in a few days and show off what can be done with your product. This will create a WOW effect that will make them come back. Of course there will always be a part that will churn for other reasons, but I think you will improve your results this way.

I am going to publish a white paper on SaaS churn on April 11th, I’ll be glad to share my insight with you.

During a MIcroconf talk last year one point that I found interesting was raised by @robwalling. He observed that reducing the trial period from 30 days to 21 days increases the number of experiments you can run per month/quarter/year on your conversion funnel. You can essentially get better faster.

This isn’t a primary consideration but I think it’s another reason to keep the trial as short as possible.

The talk is “How to 10x in 15 months” and online at The relevant discussion is at the 40 minute mark (the trial period discussion is brief, but the whole talk is excellent).

1 Like

Thanks for sharing the video links, those are great.